The Tax Policy Center claims that it is objective in evaluating tax proposals?

The WSJ says:"nonpartisan Tax Policy Center", really? Tell me what you think after reading this post by the Center.


Obama: Forcing more people off of private health insurance

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, has made a decision that Robert Samuelson argues will reduce the number of people on private health insurance. It all stems from Obamacare's mandated minimum coverage requirements for insurance.

The more coverage they include, the greater the subsidies from the federal government for the poor and near-poor who qualify for aid. It will be tempting to exploit the open-ended nature of these subsidies. The catch is that the millions of workers whose coverage isn't subsidized will see the squeeze on their wages intensify, while their employers may be put at a disadvantage with less generous states. . . .

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The Democrats' reaction to firms fleeing California

The question is how much more profits a company could make some place else. A nice editorial in the Orange County Register:

Democratic reaction to the news that Waste Connections, a $3.6-billion company and major Sacramento-area employer, is headed to Houston to seek a friendlier business climate tells other businesses all they need to know about the attitudes of those who run California's government.
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, gave these clueless and snarky remarks in response to the news: "In this instance you have a company that is, in fact, profitable, making significant revenue gains in 2011 and 2010. That doesn't speak to a bad business climate here in California when a good company is able to thrive in that way. So whatever Mr. Middelstaedt's (company CEO) reasons are to leave the great state of California, I know I'm pushing back." . . . .
Is it really the Senate president's role to determine the proper profit margin for a privately owned company? Talk about arrogance. . . .


Something to remember the next that you are on your cell phone and the airline stewardess tells you to turn it off

So what is the cost from people having to cut short what can sometimes be important calls or responding to important emails? Here is a pretty strongly worded article from ABC News:

As far as having any basis whatsoever in fact or science (that the electronic signals from all your equipment might interfere with anything on the aircraft's systems), the answer is a resounding NO.

Confused? So is the FAA, which has essentially refused to undertake the appropriate research on this issue since cell phones popped up in the mid-80's.

Back then, when handheld cell phones were as big as a brick and put out a whopping five watts of analog power, the FAA turned to the Federal Communications Commission and asked whether such devices were safe. "Does it look like we have wings?" was the unofficial response of one FCC staffer at the time -- an individual who helped draft the letter back to FAA pointing out none too delicately that things that flew were the FAA's responsibility, not the FCC's.

The FAA disagreed, of course, and after more than a quarter century, both federal agencies are still in a standoff with neither willing to put forth the funds and the time to determine once and for all whether passenger electronics have any scientifically-proven potential of disrupting an airliner's equipment to the degree of compromising safety. . . .

In fact, despite thousands of pages written on the subject, there has never been a single U.S. incident of interference investigated and scientifically confirmed beyond question. Not one.

On every commercial flight, every hour of every day, there is at least one cell phone still on during takeoff and landing. People forget, they refuse or they just don't know how to turn the things off. How do we know? The devices ring!

There are 32,000 commercial flights per day over the U.S. alone. That means we test the hypothesis that personal electronics can interfere with aircraft systems 32,000 times per day just over the U.S., and yet we have not a single, solitary confirmed instance.

But here's the outrageous part: If there was even a slight chance that personal electronics could be dangerous -- and knowing that people don't turn all of them off in flight -- why would any sane regulator or airline allow even one device aboard with the battery attached?


Obama's judges who had a hard time being confirmed because of their views on guns

Caitlin Joan Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was also objected to, but there were many issues that he faced objections on.

John McConnell to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. He was confirmed over objections from groups concerned about people's right to self defense.

And in response to Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) questioning about the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights, McConnell was evasive and refused to declare that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental, individual liberty. . . .

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Obama tries to support gun control with signing statements

The 2012 omnibus bill funding the government contained a couple limits on gun control.

Stopping Your Tax Dollars From Funding Anti-Gun Studies

One of the protections expanded and strengthened can be found in Sec. 218 of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-H) division of the bill. This section prevents the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from using taxpayer dollars to promulgate junk science designed to paint legal gun ownership as a public health hazard. Since 2002, the NIH has spent nearly $5 million on this “research” even though their counterparts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been prevented from funding similar studies since being blocked in 1996 by a NRA-backed provision. . . .

No Tax Dollars to Lobby and Promote Gun Control

The second is a new NRA-backed provision that is found in Sec. 503 of the Labor-H division. This section prevents federal funds from being used for lobbying efforts designed to support or defeat the passage of legislation being considered by Congress, or any state or local legislative body. Too often, community action groups are utilizing federal money to lobby for increased regulation of firearms including trigger locks, bans on semi-automatic rifles, regulated magazine capacity, etc. This funding subverts the Second Amendment and allows anti-gun Administrations to fund grassroots gun control efforts using taxpayer dollars. . . .

But these restrictions were too much for Obama:

The president also objected to a section aimed at blocking health, climate, auto policy and urban affairs "czars" from being employed by the White House and a provision that bars health officials from advocating for gun control. The signing statement also objects to a portion of the omnibus that limits funding for the Copyright Office. . . .


New Movie: "Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged"


New results for Economist magazine poll, December 17-20, 2011

The new Economist magazine poll finds that the most important issue for voters is the economy (39% for the economy versus 13% for the second most important issue Social Security). But only 33% think that Obama is doing well on the economy and just 35% think that he is doing well on Social Security. Only 56% of Democrats approve of Obama's job on the economy. There are only two issues where Obama's approval is over 40% and only one is great than 45%.

Newt is 27% to Romney's 21% with Paul at only 13%.

Rasmussen poll shows that on December 23, 2011 only 9% Rate Economy As Good or Excellent.

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"State Reconsiders Ban on Korean-Owned M-1 Garands"

Well, I will believe the reversal by the Obama administration on this gun control issue when I see it. From Human Events:

The State Department announced Dec. 2 that it will re-consider its stance against allowing M-1 Garands into the United States if South Korea offers another sale.

“The Department will consider a new request from the Republic of Korea (ROK) to transfer its inventory of approximately 87,000 M-1 Garand rifles into the United States for sale on the commercial market,” a spokesperson at the U. S. Department of State said to Guns&Patriots on Dec. 2. “We have not yet received that request.”

“These M-1 Garand rifles date back as far as 1926 and remain a legacy of decades of U.S.-South Korean security partnership. The ROK intends to use the net proceeds of the sale, estimated to be between $2 million - $10 million depending on the condition of the rifles, to upgrade its Homeland Defense Mobilization Reserve components with more modern rifles,” said the spokesperson. . . .


Courts gradually cracking down on Los Angeles' refusal to grant concealed handgun permits

The City of Los Angeles, in particular, has a notorious reputation for denying and rejecting licenses to carry concealed weapons (“CCW”), despite the fact that multiple lawsuits have been filed over the years against the city to challenge its arbitrary CCW licensing procedures, stonewalling tactics, and bureaucratic obstruction.

To best understand the long held position Los Angeles has taken with respect to CCW permits, one should examine an issued statement released by the city circa 1974. The language in the statement, entitled "Board Policy Concerning Licenses to Carry Concealed Weapons," reads:

By operation of California law, Penal Code Section 12050, the Board of Police Commissioners has discretionary authority to issue a license to carry a concealed weapon... However, experience has revealed that concealed firearms carried for protection not only provide a false sense of security, but further that the licensee is often a victim of his own weapon or the subject of a civil or criminal case stemming from an improper use of the weapon... For these reasons, considering the dangers to society resulting from possession and use of concealed weapons, it is the policy of this Board that 'good cause' for the issuance of any concealed weapons licenses would exist only in the most extreme and aggravated circumstances.

Although this statement violated the Penal Code Section 12050, it was the overt consensus amongst city officials, the LAPD and their affiliates up until 1992 when a lawsuit was filed, Lake v. City of San Fernando and City of Los Angeles, challenging the "Arbitrary practice of denial without a legitimate basis, despite meeting all of the required requisites to obtain a carry concealed license." . . .

The first legal action is to force the LAPD to reinstate its agreed-to policy of providing applications and copies of its written policy at all LAPD station houses, something it has neglected to do over the years.

And the second legal action is a new lawsuit, Davis v. City of Los Angeles. The nine plaintiffs in this suit have all been subjected to the same stonewalling tactics and mistreatment as previously rejected applicants (the ones who filed similar lawsuits), i.e. failures to respond to inquiries regarding the status of applications, failures to acknowledge the availability of the Citizens Advisory Review Panel as a method of appealing denial, and failure to give any weight to recommendations by the Citizens Advisory Review Panel.

As a result of those two new legal actions, earlier this month a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ordered the City of Los Angeles to produce documents relating to the LAPD’s policies and procedures for processing applications for CCW permits. . . .



The Obama administration learned nothing from the financial crisis

Remember how the pressure to give loans to individuals who couldn't afford them lead to the financial crisis (see here and here)? Failure to count welfare or unemployment payments as income is viewed as evidence of discrimination. Now the Obama administration forces Bank of America to pay record $335 million penalty for supposedly discriminating against minorities:

Bank of America Corp. will pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial Corp. unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers, in the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history.

The agreement, announced on Wednesday, involves more than 210,000 minority borrowers who were charged higher fees or who could have qualified for a prime mortgage, one offered to borrowers with the best credit histories, but instead were steered into a more costly subprime loan.

The case is the first by the Justice Department that accuses a lender of steering borrowers to more costly mortgages. The agreement also ends a separate discriminatory lending lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in state court in June 2010.

Bank of America neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the settlement. The bank said it settled to resolve issues tied to Countrywide's practices before Bank of America's July 2008 purchase of the lender. The bank said it is "committed to fair and equal treatment of all our customers." . . .

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Gun shot detectors coming to an American city near you

If this really works as advertised, why do we need gun control when we can quickly catch the bad guys who use guns to do bad things? From Fox News:

Gunshots ring out in the dead of night, and not a single person reports it. Yet police know exactly where the shots came from, even before they arrive on the scene.
It sounds like a scene from The Minority Report, but it's real. A new technology called ShotSpotter enables law enforcement officials to precisely and instantaneously locate shooters, and it has been quietly rolling out across America. From Long Island, N.Y., to San Francisco, Calif., more than 60 cities in the U.S. have been leveraging ShotSpotter to make their streets safer. . . .
“If You Fire a Gun, We Will Find You.”
ShotSpotter relies on wide-area acoustic surveillance and GPS technology to triangulate the source of gunshots. Sensors are fixed to buildings and poles to provide coverage over a fixed area. With audio-analysis software, it can identify whether a shooter is stationary or moving -- meaning police officers can be equipped with information on the speed and direction of, say, a vehicle from which a shot was fired.
It can also “hear” the acoustic signature and distinguish between calibers and types of firearms. Similarly, it can hear different explosions and classify them, from vehicle backfires to fireworks to bombs.
The ShotSpotter Gunfire Alert system then relays the location and data to the police or a dispatch computer within moments, enabling a more rapid response time for both police and first responders.
The best part: ShotSpotter works. It's accurate to 10 to 15 feet, and some police departments are reporting accuracy to within five feet. In Long Island’s Nassau County, gun violence was reduced by a whopping 90 percent at the close of this year’s first quarter. . . .
The subscription-based implementation called ShotSpotter Flex costs as much as $60,000 per square mile. . . .

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The day after US troops left Iraq things started falling apart

The last American troops left Iraq on December 17th. Is it really a coincidence that things fell apart as soon as American troops left?

Immediately the Shite majority put out an arrest warrant for the leading Sunni politician.

Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned that a challenge to his government by Sunni politicians could destroy the ethnic and sectarian power-sharing system that underpins Iraq's democracy—and take more power into the hands of the Shiite majority.

The threat signals the most dire political crisis Iraq has faced since an agreement on a governing coalition one year ago smoothed over a long-running conflict that has re-emerged with the official pullout this month of U.S. forces from Iraq.

The latest faceoff was triggered when a judicial panel issued a warrant for the arrest of Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on Monday, as the Ministry of Interior aired televised confessions by members of his security detail allegedly implicating him in ordering and funding attacks against Shiites. . . .

In a final tactical road march, the last U.S. troops in Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait on Sunday morning, ending almost nine years of a deadly and divisive war. . . .

Lots of bombings targeting just about everyone.

Dozens of people were killed on Thursday in a series of coordinated explosions that struck several neighborhoods in the Iraqi capital, within days of the U.S. military withdrawal from the country, amid a political crisis that has renewed fears of an outbreak of sectarian and ethnic warfare.

The attacks during the morning rush hour targeted Sunni, Shiite and mixed neighborhoods, hitting mostly civilian targets, including an elementary school. Some bore the hallmarks of bombing campaigns by al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants. . . .

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Fake boarding pass gets through TSA security

Where are all the news stories about this? From Vanity Fair:

As we came by the checkpoint line, Schneier described one of these aspects: the ease with which people can pass through airport security with fake boarding passes. First, scan an old boarding pass, he said—more loudly than necessary, it seemed to me. Alter it with Photoshop, then print the result with a laser printer. In his hand was an example, complete with the little squiggle the T.S.A. agent had drawn on it to indicate that it had been checked. “Feeling safer?” he asked. . . .

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Brent Bozell says that Krugman's "Thuggishness" set records this past year

Brent Bozell's piece is available here.

Krugman outdid himself for outrage in 2011. Every year, the Media Research Center collects a panel of conservative journalists and talk-show hosts and puts them on ride through the worst media bilge of the last 12 months to arrive at the Best Notable Quotables. Krugman sat in the sulfurous center with three other "bests." . . .

Krugman took the Quote of the Year

Krugman won the Grim Reaper Award for Saying Conservatives Want You to Die


How Democrats manipulated the supposedly nonpartisan California redistricting panel

At the very least it appears that the information upon which the redistricting was done was fraudulent. ProPublica has this explosive report:

In the weeks that followed, party leaders came up with a plan. Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — a national arm of the party that provides money and support to Democratic candidates — members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines," according to another email.

The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.

When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento.

In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for the Democrats’ map. . . .

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Newt and Romney display dramatically different responses to payroll tax debate in DC, or why Newt is a better presidential candidate

Romney is playing it safe. Newt is showing that he is a leader. From the Christian Science Monitor:

Mitt Romney refused to be pinned down Wednesday on how Congress should break an impasse that threatens to raise taxes for 160 million workers — the latest pressing policy debate the Republican presidential hopeful has sidestepped. Rival Newt Gingrich, in contrast, castigated Congress for "an absurd dereliction of duty." . . .
In Iowa, Gingrich called a two-month extension "insufficient" and scolded the Democratic-controlled Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama's administration for "lurching from failure to failure" and marveled: "They can't figure out how to pass a one-year extension, so the Senate leaves town?"
"It's game-playing," added the former House speaker, who stopped short of criticizing House Republicans and their leader Ohio Rep. John Boehner. Gingrich also did not criticize Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader from Kentucky who signed off on the short-term extension.
The different postures over the payroll tax extension played out against a backdrop of intensifying rancor - and a dispute over negative advertising - between Romney and Gingrich with the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses drawing close. . . .

BTW, I can't find any comments by Ron Paul on this issue.

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The debate on concealed handguns even in Chicago

See the discussion on concealed handguns starting at 12:50 minutes into the clip until about 16:00 minutes.


A lot of Chevy Volt sales being purchased with taxpayer dollars

So sales are getting near 6,000, but even those anemic sales are due to government paying for the purchases. The numbers are even worse when you consider the massive subsidies given to produce the cars. From the Michigan Capitol Confidential:

Each Chevy Volt sold thus far may have as much as $250,000 in state and federal dollars in incentives behind it – a total of $3 billion altogether, according to an analysis by James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. . . .

The Volt subsidies flow through multiple companies involved in production. The analysis includes adding up the amount of government subsidies via tax credits and direct funding for not only General Motors, but other companies supplying parts for the vehicle. For example, the Department of Energy awarded a $105.9 million grant to the GM Brownstown plant that assembles the batteries. The company was also awarded approximately $106 million for its Hamtramck assembly plant in state credits to retain jobs. The company that supplies the Volt’s batteries, Compact Power, was awarded up to $100 million in refundable battery credits (combination tax breaks and cash subsidies). These are among many of the subsidies and tax credits for the vehicle.

It’s unlikely that all the companies involved in Volt production will ever receive all the $3 billion in incentives, Hohman said, because many of them are linked to meeting various employment and other milestones. But the analysis looks at the total value that has been offered to the Volt in different aspects of production – from the assembly line to the dealerships to the battery manufacturers. . . .

GM has estimated they’ve sold 6,000 Volts so far. That would mean each of the 6,000 Volts sold would be subsidized between $50,000 and $250,000, depending on how many government subsidy milestones are realized.

If battery manufacturers awarded incentives to produce batteries the Volt may use are included in the analysis, the potential government subsidy per Volt increases to $256,824. For example, A123 Systems has received extensive state and federal support, and bid to be a supplier to the Volt, but the deal instead went to Compact Power. The $256,824 figure includes adding up the subsidies to both companies.

The $3 billion total subsidy figure includes $690.4 million offered by the state of Michigan and $2.3 billion in federal money. That’s enough to purchase 75,222 Volts with a sticker price of $39,828. . . .

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EPA says that its new regulations will create 9,000 permanent jobs?

How is it possible that these regulations will on net create jobs? According to the clip, the EPA claims 9,000 permanent jobs, but assumes that no jobs will be lost. That should not be surprising since this is the same way that the Obama administration calculated jobs from the Stimulus. But other articles that I read say that the EPA is saying that this is a net increase in jobs. Hereis something written by a GWU professor:

Contrary to the EPA’s claim that the rule will provide particular benefits to children, the premature deaths the EPA says will be averted are modeled to accrue to people with an average age of 80 years, who would live weeks or months longer, if at all, as a result of the regulations. This modeling is also suspect, because the EPA assumes causality where none can be explained, and makes other assumptions that overstate effects.

Also disingenuous is the EPA’s claim that the “rule will provide employment for thousands, by supporting 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs.” First, this estimate quantifies only the jobs necessary to comply with the new rules, and ignores jobs lost, despite its recognition that “the industries that use electricity will face higher electricity prices as the result of the toxics rule, reduce output, and demand less labor.”

Second, a careful reading of the fine print reveals that even the employment effects the EPA claims are not different statistically from zero.

These new regulations will be among the most expensive regulations ever issued. The estimated $11 billion per year in costs will be borne by all Americans who will pay more for electricity and anything that uses it. Further, due to the EPA’s rosy assumptions and failure to consider how the requirements will make the electricity grid more susceptible to power outages, this cost may well be understated. . . .

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90 Congressmen either have "no confidence" in Holder or want he to resign

From The Daily Caller:

Attorney General Eric Holder’s list of Operation Fast and Furious critics has grown over the past several days, as four more have signed on to a resolution of “no confidence” in him.

Republican Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Kevin Brady of Texas, Tim Griffin of Arkansas and Tim Walberg of Michigan have all now signed on as co-sponsors of Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar’s “no confidence” resolution.

Though it’s not directly a call for Holder to step down, the resolution alleges that the nation’s top law enforcement official’s actions have proven he is not “competent, trustworthy and beyond reproach,” and that he has sought to “cover up” mistakes rather than cooperate with Congress “in disclosing the events and circumstances and transparently addressing the issues.”

Griffin told The Daily Caller he signed on to the resolution because Holder has not actively held anyone accountable for Fast and Furious.

“Attorney General Holder’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month confirmed what I already believed: the Department’s Operation Fast and Furious and his mismanagement of the aftermath, including his unwillingness to hold people accountable, raise serious concerns about his ability to fulfill his duties as our nation’s top law enforcement officer,” Griffin said in an email. . . .


Who will a Libertarian presidential candidate take votes from?

Former two-term New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is upset that he isn't getting much attention in his presidential run. Yet, rather than being upset, he should realize that there are several very libertarian candidates running in the Republican presidential race: Ron Paul and on many issues Michele Bachmann. From Politico:

According to a Public Policy Polling survey of New Mexico conducted Dec. 10-12, Johnson as a Libertarian candidate could impact the vote in his home state.
PPP found Johnson would draw between 26 and 30 percent of GOP votes, between 12 and 16 percent of Democratic votes and win independents, in a race with either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich as the GOP nominee.
Johnson on the ballot would help Obama win New Mexico, typically a swing state, by a 17-point margin, PPP found.


Italy tries to raise tax revenue through stigmatizing tax evaders

It will be interesting to see if they get any additional revenue, but I doubt it. Unfortunately, this isn't really going to be a very useful test because the government is changing its rules to track down tax cheats. From the NY Times:

On a recent morning, Maurizio Compagnone, an employee of Italy’s internal revenue service, stood before a classroom of middle school students in a leafy neighborhood here, preaching the virtues of paying taxes.

“You may think, ‘I’m 13, why should I care about taxes?’ ” he said with earnest enthusiasm as the students looked on, slightly bored. “But you can take a step in the right direction. You can change the behavior of the people around you, your parents and friends.” . . . .

The tax authorities say Italy loses an estimated $150 billion a year in undeclared revenues, while the national statistics authority places the underground economy to be about 17.5 percent of gross domestic product — the third highest in Western Europe after Malta and Greece but before Spain. Other experts place the percentage much higher.

To tackle the issue, Prime Minister Mario Monti’s new $40 billion austerity package, which received final approval on Thursday in the Senate, includes tougher measures that will allow tax officials to peer into Italians’ bank accounts to check declared income against bank deposits — not to mention yacht, car and home ownership — under a new cross-referencing initiative.

The measures also prohibit cash transactions above $1,300 — common in Italy, where low credit-card use keeps private debt low but evasion high — and lower the threshold for which tax evasion becomes a criminal offense. The government has also set an additional 1.5 percent tax on assets repatriated under an earlier tax amnesty, raising the levy for those requesting anonymity.

Italy is filled with colorful anomalies. According to tax officials, nearly half of boats larger than 35 feet are registered to people who declare income of less than $26,000 a year, and 604 airplane owners declared annual income between $26,000 and $65,000. . . .

In spite of Mr. Monti’s approval ratings, there is widespread skepticism that the anti-evasion measures will work. Asked why Italy had had so much trouble cracking down on evasion, Bruno Tinti, a former prosecutor turned journalist specializing in the black economy, had a simple answer: “Tax evaders vote, that’s the problem.”

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Slowest recovery since WWII

From Gene Epstein at Barron's:

. . . The recovery from the 2008-09 recession has been the slowest since any recession in the post-World War II era. It has taken nine calendar quarters since the recession ended in the second quarter of 2009 for real gross domestic product to climb back to its fourth-quarter '07 peak. Assume the same rates of growth during the recoveries from the two previous recessions that rank second and third in severity since World War II -- '81-'82 and '74-'75 -- and the recovery from the recent recession should have taken half as long.

Try other comparisons. In the more than 41 years since 1970, the average quarterly rate of growth, calculated on an annual basis, has been 2.8% -- and that includes all negative quarters in recessions. By contrast, over the recent nine quarters of recovery, the annual rate of growth has averaged just 2.4% -- and as mentioned in last week's column, the Blue Chip consensus forecast calls for more of the same through 2012. Following the recessions of '74-'75 and '81-'82, the first nine quarters of growth averaged, respectively, 5.1% and 6.3%.

Try special excuses. Yes, it's true that the government portion of GDP usually increases year-to-year, and over the past nine quarters there was a small decrease. It's also true that rebounds in housing usually make significant contributions to GDP growth after recessions, and over the past nine quarters residential investment has also been running slightly negative. . . .

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Even Politifact says: "Attacks on Ryan Medicare proposal named 'lie of the year'"

From The Hill newspaper:

The claim that House Republicans' budget would end Medicare is the "lie of the year," according to the fact-checking website Politifact.
According to Politifact's analysis, saying the Ryan plan "ends Medicare" overlooks the fact that its changes would not affect people 55 and older. Politifact also said Medicare would remain in existence, but in a different form — which Ryan's critics say is the same thing as ending Medicare.
Democrats and liberals slammed the decision and stood by the contention that Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) proposal would end Medicare. . . .
"The very definition of the Medicare program is a national health insurance program for seniors which House Republicans would abolish under their budget," the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in an earlier rebuttal of Politifact's analysis of the Ryan plan. . . .

How does Ryan's proposal end national health insurance?


America's insolvency?

I noticed that Rick Perry was reading Kotlikoff's book "Jimmy Stewart is Dead." He was also reading James Rickards’ ‘Currency Wars’ and Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner’s ‘Reckless Endangerment.’ I am sure that Paul Krugman will view anyone thinking Kotlikoff as right as more evidence as Rick Perry as delusional, but at least someone is paying attention to Kotlikoff taking into account the huge liabilities that the government has accumulated.



Democrats react to Wyden-Ryan Medicare plan

Even the New York Daily News gets it.

Reactions were typical of Washington. Partisan Democrats groused, knowing their ability to demagogue this issue had just taken a hit.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said, “The Wyden-Ryan scheme” — note the cleverly derisive word — would “end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors.” Baloney. The only thing certain to end Medicare as we know it is the status quo of Medicare itself.

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Obama administration's sexist language?

Apparently, women are much better at solving conflicts than men are, at least that is what Secretary of State Clinton claims. From Reuters:

The United States hopes to prevent and defuse conflicts by getting more women seated at negotiating tables around the world, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.

Clinton said a new U.S. plan, signed by President Barack Obama, would help train and give more voice to female community members who often have a strong sense of how to address dangers and strains in conflict zones. . . .

Women are "too often excluded" from talks that bring an end to conflict and from the military, police and other institutions tasked with maintaining order, she said, also suggesting they could provide useful insights on how to make peace stick.

"Women are bellwethers of society and, in fact, sometimes they do play the role of canary in the coal mine. They know when communities are fraying and when citizens fear for their safety," she told a Georgetown University event. . . . .


Did Obama's Department of Labor violate the law and give out information early to Democratic Governor's office?

Gov. Bev Perdue’s press office was given early access to the federal government unemployment data and then they were allowed to help rewrite the report to help the governor. Were there are Democrats helped in this way? The Carolina Journal has the disturbing news here:

Since as early as January 2011, and perhaps before then, Gov. Bev Perdue’s press office has received access to confidential employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics hours if not days before its scheduled release, quite likely in violation of federal law. The governor’s staff used its early access to massage the monthly employment press release that reported jobs data to the public.

Documents and correspondence obtained by Carolina Journal show that the Division of Employment Security, formerly known as the Employment Security Commission, sent a draft of the press release each month to Perdue’s press office. The governor’s spokesmen typically rewrote the text and added a positive spin, even if the data did not support Perdue’s talking points.

The glowing quotes were attributed to Lynn Holmes, director of the employment agency, but the documents show the quotes were approved and probably written by a Perdue press aide, either Chrissy Pearson or Mark Johnson.

In several instances, DES spokesman Larry Parker cautioned Pearson or Johnson against using extraneous or unverifiable information in a release to boost Perdue’s image. At times, the Perdue communications team would push back, and the release would undergo several revisions before final publication.

While the operation may sound like a harmless effort to add political spin to the release of jobs data, sharing confidential BLS estimates while they are protected by an embargo violates a federal law barring the early release of employment data. This is no small matter: A conviction for breaching the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 carries a fine of up to $250,000, up to five years in prison, or both. . . .


AG Holder feels that Fast & Furious is really about him and Obama being black

From the New York Times:

Of that group of critics, Mr. Holder said he believed that a few — the “more extreme segment” — were motivated by animus against Mr. Obama and that he served as a stand-in for him. “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.” . . .

Meanwhile, Holder has continued to stonewall any information on who approved the decision in Fast & Furious. From the Washington Examiner:

House investigators have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to appear again before Congress to testify on "flaws in the management structure" at the Department of Justice (DOJ), with an emphasis on the decision making behind Operation Fast and Furious -- a series of questioning that may force Holder either to reveal who approved Operation Fast and Furious or risk appearing to lack control over DOJ."

The hearing will examine flaws in the management structure of the Justice Department as demonstrated in the genesis and implementation of ATF's Operation Fast and Furious," House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote to Holder last week. "Specifically, the hearing will focus on what senior Department officials could and should have done to put a stop to this reckless program, as well as the specific areas where failures in communication and management occurred."

Issa also elbowed Holder over submitting a letter to Congress -- since retracted due to inaccuracy -- that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) never let guns walk to Mexico. "The Department's February 4, 2011, letter to Congress will be but one example of these failures in management," Issa told Holder.

The hearing is tentatively schedule of January 24, 2012 . . . .

UPDATE: Fox News has this discussion here.

UPDATE 2: Kruathammer has this comment.

"The reason he is, he is one of the most incompetent Attorneys General in U.S. history. He is the guy who brought on gratuitously the fiasco of the KSM trial in New York that even the Democrats rebelled against. He's a guy that has led a Department that has been either totally ignorant or disingenuous or worse on the Fast and the Furious scandal. And now he plays the race card. I think it's, to use his word, 'a cowardly use of the race card.' And it's unbecoming. It also is dangerous in a country where it can stoke that kind of racial animosity. He shouldn't be using it and I say it with all due respect," Charles Krauthammer said on "Special Report" tonight. "Merry Christmas, Mr. Attorney General."


Crime continued falling this last year

From CNN:

Overall, violent crimes were down 6.4%, while property crimes fell 3.7% when compared with figures from the first six months of 2010. . . . The FBI says all four offenses in the violent crime category -- murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- decreased in the first half of 2011. The number of murders declined 5.7%; rapes, 5.1%; robbery, 7.7%; and aggravated assault, 5.9%. . . .


Newt does a very good job of explaining his positions on yesterday's Face the Nation

Corzine's influence in drafting the Obama Stimulus plan

As of a few days ago, this was in USA Today.

About $1.2 billion of client money disappeared when MF Global filed for bankruptcy, the eighth-largest in U.S. history. Lawmakers, regulators and law enforcement officials are investigating. . . .


So can I convince people that I am creative by acting strangely?

Here is an interesting (though not surprising) article in Scientific American.


White House explains why Michelle Obama is taking a separate flight on Air Force 1 to Hawaii

At $185,000 an hour for 13 hours, that comes to $2.4 million. Mr. Carney keeps saying that past first ladies have taken separate trips for vacation, but no one pushes the point that probably no one has traveled to Hawaii for vacation. Going to the Hamptons or Maine or even Texas might be one thing, but traveling to Hawaii is much, much farther.

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A "Frugal" Season for Shopping

Things are slow in other countries besides the US. From Angus Reid:

Half of Britons (49%) and two-in-five Canadians and Americans (41% and 40% respectively) say they will spend less this year on gifts than they did in 2010. One-in-ten Americans (11%) say they will spend more than they did last year. . . .

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Rattner: "We Never Said Taxpayers Would Get Auto Bailout $ Back"

There are many things wrong with Rattner's claims. For example, Rattner misstated how much taxpayer money was put into bailing out the industry. His $82 billion number ignores the $45 billion in special tax benefits given GM, exemption for product liability, the Stimulus dollars, as well as "Cash for Clunkers." The Washington Post points to other problems.

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The explosion in Federal crimes

These charts are from the WSJ.

The total number of federal law enforcement officers has exploded.