Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

More self-inflicted economic problems on the way

The Obama economy is a mess, with median incomes retreating, fudged employment numbers and generally the usual mess you can expect from a over-regulated and highly manipulated “market”.  In other words, it stinks because of government as much as anything else.  Our betters seem not to understand the very basics of human nature – humans respond to incentives.  So they continue to cobble together more and more feel good projects (i.e. they make the “elite” feel good) that backfire.  Why?  Because humans respond to disincentives as well – and their feel good projects are long on disincentives, something they can’t seem to wrap their heads around.

By design, the next example of that will take place after the November mid-term elections:

Starting this year, the United States’ working population will face three major employment disincentives resulting from the very benefits the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides: (1) an explicit tax on full-time work, (2) an implicit tax on full-time work for those who are ineligible for the ACA’s health insurance subsidies, and (3) an implicit tax that links the amount of available subsidies to workers’ incomes.

A new study published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University advances the understanding of how much these ACA taxes will reduce overall employment, and why. It concludes that the reduction will be nearly double that projected by previous analyses. Labor markets ultimately will reduce weekly employment per person by about 3 percent—translating to roughly 4 million fewer full-time-equivalent workers.

4 million more jobs in an economy already suffering one of the lowest labor participation rates in its history.  Why have “middle class” wages stagnated or dropped?  One major reason has to do with disincentives like this.  Its like the $15 minimum wage trope.  Force it on business and they have a “disincentive” to hire people for jobs that aren’t worth that and an incentive to automate or go short handed and double up the work on someone else.

That’s precisely the type of disincentive that ObamaCare is about to inflict on the economy.  We’ll then hear the usual nonsense about greedy and uncaring companies and how the “market” has failed us.  It is as predictable as the next blizzard being somehow blamed on global warming.

Meanwhile, these 4 million that may join the currently unemployed are real people who will suffer real problems because of the disincentive provided by a very poorly thought out law that won’t effect those who passed it.  All Democrats can hope is that enough people will drop off the unemployment roles by the time the next presidential election rolls around that the fudged unemployment stats look acceptable.

What a hell of a way to run a railroad.

~McQ

 

The lunacy of liberalism

I’m not sure how else to describe actions like this.  Here’s the lede from an article about George Will being uninvited from an appearance at Scripps College:

A prominent conservative political pundit was uninvited from speaking at Scripps College, in a program designed to promote conservative views on campus, because of his conservative views.

Got that?  Yes, it is terribly written, but still, you have to almost laugh at the irony.  Because of his conservative views, he was uninvited from a speaking engagement that was supposed to promote conservative views.

You simply can’t make up half the stuff the left does.  Apparently the trigger was a column Will wrote about campus “rape”.  I put rape in scare quotes because many schools now have such a broad definition of rape that you may be at risk by simply saying “hello” to a woman who doesn’t particularly care for  you.  Like “racism”, rape is being radically redefined on campus and Will had the temerity to address that.

Apparently, those at the college disagree with much of what Will said in the column.  And so, totally untrue to their supposed academic claims, they’ve cancelled Will:

The Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program was established under the belief that “a range of opinions about the world – especially opinions with which we may not agree, or think we do not agree – leads to a better educational experience,” according to the Scripps College website.

That’s certainly one way to discourage “opinions with which they may not agree”, but the cancellation certainly doesn’t lead “to a better educational experience” does it?  In fact it should make it clear that opinions they don’t agree with are not at all welcome at the campus.  Instead of taking the opportunity to challenge Will on their own home ground, they ban him.  It certainly wouldn’t surprise me then, to find out that the college also bans certain books that don’t conform to their orthodoxy.  I mean, why not?

If I were considering going there, that would be a huge warning sign that I would be sure to heed.

Unless, of course, you’ve a desire for indoctrination.  Then Scripps may be the place for you.

~McQ

Economic growth and national security? Or taxes?

The Financial Times [subscription] is reporting that the US is poised to become the world’s largest producer of liquid petroleum (oil and natural gas liquids):

US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.

With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991. [...]

Rising oil and gas production has caused the US trade deficit in energy to shrink, and prompted a wave of investment in petrochemicals and other related industries. [...] It is also having an impact on global security. Imports are expected to provide just 21 per cent of US liquid fuel consumption next year, down from 60 per cent in 2005.

The reason?  Fracking.  As Walter Russell Mead points out:

With productivity continuing to rise, the United States has a chance to become the single biggest producer of crude oil sometime in the near future. If you had said that a decade ago, you would’ve been laughed at and called a fool. What a difference fracking makes.

Indeed.  The “peak oil” pundits were sure we were on the precipice of running out of oil.  Now, it seems, the sky is indeed the limit.  Which is why it makes little sense, given the state of climate science, that our President is busily engaged via the UN and other domestic agencies, in throttling back one of the most economically viable growth engines the American economy has at the moment (and for the foreseeable future).

Instead of working on a policy to limit future use of hydrocarbons, this White House should be pushing a policy that helps us safely and sustainably exploit these assets for all.  Additionally, while petroleum is indeed a global commodity, this level of production would go a long way toward the promise of energy independence in time of crisis.  It helps remove oil as a weapon of choice by various less than friendly states and allies of convenience.

Two winners for the US: economic growth and national security.

Instead we get an attempt to establish an new tax based on specious science.

Sort of par for the course, no pun intended.

~McQ

Wake up dummies – you ARE better off than you were 6 years ago – Obama decrees it!

Apparently we “underestimated” ebola and ISIS, but when it comes to the economy and our well being, our man in the White House did us proud, but we’re just not apt enough to realize that.   From Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview:

Steve Kroft: You’ve got midterm elections coming up. Are you going to get shellacked?

President Obama: Well…

Steve Kroft: Or do you think that, I mean, are you optimistic? What are the issues and what are you going to tell the American people?

President Obama: Here’s what I’m going to tell the American people. When I came into office, our economy was in crisis. We had unemployment up at 10 percent. It’s now down to 6.1. We’ve had the longest run of uninterrupted private sector job growth in our history. We have seen deficits cut by more than half. Corporate balance sheets are probably the best they’ve been in the last several decades. We are producing more energy than we had before. We are producing more clean energy than we ever had before. I can put my record against any leader around the world in terms of digging ourselves out of a terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis. Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” In this case, are you better off than you were in six? And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office, but now we have to make…

Steve Kroft: Do you think people will feel that?

President Obama: They don’t feel it. And the reason they don’t feel it is because incomes and wages are not going up. There are solutions to that. If we raise the minimum wage, if we make sure women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work, if we are rebuilding our infrastructure, if we’re doing more to invest in job training so people are able to get the jobs that are out there right now, because manufacturing is coming back to this country. Not just the auto industry that we’ve saved, but you’re starting to see reinvestment here in the United States. Businesses around the world are saying for the first time in a long time, “The place to invest isn’t in China. It’s the United States.”

So there you go.  When you ask the salient question (are you better off now than you were 6 years ago), you dumbasses always give the wrong answer.  You ARE better off because our King says so.  Screw the fact that “income and wages” are not going up, or the labor participation rates is at historic lows or real unemployment is considerably higher than the manipulated number!  You’re better off, dammit!   And government can fix the wage problem – you know, just raise the minimum wage for heaven sake.

*Sigh*

Given that level of cluelessness, are you at all surprised this administration underestimated ISIS and ebola?

~McQ

Tales from the Nanny State

The first comes from our “hoist on their own petard” department:

A study from three sociologists based out of North Carolina State University charges that First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign topromote healthy eating and decrease childhood obesity rates is classist and sexist in its implementation. This is because the model Obama advocates tends to put the onus of preparing healthy meals specifically on women, and also expects a level of disposable income, transportation options, and free time, which low-income families may lack.

The researchers interviewed 150 mothers and spent 250 hours observing 12 working-class and poor families as they shopped for food, cooked, and ate. They note:

In the fight to combat rising obesity rates, modern-day food gurus advocate a return to the kitchen. [...] First lady Michelle Obama has also been influential in popularizing public health messages that emphasize the role that mothers play when it comes to helping children make healthy choices. The message that good parents — and in particular, good mothers — cook for their families dovetails with increasingly intensive and unrealistic standards of “good” mothering. [Sage Journals]

The study concludes that, “this emerging standard is a tasty illusion, one that is moralistic, and rather elitist, instead of a realistic vision of cooking today.”

Yes that’s right, the Interferer in Chief’s campaign has been declared classist and sexist.  Of course if this were a right winger we were talking about all the lefty blogs would be blaring this in the headlines with a healthy dose of “I told you so” and “they just can’t seem to help it, can they” thrown in.

Irony.  You have to love it.  Its things like this that make my day go somewhat easier.

The second comes to us from Seattle, WA and is an example of what happens when people lose control of their government and that government decides to micro-manage every aspect of their lives with the intent of making sure they live it the way their betters decide they should live it:

The City of Seattle just passed a new trash ordinance that would fine residents and businesses for throwing away too much food.

The new rules would allow garbage collectors to inspect trash cans and ticket offending parties if food and compostable material makes up 10 percent or more of the trash.

The fines will begin at $1 for residents and $50 for businesses and apartment buildings, according to the Seattle Times.

So who will be the biggest offenders?  Well, most likely schools which use the Michelle Obama program – okay, I had to tie them together somehow.  No word, however, on how restaurants will fare under the law.

But think of it in a larger sense.  You buy the food.  It’s yours, your property.  You can prepare it however you like (within reason) and eat it if you care too or  … not.  What you throw away or decide not to keep is entirely up to you  — it’s YOUR property. It is none of anyone’s business.

On the other hand, you pay a fee or taxes to have your trash hauled away.  That’s their job.  Nothing more.  Haul your trash away. In steps government and arbitrarily decides that you’re throwing too much food away (goodness knows where that perception comes from) and the “there ought to be a law” folks step up.  They give those who pick up your trash the power to ticket you if they find you’ve thrown away too much food. Yeah, that’s right – the garbage police!

Most of the time these yahoos can’t even pick up the trash on time, and, of course they’re all math majors, so figuring out what percentage of your weekly trash pick up is over 10% should be a snap.  They have plenty of time, right?  I mean, good lord.

And if, in fact, people take this seriously, what do you suppose might happen? They’ll dump elsewhere.  If they’re smart they’ll find dumpsters outside the Seattle city hall and dump their food excess there.  Then the city can fine itself.

But it is another example of an unworkable law which will be arbitrarily imposed (if at all) and will see people attempting to circumvent it by means that I would guess will be less than sanitary and good for the city’s overall health.

Nannys.

~McQ

Eric Holder was to “justice” what Barack Obama is to “leader” (update)

Good riddance to the worst Attorney General in living history.  In fact, I came to consider his department the “Department of Just Us” in which “justice” was a political tool to be wielded selectively and only when it helped those constituencies that comprised the “us”.  And, of course, that included selective enforcement of the laws.   Or said another way “rule of man” vs. “rule of law”.

The scandals such as Fast and Furious, were simply something to be expected from such a department.  How could it be otherwise?  They weren’t of the law, they considered themselves above the law.   I have nothing nice to say about Eric Holder except I’m glad this day has finally come.

The Justice Department has been horribly harmed by that man’s tenure at the helm.  Like America’s reputation in the world under Barack Obama, DOJ has a long climb back to respectability.

UPDATE:

Meanwhile the “us” faction has immediately gone into action:

The Rev. Al Sharpton said his civil rights organization, the National Action Network, is “engaged in immediate conversations” with the White House as they work to name a successor to Attorney General Eric Holder, who is set to announce his resignation Thursday afternoon.

“We are engaged in immediate conversations with the White House on deliberations over a successor whom we hope will continue in the general direction of Attorney General Holder,” Sharpton said in a statement.

~McQ

Ideological redefinitions by the left

All my life, racism has been defined as you see it below.  It is a “belief” that your race is superior to other races based on nothing other than racial characteristics, such as skin color.

racism [ ˈrāˌsizəm ]

1. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

2. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Racism, then is displaying the “prejudice, discrimination or antagonism” to others of different races based on that “belief”.  Makes sense.  Simple. Direct to the point.  Racists think they’re superior to other races because of the color of their skin.

However, as such, the definition is unacceptable to the left.  For the left it fails in two particular areas.  It means that, based on this definition, anyone can be a racist which means, then,  it doesn’t allow them to identify and cultivate a victim class (or in this case, race) while excusing what they perceive as an oppressive race.   Useless.  The solution?  Move the goal posts.  Redefine the word so it has a more culturally useful meaning for the left.  Too many people were pointing out that the definition was something that correctly identified all races as susceptible to racism.  No good.

Enter academia.  What better place to make this happen than by pitching an ideologically biased new definition to those impressionable students who walked their hallowed halls?  Here, for instance, is how the University of Delaware defines racism:

A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.

Now the left has a useful definition. Now the oppressors are clearly identified as is the victim class.  This allows them to “capture” the victim classes into their entitlement schemes.  And, of course, when you load in the race baiters such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, a virtual cottage industry is created in which the discontent this sort of nonsense inspires is kept hot and fresh.  With this definition, all whites are racists, have been forever and will be forever if the left has anything to do with it.  This definition conveniently removes the expiration date from the definition and gives it a forever fresh date.  With the first definition, it is obvious that it depended on a “belief” – a belief which could be changed.  However with the second definition, that belief is relegated to irrelevancy and now, per the left,  racism is only based on the color of one’s skin.

Ironic, isn’t it?

~McQ

Meanwhile in Africa

Ebola continues to ravage the western part of the continent:

Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling.

In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported.

If that’s the case, then containment would seem all but impossible.

However, if it is able to be contained and everything goes to plan, there is a “best case” scenario:

In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be “almost ended” by Jan. 20, the report said. It showed the proportion of patients now in such settings as about 18 percent in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone.

Unfortunately, best case scenarios rarely if ever come to pass.  They assume too much goes well with “the plan”, communication, cooperation, behavior and many other human activities, and rule out people acting on misinformation and self-interest contrary to the “best case” scenario’s plan.  That’s not to say epidemic can’t eventually be contained … or burn itself out.  It’s to say betting on the “best case” scenario puts you at odds with human nature.

There’s another reason not to expect the “best case” scenario.  The agencies who are spouting all the stats really don’t know the actual extent of the outbreak:

The World Health Organization acknowledged weeks ago that despite its efforts to tally the thousands of cases in the region, the official statistics probably “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

And:

The report does not include figures for Guinea because case counts there have gone up and down in ways that cannot be reliably modeled.

The point?  We’re going to hear a lot of happy talk about how the world’s effort is going to contain this outbreak and, at least for a while, they’re going to point toward the best case scenario as their goal.  And it is a worthy goal.  But you have to remember that as with many government or quasi-government bureaucracies, their worth is measured in how successful they are – or report they are.  It’s how they receive funds.  So the propensity is to “happy talk” and favorable stats.  And, as we’ve all learned with “climate change”, models can be monkeyed with.

As an example of why the best case scenario is unlikely, the plan for containment relies on “effective methods” to contain it – such as treatment centers  where patients go and allow the problem to be isolated.  But in reality, there aren’t enough beds to do that:

At least one aid group working in Liberia is already shifting its focus to teaching people about home care and providing materials to help. Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the aid group Samaritan’s Purse, said, “I believe inevitably this is going to move into people’s houses, and the notion of home-based care has to play a more prominent role.” He said there could be 100,000 or more cases by the end of 2014.

“Where are they going to go?” Mr. Isaacs asked. “It’s too late. Nobody’s going to build 100,000 beds.”

He’s right. And so isolation, a key portion of “the plan”, is put in severe jeopardy.

Key take away?  Beware of all the happy talk.  This isn’t a time for propaganda and misleading stats.  But we are dealing with bureaucracies, spokespersons and the like.  This is a time for honest, above-board information so the public can stay informed about something that could threaten their lives.

Let’s see what we actually get.

~McQ

The march of the mimes

Walter Russell Meade does a great job of summing up the impact of yesterday’s “March of the Usual Lefty Organizations” in the name of taxing us into poverty with a carbon tax:

Street marches today are to real politics what street mime is to Shakespeare. This was an ersatz event: no laws will change, no political balance will tip, no UN delegate will have a change of heart. The world will roll on as if this march had never happened. And the marchers would have emitted less carbon and done more good for the world if they had all stayed home and studied books on economics, politics, science, religion and law. Marches like this create an illusion of politics and an illusion of meaningful activity to fill the void of postmodern life; the tribal ritual matters more than the political result.

And he’s precisely right.  Besides being the usual collection of leftist professional protesters sprinkled with clueless pols and celebrities, nothing of note is going to change at the UN Climate Summit.  Nothing.  The outcome of that is, as they say, “already written in the books”.

The world’s largest emitters are declining to show up, even for appearances. The Chinese economy has been the No. 1 global producer of carbon dioxide since 2008, but President Xi Jinping won’t be gracing the U.N. with his presence. India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi (No. 3) will be in New York but is skipping the climate parley. Russian President Vladimir Putin (No. 4) has other priorities, while Japan (No. 5) is uncooperative after the Fukushima disaster that has damaged support for nuclear power. Saudi Arabia is dispatching its petroleum minister.

China, however, has found a wonderful new way to forever avoid any responsibility for reducing its output.  It has become the “champion” for the poor and underdeveloped countries of the world and is helping put forward their demands:

China led calls by emerging economies on Friday for the rich to raise financial aid to the poor as a precondition for a United Nations deal to combat global warming.  “When the financing is resolved, this will set a very good foundation to negotiate a good agreement,” China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua told delegates from about 170 nations. Xie said developed nations, which have promised to raise aid to $100 billion a year by 2020, should have legally binding obligations to provide finance and technology to emerging economies, along with legally binding cuts in emissions.

Well of course the “rich nations” should … because that would have them pay China and India – two of the biggest carbon producers around.  So China has, in effect, made an offer they must refuse, because leaving out the two largest carbon producers is sort of self-defeating, isn’t it?  And anyway, we should pay for our “rich nation privilege”, shouldn’t we?

Meanwhile, Dr. Steven Koonin makes the point of saying what is clearly the truth in an op-ed in the WSJ – the science of climate change is not settled science.  In fact, it’s not even close.  Dr. Koonin, by the way, was the undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during Obama’s first term.  So this isn’t some right-wing ideologue spouting off, but a serious scientist.  Interestingly, he makes hash of the reliability of the climate models:

The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance. As a result, the models give widely varying descriptions of the climate’s inner workings. Since they disagree so markedly, no more than one of them can be right.

And we’re still looking for that one model that is right … but remember, it is on the basis of those models that this entire “scare” or alarmism finds its roots. Make it a point to read the entire Koonin piece.

But never fear as our fearless leader will be in NY to address the UN summit (most likely a rushed speech between fund raisers and golf).  Not that it will have any effect or make any difference.  But in his mind, it will be “action”.  In reality, it’ll be another example of him again being outplayed on the world stage.

~McQ