Interest rates on bonds, CDs and money market accounts — staples of the retirement crowd’s portfolio — are at historic lows. (I’m always shocked to see what banks are touting. Really? 0.35% — that is, 35/100 of a percent — on a money market? 0.90% on a CD? Yep.) Stocks are nothing to write home about, still well below their highs of five years ago. As for those real estate investments? Forget about it.
The squeeze is real. Some years ago, when earning say 5% on your money was realistic, a $360,000 portfolio of CDs would produce $18,000 a year in interest — that’s $1500 a month. Couple that with an unexceptionalSocial Security payment of about the same amount, and that’s $36,000 a year, $3,000 a month. Nothing fancy, but enough to get by.
Now change that 5% to 0.9% and you’re earning $3,240 per year, or about $270 a month. Add that to $1,500 a month in Social Security and you’ve got $1,770 a month to live on; just $21,240 a year. That’s a brutal 41% cut in income. And it is why many senior citizens around the country are being forced to draw down savings to make ends meet.
Now, you’re saying, well yeah, got it but is that the President’s fault? In a political system that considers all things that happen under a president’s watch to be “his”, yes. If president’s are going to claim responsibility for good occurrences, then they also get the responsibility for the bad things as well. And if I remember correctly, the current president promised to fix all this stuff. But, this is reality:
The Federal Reserve’s low interest rates are a boon to overextended banks and to the borrowers who owe them money. (As well as the world’s greatest debtor, the U.S. Treasury). But these benefits come at the expense of savers — both those who hope to see their savings grow enough that they can retire someday, and those who have already retired expecting to live on interest at rates far higher than those that prevail today. The low rates are, basically, a tax on savers for the benefit of borrowers and those who made bad loans.
Couple that with the spendthrift ways of the past few years, with little to show for it, and you sort of have the perfect political storm don’t you.
The point about the seniors is their retirement income has been materially effected. That’s totally real to them – they live with it daily. And, frankly, they’re going to blame someone. 4 years ago they probably blamed Bush. But now, well now they’re going to blame the guy who has had ample time, in their estimation, to do something about this … and hasn’t.
And who is the guy on the hook? Right or wrong it’s the prez.
As if what is described above isn’t bad enough, there’s more:
For senior citizens, it’s a double squeeze. While incomes for retirees are going down, costs are going up. Gasoline is now roughly double what it was whenPresident Obama took office and, in many places, it’s back up in the neighborhood of $4 a gallon.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ground beef recently hit a national average of more than $3 a pound, the first time in history it’s reached that level. (When Obama was inaugurated, it was $2.35). Anyone who has spent time in a grocery store knows that this sort of thing is happening on every aisle — coupled with “shrinkage,” as manufacturers reduce the amount of product in a box while keeping the price the same, a way of hiding price increases from (they hope) inattentive consumers. And it’s going to get worse, according to the Department of Agriculture, when this summer’s drought hits food prices in a few months.
Heard anything about all of this? Yeah, me neither. Glenn Reynolds hasn’t either and he’s pretty sure he knows why:
In fact, with this double squeeze, we have the makings of a major national crisis. There’s only one thing missing: the kind of news media attention you’d usually get with this many senior citizens suffering in an election year.
I’ve been watching these developments for a while, and by now you’d expect a lot of sad news coverage about old people who diligently saved for retirement being squeezed by high prices and federal policies, being forced to choose between medicine and food or having to let go of pets and move in with children because things have just gotten too expensive, living on cat food and the like. But actually, we’re not hearing much.
And we all know why? When the 4th Estate becomes a 5th Column, you’re unlikely to hear much about the things that might reflect on their chosen one.
Report it or not, it remains a real problem and those suffering from this turn around are likely to want to point the finger at someone. And usually that someone is whoever is in charge on election day.
9 years ago today, QandO was launched on the Blogger platform. Jon Henke started it up by putting up a two or three line post about “first post” jitters. Since then we’ve migrated to many different platforms, literally thousands of posts have been written, over 60,000 comments have been made and over 8 million have viewed QandO’s pages.
This blog has been a labor of love for all those associated with it. By far not the biggest of the blogs out there, it is one of the older ones (think dog years as a metaphor for blog years). We started back when there were just hundreds of us. Now, there are literally millions of blogs.
Thanks from the QandO gang to all our loyal readers and commenters. You’re the incentive that keeps us writing.
Obama: "I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises" Me: “As long as you let him define what a compromise is”
Among the various annoying sophistries of the left, their attempt to re-define the term “compromise” is high on my list.
If I’m sitting in Nashville on I-40 and I want to go to Memphis, and I’m trying to share transportation with someone who wants to go to Knoxville, there isn’t much room for compromise. Standing still is a better choice than any option that takes me further from my goal.
But the left don’t want us to look at it that way. They insist on setting a ground rule that some sort of movement in their direction is a sine qua non.
Oh, sure, they’ll alter non-essential details. “Well, if you insist, we can take Highway 70 instead of I-40. That’s a real sacrifice on our part, because it’s a scenic route and a lot slower. But, in the spirit of compromise, we’ll do that. Now, why won’t you go along with that? You’re just inflexible. Don’t you see we need to compromise and come to an agreement here? We have to do something!”
It does no good to point out that the exact highway doesn’t matter – it’s the goal I don’t agree with. And that doing nothing is preferred to taking even one more step in their preferred direction.
This is the spirit with which Obama claims he’s willing to compromise in an interview with the AP (which I saw via Ace of Spades). After spending most of his time bashing Romney for his “extreme” views, Obama came out with his faux-reasonable, “why can’t we all get along” schtick:
If Republicans are willing, Obama said, "I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises" that could even rankle his own party. But he did not get specific.
I’ll bet he didn’t get specific. If he had, the entire fiction would have been exposed. And any “rankling” we see in his own party would just be the usual moaning that we’re not growing government fast enough.
Because what he means is that he wants the other side to give him more collectivist stuff, with perhaps a few meaningless changes to let GOP congressmen save face. He most certainly does not mean that he’s willing to cut government in any shape, form, or fashion.
I must note, for the umpteenth time, that Obama does not think he’s lying when he says such things. The headline at Ace of Spades is “Obama Tells Another Whopper”. Most commentators on the right feel the same way, but I don’t. I think it’s important to understand what’s going on in the minds of those on the left when they trot out their preposterous untruths.
Here’s an example I’ve discussed before – Harry Reid attempting to redefine the word “voluntary”. If you’ve never seen that video, you really should take four minutes and watch it – it’s eye opening. If you’re new to QandO and never heard me go off about the post-modernist stance involved, read the comments.
That video was just a particularly egregious example of the post-modern debate tactics of the left. They really do believe that they can simply redefine a word to suit their argument. All they have to do then is to get enough people to go along with their new definition, and it becomes the “valid” definition.
One of their earliest triumphs in this space was co-opting the very term “liberal”. That case shows the pattern. They take a word that has positive connotations and redefine it to suit their partisan purposes. They do it through repetition via their mainstream media arm plus an occasional dose of shouting down the opposition.
“Compromise” has almost reached this state. They want it redefined to mean “giving collectivists at least part of what they want”. But they want to preserve the connotation that compromise is a good thing.
For the current crew in charge of the Democratic Party, plus their media comrades, “compromise” never means taking something away from collectivists or reducing the size and scope of government. Anything of that nature is immediately branded “extreme”. And, of course, you just can’t reason with extremists, so the implication is that they don’t need to be a part of the political process.
That’s how they are trying to tag Mitt Romney right now.
"I can’t speak to Governor Romney’s motivations," Obama said. "What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken.
That’s laughable! Mitt Romney, an extremist? He’s the very archetype of an establishment, go-along-get-along Republican. He proved it in Massachusetts.
But it doesn’t matter whether he’s really extreme. The word has the connotation they want, so they use it incorrectly to promote their point of view, without a shred of shame or guilt, because they don’t think doing that is wrong.
To see additional recent examples of this insistence on the left to own definitions and set the terms of the debate in their favor, let’s look at some bilge from Nancy Pelosi and Tom Friedman.
First, here’s Pelosi in USA Today.
Though we never compromised principles, we did seek common ground to achieve results. From the start, we acted to strengthen workers by increasing the minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade. We worked with President Bush to jump-start our economy with recovery rebates for 130 million American families, even though Democrats preferred including investments to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges.
To promote the industries of the future and safeguard national security, we enacted the comprehensive Energy Independence and Security Act, raising fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in 32 years, investing in renewables and biofuels while creating clean energy jobs. We followed up with the COMPETES Act to support high-tech jobs, extend math and science education and boost research.
What she means by “not compromising principles” is “never giving in to reducing government”. Her examples prove it. They’re all about expanding government in some way.
These are not compromises, and having some gullible Republicans vote for them doesn’t change that.
Some of those gullible Republicans have since been sent to the showers, and the GOP’s major gains in 2010 reflected the dissatisfaction of these ridiculous “compromises” and the ever-expanding scope of government that goes along with them. Voters made it pretty explicit that they wanted to go in a different direction, and finally enough Republicans got that message to stop “compromising” in a way that constantly grew government.
But of course, Nancy wants to own the terminology. For her, the stand off resulted in a “do-nothing Congress”, which she seems to regard as intolerable.
This is one of the least productive Congresses in history, reported USA TODAY — even worse than the "do-nothing Congress" President Truman lambasted in 1948.
It never occurs to Nancy or her lapdog media acolytes to notice that the GOP passed a bunch of bills that were turned down by the Democrat-majority Senate. Why didn’t Nancy and her buddies in the Senate have some responsibility for compromise? Why weren’t some of those bills made law? It would have not been a “do-nothing Congress” then. Isn’t that important, Nancy?
No, it isn’t. What’s important is that she keeps growing government. That’s the only thing that matters to today’s left. The budget doesn’t matter (over three years without one, which I thought was something Congress was required to do), and the debt doesn’t matter (the Democrats want even more stimulus). They actually demand more regulations and higher taxes.
If you oppose any of those things, Nancy and her buddies are never, ever going to compromise with you. But they will constantly bitch and moan that you won’t “compromise” with them, i.e., go along with another round of making government bigger.
We’ve been seeing that sort of “compromise” for decades now, and it’s brought us to the verge of an economic meltdown unprecedented in history. Yet the collectivists keep insisting that somehow, some way, one more round of “compromise” that gives them most of what they want will do the trick and make things work out better.
To see Nancy’s support in the chin-pulling media, last week’s Tom Friedman column is a great example.
And even if Ryan’s entry does spark a meaningful debate about one of the great issues facing America — the nexus of debt, taxes and entitlements — there is little sign that we’ll seriously debate our other three major challenges: how to generate growth and upgrade the skills of every American in an age when the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution means every good job requires more education; how to meet our energy and climate challenges; and how to create an immigration policy that will treat those who are here illegally humanely, while opening America to the world’s most talented immigrants, whom we need to remain the world’s most innovative economy
But what’s even more troubling is that we need more than debates. That’s all we’ve been having. We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base. America today desperately needs a serious, thoughtful, credible 21st-century “conservative” opposition to President Obama, and we don’t have that, even though the voices are out there.
This is the same sort of nonsense as that from Pelosi, under a different cover.
Friedman attempts to sound fair by admitting that we’re about to go off the cliff from entitlements and debt, and magnanimously agrees that we have to “do something”. Naturally, he ducks any mention of his preferred solution, and I don’t even have to know the details, because it is certain to mean higher taxes and more government. What else would we expect from someone who admires the authoritarians in China? (I notice that he doesn’t seem eager to notice their recent economic problems, and perhaps revisit his “analysis”, does he?)
But after that pro forma acknowledgment that serious problems must be solved, he veers off into how we absolutely must handle three other areas. It’s equally obvious that, as far as Friedman is concerned, more government is the preferred outcome.
Why else would these debates be so essential as soon as there’s a new Congress? What he’s suggesting is federal intervention to “upgrade skills” and “meet energy and climate challenges”. Naturally, he doesn’t bother to tell us precisely what government can do in these areas. He doesn’t really care much, as long as government gets more control.
Then he starts in on one area that is definitely the purview of the federal government: immigration. But he’s not for enforcing laws or any similar silly conservative notions. No, to him one of the top four critical issues that absolutely must be dealt with is how to treat illegal immigrants humanely. The fact that they chose to come here and can leave whenever they don’t like the way they’re treated never seems to enter his mind, nor does he support the claims of inhumane treatment. He just wants to again generate the urgency to “do something” because he expects the “something” that is reached via “compromise” to be within shouting distance of his preferred policy.
But he’s just setting the stage for his real lament:
We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base.
See the rhetorical sleight of hand? Anyone who disagrees with his positions is automatically “radical”. Those who would “make a deal” with his side are the true conservatives.
This is just another example of wanting to own the terminology. Friedman thinks it’s completely appropriate for the left to dictate how political terms are used, even in describing their opponents. He want’s to redefine “conservative” to mean “someone who isn’t quite as collectivist as me, but is still willing to go along with the collectivist programs of the Democrats after some token opposition”. That is, he wants all respectable political labels to be flavors of collectivism.
He wants to redefine the Democrats like Pelosi too. I think it’s completely reasonable to say that she’s the most collectivist, far left Speaker of the House we’ve ever had, and her district is ideologically as collectivist as any in the nature. Obama is pretty much in the same territory, as his background and priorities during office have proven.
But to Friedman, they’re just “center left”:
We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. … Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges.
Again, the “compromise” he has in mind grows government. His “center-left” (which by historical standards is way, way to the left) would never, ever agree to anything else.
He concludes with
As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing.
Sure, Tom, but whose fault is that? You want to claim it’s the fault of the right, because of course your vaunted collectivists are never at fault for anything that goes wrong, either here or in China. But why can’t your guys suck it up and compromise this time around?
The collectivist left has gotten their “compromises” from the GOP that led the way to bigger, more expensive, more debt-laden, and more intrusive government for decades. Isn’t it time for the compromise to go the other way for a while? Given the trouble we’re in, isn’t it time for the “center-left” to compromise for a while in the direction of less government?
No, of course not. For the likes of Obama, Pelosi, and Friedman, the day of admitting that their political opponents might have a point about big government will never come. They will never truly compromise with anyone who believes in limited government. They will only “compromise” – which means to keep growing government with the collusion of the establishment GOP.
I’m not the only one noticing this trend of redefining the terms instead of actually debating anything. Here’s James Taranto talking about the same thing:
Note carefully what is being asserted here. It’s not just that Democratic ideas are morally superior to Republican ones or that Barack Obama is a better president, or a better man, than Mitt Romney or would be, or is. Rather, the claim is that whereas billionaires who support Romney are greedy and selfish, those who back Obama are altruistic–or, to the extent they have a selfish motive, it is a relatively benign one, a simple desire to be in the presence of the Dear Leader.
It’s a leftist cliché that money corrupts politics. These leftists, however, believe that their politics somehow purifies money–that writing a check to Obama for America is an act of moral money-laundering.
Leftists have tried to own the terminology of politics as long as I remember. But notice, all these examples are within the last few days.
This is another sign to me that the Democrats are starting to feel desperation. They don’t have anything positive to talk about. They have no original or constructive ideas to offer the electorate. They have fallen back to spending almost all their time attempting to define the opposition as an intolerable alternative. They think that will let them win without a program, because they think they can simply define themselves as the only reasonable choice.
I do not think that’s going to work. But the collectivist Democrats will probably keep enough power in Congress to stymie any attempts by Republicans to do anything that reduces government in any substantial way.
If the Democrats lose the presidency (as I think likely) and the Senate (as I think possible), somehow I bet the collectivist left will suddenly lost their fervor for compromise. The filibuster will become an essential tool of democracy. A “do-nothing Congress” will quickly become a badge of honor instead of an insult.
But, when you’re a post-modernist, you never worry about consistency or hypocrisy. You just redefine your terms.
his will be a light week for economic statistics, with the only releases of importance being home sales on Wednesday and Thursday for existing and new homes respectively, and Friday’s Durable Goods Orders release. The remainder of this weeks releases are the regular weekly numbers.
For today, there is only one release. The Chicago Fed National Activity Index rose slightly to -0.13 from last month’s -0.15, thought the negative number indicates the economy is still below trend. This is the fifth consecutive negative number, and the 3-month moving average fell slightly to -0.21.
Learning from nature:
Of course I’m always leery of how they’ll be used. They’re surveillance UAVs. Who do you think will use them?
I say that in the title fully understanding that in reality Howard Dean reflects how some (many?) on the liberal side of the house actually feel, or perhaps a better way of saying that is how they delude themselves into feeling. Take this for instance … Howard Dean on the Wisconsin recall election:
DEAN: First of all, we look at Wisconsin as a win. We, which is not reported in the mainstream media, we picked up a senate seat, which denies Scott Walker a majority in the senate. So we put the breaks on him at least until the next election season. Secondly, you know, I always thought the base would come around because, as they like to say in Obama-land, we’re not running against the Almighty, we’re running against the alternative. Mitt Romney is well-known among the American people, let alone progressives, as someone who mostly caters to very wealthy Americans, and doesn’t have a lot of understanding or sympathy for those who aren’t. I’m pretty sure we’re in good shape and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a big progressive turnout.
Wow. First, the Senate win was an empty win. The legislature is not in session and with redistricting (which was done by the Republican legislature), the “new” Senator will have to again run for the seat before the legislature again meets. Forecasts say the Republicans will pick up at least one more seat at that time. So the win is a win in name only. It means nothing whatsoever until the next election.
Second … does anyone, given the turn out in Wisconsin, believe that line of crap about “progressive turnout”? And even if progressives do turn out, they’re what, 25% of the electorate tops? It isn’t the progressives who are going to re-elect Barack Obama. It is the big middle who is deserting him right now.
But, that said, I just don’t see a big progressive turnout in the cards either.
Dean, however, is going to stay on message no matter how ridiculous it sounds:
REPORTER: Are you seeing a difference in the mood here compared to previous years? Last year, there were some combative moments and this time around it seems, so far anyway—
DEAN: Again, it’s the fourth quarter. I’ve had my differences with the administration, particularly over health-care policy, but this is the fourth quarter. I always used to say when I was DNC chair we’re going to elect a Democratic president and hold their feet to the fire to make sure they behave like Democrats. In the fourth quarter, everybody’s on the same team again—we’ve got to win this game. I hesitate to think of what’s going to happen to the budget deficit, because of course the Republicans are the biggest creators of budget deficits, should Mitt Romney win and have a Republican House and a Republican Senate. We’ll get a big turnout.
Yup, that’s sort of the same message about teams that you hear on the GOP side. Everyone get onboard.
However, in the real world, it seems that the team forming on the right is much more enthusiastic (at least at this point) than the one on the left, and on the right they don’t even have an official nominee yet.
As for the budget nonsense – boilerplate crap that adheres to the discredited spin that Obama has spent less than any president in 60 years. Only progressives believe that, apparently.
REPORTER: Do you think there’s a change in the relationship between the Democratic base and labor in particular? I’ve talked to a couple activists here who say they’re a little dispirited, that they don’t know whether engaging in electoral politics is the best role for labor unions after Wisconsin.
DEAN: Well, I think the parameters have changed dramatically. The old politics is not going to work anymore. We’re not going to be able to outspend the Republicans under the circumstances of Citizens United, so I think we’re going to have to look for a different kind of politics. I think that the campaign, actually, in Wisconsin—the principal problem there was not being outspent; the principal problem there was people were tired of elections. Had they waited another three months, they might have gotten an indictment in the administration, and that would have been significant grounds to throw out a sitting governor—and I think a lot of people would think so. The most interesting thing about the Wisconsin race was that about 10 percent of the electorate that voted to keep Walker, also said they would vote for Obama in the fall, which gave Obama the state. We’ll see. I’m not one of those who thought last week was a bad week for the Democrats. I actually thought last week was a good week for Democrats.
Tired of elections? That’s why record numbers turned out and resoundingly thumped the recall effort? We’ve already seen the “outspent” nonsense debunked. If your fall back to an electoral debacle is “people are tired of elections” given the turnout and result, you’re out of credible ideas and just pumping out hot air.
Dean, along with perhaps Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and David Axlerod are about the only people in America that thought last week was a “good week for Democrats”. That said, I wish them many more like it.
REPORTER: How about in the fall? Do you think that when it comes to Obama communicating with the base and doing things that will energize the base, is there anything that you’d like to see him do between now and then?
DEAN: I’d like to see him keep hammering away at Romney’s—the one thing, you’ve got to hammer at people’s beliefs. You can’t sort of convince people that, for example as the Republicans have been trying to do, that the problem with the president is that he was born in Kenya—that’s just not going to work. You don’t have to convince people that Romney only cares about rich people, because that’s what they believe already. So you just have to keep hammering that message home, that this is not a guy who understands you. And I think we’re going to win.
And I can only hope Obama takes Dean’s advice, because it will guarantee a one term presidency if he does.
I put all this up because whether Democrats like it or not, this is one of the faces of the Democratic party. And if you think he’s out to lunch, tune in to Debbie Wasserman-Shultz for a while. She makes Dean seem sane.
More whining from the baby boomers (and yes, I’m a boomer). Joe Nocera of the NYT is 60 and his 401 (k) has just failed to provide for his retirement:
The only thing I haven’t dealt with on my to-do checklist is retirement planning. The reason is simple: I’m not planning to retire. More accurately, I can’t retire. My 401(k) plan, which was supposed to take care of my retirement, is in tatters.
And Old Joe was a fan of 401 (k)s too:
Like millions of other aging baby boomers, I first began putting money into a tax-deferred retirement account a few years after they were legislated into existence in the late 1970s. The great bull market, which began in 1982, was just gearing up. As a young journalist, I couldn’t afford to invest a lot of money, but my account grew as the market rose, and the bull market gave me an inflated sense of my investing skills.
I became such an enthusiast of the new investing culture that I wrote my first book, in the mid-1990s, about what I called “the democratization of money.” It was only right, I argued, that the little guy have the same access to the markets as the wealthy. In the book, I didn’t make much of the decline of pensions. After all, we were in the middle of the tech bubble by then. What fun!
But the tech bubble knocked the poo out his tech heavy portfolio (yeah, everyone took a bit of a soaking, but much of it came back).
Here’s the part that gets me. While you can kinda, sorta, give him a pat on the back for the tech stock thing and say “aw, poor thing”, that’s not why his 401(k) is in “tatters”:
A half-dozen years later, I got divorced, cutting my 401(k) in half again. A few years after that, I bought a house that needed some costly renovations. Since my retirement account was now hopelessly inadequate for actual retirement, I reasoned that I might as well get some use out of the money while I could. So I threw another chunk of my 401(k) at the renovation. That’s where I stand today.
Or said another way – he spent most of it on things that have nothing to do with retirement while also losing half to a divorced spouse.
How is that that fault of the 401(k)?!
Of course, it’s not.
But Nocera spends the rest of his article blaming all of this on the inadequacies of 401(k)s. So what does he do … find an “expert” to buttress his obvious conclusion:
What, then, will people do when they retire? I asked Ghilarducci. “Their retirement plan is faith based,” she replied. “They have faith that it will somehow work out.”
I laughed, but it’s not funny. “The 401(k),” she concluded, “is a failed experiment. It is time to rethink it.”
Uh, no, it’s not.
It’s certainly not as failed an experiment as Social Security. And, by the way, for those for whom it is a failure, it’s a failure with their own money (and not mine or millions of other tax payers). Anyone who looks at Nocera’s explanation as to why there’s nothing in his 401(k) today knows better than to claim it’s the fault of the program or somehow a “failed experiment”.
Clue: when you make huge withdrawals to buy and renovate houses prior to your retirement, you might be gutting your retirement program – you know, the program in which you were able to save a large amount of money for after you retired that you chose to use today? And someone should also clue Mr. Nocera into the fact that his interpersonal relationships which end in divorce aren’t the fault of the 401(k) either.
But hey, in today’s world, it is hip to be a victim, isn’t it? Everyone has to have something or someone to blame for their stupid decisions in life. And Nocera provides a great example of the type. Blame the fund, not the fool making the dumb decisions.
Could. That’s the operative word. “If” is the keyword. We certainly have the assets and infrastructure.
By 2017 the U.S. could be the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, surpassing leading LNG exporters Qatar and Australia. There is one big “if,” however. America can produce more gas, export a surplus, improve the trade deficit, create jobs, generate taxable profits and reduce its dependence on foreign energy if the marketplace is allowed to work and politics doesn’t get in the way.
However, there are few things like this in which politics doesn’t get in the way. And don’t forget the crony capitalists:
But exporters must overcome growing opposition to LNG exports by environmentalists and industrial users of natural gas. Exporters must also get multiple permits from environmentally conscious federal officials. And Rep. Ed Markey (D.-Mass.) has proposed legislation to bar federal approval of any LNG export terminals until 2025. Those who most fear global warming don’t want anyone anywhere to use more fossil fuel, even “cleaner” natural gas.
Of course the most beneficial thing to do would be to let the market for LNG work. But there are vested interests which will lobby against that:
Exporting energy, however, rubs a lot of people the wrong way. [T. Boone] Pickens wants cheap natural gas for his 18-wheelers and opposes LNG exports. Industrial gas users argue that a vibrant LNG industry would propel domestic gas prices higher. A study by Deloitte said that exporting six 6 BCF [billion cubic feet] per day of LNG would raise wellhead gas prices by 12 cents per million BTU (about 1% on a retail basis). Advocates of “energy independence” argue that exporting LNG would tie U.S. natural gas prices to global markets.
The Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy is considering whether exporting LNG is in the public interest. In the meantime — shades of Keystone XL — the department has effectively put a moratorium on new LNG export licenses.
Energy’s decision-making process balances the extent to which exporting LNG drives up prices with the economic benefits of increased production and energy exports. The price assessment comes at a time when U.S. gas fetches the same price in constant dollars as it did in 1975. Producers are now shutting down production and lowering exploration budgets. The shale-gas “job machine” is now in reverse.
So what would be the ideal?
Ideally, the Energy Department should move quickly and recognize free-market principles. And the administration could send a clear policy signal that natural gas is integral to the country’s energy future and that exporting LNG is good economics and consistent with its 2010 State of the Union address to double U.S. exports over five years and create two million new jobs. But Energy is moving slowly, and administration signals on natural gas are mostly lip service. The economic-benefits study should have been done by the end of March. But last week, Energy delayed its release until late summer, and said there is no timeline to review results and develop policy recommendations. Translation: after the election.
We’ve seen this scenario before (*cough* Keystone *cough*).
Here we are in the middle of a recession and we’re seeing the same sort of nonsense being played out as we have with other energy projects. The delays are literally playing with people’s lives and livelihoods:
Estimates of the job benefits from U.S. LNG projects depend on a variety of assumptions. Roughly 25,000 direct construction jobs would be created if all the projects are built. Increasing the U.S. natural-gas production base by another 13 billion cubic feet might translate to 450,000 direct and indirect jobs and $16 billion in annual tax revenue for federal and state coffers.
It’s easier to forecast improved trade balances. Exporting 13 BCF per day of LNG could generate about $45 billion annually. Reaching Pickens’ goals could offset another $70 billion annually of oil imports.
But, instead, the Energy Department is delaying.
And people wonder why coming out of this recession we aren’t adding jobs to the economy as we have in past recessions?
Politics and policy, my friends, politics and policy.
While this happened in Canada, it is something that I’ve come to believe could happen here in the near future given the rise of the nanny state’s intrusion. This incident occurred in Kitchener, Ontario:
Jessie Sansone told the Record newspaper that he was in shock when he was arrested Wednesday and taken to a police station for questioning over the drawing. He was also strip-searched.
"This is completely insane. My daughter drew a gun on a piece of paper at school," he said.
Officials told the newspaper the move was necessary to ensure there were no guns accessible by children in the family’s home. They also said comments by Sansone’s daughter, Neaveh, that the man holding the gun in the picture was her dad and "he uses it to shoot bad guys and monsters," was concerning.
A four year old. Yeah, they have no imagination whatsoever, do they? They never make things up.
Do Canadians not enjoy the right of not being subjected too unnecessary search and seizure? Note the official response – it was “necessary” to ensure there were no “guns accessible by children in the family’s home”?
Really? Was it? It couldn’t have been a 4 year old’s flight of fancy, could it? That never happens, does it?
And beside that, while I hold it is none of the state’s freakin’ business to begin with, a simple knock on the door wouldn’t have been able to determine access to firearms? “Hi, sir. Your 4 year old daughter drew this and we’re concerned about her or other children in the household having access to firearms. Do you own any firearms? “
Yeah, way to easy. What in the hell has happened to common sense?
And it even gets worse:
Police also searched Sansone’s home while he was in custody. His wife and three children were taken to the police station, and the children were interviewed by Family and Children’s Services.
Sansone’s wife, Stephanie Squires, told the newspaper no one told them why her husband had been arrested.
"He had absolutely no idea what this was even about. I just kept telling them, ‘You’re making a mistake.’"
Several hours later, Sansone was released without charges.
Searched the home without permission (no word on whether there was a warrant), didn’t inform the father of the charges against him, strip searched him and then released him without charges hours later?
That’s police state treatment.
Hopefully Mr. Sansone retains a good lawyer and sues the pants off these goons.
If the state will let him.
One of the things I do quite often is throw poll numbers up here. But they’re usually numbers from selected polls. You’re unlikely to see me put up numbers about what percentage of likely voters some candidate holds in an election, especially a year out. They’re essentially worthless.
But three I do find interesting and telling are polls that measure the satisfaction of voters, like the “direction of the country” polls, polls that look at voter enthusiasm for each side and finally, polls that attempt to determine the size of the independent vote pool.
Those three types of polls are usually trending polls, i.e. they measure these things at regular intervals. It is those trends that I find valuable and make it easier for me, personally, to get a handle on the mood of the voting public.
For instance, in the 2010 midterms we saw a decided shift of independents from the Democratic side to the Republican side as well as much more enthusiasm on the right than the left in those elections. The result was a resounding Republican win with them picking up around 60 seats in the House.
Today we have one of those polls from Gallup. It measures where independent voters are trending. So let’s take a look.
The first thing that strikes you is the fact that the pool of independent voters has increased:
The percentage of Americans identifying as political independents increased in 2011, as is common in a non-election year, although the 40% who did so is the highest Gallup has measured, by one percentage point. More Americans continue to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31% to 27%.
Did you catch that last sentence? There is a 4% difference in favor of Democrats with party identification. That’s actually an decrease for the GOP as we’ll see later on. Look at this chart from Gallup:
The key year is 2010. Note that Republicans, as mentioned did very well that year in the mid-terms but still trailed Democrats in percentage of party identification. Also note that increased identification as an independent began almost immediately after 2008, when Democrats controlled both the legislative and executive branches.
But since 2010 Democrat identification has flattened out. In fact, if you look back toward 1988 the current percentage of identification with Democrats is at what one could consider a low. But the same can be said for Republicans.
So what do the trends tell us? Well, to me they indicate a very deep dissatisfaction with both parties. And, in fact, in terms of self-identification, each party is “bottomed out” with those identifying with them being what one would consider their hard-core base. For whatever reason they unswervingly identify with one of the two parties and, if I had to guess, go to the polls and pretty much vote a straight ticket.
Looking at the numbers, however, you realize that they’re obviously not enough, within these bases, for either party to win an election. Democrats have a 4% lead in what they have to make up, but that’s not necessarily as much of an advantage as it might seem. Because it all depends on how many independents they have leaning their way as to whether they can get the required majority of voters.
How dissatisfied is the voting public with the two parties? Well, this little tidbit should give you an idea:
Gallup records from 1951-1988 — based on face-to-face interviewing — indicate that the percentage of independents was generally in the low 30% range during those years, suggesting that the proportion of independents in 2011 was the largest in at least 60 years.
So now the question is, even with that level of dissatisfaction, assuming no third party run, who do (or will) independents side with? First keep in mind that while Democrats enjoy a 4 point lead in party identification, that’s down from the 7 point lead they enjoyed in 2008.
Secondly, in 2008, Democrats enjoyed a 12 point advantage among independents, with 52% leaning Democratic compared to 40% leaning Republican. Now?
Now a virtual tie. The huge advantage that Democrats enjoyed in the last presidential race among independents has dissipated.
Of course everyone knows, or at least those who follow politics know, that the fight for the presidency will be determined by the “big middle” – those who identify as independents.
Given this chart, and despite the fact that their party identification has dropped a couple of points, it would appear that the GOP has made huge gains among independents. This is a trend I’ve been remarking on for quite some time. The 12% advantage is gone.
So now, what if anything does this tell us?
Well, it tells us that the presidential election isn’t a slam dunk on either side, but neither, at least at this point in time, is it a run-away for either side. It will be exceedingly close, no matter who ends up as the nominee for the GOP.
But I’d also say this – so far most of the blood-letting, politically speaking, has been on the Republican side with these interminable debates going on. The numbers you see above reflect one party with its nominee already decided and the other still in the midst of deciding.
So given that point, I’d have to say that being tied among independents at this point is not particularly good news for the incumbent party. Independent voters have trended away from Democrats and, for the most part, stayed away. What one has to wonder is if the tie will be broken when the GOP finally settles on a nominee and which way it will go. If I had to guess, once that is done, we’ll see another fairly significant change in “leaning” independents for one side or the other as they decide whether or not they can indeed support the nominee the GOP has named.
And that’s what is going to be interesting. Instead of talking about who can beat Obama, the GOP needs to be concerned with who can and will attract independent voters.
That will not appeal to the staunch conservatives, especially the social conservatives, because, those independents still to be influenced most likely are moderate or, as some activists like to characterize them, from the “mushy middle”. They are that 10% that don’t show up in the 45-45 tie. They are the prize.
Unfortunately, that means appealing to a group that may be just as likely to vote Democratic as Republican and less likely to be attracted to either side pushing what they consider extremist ideas.
Just a point to consider.
Meanwhile, on the right, another choice is going to have to be made. They are going to have to decide if they’re going to hold out for the perfect candidate or do what is necessary to get Barack Obama out of office. And that means some probable nose-holding and lever pulling (that’s where the enthusiasm gap comes in).
Yes, friends, 2012 promises to be a political junkie’s dream in terms of watching the politics of the day develop. Unfortunately, it promises the same sort of election we’ve had for decades – making another choice among a field of poor choices and then somehow expecting that poor (but best relatively speaking) choice to work miracles.
What was Einstein’s definition of insanity?