Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: April 2010

Massachusetts may preview the “Cadillac” tax fight to come

Massachusetts is discovering that while you may like your doctor and your insurance plan, you may be paying a heck of a lot more for them in the future, if you get to keep them at all. Guess who are the recipients of “Cadillac” plans in the Bay State? If you said “municipal workers” you’d be right. And an assessment of the various plans doesn’t bode well for them if the “Cadillac” tax kicks in:

A family health plan that costs more than $27,500 would be subject to a 40 percent tax on every dollar spent above that threshold. The tax, set to take effect in 2018, would be levied on insurers, who would probably pass it on to municipalities and other employers. A few cities and towns already have family plans that exceed $27,500, and many others are on track to surpass that level before the tax kicks in.

That means taxpayers in many communities could be facing thousands of dollars in additional costs for every employee, retired worker, and elected leader they cover, unless those communities move soon to scale back coverage, a change the law is designed to encourage.

You caught that last line, didn’t you? “A change the law is designed to encourage”. What about “if you like your doctor and you like your insurance plan …”? The answer, of course, is “too bad”. Taxpayers will be on the hook to pay the tax or workers will have to take fewer benefits. Check these costs out:

Framingham has dozens of employees enrolled in two of its family plans at annual premiums of $40,475 or $39,150, far in excess of the threshold. For individual plans, the excise tax threshold is $10,200, and Framingham has scores of employees enrolled in plans with annual premiums of $16,275 or $14,500.

Many other cities are already close to the family plan threshold and on pace to exceed it by 2018 because of increases in health care costs, including Everett ($27,048 in annual premiums), Brockton ($25,776), Malden ($24,360), Newton ($23,844), Revere ($23,604), and Peabody ($23,466).

If the new tax were in effect today, Framingham would probably face an additional expense of $4,660 to $5,190 for every employee in the family plans, and $1,720 to $2,430 for each employee on an individual plan.

Waltham would also be liable for the excise tax because it offers a family plan with an annual premium of $30,415, almost $3,000 over the threshold.

And Lawrence, one of the poorest cities in the state, also exceeds the tax threshold by providing a family plan that costs $30,180, though the city may join the state’s Group Insurance Commission as part of its financial restructuring.

Here’s the obvious attempt to fool the public into believing someone else (or something else) will be paying the tax:

The tax would apply to health insurers, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. But the insurers would probably pass the additional cost to employers, including municipalities, Seifert said.

On average these municipalities pay 85% of the premium costs. And many of the health care benefits were the result of union negotiations.

So municipalities would have to do what? They have two choices – pass the cost along in a tax increase or cut the cost and benefits to municipal workers. But doing the latter wouldn’t be as easy as you might think.

The country’s major unions, including those representing public employees, fought hard to block or weaken the so-called Cadillac tax, saying it would penalize workers who gave up higher wages for richer benefits.

“It was the main issue our national union was concerned about,” said Brad Tenney, secretary treasurer of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. “The concern was that some of our plans that are high value would be hit by this.”

Tenney said union pressure on Congress produced an exception for law enforcement personnel, including firefighters, because of their dangerous duties. For them, the threshold for family plans to trigger the tax would be $30,950, and the individual threshold $11,850.

Ginger Esty, chairwoman of the Framingham Board of Selectmen, said firefighters and others must be willing to accept less generous health coverage for the town to avoid significant layoffs.

“The cost of health care already is extremely expensive,” she said. “And if we don’t get any relief from the unions, there’s only one thing we can do, and that is lay off workers.”

But Pete DeVito, president of the 140-member Framingham Firefighters union, said although he is open to talking with town officials, he would continue to be protective of benefits.

“Everything we got, we got at the bargaining table,” DeVito said. “We don’t like this Cadillac tax because it would hit us. But we have confidence our national representatives will fight it off” by 2018.

On the local level, firefighters and other unionized workers in Framingham have already increased the share of the premium they pay from 10 percent to 13 percent, DeVito said.

Under state law, cities and towns cannot change the mechanics of the health care plans they offer — the amount employees pay in premiums and in copayments, for example — without union approval.

So there you have a preview of the upcoming fight – certainly 8 years away, but none-the-less one that will simmer the entire time – and the probable results. Tell me how, even with 8 years yet to pass, this redounds well on Democrats.

Many say this particular tax will never be enforced. Possibly not – I mean, can you see Democrats pushing to have this finally enacted given those affected by it? But if that’s the case, then another major revenue stream disappears that was destined to help pay for HCR. Another in a long line of lies, half-truths and nonsense sold to get the bill through Congress with at least the veneer of justification. It makes the CBO numbers even more nonsense than they already are.

It’s also an issue which should be brought to the forefront of every single discussion about the impact of this bill and waved in the face of those who fight repeal. It is now nor has it ever been the business of the government as to what benefits I have negotiated (or have negotiated on my behalf) when it comes to health care insurance. And I think those that remind the people of that premise will find a willingly receptive audience.


Incompetence is color-blind

I am so sick of this.

Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said he won’t resign despite calls for him to step down amid reports of the group’s excessive spending, adding that he and other African-American leaders such as President Obama have a slimmer margin of error because of their race.

You know, I thought (hoped?) Michael Steele was a promising pick for the GOP’s National Committee Chair. But since he’s been in charge, in a position in which his primary job is to quietly raise money for the party, he’s been anything but quiet or effective. He’s been outspoken and gaffe prone. And indications are (bondage club expenses? Clothing purchases by staffers written off as “meals” and ‘tips”?) his administration hasn’t been the greatest either.

In anyone else it’s a sign of incompetence. Michael Steele chooses to make it a matter of race.

“My view on politics is much more grassroots oriented, it’s not old boy network oriented, so I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more street-wise, if you will. That’s rubbed some feathers the wrong way,” Steele told “GMA’s” George Stephanopoulos.

Yeah, see, that’s not the point, Mr. Steele – you’re a party fund raiser. Your job isn’t to sound off and rub feathers the wrong way. Who is the chair of the DNC and why don’t we hear him sounding off as you do?

And, btw, perhaps it isn’t just the fact that Steele is, at times, intemperate in his speech (he blurts before he thinks and then spends days backing off his blurts) but is ruining the reputation of the organization just at the time it needs strong leadership focused on fund raising for the upcoming midterm elections. Instead the GOP gets this:

Steele is under fire by his own party members for what some people consider lavish spending — $17,000 for private jet travel, $13,000 for limousines and car services and $9,000 for a trip to the Beverly Hills hotel. But the most controversial revelation was that RNC staffers spent nearly $2,000 at Voyeur West Hollywood, a sex-themed nightclub in Los Angeles. The employee who authorized the expense was fired, but then the RNC shot itself in the foot again later, sending a fundraising letter that mistakenly directed donors to call a phone-sex number.

Steele said the spending issue is being blown up “larger than it needs to be.”

“The reality of it is, when I first heard about this behavior going on, I was very angry, and we dealt with it. We got to the bottom of it,” Steele said. “We have been putting great controls in place for the last few months, as a matter of fact, on some of our financing.”

Leaders set the tone. If a leader is austere and requires the organization to be austere in its spending, then that’s normally what is done. If the example is otherwise, staffers usually reflect that as well. The fact that he claims he’s been surprised by this says he’s not monitored what is going on in his own organization.  Organizations do what leaders monitor. Most who’ve ever been in charge of any type of organization would deem the present situation to be an indication of incompetence.

And, as I said in the title, incompetence is color-blind. Steele was entrusted with a job and he’s failed to live up to the expectations of that job. That has nothing to do with skin color or “margins of error”.


More fuel for the Tea Party discussion

As we do the back and forth on the origins of the Tea Party (TP) a poll has been published that gives us a peek at the demographics:

Diverse group:

The national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic, according to three national polls by the Winston Group, a Republican-leaning firm that conducted the surveys on behalf of an education advocacy group. Two-thirds of the group call themselves conservative, 26 are moderate and 8 percent say they are liberal.

Tip of the iceberg:

The Winston Group conducted three national telephone surveys of 1,000 registered voters between December and February. Of those polled, 17 percent – more than 500 people — said they were “part of the Tea Party movement.”

Unified by fiscal matters:

The group is united around two issues – the economy/jobs and reducing the deficit. They believe that cutting spending is the key to job creation and favor tax cuts as the best way to stimulate the economy. That said 61 percent of Tea Party members believe infrastructure spending creates jobs. Moreover, given the choice Tea Party members favor 63-32 reducing unemployment to 5 percent over balancing the budget.

43% do not identify themselves as Republicans. That’s a large chunk – bigger actually than I thought it would be. And 13% self-identified Democrats. That diversity of politics tends to moderate the platform and explains why in some areas you hear Medicare cuts used as ammunition against the HCR monstrosity. What I would have loved to have seen is age demographics on this, because I’m also of the opinion that for the most part this is an older movement in terms of age of those identified with it. The poll says the make up is “male, slightly older and middle income”. I’m not sure what “slightly older” means. Someone will find a way to put “white” in front of male and revive the “angry white male” meme, I’m sure.

17% is a significant chunk of the population if that’s a good indicator of the size of the TP movement. Those we see out in the streets and attending TP rallies are indeed the tip of the iceberg if that’s true.

The unifying themes are economy and the deficits. Jobs and spending. But, as you can see the diversity of opinion is evident in the two issues cited in the poll. Neither reflect a “hard core” fiscal conservative theme. And both actually place jobs before spending.

So those points tend to reinforce my ideas about the Tea Party movement.

OTOH, reinforcing one of Jason’s primary contentions:

The group also vehemently dislikes President Barack Obama – even more so than those who called themselves Republicans in the survey. Over 80 percent of Tea Party members disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, whereas 77 percent of Republican respondents said they disapprove of Obama. The Tea Party members are also strongly opposed to the Democrats’ healthcare plan, with 82 percent saying they oppose it — only 48 percent of respondents overall were opposed.

Although dislike is high, it doesn’t yet point to Obama being the reason for their formation. What it does point out is much more than just the Republican portion (57%), if everyone of them voiced their dislike, weren’t the only one’s who dislike Obama. A good portion of the independents must feel that way as well – something I’ve been droning on about for some time.

And to my point about Congressional Republicans:

The group has a favorable view of Republicans generally but that drops from 71 to 57 percent if they’re asked about Congressional Republicans. Congressional Democrats are viewed very unfavorably by 75 percent of Tea Party members – a uniquely strong antipathy. An overwhelming 95 percent said “Democrats are taxing, spending, and borrowing too much.”

There is a good bit of anti-incumbent fever among this group. And I think part of it is they’ve seen the Congressional Republicans talk the talk so many times and then cave when given the opportunity to walk the walk.

Interestingly Gallup has done a similar poll to the Winston poll.  And they find a slightly larger percentage supporting TP but find the demographics to be very similar to the Winston poll:

Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. That’s the finding of a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 26-28, in which 28% of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.

Their polling found a much larger independent percentage (43%) and slightly smaller Republican (49%) and Democratic (8%) slice. Men to women is 55% to 45%. Gallup did publish age demographics 50% are age 50 or older, however, when you look at the comparison to all of the US the TPs are very representative of national demographics.

What these polls tell us is while there is a rightward skew to the TP (which some would explain by saying the country is a “center-right” country) the demographics of these polls show a remarkably diverse group that are quite representative of the demographics of middle America. And, they’re finally fed up.

While we’ll probably argue till the cows come home as to the TP’s origins, but it hard to argue that the group isn’t diverse, has a unifying theme, and isn’t aimed at changing the way the federal government does business – and if that means firing every Congressional Rep up there, they seem more than willing to do that. The party most threatened is the Democratic party, however, Republicans that don’t meet TP criteria are subject to attack as well. And that’s entirely justifiable in my book.


Observations Podcast for 04 Apr 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Bryan and Dale discuss the state of the economy and the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

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What’s with all the demonization: The charges against the Tea Party in DC seem to be unsubstantiated and the Democrats now seem to have actually tried to provoke what they claimed happened. What do Democrats hope to earn with this continued attempt to smear the Tea Partiers and is it possible that continuing on this path of insulting their constituents might have very bad consequences for them electorally in November. Do they even care anymore?

Employment numbers and the economy: Some positive numbers in the employment numbers but are they really a positive sign that the bleak unemployment situation is turning around?

About those poll numbers: Polls continue to be taken and they show a steady erosion of support for the recently signed health care reform law. Polls also show a steady decline of support for Democrats from independents, eroding job approval numbers for the president and expanding numbers of people who think the country is on the wrong track. However, a recent poll shows that the people aren’t all that thrilled with the GOP either. Does this portend trouble for Republicans in November as well?

The tea party movement is a response Barack Obama

Recently, former Vice President Dan Quayle offered his two cents about the tea party movement:

Like many influential causes before it, the “tea party” movement appeared on the scene uninvited by the political establishment. Democrats in the White House and in Congress recognize it for what it is — a spontaneous and pointed response to the Obama agenda — but some Republican leaders still aren’t sure what to make of it, as tea partiers have risen on their own and stirred up trouble in GOP primaries.

Bruce takes issue with Quayle’s comments and defends the tea party movement:

The tea party movement is not exclusively a reaction only to “the Obama agenda”. And if the GOP buys into that, they’re buying trouble. Quayle even acknowledges that without knowing it when he talks about trouble in Republican primaries.

This grass roots movement didn’t begin when Obama took office or in reaction to his specific agenda, but instead began to form during the Bush administration as government continued to expand. About the time TARP found its way into the political lexicon, it went public. It was the size of the crisis and response – the trillions of dollars thrown around like confetti – that finally spurred people into the streets and birthed the official “tea party movement”.

I really wish that were true, Bruce, but Quayle is right.

The problem is that tea party types did not organize protests to the economic policies of George W. Bush, and TARP was not the first example of fiscal impropriety of his presidency. He cut taxes, so most self-identified conservatives don’t ask questions. Nevermind that he didn’t cut spending, resulting in massive deficits that will cause huge tax increases in the future.

The first protests were prompted by Rick Santelli’s rant on CNBC in response to the Obama Administration’s $75 billion Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan that was a bailout for both irresponsible borrowers and lenders.

Bruce continues:

[T]his isn’t a movement of right wing disgruntled Republicans. This is a movement of small government fiscal conservatives – almost libertarian in leaning. Her discussion of the demonization of business, the necessity of allowing businesses to fail, getting out of the way of the markets and let them take the lead in recovery were on target and well delivered.

At the beginning of the movement, yes, I think that would have been a true statement. The first Atlanta Tea Party (2/27/09) was a mix of libertarians, like myself and Eric Von Haessler, and fiscal conservatives. There was an authenticity about it as 300 people were huddled together on a cold, wet day at the state Capitol.

Even then, no one was talking about past fiscal recklessness, even though Barack Obama had been in office for just over a month, though everyone was slamming him. I don’t have a problem with that because Obama is spending our country further to insolvency but by what was being said, you’d think Bush never existed.

The day Newt Gingrich got involved was the day I walked away. Gingrich is no fiscal conservative, after all he supported TARP and entitlement expansion. He is a political pragmatist that will endorse any movement or political idea that will advance the Republican Party.

It was even more obvious at the Tax Day Tea Party where Sean Hannity, the Republican cheerleader, showed up to broadcast his show. By this time, libertarians began to take a skeptical eye to the tea party as it seemed that Republicans were successfully co-opting the movement.

And finally, Bruce says it:

[Tea partiers are] not looking necessarily for Republicans. They’re looking for principled small government fiscal conservatives who will return sanity to government and scale down its size, scope and cost. Sen. Olympia Snowe would not qualify. Sen. Lindsey Graham most likely wouldn’t qualify either. And I’ll venture to say, neither would Sen. John McCain. These are the type people they’re promising “trouble” for in Republican primaries.

What are the qualifiers for a “tea party” candidate, rhetoric or actually putting their words into action? For example, J.D. Hayworth, McCain’s primary opponent, isn’t exactly a fiscal conservative, though he may be more so than the incumbent.

I sumbit to you that Hayworth’s tea party support, sans Sarah Palin, isn’t because of fiscal concerns, it’s because McCain doesn’t hate brown people.

Personally, I don’t believe the tea party movement as principled as many of promoters and leaders believe it is. For example, during the health care debate, tea partiers echoed Republican criticism of ObamaCare, including the line that it would cut Medicare. If you’re complaining about Medicare cuts, are you endorsing tax increases in the future? Medicare has to be cut to avert a fiscal crisis.

Bruce gives a picture of what the movement is supposed to be, but it’s not and it hasn’t been for a while. But that’s just my personal observation as a disgruntled former tea partier.

Demonization FAIL

There is a growing sense that what happened in Washington DC on the day of the vote in the House on health care reform was an attempt to provoke an incident among Tea Partiers by members of the House Democratic caucus.  The Representatives in question usually take the underground tunnel between their office complex and the capital.  They certainly never march in lockstep through a hostile crowd to do so.   So why did they do it this time?

Well, you’ve all heard the claims and counter-claims.  Members of the caucus were called the “N” word and spat upon. The perpetrator of the spitting incident was arrested by Capital police.  Barney Frank was called “fag”.  Apparently out of all those claims, only the latter one was true and the person who shouted “fag” was rebuked by the Tea Party crowd.  However not a single instance of the “N” word is evident in all of the video – both private and network news – shot that day.  None.  And the spitting incident, which was caught on tape, appears to be a “say it don’t spray it” problem, and not someone intentionally spitting on someone else.  Most of the unsubstantiated and unproven allegations continue to be used as “the truth”, by some,  despite the lack of any evidence to support them.

So how did the rumors and allegations get spread so quickly?  Within 90 minutes, stories were up claiming the allegations were fact (how do you verify anything, edit it and post it on line if you’re a true news organization?).  The MSM ran with the story for the next few days and hasn’t yet backed off of it.  Yet to this day, not a single verifiable bit of proof – eye-witness, audio or video – has emerged that the “N” word was ever used by anyone during their little parade.  However Democrats and the MSM still cite it as proof of the racist roots of the Tea Party movement.  The latest attempt at this sort of demoniztion belongs to Steve Cohen (D-TN).  Listen to him talk about the Tea Partiers and tell me if this is appropriate for a US Representative to say about other Americans and probably some of his constituents.

The irony here is Cohen, who represents a mostly black district in Memphis, was once compared to a klansman by a Democratic opponent not too long ago. As you might imagine, he found such a comparison highly offensive and was outraged.

Then we’ve had some broken windows characterized as the equivalent of Nazi anti-Semitic pogrom “kristallnacht” in which it is estimated hundreds of Jews were killed. Meanwhile, a brick through a local GOP office with a note tied to it saying “stop the right-wing”? Not such a bid deal. And, speaking of trying too hard, today the NY Times implicitly compares the violent and murderous leftist Weather Underground with the Tea Party protesters by running comparative crowd shots of the WU during the “Days of Rage” protest and a Tea Party protest.

It is and has been an amazing performance. Since day one of the emergence of these Tea Parties, the Democrats have done everything within their power and with the help of much of the MSM to characterize concerned American citizens as anything but. They have invoked the lessons of identity politics with a vengeance and tried their damndest to brand this movement as a malevolent manifestation of racist right-wing America. They often talk about the right’s code words – what do you suppose “Nazi” or “brownshirt” or “kristallnact” really mean? Why note that a crowd is mostly “white” if not to imply “racist?”

Why do I use “FAIL” in the title? Because the people the Democrats are talking about are you and me. One of the reasons independents are deserting the Democrats in increasing numbers is they too identify with this movement calling for the scaling back of government and its cost. They also know they’re not any of these things Democrats accuse them of being. And, like you and me, they’re aghast that their attempts to bring their discontent to the attention of their political leaders – to petition their government – is characterized in such horrific ways and dismissed out of hand.

I often say the Tea Parties represent the tip of the iceberg. Think of talk radio where it is estimated that only 1% of any listening audience actually takes the time and makes the effort to call in. Think of those Tea Partiers as the 1%. While 99% may not call in to a talk show, the vast majority listening agree with what the host has to say. There are a great number of people in America who may not turn out for Tea Party protests for any number of mundane reasons, like the ability to afford to travel or because of their job and family, that agree with most, if not all of what the TP represents. Every time Democrats launch another hateful smear against the TPs, those that identify with the TP but don’t actually turn out for protests internalize the insult. They know what they are and aren’t, and don’t at all appreciate the false characterizations or those making them.

So each time the Steve Cohens of the world make statements like his above, or false (or at least unsubstantiated) smears are launched against these protesters, another bunch who identify with the goals of the TP movement turn away from the Dems.

And, as it is shaping up for November, the Democrats are making it easier and easier through this attempt to paint patriotic dissent as racism, for people to vote against them.


Was health care reform about health or wealth?

Byron York is of the opinion it was as much about wealth as health and has come quotes to back it up.  First Senator Max Baucus:

Health reform is “an income shift,” Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. “It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.”
In his halting, jumbled style, Baucus explained that in recent years “the maldistribution of income in America has gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.” The new health care legislation, Baucus promised, “will have the effect of addressing that maldistribution of income in America.”

Lest you feel York is making a one-quote mountain out of  a molehill, Howard Dean follows:

At about the same time, Howard Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and presidential candidate, said the health bill was needed to correct economic inequities. “The question is, in a democracy, what is the right balance between those at the top … and those at the bottom?” Dean said during an appearance on CNBC. “When it gets out of whack, as it did in the 1920s, and it has now, you need to do some redistribution. This is a form of redistribution.”

And to make “three’s a crowd”, David Leonhardt:

Summing things up in the New York Times, the liberal economics columnist David Leonhardt called Obamacare “the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.”

And, of course, if true that makes the “reform” as much about ideology as health insurance.  It is also exposes one of the most cherished but false myths of the left – that economics is a zero sum game and that it is up to government to level the income playing field via redistribution in the name of “fairness”.  Of course they couldn’t be more wrong on both counts.  As John Steele Gordon points out, poker is a zero sum game and so is robbery (which is why it is illegal) – economics isn’t nor has it ever been and it is a fallacy to believe so. He asks, as an example, “Paul McCartney was born into a poor family in rundown Liverpool and is now one of the richest men in England. Whom, exactly, did he rob?”

The answer is obvious.  Given the answer then, why should he be punished?:

Every major technological development has produced an inflorescence of fortune making. The Industrial Revolution produced so many new rich that Benjamin Disraeli had to coin the word millionaire in 1827 to describe them. Railroads, steel, oil, automobiles, the movies, television, all produced prodigious new fortunes.

But the people who rode the railroads and automobiles, watched the movies and television didn’t get poorer by doing so. Just like the millions who so willingly bought Paul McCartney’s music, they got richer too. They had quicker, cheaper transportation, and better and cheaper entertainment. No one forced them to buy the product, which is a good deal more than can be said for ObamaCare.

Of course, one of the benefits of all the fortune making are the innovations brought to market by those making a fortune. They’ve made life better and cheaper for the rest of us.  Electricity and the light bulb changed the cost and way we illuminated our night and was cheaper, better and safer.  The money we saved was spent on other things in life that may have been previously unaffordable. And that’s the case for most such innovations. Take the microprocessor and what it has done.  The reason we can afford all the gadgets and goodies we have (enjoying that flat panel TV in HD?) is because of those who’ve become rich introducing innovative and cheaper products that have allowed us a standard of living unimagined by our grandfathers.

I don’t begrudge Steve Jobs or Bill Gates a single penny of their fortunes, nor do I believe they “owe” me any of it. I benefit every day in ways unthinkable years ago (this blog post is an example) because of the innovations they, and many others, helped develop and bring to market.

However, what I don’t want, and in fact detest, is a parasite class of politicians engaging in false moral preening under which they claim to be the arbiters of what is “fair” and “unfair” in terms of the distribution of wealth. And I certainly don’t want them attempting to “fix” it through government.

The Howard Deans and Max Baucus of the world don’t seem to understand the very basic economic truth that economics is not a zero-sum game, or if they do, they choose to ignore it for ideological reasons. I have to believe it is for the latter reason. If they didn’t ignore that economic truth they’d have give up their claim (and  power) that acting on that erroneous ideological premise is morally correct. Life, per the Democrats and the left, is not fair and the job of the left is to make it “fair”. The one thing that should be clear by now is they see political power as the way of fulfilling that ideological principle and the control of the federal government as the means of imposing their false Utopian vision. They’re all about gathering power centrally, not diffusing it. That scares people (see the Tea Parties). It should be just as obvious that they’ll do it by any means necessary (review how we got health care reform) and for any reason -right or wrong- needed to accomplish it. “Fairness” works as well as any.

I’d venture to guess most Americans feel the way I do. And that’s why the argument was never made about redistribution while the bill was being sold to the public. It is not a popular argument. York is surprised it is now being made. So is a Democratic strategist he quotes:

But he quickly saw that Democrats talking about redistribution could be politically damaging, echoing the controversy that erupted when candidate Obama famously told Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

” ‘Redistribution’ is an easy charge to make,” the Democrat said. “I’m not surprised that it’s an argument critics make; what I’m surprised at is that Democrats are making it.”

I’m not. It’s arrogance. Hubris. The passage of HCR has emboldened them. They’ve convinced themselves, despite the polls, that since HCR has passed it will become accepted and loved. Now, since its passage, they feel they can safely lay out the dirty little secret reason they wanted it passed. Ideology – and the power to impose it. All under the false flag of “fairness”.

And they want the chance to do more.


Dan Quayle’s wrong

Not completely, not utterly, just in how he discusses the Tea Party’s origins.

Like many influential causes before it, the “tea party” movement appeared on the scene uninvited by the political establishment. Democrats in the White House and in Congress recognize it for what it is — a spontaneous and pointed response to the Obama agenda — but some Republican leaders still aren’t sure what to make of it, as tea partiers have risen on their own and stirred up trouble in GOP primaries.

The  tea party movement is not exclusively a reaction only to “the Obama agenda”. And if the GOP buys into that, they’re buying trouble.  Quayle even acknowledges that without knowing it when he talks about trouble in Republican primaries.

This grass roots movement didn’t begin when Obama took office or in reaction to his specific agenda, but instead began to form during the Bush administration as government continued to expand. About the time TARP found its way into the political lexicon, it went public.  It was the size of the crisis and response – the trillions of dollars thrown around like confetti – that finally spurred people into the streets and birthed the official “tea party movement”.

If you haven’t already, I’d like you to watch and listen to this interview with Pam Stout, a local tea party movement president from Idaho. She’s on the Dave Letterman show, and, knowing the history of the show, I’m sure you can figure out why he wanted her there. But she blows up the game and in what I’m sure was an unintended outcome, gives lie to almost all the myths, legends and charges being circulated about Tea Partiers. Listen at the 3 minutes mark on the second video where Ms. Stout verifies exactly what I’ve been saying about the movement.

Stout is the perfect example of my point – this isn’t a movement of right wing disgruntled Republicans. This is a movement of small government fiscal conservatives – almost libertarian in leaning. Her discussion of the demonization of business, the necessity of allowing businesses to fail, getting out of the way of the markets and let them take the lead in recovery were on target and well delivered.

But most importantly, the GOP needs to understand that her “hero” is Sen. Jim DeMint, not because DeMint is a Republican, but because DeMint is a small government fiscal conservative who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. The reason they’re identified with the GOP is because that’s about the only place other than the libertarian side of the house, that you’ll find those type people.

That’s who Tea Partiers are looking for. They’re not looking necessarily for Republicans. They’re looking for principled small government fiscal conservatives who will return sanity to government and scale down its size, scope and cost. Sen. Olympia Snowe would not qualify. Sen. Lindsey Graham most likely wouldn’t qualify either. And I’ll venture to say, neither would Sen. John McCain. These are the type people they’re promising “trouble” for in Republican primaries.

But if the Republicans don’t quite get it, the Democrats definitely do. They understand they are faced with a grass roots group – a real grass roots group which makes them doubly dangerous – that stand for everything Democrats do not. Democrats are absolutely dedicated to using government as a tool to expand the social welfare state come hell or high water. Their concentration is on expanding both the size and scope of government and, by fiat, it’s cost. Their almost single-minded effort of over a year to pass health care reform, while a more critical priority – the economy – went wanting underlines their agenda, and yes, as Quayle says, this group opposes that agenda. That’s why you’ve seen efforts almost since day one to brand the tea parties as extremist, racist, terrorist – you name it – in an effort to discredit it.

But this goes much deeper than just Democrats and a specific agenda and I think Ms. Stout does a great job representing the movement and of making that point clear. The tea party movement certainly has a focus – but it isn’t necessarily that of many in the GOP. If they thought they had a place in the GOP – if they thought the GOP was indeed the party of small government fiscal conservancy – there’d be no need for tea parties, would there?


Digging into the March unemployment numbers

Not to make to much of them, but this is important to know when you hear some of what is going to pass for analysis today and this weekend.  Calculated Risk does a good job of drilling down into the numbers and giving them some context.

First, part timers.  The BLS reports:

The number of persons working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased to 9.1 million in March.  These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

Calculated Risk adds:

The all time record of 9.2 million was set in October. This suggests the increase last month was not weather related – and is not a good sign.

Again, while any gross positive number is better than a negative number, other areas of employment don’t necessarily support an outlook that says “the job picture is turning around”. As if to emphasize that point, Gallup’s “underemployment” numbers were released today as well and they increased to 20.3% of the US workforce is underemployed – up from 19.8% in February.

A second number to consider is those who’ve been unemployed for over 26 weeks and would work if a job was available:

According to the BLS, there are a record 6.55 million workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks (and still want a job). This is a record 4.3% of the civilian workforce. (note: records started in 1948)

The number of long term unemployed is one of the key stories of this recession.

It is the highest number ever recorded since records started in 1948. The previous high was 2.5% in 1983.  And, as the cite points out, this is “one of the key stories of this recession” and one that isn’t yet showing signs of improving.

The Wall Street Journal points out:

A survey of private employers shows they shed 23,000 jobs in March in a sign that the labor market remains a mixed bag in an economy that is otherwise growing again.

The private-employer report, which came two days before the Labor Department issues its own, broader job report, was a disappointment to many who were expecting both measures to mark a turning point into positive territory.

Calculated Risk concludes:

Although the headline number of 162,000 payroll jobs was a positive (this is 114,000 after adjusting for Census 2010 hires), the underlying details were mixed. The positives: the unemployment rate was steady, the employment-population ratio ticked up slightly (after plunging sharply), and average hours increased (might have been impacted by the snow in February).

But a near record number of part time workers (for economic reasons), a record number of unemployed for more than 26 weeks, and a decline in average hourly wages are all negatives.

Shorter version: Don’t put too much positive weight on this month’s numbers.

There is a lot that has to change in the markets in general before you’re going to see any significant change in the labor market. So when you hear the talking heads this weekend tell you that it is all turning around and it will be sunshine and roses from now on, take it with a grain of salt.

[Welcome Real Clear Politics readers]



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