Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: July 2011

1 2 3 ... 8


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 31 Jul 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss concerns about Turkey, and the debt limit.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Tentative deal?

ABC is reporting there may have been agreement reached between Congressional Republicans and Democrats

Here, according to Democratic and Republican sources, are the key elements:

  • A debt ceiling increase of up to $2.1 to $2.4 trillion (depending on the size of the spending cuts agreed to in the final deal).
  • They have now agreed to spending cuts of roughly $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
  • The formation of a special Congressional committee to recommend further deficit reduction of up to $1.6 trillion (whatever it takes to add up to the total of the debt ceiling increase).  This deficit reduction could take the form of spending cuts, tax increases or both.
  • The special committee must make recommendations by late November (before Congress’ Thanksgiving recess).
  • If Congress does not approve those cuts by December 23, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare. This "trigger" is designed to force action on the deficit reduction committee’s recommendations by making the alternative painful to both Democrats and Republicans.
  • A vote, in both the House and Senate, on a balanced budget amendment.

Of course we’ve seen deals much like this before.  Committees never seem to get around to the promised business and triggers never seem to get pulled and, as anyone would tell you now, the balanced budget amendment will never pass.  Meanwhile, Obama  is authorized to spend another 2 plus trillion we don’t have.

Madness.   Smoke, mirrors and madness.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


House debt plan rejected by Senate

That’s twice now that the Democratically controlled Senate has rejected the GOP House’s plan on the debt ceiling and debt.

The onus, now, is on the Senate to do something.  That means Democrats and Harry Reid.

Feeling all warm and fuzzy about that right now?   After all, it’s been about 900 days since Senatorial Democrats have offered up a budget – one of the primary duties of Congress.  In fact they’ve instead spent all their time rejecting Republican proposals and then tried to blame Republicans for inaction and intransigence.  The irony, of course, apparently escapes them.

The 59-41 vote, on a motion to table the resolution passed by the House less than two hours before, ran mostly along party lines, easily reaching the simple majority required to sink legislation in the upper chamber.

Six Republicans joined Democrats to table the Boehner resolution: Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), and David Vitter (La.).

Boehner’s office said the Senate’s refusal to take up the House plan puts the blame on Democrats if the U.S. defaults.

“For the second time, the House has passed a reasonable, common-sense plan to raise the debt limit and cut spending and, for the second time, Sen. [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] has tabled it," spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. "The responsibility to end this crisis is now entirely in the hands of Sen. Reid and President Obama.”

Hard to argue otherwise, wouldn’t you say?

Of course this isn’t the end game, but Senate Democrats have to pull a few Republicans into the game before they can execute it and escape blame:

Senate Democrats’ strategy is to send such a compromise vehicle back to the House on Tuesday, which would put intense pressure on House GOP leaders to accept it or risk a national default after Aug. 2.

If Reid can persuade at least seven Republicans to join the Democratic caucus in passing debt-limit legislation, it would give him the upper hand in the standoff with Boehner.

Chicken Politics … all bloody chicken politics.  If 7 Republicans join Reid, they’ll have sold Boehner and the rest of the GOP down the river.  If they don’t, Reid and Obama are going to try to blame Senatorial Republicans for any default.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


In case you were wondering who the party that can’t say “yes” is

I offer the following:

President Obama, warning that time is running out to lift the federal debt ceiling, said Friday that a House GOP plan has “no chance of becoming law,” and he urged Senate Democrats and Republicans to come together on a “bipartisan compromise.”

Compromise?  Where?  This isn’t about compromise, this is about political timing.  And apparently Obama is willing to see the default deadline pass because a short-term debt limit increase would put him at a political disadvantage next year (I don’t think he realizes what a default will do coupled with a dismal economy and high unemployment rate).

Meanwhile the Democrats still haven’t offered anything concrete.  They seem content with the role of feces throwing monkeys. Perhaps they could dump the donkey and adopt that as their party symbol?

This isn’t leadership, it’s simply saying “no” without offering a viable alternative.   But that’s nothing new with this president or the Democrats.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Study says health care costs projected to rise more under ObamaCare

Promises, promises, promises.  President Obama promised the passage of the Affordable Care Act would lower health care costs across the board, making health care “more affordable”.   The entire premise of the massive government intrusion in that market was to lower costs and make insurance more affordable.

A new study says that doing nothing would actually have been slightly less expensive.  The irony is this isn’t some opposition think tank which has put up these numbers but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

Despite President Obama’s promises to rein in health care costs as part of his reform bill, health spending nationwide is expected to rise more than if the sweeping legislation had never become law.

Total spending is projected to grow annually by 5.8 percent under Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act, according to a 10-year forecast by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released Thursday. Without the ACA, spending would grow at a slightly slower rate of 5.7 percent annually.

The primary reason, supporters say, is more people will have insurance. 

CMS officials attributed the growth to an expansion of the insured population. Under the plan, an estimated 23 million Americans are expected to obtain insurance in 2014, largely through state-based exchanges and expanded Medicaid eligibility.

The federal government is projected to spend 20 percent more on Medicaid, while spending on private health insurance is expected to rise by 9.4 percent.

Anyone – do you know why “private health insurance costs” are expected to rise by 9.4%?   Because the privately insured will be tapped to help pay the difference between what an expanded Medicaid base pays and what doctors charge.  Or, in other words, they will be the victim of government intrusion and market distortion.  And of course government is then going to point to the costs its distortion caused and claim it should help solve the problem it has created.  And what will be eventual answer to those increased costs caused by government distortion be?   Single-payer, of course.

This study doesn’t address the other real problem – you may expand Medicaid dramatically, but having that insurance doesn’t guarantee seeing a doctor.  Other studies have shown that increasing the insurance base doesn’t decrease emergency room use, but instead increases it in the face of a building doctor shortage.   And then, of course, there are those doctors who simply won’t take Medicaid (or any more than they now have) because of the low reimbursement rate.

So when the White House’s Nancy-Ann DeParle says:

“The Affordable Care Act creates changes to the health care system that typically don’t show up on an accounting table,” she said. “We know these new provisions will save money for the health care system, even if today’s report doesn’t credit these strategies with reducing costs.”

She’s also leaving out that part of the problem that doesn’t “show up on an accounting table” as well.

Bottom line, we were sold a lemon, a bill of goods, snake oil.  All the ACA does is give the government a legal ability to intrude deeper and deeper in a market it really has no business being in at all and to distort that market even further.  And that’s precisely what is going to happen.  We all know that when government gets in as deep as it will be in this market, nothing ends up “costing less”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Climate alarmist theory dealt yet another factual blow

This is becoming almost laughable.  James Taylor, from the Heartland Institute and writing in Forbes brings us the story that new data from NASA has all but proven the alarmist climate model predictions are clearly and demonstrably wrong.

NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.

The nitty-gritty:

"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show," Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. "There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."

In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.

The new findings are extremely important and should dramatically alter the global warming debate.

Well it should indeed dramatically alter the debate, but there’s really no debate going on.  On the one side you have those who continue to pile scientific fact after scientific fact on the collapsing theory of AGW.  And on the other side you have those who stopped looking at the science after the last IPCC report and stubbornly cling to the anti-science belief in “consensus” while charging full-speed ahead trying to pass a regime of insane taxation.    The reason should be obvious by now – politics and big bucks.

Here’s what this new information means:

Scientists on all sides of the global warming debate are in general agreement about how much heat is being directly trapped by human emissions of carbon dioxide (the answer is "not much"). However, the single most important issue in the global warming debate is whether carbon dioxide emissions will indirectly trap far more heat by causing large increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds. Alarmist computer models assume human carbon dioxide emissions indirectly cause substantial increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds (each of which are very effective at trapping heat), but real-world data have long shown that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing as much atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds as the alarmist computer models have predicted.

The new NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA’s ERBS satellite showing far more longwave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted.

So that means:

In short, the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth’s atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.

Or, if the relevancy and accuracy of alarmist computer models hasn’t been called into question before, if it isn’t now, you’re just simply unwilling to consider new facts or science and should be treated accordingly.

Oh, and before I forget it, the “polar bears are drowning” guy is in a bit of hot water – no pun intended:

A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.

Charles Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into "integrity issues." But he has not yet been informed by the inspector general’s office of specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Just a little FYI.  Meanwhile Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) thinks is pretty sure that all this opposition against the theory of AGW is just a result of “vested interests” in the oil and coal industries and it is imperative that the government start educating people about why this stuff is serious (and why they need to let government tax the crap out  of them as a result):

The top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday urged Energy Secretary Steven Chu to launch a national climate-change-education campaign.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), in a letter to Chu, said the public’s understanding of climate change is “diminishing” in part because there are “powerful vested interests in the oil and coal industries successfully fanning disbelief.”

“I ask you to investigate the disconnect that appears to be growing between the scientific and the public understanding of climate change,” Waxman said. “I hope you will then decide to lead a national effort to ensure the public is fully and accurately informed about the science of climate change and its implications for human health and welfare.”

Facts?  We don’t need no stinkin’ facts.   Not when billions in revenue for government are at stake.  And they wonder why no one trusts them.

[HT: looker]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Is Atlas shrugging?

Of course what I’m about to cite is an anecdote.  It is hard to claim there’s a trend.   And we don’t even know if the threat was carried out.  On the other hand, we also don’t know how many times the thought process and decision voiced here have been silently made by people who have the ability to hire and expand, but just don’t see the hassle being worth it.   And, of course, it doesn’t help that what they’re trying to do is demonized at every step.

The story told below takes place in Birmingham, AL.  I love B’ham – spent years and years doing business there.  It’s like a second home.  Birmingham was once the “Pittsburg” of the South, with a huge and flourishing steel business.   Of course that’s gone now, at least most of it.   One of the reasons Birmingham was the Pittsburg of the South was because the state had both iron ore and coal deposits.   And one of the major coal mining regions is a county just north of Birmingham named Walker County.

Here, from the David McElroy blog (via The Conservatory) is Ronnie Bryant:

He operates coal mines in Alabama. I’d never heard of him until this morning, but after what I saw and heard from him, I’d say he’s a bit like a southern version of Ellis Wyatt from Ayn Rand’s novel. What I saw made an impression on me.

I was at a public hearing in an inner-city Birmingham neighborhood for various government officials to get public input on some local environmental issues. There are several hot topics, but one of the highest-profile disputes is over a proposal for a coal mine near a river that serves as a source of drinking water for parts of the Birmingham metro area. Mine operators and state environmental officials say the mine can be operated without threatening the water supply. Environmentalists claim it will be a threat.

I’m not going to take sides on that environmental issue, because I don’t know enough to stake out an informed opinion. (With most of the people I listened to today, facts didn’t seem to matter as much as emotional implications.) But Ronnie Bryant wasn’t there to talk about that particular mine. As a mine operator in a nearby area, he was attending the meeting to listen to what residents and government officials were saying. He listened to close to two hours of people trashing companies of all types and blaming pollution for random cases of cancer in their families. Several speakers clearly believe that all of the cancer and other deaths they see in their families and communities must be caused by pollution. Why? Who knows? Maybe just because it makes for an emotional story to blame big bad business. It’s hard to say.

After Bryant listened to all of the business-bashing, he finally stood to speak. He sounded a little bit shellshocked, a little bit angry — and a lot frustrated.

My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use?

I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting.Thank you.

Whether Ronnie Bryant actually did what he said isn’t known – but his frustration is clear and his decision as stated, warranted.

The question is how many Ronnie Bryant’s are out there right now?   How many are tired of the demonization, the taxes, the hassles, the bars government and environmental groups erect that make business difficult if not impossible to conduct?  How many have faced men and women with tears in their eyes because they can’t pay the mortgage or feed their family, but know that hiring them would actually be more difficult and costly than just continuing as they are now, or, as Bryant claims, just decide not to open a business because of the intrusion, over-regulation, demonization and the increasing level of obstacles put in the way of business?

That story, at least to me, is a stunning and telling example of the anti-business culture that has been created and nurtured within this country.   This isn’t some apocryphal or fictional example to demonstrate a point.   This is a man listening and deciding that it just isn’t worth it to open a business that would bring in 125 jobs, consume 50 to 60 million in consumables a year (downstream jobs) and, of course, mean tax revenue to both the city, county and state. 

But coal is unpopular.  It is demon coal.   So an industry that powers the nation and generates the electricity that the complainers in the audience and the government bureaucrats there will use when they go home is trashed in a meeting along with business in general.  And a man who could offer something critically needed – jobs – makes the decision that in the climate he observed, it’s just not worth it to open a business up.

How many times in how many local meetings like the one described in Birmingham is there a Ronnie Bryant who just says, after listening to all the trash talk, ‘screw it, I’m not going to bother to open a business’?

Atlas Shrugging – something our lefty friends said was fiction.  

Given today’s business climate, it seems more like a self-fulfilling prophesy, doesn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

1 2 3 ... 8