Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: October 2011


Economic Statistics for 26 Oct 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

The Mortgage Bankers’ Association reports that mortgage applications bounced back from the short Columbus Day week, rising 4.9%.

Durable Goods Orders look sluggish, with a headline report of a -0.8% drop, but ex-transportation, orders rose   1.7%.

New home sales jumped 5.7% in September to a 313k annual rate, but the increase comes at the expense of a 3.1% drop in prices.

~
Dale Franks
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When controlling cost becomes primary, the care given becomes secondary

The concept in the title isn’t a difficult one to grasp, yet it seems to be one that eludes any number of people who think government can cut medical care costs and improve care simultaneously.

A growing number of states are sharply limiting hospital stays under Medicaid to as few as 10 days a year to control rising costs of the health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

So what does that mean?  Well, it’s a vicious circle that ends up costing more, because of one tiny problem:

In Arizona, hospitals won’t discharge or refuse to admit patients who medically need to be there, said Peter Wertheim, spokesman for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. "Hospitals will get stuck with the bill," he said.

That will most likely be the case for all hospitals.

And the result?

Advocates for the needy and hospital executives say the moves will restrict access to care, force hospitals to absorb more costs and lead to higher charges for privately insured patients.

Econ 101.

And what will happen?

Cost will continue to spiral upward for everyone.

And continue to do so.

Meanwhile:

For fiscal 2012, the association estimated state Medicaid spending will rise 19%, largely because of the end of the federal stimulus dollars.

The program served 69 million people last year.

That number will go up as millions are added under ObamaCare.

Your “cost cutting” government at work.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Only government can save you from having to be self-reliant

Read this lead sentence and weep for this country:

At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.

A “painful era of self-reliance”? Self-reliance is a negative thing?  Well yes if your ideal is a social welfare state.  The trait that helped build this country into a great nation is now a negative according to Barack Obama:

“The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own,’” Obama told a crowd of 200 donors over lunch at the W Hotel.

Oh, man … that would just be terrible.

You mean I’d have to take care of myself?  I’d have to do what is necessary to ensure I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in the pantry? 

Oh, no.

You mean I wouldn’t have to put up with intrusive regulation and government involvement and control in every aspect of my life?

Please, say it ain’t so.

Would I be treated to a government that took less of my money in taxes because it was smaller, less intrusive and costs less?

How horrible.

Whatever happened to American pride in self-reliance for heaven sake?  Whatever happened to those who sought this place out because it was peopled with the self-reliant?  Now the possibility of having to be self reliant is to be feared?  Now only government can “save” you from having to be “on your own”?

What a pitiful mess this place has become.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Who is robbing whom here?

We’ve been treated to stories of “greed” and supposed corporate misbehavior by the OWS crowd, but here’s a story that ought to make you furious, especially if you’re an Illinois taxpayer:

Two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension once they served a single day of subbing in 2007, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.

Steven Preckwinkle, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow union lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small window opened by lawmakers a few months earlier.

Obviously any number of people are culpable.  The lawmakers, of course.  But the two who took advantage of this legal loophole are simply morally reprehensible people who took advantage of the system for personal gain without earning what they will receive.

The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.

So seeing an opportunity to cash in without actually having to do any real teaching, they quickly got teaching certificates and substitute taught for one day.   One day.  They were paid $93 for the day.

The result from that day?  Probably over $100,000 a year in pension payments:

Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.

His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.

Meanwhile, as you might guess, the pension fund is horribly underfunded and teachers who’ve spent a career in the classroom stand to get less than half what these two will get.

The union finds no real problem with what its two paid lobbyists did:

A spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers emphasized that the lobbyists’ actions were legal and that they made "individual decisions."

Even so, union President Dan Montgomery said the deal Preckwinkle and Piccioli landed "should never be allowed again." But the union, which provides its employees with a private 401(k)-type plan, is standing by the lobbyists’ right to have access to the public pension.

"They entered TRS under the law and are participating members of TRS. As a TRS employer, the IFT is required to make the payments to TRS," the union said in a statement.

Of course we all know that legal and moral are only the same by coincidence.  These two scoundrels knew precisely what they were doing and did what they did with malice aforethought.  This was a bid to cash in while doing nothing.  And of course, cheats like them are more than happy – along with the union – to stand behind the façade of legality.

And oh, by the way, it should never happen again because the law was changed after these two grifters cashed in.

Always looking out for the little guy and making sure he gets a square deal, those union guys.

HT: Duane Lester

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


OWS is a “teachable moment”

The Washington Time carries an editorial that discusses the ongoing Occupy protests and it contains a paragraph which I think is a good summary of why I want these things to go on and on and on:

Your efforts serve to paint a clear contrast between the two sides currently waging war for the future of America. On one side are those who believe in the income redistribution of socialism and feel entitled to “social justice,” fueled by a victim complex instilled in them by the very politicians who create and perpetuate their dependence. On the other side are the independent, self-respecting, hardworking Americans whose income and old-fashioned values of personal responsibility sit squarely in the cross hairs of the slackers and the Democratic Party that coddles them.

Many Americans are frustrated with the situation we now find ourselves.  And they want things changed, obviously.  But you have to ask yourself, as you look around, do I want it overthrown?  

In other words is the current system such that it needs to be entirely replaced?  That’s the Occupy movement’s belief.  It is, essentially, an anti-capitalist movement.  And that becomes clearer every day they thrash around looking for something fresh to scream about to keep themselves in the eye of the media.

For instance, today we hear about the announcement that the group who launched OWS is calling for a “Robin Hood tax”:

An anti-capitalist group which sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement has called for global protests Saturday to demand that leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) nations impose a "Robin Hood tax" on financial transactions and currency trades.

[…]

"Let’s send them a clear message: We want you to slow down some of that $1.3 trillion easy money that’s sloshing around the global casino each day—enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world," the activist group said on its website,www.adbusters.org.

[…]

"As the movement matures, let’s consider a response to our critics," Adbusters said on its website. "Let’s occupy the core of our global system. Let’s dethrone the greed that defines this new century."

Take in the language.

“Casinos”.  “Robin Hood Tax”.  The inference are all quite clear.

That’s not the language that will endear a movement to most Americans.  Most Americans are not going to embrace an ideology that would condone redistribution like the OWS folks are talking about.  But that’s what continues to emerge as their answer to the world’s problems. 

The “greed that defines the new century” provides the communication power for their outreach among any number of other things. They have no clue what it might be like without that system though.   It is this system that has built the unprecedented wealth and standard of living that no “Robin Hood” could ever match.  But in reality, “Robin Hood” is a central character in their brave new world.  Robin Hood is government.

Their ignorance about how economies work knows no bounds apparently.  And they demonstrate that point fairly regularly.  Most Americans know what caused the wealth, affluence and power we enjoy, and it wasn’t redistribution of wealth through government.  In fact, as some polls have shown, it isn’t “Wall Street” most Americans blame for this – it is the very institution that OWS is calling on to impose the Robin Hood tax.

We often hear people talk about “teachable moments” when situations present themselves.   OWS is just such a moment.  It brings together a collection of misfits, malcontents and economic luddites whose entire mantra boils down to “we want what you have and that’s fair”.

Most people divest themselves of that nonsense when they’re about 7. 

Others like those involved in OWS are apparently forever slow learners.

And they therefore provide us with a wealth of “teachable moments” about why what they want doesn’t and won’t ever work.  That’s worth having them around for a while.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic statistics for 25 Oct 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

In retail sales, ICSC-Goldman Store Sales fell to a 2.4% year on year rate, while Redbook reports 4.1%. Both are slightly below trend.

Case-Shiller data show no change in housing prices for the month, a sign that home prices may finally be bottoming out. The previous three months have see drops of -0.1%. Prices are still down -3.8% from last year. Conversely, according to the FHFA, house prices fell -0.1% in August, ending a string of four monthly gains in a row, after rising 0.1% last month.

The consumer confidence index fell 6.6 points in October to 39.8 on declines in consumer assessments of both current and future conditions.

Manufacturing is contracting for the fourth month in a row in the Richmond Fed district where the manufacturing index is unchanged at -6.

State Street’s confidence index for institutional investors rose 7points in October to 96.7, but remains below 100, still showing a bias towards a demand for safety.

~
Dale Franks
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Looking for Ronald Reagan

A poll out today shows that even with all the early debates and attention GOP presidential candidates have gotten to this point, most Republican voters remain uncommitted:

About eight in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to tell whom they will support, and just four in 10 say they have been paying a lot of attention to the 2012 presidential campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Herman Cain, the former restaurant executive, is riding a wave of support among Republican primary voters that has placed him in a statistical dead heat with rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a race that has been characterized by momentum swings among the candidates.

The poll found Mr. Cain with the highest level of support, with 25 percent of Republican primary voters, and Mr. Romney with 21 percent. This difference is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

Adding to the fluidity of the contest, about one in 10 Republican primary voters say they would like to see someone else nominated.

As bad as President Obama might be, it is clear that there is no particular love to be found for the present Republican field.   Perry has all but imploded, Bachman continues to marginalize herself, Paul has a rabid but small contingent of supporters but can never seem to get beyond that, Gingrich has way too much baggage, Santorum is a marginal candidate at best and Mitt Romney is the nominee of last resort.

The reason, in my opinion, that Herman Cain has risen in the polls is because he comes from a background of business success.  He reflects a desire by many to have someone who can take the reins of the government and steer in such a way that it becomes a help to our economy, not a hindrance and drag.  His increased support speaks to a desire for someone in office with economic and business experience.  

But I think there’s also a great desire, so far unfulfilled, for someone who has a clear vision that can be articulated and that captures the imagination and revives the spirit.  And while Cain may fill the practical side of the equation, at least to an acceptable extent, he’s not been able to fulfill the “vision quest” part.   As gifted an orator as he might be and despite the fact he’s got practical and successful business he’s not been able to persuade enough Republican voters to come to his side to put him in the unassailable lead.

And of course neither have any of the others.

Republicans are still looking for Ronald Reagan.  A man or woman who can not only lift the malaise but lift the spirit as well.   Who can not only apply practical principled solutions to our problems but make America feel good about itself again. 

Right now, that person isn’t yet in the race, or if he or she is, they’ve not emerged as such.   This country is in desperate want of inspiration, reassurance and practical experience.   The current candidates just aren’t measuring up to that want or need.   Thus the poll results.

Is there a Ronald Regan out there?  Is there a candidate that will finally step forward and fulfill those voter wants as Reagan did when running against Jimmy Carter.

I often wonder what the outcome might have been had any of these candidates running for the GOP nomination today had been the choice against Carter.  I’m not so sure Carter would have lost.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Health Care: When talking about liberty and rights is radical and extreme

The other day, Michelle Bachman said:

“We will always have people in this country through hardship, through no fault of their own, who won’t be able to afford health care,” Bachmann said. “That’s just the way it is. But usually what we have are charitable organizations or hospitals who have enough left over so that they can pick up the cost for the indigent who can’t afford it.”

That initiated the usual reaction from the left:

Before the advent of Medicare and Medicaid, charities did provide health care to those in need. But to suggest that they can do the same today is to misunderstand the enormity of the health care crisis, as charities simply do not have the capacity to handle the demand. As the number of uninsured creeps up to 50 million, for any politician to argue that government should outsource the task of keeping Americans healthy to charities is like saying that people should be punished with death if they are unfortunate enough to be poor or are priced out of insurance due to a pre-existing health condition.

And that’s one of the more family friendly reactions.

But let’s look at it.   First question, why is it that “charities simply do not have the capacity to handle the demand?”  Any takers?

Is it because there are no established charitable programs in place anymore because government usurped the need for them with Medicare and Medicaid?   Perhaps not wholly, but it certainly is one of the reasons.   Charities, like any other organization, focus their giving where there is a need.   And where no one else, usually, is helping.   No need, no priority, no charity.

Secondly, you see the insidious conclusion that “the demand” that would strain the capacity of charities can only be met by … government, of course.  Naturally there’s no way to really test that conclusion because government has destroyed the market for charitable health care giving.

So, as usual, government has helped create the problem (lack of charitable institutions focused on providing health care for poor) and now, according to the left, the government is the answer to the problem it created.  It may not be something you traditionally consider a market (charitable giving in health care) but there’s no question that government intrusion into the health care market changed the dynamic completely.

And finally the unspoken premise: Health care is a human right.  Sorry, but health isn’t even a “human right”.  Obviously health care requires the labor of others.   It requires their time and the abilities they’ve developed over the years.  It is their property to dispose of as they will. But bottom line, health care requires the labor of others in order to fulfill this assumed right.  

Clue: To be a right, the right must not violate the rights of others.  It cannot take precedence or priority over someone’s right to decide how to use their property – i.e. their developed and marketable abilities.   Period.  That’s slavery.   Here we see another twisting of a word that denotes a condition of freedom and liberty into one that demands virtual slavery from others.

You may or may not agree with Michelle Bachman’s statement.  But, in reality it is the way a truly free country should work.  Instead we seem to opt for “government is always the answer” (even when it is the entity that created the problem) and coercion is just fine for fulfilling utopian dreams.

Hard to call that “free” isn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


America in decline?

That’s the consensus in an interesting poll just published:

More than two-thirds of voters say the United States is declining, and a clear majority think the next generation will be worse off than this one, according to the results of a new poll commissioned by The Hill.

A resounding 69 percent of respondents said the country is “in decline,” the survey found, while 57 percent predict today’s kids won’t live better lives than their parents. Additionally, 83 percent of voters indicated they’re either very or somewhat worried about the future of the nation, with 49 percent saying they’re “very worried.”

The results suggest that Americans don’t view the country’s current economic and political troubles as temporary, but instead see them continuing for many years.

My father used to tell me “you live between your ears” meaning attitude and outlook are yours to control and play a critical part in life.

Attitude and outlook are also critical in any sort of economic recovery.  If the attitude is pessimistic and the outlook deemed as dismal, it sometimes becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I remember back in the days of the Jimmy Carter presidency, the “malaise” that settled in on the country.  People felt everything was out of control.  Interest rates were through the roof, we were seen as a paper tiger in the world and whatever else Jimmy Carter might be, he wasn’t much of a leader.   Everyone then thought America was in decline then too.

But then Ronald Reagan came along, took charge, changed the attitude and outlook of Americans and, well, the rest is literally history.

One of the key jobs of a President of the United States is to address the country’s outlook and attitude.  It is a very important aspect of leadership.  It is also critical to recovery from economic problems, unemployment and other ills that are besetting our country.  It is about setting up the proper climate to make attitudes swing to the positive side and the outlook appear rosier.

One of the things I’ve said consistently since Barack Obama has taken office is he’s not (nor has he ever been) a leader.   That’s actually no surprise to me because I understand what leadership requires.   In a word, development.   The great leaders of today, with very few exceptions, worked their way up to their ultimate leadership job through a series of lesser leadership jobs. 

I use military examples because they’re familiar to me, but no division commander ever took that job that hadn’t first been a platoon leader, then company commander, battalion commander and brigade commander.

And even then, some division commanders are better than others.   But regardless, their leadership skills have been developed and honed by successive leadership positions of increased size and responsibility.  And the weak leaders have been cast aside in that process.

We’ve elected a man who hasn’t even had a platoon, if you get my drift.  And now we’re asking him to lead (well, in reality, we ask him to lead 3 years ago) in a very difficult time.

This poll indicates how well he’s doing.

In any school in the land, his grade in leadership would be “F”.

Is America in decline?  Under this president the answer is “yes”.  Does it have to remain in decline?  No.  But to change that, the first step is voting the present occupant of the White House out of office.  The good news is we all know what happened to Jimmy Carter.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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