Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: February 2013


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 10 Feb 13

This week, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss drone strikes and the media.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Economic Statistics for 8 Feb 13

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

Wholesale inventories fell -0.1% in December, while wholesale sales were unchanged, keeping the stock-to-sales ratio steady at 1.19.

The US trade gap narrowed in December, falling to -$38.5 billion, largely due to a big drop in iPhone imports, and increased exports. Exports rose 2.1%, while imports dropped -2.7%.

~
Dale Franks
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Another reason we’re in the mess we’re in: The media has failed in its job

Here, we’ve all wondered  - for years – why journalists are so willing to toss their credibility in the waste bin and go “all in” for this guy Obama.  It doesn’t take a particularly bright individual to note how totally nonresponsive they are to stories that, had the perpertrator been on the right or, God forbid, George Bush, how differently they would have responded.  To say they’ve sold their collective “journalistic ethical” souls is, frankly, a huge understatement.  They are, or have become, a propaganda arm of this administration (well, all except the hated FOX, which keeps pointing out the emperor has no clothes).

Nick Gillespie at Reason explores all of this in his recent article.  A snippet:

It’s sad, though never unexpected, when leaders such as Obama flip flop like a fish on the sand once they ascend power. Cromwell did it, the French revolutionaries did it, Castro did it, the Sandanistas did it, and on and on. It’s one of the oldest plots in history and infinitely adaptable to new conditions. How else to explain, as Jacob Sullumn notes, that candidate Obama rejected the Bush adminstration’s position that it could detain U.S. citizens as enemy combatants without pressing charges while President Obama claims the right to kill U.S. citizens without laying charges? The guy may not be able to pass a budget but christ, give him credit for ingenuity and brass balls.

But Obama is a politician – what do you expect? Politicians are not just the bottom of the barrel – they’re what’s under the bottom of the barrel, right?

So what then explains the contortions that journalists fold themselves into like so many carnival sideshow rubber-men in defending their hero? Mike Riggs points to comments by rising liberal MSNBC pundit Toure that suggest just how far explicitly pro-Obama liberals are willing to go in excusing the president’s declaring himself and his crew judge, jury, and executioner. As Riggs explains, it seems pretty clear that Toure isn’t up to speed on specifics, especially when it comes to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son:

When his co-hosts continue to press him on the consequences of a small group of individuals determing who deserves to die without a shred of oversight, Touré dismisses them by saying, “Al Qaeda attacked this nation. We are attacking al Qaeda back.” On Twitter Touré simply said, “He’s the Commander in Chief.”

Al Qaeda is the new Communism, dig?

Or something.  Yesterday we had Chris Rock claim that we should all obey Obama because, he’s “our boss”. Un, no Chris, he’s not our boss.

He’s our freakin’ employee.  He works for us.  He was hired by the people (much to my chagrin) and he has to follow the law just like everyone else.  He’s not the “boss” or our “Dad”.

But Rock’s BS points to the difference between the left (and their apparent desire for strong authoritarianism) and the right who still, at least in small pockets, see government as a dangerous but necessary evil to be controlled by the people.  It also shows why to them, politics isn’t just a system, but it is a cult, a religion, their way of transforming a nation and the world in an image they imagine will be better.

Yet history shows us that no matter how wonderful the fantasy that drives groups like this to collectively use force to social engineer a population toward their utopia, it never, ever ends well.

And now we have journalists engaged in precisely the work that propaganda arms of totalitarian governments have always done.  If once, their job was to question government, keep it accountable and investigate anything that smelled at all fishy, they’ve abdicated that in favor of selective blindness, cheerleading, advocacy and pure unadulterated fantasy.

It is the usual path a nation takes towards it’s demise.

And we’re well down that path, folks.

~McQ


Economic Statistics for 7 Feb 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Initial jobless claims fell 5,000 to 366,000, while the 4-week average fell 2,250 to 350,500. Continuing claims rose 8,000 to 3.224 million.

Monthly chain store sales are being reported today, with a generally positive trend, and some chains with very strong results. The signs are pointing to a 0.5% overall increase in ex-auto, ex-gas sales for the government’s retails sales report for January.

Non-farm business productivity fell a greater than expected -2.0% in the 4th quarter of 2012, while unit labor costs rose 4.5%. Business output declined to a 0.1% annualized rate from Q3′s 4.7%, while hours worked rose 2.2$. Unit labor costs were boosted by a 2.4% increase in compensation costs. Overall, this is a very disappointing report.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose almost a point to -36.3 in the latest week.

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Dale Franks
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Speaking of the lies we were fed …

By the likes of Krugman and the Democrats, here’s a little more proof:

The Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday quietly raised the 10-year cost of ObamaCare’s insurance subsidies offered via the health law’s exchanges by $233 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office review of its latest spending forecast.

The CBO’s new baseline estimate shows that ObamaCare subsidies offered through the insurance exchanges — which are supposed to be up and running by next January — will total more than $1 trillion through 2022, up from $814 billion over those same years in its budget forecast made a year ago. That’s an increase of nearly 29%.

29% and they’re not even off the ground yet. Anyone have any doubt whatsoever that this is likely a lowball estimate at this point?  Are we aware of the trend we always see when “costs” are discussed by governments and political parties?

Note too that they play games with the CBO (which is limited to forecasting 10 years out and also hasn’t been very accurate about much of anything – see debt forecasts over the last decade).

The politicians mostly fabricate whatever they think is palatable to the gullible public, sell them with the CBO’s false data and then, when it is found out that it was all bollocks, they say, ‘oh well, too late now, it’s the law”.

Well here’s my feeling about that.  If the “law” doesn’t live up to their hype – if it ends up being massively more than they claimed (you know like 29%) then there’s a fairly simple rule that should be followed.

It – the law – should be automatically repealed.

~McQ


Krugman: was he lying then or is he lying now?

My bet would be on “then”, because in a moment of exquisite candidness, Paul Krugman – the man who has said “What? Me worry?” about the deficit and the debt, who claimed ObamaCare would do what Obama promised, – has apparently been drugged and finally told the truth:

Eventually we do have a problem. That the population is getting older, health care costs are rising…there is this question of how we’re going to pay for the programs. The year 2025, the year 2030, something is going to have to give…. …. We’re going to need more revenue…Surely it will require some sort of middle class taxes as well.. We won’t be able to pay for the kind of government the society will want without some increase in taxes… on the middle class, maybe a value added tax…And we’re also going to have to make decisions about health care, doc pay for health care that has no demonstrated medical benefits . So the snarky version…which I shouldn’t even say because it will get me in trouble is death panels and sales taxes is how we do this.

Gee … everything everyone who has paid attention has been saying all along.  Middle class taxes (you have to shake your head at his “oh well” approach to a middle class tax.  A sales tax.  Perhaps the most regressive tax going).  Death panels. Etc.

But it’s safe now … selling his credibility and being a hack has landed Obama another 4 years.

Apparently he’s on a “resurrect Paul Krugman’s professional reputation” tour.

Not that it’s working.

~McQ


Another reason we’re in the mess we’re in: the rise of the professional politician

Another reason we’re in the mess we’re in is because of the rise of professional politics and politicians.  According to a recent study 46%  of the present Congress is comprised of lawyers.  That’s 68 times  the density of lawyers throughout the population. But law school for many has been or has become the jumping off point for life as a professional politician.

And so, as with our current president, we get a class of people who have never “done anything or run anything.”  The results predictable, just look around. For the most part, those who are our supposedly “leaders” haven’t a clue on how to proceed or how to “fix” what is wrong with this country.  They have little experience in doing much of anything else but getting elected. Execution, governing, management – all seem foreign to most of our political class.  So they rely on “experts”, mostly in academia or among their political connections, to advise them on how to proceed.

Ed Driscoll provides us with a great example of one politician who, after he left political life, realized how little he knew about extraordinarily important information, and how little experience he actually had where it counted. Former presidential candidate and longtime politician, George McGovern, decided to go into business after leaving politics. It was only then, after his business failed, he realized how little he knew about something as critical as what it takes in the business atmosphere he helped build to run a business.

George McGovern laments that after his experience in the bed-and-breakfast business he realizes that laws and regulations pertaining to small business are actually hurting the lower-wage workers whom he had tried to help during his entire political career. With his Stratford Inn in bankruptcy, McGovern now says:

In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business…. I wish that during the years I was in public office I had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better Senator and a more understanding presidential contender… To create job opportunities, we need entrepreneurs who will risk their capital against an expected payoff. Too often, however, public policy does not consider whether we are choking off those opportunities.

He is just one of many of this of this professional political class who have helped put us in this mess.

We should demand, as voters and citizens, that our politicians have real world experience before we allow them the privilege of representing us. We should end this era of politicians whose only real world experience concerning the effects of policy come from dormitory debates and untried academic theories.  And we should reject, out of hand, anyone who has “never done anything or run anything”, unless we find ourselves comfortable with the shape this country is in.

~McQ


Economic Statistics for 5 Feb 13

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index fell 0.9 points to 55.2. There were signs of strength in the report, however, with the employment index rising 2.2 points to 57.5, the highest monthly jump in 7 years.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC-Goldman Store Sales rose 2.4% for the week, and up 2.6% on a year-over-year basis, but the 4-week average is still below trend. Redbook reports a very soft 1.5% year-over-year sales increase. Both reports indicate January retail sales are weak.

~
Dale Franks
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Why are we in the mess we’re in? [update]

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, brain surgeon, or even particularly smart to figure out that this trend means entitlements, as structured, will fail:

Last week, the Commerce Department announced that the gross domestic product shrank by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. And the Census Bureau reported that the U.S. birthrate in 2011 was 63.2 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, the lowest ever recorded.

Slow economic growth and low population growth threaten to undermine entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Despite contrary rhetoric, they are programs in which working-age people pay for pensions and medical care for the elderly.

When Medicare was established in 1965 and when Social Security was vastly expanded in 1972, America was accustomed to the high birthrates of the post-World War II baby boom. It was widely assumed that the baby boom generation would soon produce a baby boom of its own.

Oops. The birthrate fell from the peak of 122.7 in 1957 to 68.8 in 1973 and hovered around that level until 2007. The baby boom, it turns out, was an exception to a general rule that people tend to have fewer babies as their societies become more affluent and urbanized.

So, when will our so-called “leaders” finally  figure this out? My guess, in fact it really isn’t a guess, is they know but haven’t intestinal fortitude, politically speaking, to do what is necessary.  That is cut them, privatize them or any of a host of other options they won’t even consider.

What they will consider, of course, is raising taxes and borrowing.

The fact of the matter is that both Social Security and Medicare are based in flawed models. The original models saw the base of the those paying into the system remaining constant, despite the “general rule that people tend to have fewer babies as their societies become more affluent and urbanized.”

The numbers don’t lie. Fewer and fewer workers are available to pay into these systems and continue to pay out at the rate at which they’re paying out now. This is no mystery. This is plain old everyday economics.  It’s as plain as the nose on your face. Yet our so-called “leaders” seem unwilling and unable to face the facts.  The facts are not going to change. We’re not going to suddenly have a baby boom again.

These are the sorts of problems elected leaders are supposed to face head-on. That’s why they’re elected, supposedly. Yet we continue to let our elected officials get away with malfeasance. So while it is easy to point at them and say they’ve failed, in fact we’ve failed. We have failed to gin up the courage to do what is necessary to fix these problems. To force our “leaders” to do the right thing. We continue to claim in poll after poll that entitlements must be fixed. Yet we continue to put in office, time after time, the same people who haven’t yet mustered the courage to do that (nor fund themselves held accountable for not doing it).

Whose fault is that?

UPDATE: Here’s a perfect and timely example of part of the point:

John Kasich, the fiercely conservative governor of Ohio, announced Monday that he’s going to expand Medicaid dramatically using federal money — a 180-degree turn from what conservative groups swore their allies in governors’ mansions would do when the Supreme Court gave them an out last year.

This makes John Kasich a big, fat liar.

Republicans should be the ones circulating recall petitions. He should be drummed out of office, out of politics and never again hold any office higher than dog catcher. But they won’t, because despite this, he’s “one of ours”.

~McQ