Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: April 2013

Obama budget proposal should be DOA

Apparently President Obama is sure his newest budget proposal is so good there’s no room or need for negotiation.  Or so a senior White House official says:

“We don’t view this budget as a starting point in the negotiations. This is an offer where the president came more than halfway toward the Republicans,” a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity to detail the forthcoming document.

“So this is our sticking point,” the official said. “And the question is: are Republicans going to be willing to come to us to do serious things to reduce our deficits?”

Obama is proposing a $3.78 trillion dollar budget.  Estimated tax revenues for 2014 are  $3.22 trillion.  Yet, this is being touted as a “budget cutting” budget and the White House claims it is exactly what the Republicans have wanted.

What … another deficit?

By the way, I don’t want “reduced deficits”.  I want NO deficit.  I.e. any budget that begins with an amount higher than the estimated tax revenues for the year is Dead On Arrival.

And that’s precisely the declaration this budget (like all the other budgets Obama has submitted) deserves.



Economic Statistics for 09 Apr 13

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

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index dropped 1.3 points in march to 89.5, 1.2 points below the recovery average.

February wholesale inventories fell -0.3%, while sales rose 1.7%, pulling the stock-to-sales ratio down to 1.19.

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 2.5% year-on-year sales increase, as sales slowed following the Easter week. ICSC-Goldman store sales rose 0.7% in the week, with sales up a soft 2.1% year-over-year.

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North Korean threats continue to escalate

Apparently Marshall Poppin Fresh is still mouthing off about war. Now his state run media has issued a warning to “foreigners” in South Korea:

North Korea issued its latest dispatch of ominous rhetoric on Tuesday, telling foreigners in South Korea they should take steps to secure shelter or evacuation to protect themselves.

The unnerving message, announced by state-run media, follows a warning from the North last week to diplomats in

its capital city, Pyongyang, that if war were to break out, it would not be able to guarantee their safety.

North Korea has unleashed a torrent of dramatic threats against the United States and South Korea in recent weeks, but many analysts have cautioned that much of what it is saying is bluster.

It appears what we’re likely to see is some missile tests in lieu of “war”. Why? Well the WSJ says:

While a missile launch would be seen as a major provocation, South Korean and U.S. officials have repeatedly said there are no signs that North Korea is preparing for any kind of attack. Instead, a missile test and possibly a new nuclear test by the North are seen as efforts to keep tensions high, hone the isolated state’s weapons technology and send an internal message of military strength.

Trust me, we have the means to know and we certainly know what “war prep” would look like. Massive mobilization

and extensive troop movements would be easily spotted. Apparently none of that is happening.

In fact, we may find war to be less of a threat the more belicose they are, if you want to believe the experts and the NORK record:

Experts and officials say that while the current period of harsh language and provocative behavior still carries a risk of accidentally spilling into military confrontation, North Korea’s record shows it poses more of a threat when it is not making warlike statements.

“I worry more about North Korea when they are not rattling the saber,” said Scott Snyder, an expert on North and South Korea at the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank.

Acts of aggression from North Korea, experts note, are almost always surprise attacks designed to cower South Korean administrations that have taken a tough line with the North or that aren’t providing sufficient aid.

Note the last phrase. In fact, all of this may be North Korea simply establishing a bargaining position.

We’ll see.


“Choice”– something the left champions, right?

Well, not really.  Not when it comes to things like union membership.  It would rather you not have a choice.  Because when you do, you do stuff like this:

More than two years after Scott Walker’s showdown with organized labor in Wisconsin, the official numbers for the state’s public sector union membership are in — and they are down. Way down.

According a Labor Department filing made last week, membership at Wisconsin’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 40 — one of AFSCME’s four branches in the state — has gone from the 31,730 it reported in 2011, to 29,777 in 2012, to just 20,488 now. That’s a drop of more than 11,000 — about a third — in just two years. The council represents city and county employees outside of Milwaukee County and child care workers across Wisconsin.

Labor Department filings also show that Wisconsin’s AFSCME Council 48, which represents city and county workers in Milwaukee County, went from 9,043 members in 2011, to 6,046 in 2012, to just 3,498 now.

For the left, “choice” is selective. I.e. they get to decide when you should have a choice.  For instance, you should have choice concerning “reproductive health” and the “right” to have someone else pay for it (those paying have no choice you see).

In the case of public service unions in Wisconsin, when finally given a real choice, about a third of those who had been forced to be members have opted out because the value they receive for the money taken isn’t worth it to them.   And, now, to keep the rest of their members and because they’re now answerable to them, union bosses are going to have to actually preform.

Oh, wait, that’s good right?



Private oil sector pushes US past Saudi Arabia in output

Funny … despite all the impediments the Obama administration has put on oil production on public land, the private sector – the market – has pushed us into a position we’ve never been in before in terms of output of oil and gas.   We’ve passed the Saudi’s in output:

In spite of the Obama Administration’s hostility to carbon-rich energy, private actors with private capital deployed on private (and state) land have launched a game-changing revolution in domestic oil and natural gas production.

A scarcely reported milestone conveys the magnitude of this turnaround in the global energy landscape.

The U.S. passed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest petroleum producer in November 2012, according to recently released data of the federal Energy Information Administration.

Now, imagine where we’d be if we didn’t have an obstructive administration bent on punishing those producers in that market via high taxation and regulation.  Or slow-walking permits for drilling on public land.  Or any of a myriad of other things this administration does to try to prevent oil and gas production.  Well, other than taking credit for the rise in production when they had nothing to do with it.

Had they gotten out of the way, had they helped us take advantage of these new finds, Saudi Arabia would have been in our rear view mirror a long time ago and my guess is, gas wouldn’t cost what it does today.


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 07 Apr 13

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the events of the week.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


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.

Is policy killing red-state women?

I see some on the Left passing around this map showing that female mortality worsened in many counties between the early/mid-’90s and the early/mid-2000s.  (Meanwhile, male mortality only worsened in 3.4% of counties.)

They noticed red states doing worse than blue states, and thought that this must, of course, be due to the Republican war on women™.

The mortality rate of females [worsening] in 43 percent of U.S. counties from 2002-2006 is eye-opening. This map from health researcher Bill Gardner helps you see where the worst results are typically coming from — red states and the redder parts of blue states.

It apparently did not occur to these partisans to control for a fairly simple, innocent phenomenon: old people just die more frequently than younger people.

  • Rural areas are aging faster as they have fewer kids who stick around – and it’s mostly women left behind, since women have a longer life expectancy than men in the US.  So the mortality rate of a county could go up even if people are as healthy for their age as ever.
  • On the other hand, when you have an influx of young people (like in high-immigration counties), the mortality rate drops.

As evidence for this, look at the overlaps between the above map and two others:

More old people combined with fewer people in the prime of their health tends to mean a higher death rate, and vice versa.  It’s not a perfect correlation, but at very least it’s something that should be taken into account before blaming policy for deaths.

It certainly seems like less of a stretch than trying to blame the trend in female mortality on suicides connected to expanded gun ownership:

[A]nother study suggests that red states’ high levels of gun ownership make them especially dangerous:

With few exceptions, states with the highest rates of gun ownership — for example, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alabama, and West Virginia — also tended to have the highest suicide rates.

How big of a stretch is this as a contributor to female mortality?  Two little hints:

And then there’s this bold prediction:

With red states rushing to turn down the Medicaid expansion, these results will likely only get worse.

That’s not outlandish as guesses go, since women consume two thirds of medical care in this country, but there’s not an obvious nationwide relationship between Medicaid dependence and changes in women’s mortality (though controlling for ethnicity might be a start):

Blaming the party elected by older people for higher mortality in the areas they govern is like blaming Democrats for young urbanites being more prone to violent crime than old rural farmers.  If you’re not controlling for other causes, you’re just trolling for partisan causes.

Economic Statistics for 5 Apr 13

The BLS reports non-farm payroll jobs increased by only 88,000 in March, while the unemployment level fell 0.1% to 7.6%. Private payrolls increased only 95,000. Average hourly earnings were unchanged, while the average workweek increased a single tick to 34.6 hours. The internals of the report are uniformly bad. The labor force participation rate fell to 63.3%, the lowest since May, 1979. 496,000 people left the labor force since last month, as it fell from 155,524,000 to 155,028,000. The number of persons who declared themselves employed in the household survey fell from 143,492,000 to 143,286,000, a decline of 206,000. The number of persons not in the labor force rose 663,000 to 89,967,000. The employment to population ratio is back down to 58.5, matching the lows of the 2009-2010 recession, and the historic lows of the 1978-1982 period. While it will probably be reported as a "bright spot" in an otherwise dreary employment report, even the drop in the official unemployment rate is bad, in that it is merely a reflection of the fact the people are leaving the labor force faster than new jobs can be created. So many people have left the labor force that the official unemployment rates are essentially useless. This month’s huge drop in the size of the labor force caused the U-6 unemployment rate, the broadest official measure of unemployment, to fall sharply from 14.3% last month to 13.8%. In actuality, using the historical average labor force participation rate, the real rate of unemployment jumped from 11.47% to 11.65%, the highest since Jan, 2012. There is simply nothing good in this report.

The US trade balanced narrowed slightly in February to $-43.0 billion from $-44.4 billion the previous month.

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Doh! Most Democrats now believe ObamaCare won’t help and may hurt them

Cry me a freakin’ river:

Two-thirds of Democrats now believe Obama’s health care reforms will either hurt them personally or have no effect on their daily lives, a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows. In comparison, just 27 percent of Democratic respondents said the reforms would help them.

As for the rest?

Just 3 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of independents believe the president’s overhaul will help them personally, the poll shows. Even worse for the White House, 68 percent of self-identified Republicans and more than a third of all independents said the reforms would hurt them personally.

But a Democratic Congress rammed it through anyway, didn’t it?  And a sell-out Chief Justice found it to be “Consitutional”, so now we have to live with it – at least temporarily.

Yet most of the country believes it won’t do what was advertised and will instead cost them more.  And most of them have believed that (rightfully so) since the beginning.

Yet we still have it.

How anyone, even Democrats, believed that adding layers of government regulation, taxation and bureaucracy could possibly make the health care system less expensive remains one of those mysteries of life.  Well, not really.  It’s call delusion.  And in this case, it was something they wanted to believe badly and facts and reality just got in the way of that belief.  And now what has their secular faith brought us?

Another in a long line of disastrous and costly government  programs that we can’t afford.

And now they want to bitch.

Screw ‘em.


Economic Statistics for 4 Apr 13

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

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index was essentially unchanged in the latest week, at -34.1.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report reports that there were 49,255 announced layoff in March, substantially higher than the year-ago total of 37,880.

Initial jobless claims rose a sharp 28,000 to 385,000. The 4-week average rose 11,250 to 354,250. Continuing claims fell 8,000 to 3.067 million.

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