Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Oh, goodie – a rerun

And it has all the ear-markings of the usual failure.  New York mayoral race:

Since the days of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats, it has been a totem of faith in some liberal-progressive circles that the key to lifting up the lower ranks lies in downplaying social and economic conflicts, cozying up to business interests, and tackling inequality covertly, through largely invisible subsidies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. De Blasio, in pledging to raise taxes on the rich to finance his education programs, has challenged this formula, and turned himself into the standard-bearer for what some see as a new era of urban populism.

Yes indeed, a “new era of urban populism”, or as those who view the idea just a little differently, a new era of class warfare in which the demonized class gets robbed and the proceeds of the theft are supposedly redistributed for the benefit of the “proletariat”. It’s not like we don’t spend enough on education now. You’d think a smart mayoral candidate would consider the possibility that money isn’t the problem. But that’s too difficult and besides, when you’re supported by teachers unions, well, it’s easier to go after the rich.

And, of course, the author of this article is quite excited about it. It’s like this has never happened recently in, oh, I don’t know, France? You know … where they decided those filthy rich should pay for everything. It certainly wasn’t a matter of “urban” populism per se, but it was a matter of socialist populism – same thing. Result? The rich started moving elsewhere. Imagine that.

Of course De Blasio would have to get this past the state legislature – not likely anytime soon. And, as the author mentions, it’s not a huge tax raise so it’s likely not to get much coverage even if it is passed. But the point of course is the left never learns. Ever. They’re committed to the same failed policies and same failed solutions as they always have been.

Most remarkable is the apparent surprise they register when the predictable happens. It is like they’re geese and they wake up in a new world every day? Unfortunately we have to share the world with them and they’re making it progressively unlivable.


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You Can’t Sabotage a Disaster

The Democrats’ newest line in the peeling onion of fail that is Obamacare is that its failure is all the Republicans’ fault because…they sabotaged it. This line has been taken up by Politico in an article by Todd S. Purdum.

From the moment the bill was introduced, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress announced their intention to kill it. Republican troops pressed this cause all the way to the Supreme Court — which upheld the law, but weakened a key part of it by giving states the option to reject an expansion of Medicaid. The GOP faithful then kept up their crusade past the president’s reelection, in a pattern of “massive resistance” not seen since the Southern states’ defiance of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954…

Most Republican governors declined to create their own state insurance exchanges — an option inserted in the bill in the Senate to appeal to the classic conservative preference for local control — forcing the federal government to take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states — far more than ever intended.

Then congressional Republicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds to do all that extra work, leaving the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to cobble together by redirecting funds from existing programs. On top of that, nearly half of the states declined to expand their Medicaid programs using federal funds, as the law envisioned.

Then, in the months leading up to the program’s debut, some states refused to do anything at all to educate the public about the law. And congressional Republicans sent so many burdensome queries to local hospitals and nonprofits gearing up to help consumers navigate the new system face-to-face that at least two such groups returned their federal grants and gave up the effort.

So, political opposition to a law that Republicans always opposed is now "sabotage’. That’s simply nonsense on stilts. The law was passed without a single Republican vote. That should’ve been a big signal to Democrats that the law was going to be on shaky ground, but of course, in their arrogance, it didn’t.

Back in 1993, when Hillary Clinton was working on Health Care Reform, Daniel Patrick Moynihan gave her some sage advice. He told her that without support from a large, non-partisan majority, no large-scale reform can ever be successfully concluded. She ignored him at the time, just as Democrats ignored that advice when they passed Obamacare on a strictly party-line vote.

But no Congress can ever bind a succeeding Congress. This has been a black-letter principle of American politics for two centuries. The only way a succeeding congress can be bound is if the support for a particular law is widespread and bi-partisan. And in the case of Obamacare, not only have the Republicans been opposed since the beginning so has a majority of the American people. Obamacare has never polled with majority support among the electorate, and as its implementation date has drawn closer, the majority of the electorate that opposes it has increased.

Howard Dean, recently suggested that Republican opposition to Obamacare is a sign that Republicans have  "forgotten that they’re actually supposed to serve the American people." But since, by all the polling results I’ve ever seen, a substantial majority of the public opposes Obamacare, it would seem to me that Republican opposition is actually the precise opposite of what Howard Dean suggests.

Defining opposition to Obamacare as "sabotage" is simply sour grapes from an arrogant political party that imposed an unpopular law against the apparent wishes of the electorate.

Obamacare is a disaster. I predicted it was an unworkable disaster before it was passed, as did anyone who took the time to look at the perverse incentives it created. The amount of wishful thinking that went in to passing this stupid law is incomprehensible to me. It could not have been more clearly prone to failure if it had been intentionally designed to fail.

Make no mistake: if you support Obamacare, you are a complete dolt, or so lacking in fundamental knowledge that your opinion about it is irrelevant. It is a law that literally cannot accomplish its stated purpose, because it ignores essential and fundamental economic and political realities. Moreover, it was passed in opposition to a majority of Americans.

Opposition to this disaster is not sabotage. It is the only rational response to the utter stupidity it encapsulates.

But framing opposition as sabotage does have a darker, more nefarious purpose. The whole point of such charges is to delegitimize the opposition. Frankly, it’s part of what I see as an ongoing Democratic strategy to define opposition to any policy they support as un-American, at the very least, if not somehow criminal. The Left in this country could not be doing more to foment a civil war if they were intentionally trying to do so.

I have very little hope for the future of this country. I have very little left but anger.

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Economic Statistics for 1 Nov 13

The ISM manufacturing composite index remained steady, with just a 0.2 point rise to 56.4 in October.

Markit’s PMI Manufacturing Index fell a point to 51.8 in October.

Vehicle sales were strong in October, coming in at a  15.2 million annual unit rate. Some of the sales increases reported: Chrysler 11%, GM 15.7%, Ford 14%, Toyota 8.8%.

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Blatant cronyism? Most likely, yes …

This on-line debacle that’s so embarrassed the Democrats and the Obama administration?  It is likely the result of blatant cronyism.  The inept hiring the incompetent:

A tech firm linked to a campaign-donor crony of President Obama not only got the job to help build the federal health-insurance Web site — but also is getting paid to fix it.

Anthony Welters, a top campaign bundler for Obama and frequent White House guest, is the executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, which owns the software company now at the center of the ObamaCare Web-site fiasco.

UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI), which built the data hub for the ObamaCare system, has been named the new general contractor in charge of repairing the glitch-plagued

Welters and his wife, Beatrice, have shoveled piles of cash into Obama’s campaign coffers and ­apparently reaped the rewards.

Beatrice Welters bundled donations totaling between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama’s campaign during the 2008 election ­cycle, according to campaign- ­finance data compiled by Center for Responsive Politics.

Well, how sweet is that?  Give a little, get a lot!  And while this certainly isn’t the first administration or political party to practice cronyism, it certainly is the most open about it.  One would almost think they believe that they are entitled.  A spoils system of sorts.

UnitedHealth Group is one of the largest health-insurance companies in the country and spent millions lobbying for ObamaCare.

The insurance giant’s purchase of QSSI in 2012 raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, but the tech firm nevertheless kept the job of building the data hub for the ObamaCare Web site where consumers buy the new mandatory health- ­insurance plans.

QSSI has been paid an estimated $150 million so far, but officials couldn’t say how much more the company might collect on the ­repair contract.

Whatever happened to the belief that there should be a distance between politics and business?  Once, it was a point of integrity to ensure there was no shadow or hint of a possible conflict of interest?

Now?  Just line up at the trough, those that gave the most get the most.  As for the work?  Just like every other government program (except health care), they’ll be glad to overpay for shoddy work.

And here we are.

“I’m extraordinarily frustrated,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) ­after top Obama-administration officials gave Senate Democrats a private briefing on the state of the Web-site repairs.

He said they were losing confidence the site could be quickly fixed.

“I don’t think there’s confidence by anyone in the room. This is more of a show-me moment,” said Merkley.

I don’t think there’s confidence by anyone in the country – except, of  course, the “true believers”.


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Economic Statistics for 31 Oct 13

Initial jobless claims fell 10,000 last week, to 340,000. The 4-week moving average rose 8,000 to 356,250. Continuing claims rose 31,000 to 2.881 million.

The Chicago PMI accelerated sharply in October to 65.9 from the previous month’s 55.7.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.5 points to -37.6.

Farm prices rose 0.5% in October, but on a year-over-year basis were down -11%.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $4.4 billion last week, with total assets of $3.843 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $12.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply increased by $55.9 billion last week.

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Assessing the worst presidency in history

Okay, maybe I’m jumping the gun, but I lived through Jimmy Carter, and I’d take that mess again in a heartbeat over the one we’re currently living through.

It’s always interesting to read what is being said about Obama and the Democrats, especially by some of the usual cheerleaders for that bunch.  Here’s Michael O’Brien of NBC News:

“President Barack Obama’s seemingly hands-off management style is raising fresh questions and concerns that could upend his second-term legacy. Claims by the administration and other Democrats that Obama didn’t know about sensitive matters in his own administration — such as problems with the health care website and revelations of National Security Agency surveillance on foreign leaders — have many in Washington scratching their heads.”

More: “Even Democratic allies of the administration question why Obama didn’t know about the serious problems, and express concern about his personal response. ‘I think he might have been better off by standing up and saying this happened up on my watch and take responsibility for it. I think that’s better than saying he didn’t know,’ said veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum. ‘I think people expect the president, on his signature program, to be on top of it.’”

“Confronted with missteps in his own administration, President Barack Obama has frequently pleaded ignorance — suggesting he could not be at fault about things he did not know,” AP writes. “It’s an argument with clear benefits but also inherent risks for the White House. Used too often, the tactic emboldens critics who claim the president is incompetent, detached and not fully in control. Eager to protect Obama’s time and concentration, his aides deliberate intensively about what to tell the president, current and former White House officials said. His advisers act as a triage team for an endless flood of information coming into the White House, continually making decisions about which snippets of data Obama might need.”

“Upend his second-term legacy?”  Yeah, that’s what is important … his legacy.  And if I had to guess, his legacy is not going to be one any president would want to claim.

Secondly, his “hands-off management style” isn’t that at all – it’s a lack of leadership.  The man isn’t a leader in any sense of the word.  He hasn’t a clue how to lead.  He’s a petulant autocrat who fumes when he doesn’t get his way and blames everyone but himself when his programs fail.

Finally, he’s Richard Nixon II – out of touch and surrounded with advisors who are afraid to tell him the truth.  That’s what all that “triage” nonsense is about.  His advisors filter incoming information and then spin what they want him to see as positively as possible.  He’s in the bunker and thinks he has more divisions than he really does, if the analogy makes any sense to you.

Oh, and his approval ratings are at an all time low.  What we’re watching is the implosion of a presidency, such that it was.  If there’s anything positive about it, Barack Obama has finally proven the Peter Principle to be false.  He certainly rose well above his level of competency.  That would be funny if he was in any other job.  Instead, it’s just plain dangerous.

Meanwhile the Vice President’s clown car continues to roll: merrily on its way:

“Neither he and I are technology geeks, and we assumed that it was up and ready to run.”

Because, you know, leaders always assume and never check.  That’s how they become so successful.


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Economic Statistics for 30 Oct 13

The MBA reports that a dip in rates caused mortgage applications to rise 6.4% last week, with purchases up 2.0% and re-fis 9.0%.

ADP reports a smaller-than-expected rise in private payroll growth, at 130,000 in October, a disappointing number.

The Treasury reported a big $75.1 billion surplus in the month of September. This points to a substantially lower 2013 deficit.

The CPI rose 0.2% in September, with the core rate up 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, consumer prices are up 1.2% overall, and up 1.7% ex-food and -energy.

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