Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

How to destroy property rights in one easy lesson

Give government bureaucracy the power to nullify your ownership rights in the name of a “higher good”.

You’re all familiar with the poly.  The WSJ describes it:

In partnership with green activists, the Department of Interior may attempt one of the largest federal land grabs in modern times, using a familiar vehicle—the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A record 757 new species could be added to the protected list by 2018. The two species with the greatest impact on private development are range birds—the greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken, both about the size of a barnyard chicken. The economic stakes are high because of the birds’ vast habitat.

Interior is expected to decide sometime this month whether to list the lesser prairie chicken, which inhabits five western prairie states, as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Meantime, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are considering land-use amendments to protect the greater sage grouse, which would lay the groundwork for an ESA listing next year.

One of the birds resides mostly on federal land (remember, the federal government owns most of the west of the US).  It is on these lands and the little private land there that the sage grouse is found:

The sage grouse is found in 11 western states—California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Most of the areas affected are federal lands routinely used for farming, ranching, mining, road building, water projects and oil and gas drilling.

Ah, gas drilling.  Well here we go:

Interior’s proposed “land use” amendments are draconian. They require a four-mile “buffer zone” whenever a sage-grouse mating ground is discovered on federal land. The American Petroleum Institute calls the proposed rules a “de facto ban on drilling.” It fears that compliance could cost tens of millions of dollars in legal fees and cause years of drilling delays.

Well of course it would.  That’s the whole point.  To make it economically unfeasible to fight this.  Never mind that the technology exists to make the foot print tiny (horizontal drilling), you still have to get permission to do it – time and mucho money.

But that’s on federal land.  How about private land.  Well it just so happens that’s where the prairie chicken comes in (along with the sage grouse).  Any idea of where they’re found?

The prairie chicken sits atop Texas’s Permian Basin oil bonanza, and the sage grouse is near the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

So a bird that is found in 11 western states is apparently “endangered” and also sits conveniently on one of the most productive finds in modern history (Bakken) and the other bird just happens to be in Texas’ big petroleum find?  How ironic, no?

Politics in the service of activism.  And if the activists don’t get their way?

Environmental groups have won victories by using a strategy called “sue and settle” under which groups propose species for protected status and then sue the federal government, which settles the lawsuit on terms favorable to the greens rather than fight. These settlements typically bypass a thorough review of the scientific evidence and exclude affected parties, such as industry and local communities.

According to Kent Holsinger, a natural resources attorney in Denver heavily involved in these cases, “Wildlife Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity have been party to more than 1,000 lawsuits between 1990 and the present.” The Center for Biological Diversity has made no secret of wanting to end fossil-fuel production in the U.S.

In the case of the Obama administration, it is more likely that this won’t be an antagonistic process, at least where the econuts are concerned.  Instead it will be a cooperative process while they bleed the destroy the concept of private property once and for all.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

President’s FY2015 budget more proof that he lives in a fantasy world

If I’m not mistaken, not a single Obama budget (those few he’s submitted) over the years has gotten even one vote when it hit Congress.  And that includes votes from Democrats.

This year is likely to be no exception.

Veronique De Rugy at George Mason Univerity’s Mercatus Center says:

Much of the president’s proposed budget’s rosy projections will require considerable tax financing and political restraint to come to fruition. If revenues are lower than anticipated or spending is not restricted as planned, the ten-year debt picture will look quite different. I have noted before that President Obama’s later mid-session review budget differed considerably from his early budget projections. Early revenue and outlay projections were higher than actual amounts, while deficit spending surged much higher than anticipated from 2010 to 2012. This budget will likely mis-project critical variables as well. The rosiest projections all too often turn out to be the most disappointing.

Talk about an understatement.  And the rosy projection?  Well here it is compared to the CBO projection:

You have to chuckle at a miss that bad. In the outlying years, look at the percent of GDP the CBO projects vs. Obama.  Any guess as to which projection is most likely of the two?

Go back to a key line ins De Rugy’s analysis:

If revenues are lower than anticipated or spending is not restricted as planned, the ten-year debt picture will look quite different.

Point to a moment in recent history where our profligate politicians have actually followed a restrictive spending plan that would have the effect Obama says it will?

Yeah, I can’t point to it either.

Regardless, however, we’re supposed to believe that if the plan is followed as layed out in the Obama budget, we’ll see long term debt reduction.

Unfortunatly the next chart doesn’t at all support that claim:

In every year projected, spendin is greater than revenue.  So what they’re assuming is massive growth in the eoncomy to make the debt they pile up in the later years a smaller percentage of the GDP.

Really?  Taxes are going to go up, government spending will also go up and yet somehow the private economy is going to surge (10 more “recovery summers”, eh?)?  Obama plans spending and taxation as a percentage of GDP that are at or near historic highs, but we’ll see huge economic growth to support that?

Wow, if you’re not flying the red BS flag, you need to take an Econ 101 class.

Yet this is what the President of the United States is presenting as a functional budget for this country 10 years into the future.

Fantasyland.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 09 Mar 14

This week, Bruce and Dale talk about the Ukraine, IRS, and the collapse of Western Civilization.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

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 Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 7 Mar 14

The Labor Department reports that 175,000 net new jobs were created in February. The unemployment rate rose a tick to 6.7%. Average hourly earnings rose 0.4%, while the average work week fell from 34.4 to 34.2 hours. The labor force participation rate held steady at 63.0%.  The real unemployment rate, using the historical average rate of labor force participation, rose slightly, from 11.14% to 11.19%.

The nation’s trade deficit was $-39.1 billion in January.

January consumer credit rose by $13.7 billion, though this hides a decline of $0.2 billion in revolving credit.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Science in the service of politics

We’ve talked about this at other times in the past but there are some examples in a recent Victor Davis Hanson peice that make the point again.  Science is science.  It should not be something in service to anything, especially politics.  It should stand alone and we should deal with its findings as objectively as possible.  Unfortunately, today we have “science” (and yes the quote marks do indicate that what I’m going to note has nothing to do with real science) in the service of politics and for hire to whomever can provide it the most grant money.  It’s become a bit like expert witnesses in court.  Need one to conclude a certain way?  We can find that “expert” for you.

Anyway, there is one particularly egregious example in the VDH piece (at least more egregious than some, at least to me) that I want to note because it has so recently been in the news and used in politics to further an agenda:

The president still talks of “settled science” in the global-warming debate. He recently flew to California to attribute the near-record drought there to human-induced global warming.

There is no scientific basis for the president’s assertion about the drought. Periodic droughts are characteristic of California’s climate, both in the distant past and over a century and a half of modern record-keeping. If the president were empirical rather than political, he would instead have cited the logical reasons for the fact that this drought is far more serious than those of the late 1970s.

California has not built additional major mountain storage reservoirs to capture Sierra Nevada runoff in decades. The population of the state’s water consumers has almost doubled since the last severe drought. Several million acre-feet of stored fresh water have been in recent years diverted to the sea — on the dubious science that the endangered delta smelt suffers mostly from irrigation-related water diversions rather than pollutants, and that year-round river flows for salmon, from the mountains to the sea, existed before the reserve water storage available from the construction of mountain reservoirs.

In other words, government has been lax (no forward planning or construction for the water needs of an expanded population), environmentalists have been extreme (demanding an entire valley be dried up for a mostly useless fish) and the result has been to aggrevate a natural penomenon to disaster levels.

But they will tell you that it has to do with “global warming”, not poor government, not environmental extremism.  What Obama is pushing is pseudo-science, fashioned to support a political position.  There is no reason that this drought should be as severe as it has been.  And again – it isn’t global warming causing the severity.

Remember, this was the guy who promised he’s put science back in the place it belonged.  Apparently that place is the same place he claimed it was before he took office.  As a political tool to push an ideological agenda.  That’s precisely what he was doing in California.

But then, the fact that he lied shouldn’t suprise anyone, given his track record.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 6 Mar 14

Those chain stores that still report monthly sales generally reported improved year-on-year sales results in February.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report fell to 41,835 layoffs in February from 45,107 in January and 55,356 a year ago.

Gallup’s U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate was 43.1% in February up from 42.0% in January.

Initial jobless claims fell 26,000 to 323,000. The 4-week average fell 1,750 to 336,500, while continuing claims fell 8,000 to 2.907 million.

Productivity in the 4th quarter of 2013 rose a revised1.8%, more than half a percent below expectations.Unit labor costs fell an annualized -0.1%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.1 points to -28.5 in the latest week, a seven-month high.

Factory orders declined by -0.7% in February, following a January drop that was revised downwards to -2.0%.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $11.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.172 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $6.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-8.1 billion in the latest week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Obama polls sinking along with Democrat chances in mid-terms

Congressional “mid-term” elections have, for years, been seen as a referrendum on the President.  When the nation is pleased with a President, his party gains seats in Congress and when not pleased, that party suffers by losing seats in Congress.  Well, Democrats, gird thy loins, because here it comes:

President Obama’s job approval rating hits a record low this week, as a majority of Americans say his administration has mostly failed at growing the economy, creating jobs, improving health care and the country’s image.

That’s according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday.

For the first time in a Fox News poll, fewer than four voters in ten — 38 percent — approve of President Obama’s job performance. Fifty-four percent disapprove. Before now Obama’s worst job rating was 40-55 percent in November 2013. Last month 42 percent approved and 53 percent disapproved (February 2014).

Approval of Obama among Democrats stands at 71 percent, near its 69 percent record low (September 2013). For independents, 28 percent approve, which is also near the 25 percent all-time low among this group (July 2013). And approval of Obama among Republicans hits a new low of five percent.

Overall, a 59-percent majority thinks the White House has mostly failed at creating jobs, up from 52 percent who said the same in October 2012. Likewise, 56 percent feel it has failed on growing the economy. That’s also up from 52 percent.

Etc. Etc. Etc.  Even the Senate majority now is seen to be at risk and no one believes the Dems have a chance in the House.

And the only consistent thing in Obama poll numbers is the drop.  He’s near historic lows in approval among many groups to include Democrats. They’re not likely to get better anytime soon.

The empty suit is finally beginning to wear on the electorate.

But I have to ask, how can a country stay so willingly blind that it took until now to see this inept imposter for what he really is?

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 5 Mar 14

The Fed’s Beige Book says that unseasonably cold weather reduced economic activity in two districts, but the rest showed modest to moderate improvement.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose wildly, up 9.4% last week, with purchases up 9.0% and re-fis up 10.0%.

ADP employment report estimates that private payrolls will rise by 139,000 in February.

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index rose to 21 in February from 19 the previous month.

Markit’s services PMI slowed from 56.7 in January to 53.3 in February.

ISM non-manufacturing data moved lower to 51.6 in February from 54 in January.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Thomas Friedman: “You know how you beat Putin? Tax Americans, that’s how.”

Ah the left, you can count on them to come up with some way to get into your wallet in answer to any crisis.  Thomas Friedman, the man who admires China’s abilty to control almost all aspects of its citizens life, has a great solution to the recent aggression by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.  Tax Americans:

I don’t want to go to war with Putin, but it is time we expose his real weakness and our real strength. That, though, requires a long-term strategy — not just fulminating on “Meet the Press.” It requires going after the twin pillars of his regime: oil and gas. Just as the oil glut of the 1980s, partly engineered by the Saudis, brought down global oil prices to a level that helped collapse Soviet Communism, we could do the same today to Putinism by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead. I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).

Of course one of the real problems to doing what Friedman wants, i.e. exploiting our “natural gas bounty” is found in the parenthetic statement right after that.  Government and environmentalists stand in the way because “the highest environmental standards” is a moveable goal post that is pushed further and further out each time industry approaches it.  And, of course, Friedman apparently isn’t cognizant of the fact that the “standards” are one of the major cost factors in keeping prices up.

Naturally Friedman also wants the other lefty dream.  The Crimea is as good of an excuse as any.  The Global Warming scam has been exposed.  The chances of getting that carbon tax based in that nonsense seem ever more remote.  But wait, we now have the Crimea!  Perfect.  Lets tax ourselves to do in Putin.  Friedman knows that whatever the excuse, taxes are rarely dropped after they’re once implemented.  So, with a “whatever it takes” philosophy guiding this, Friedman has his newest and latest excuse to raise taxes.  And note – it’s a long term strategy (which apparently assumes that Russia won’t make adjustments to the threat to its business) which means that these aren’t temporary taxes we’re talking about.  No.  Not by any stretch.

Oh, and for a guy who is so in love with China, I wonder if he has any idea where Russian oil and gas would go if the EU decided to buy from us?

Yeah, probably not.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!