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Free Markets, Free People

If you thought ObamaCare was unpopular before …

Gallup, fresh of noting that President Obama’s trustworthiness and decisiveness have been found wanting, says the Affordable Care Act, which has never been popular, is now even more unpopular:

Americans’ views of the 2010 healthcare law have worsened in recent weeks, with 40% approving and 55% disapproving of it. For most of the past year, Americans have been divided on the law, usually tilting slightly toward disapproval. The now 15-percentage-point gap between disapproval and approval is the largest Gallup has measured in the past year.

That 15% gap shows a decided shift in popular opinion to the negative about the law.  And say what Democrats might about running on this next election, they know as well as anyone that a 15 percent shift on any one issue is significant.  Especially an issue to which they are the sole reason for its existence and therefore the sole party to blame.

The top three reasons given for disapproval were, “Government interference/Forcing people to do things” at 37%, “Increases costs/Makes healthcare less affordable” at 21% and 11% disapproved because they’d lost their insurance.

Of the three reasons, all of which are significant, perhaps the last one is the most significant.  These are people who are likely to have nothing good to say about the law or the architects of the law.  And because it effects them personally, may take political action (i.e. vote) to satisfy their anger.  It may not be the most positive motivation in the world, but it can certainly be devastatingly effective.

The fact that the President is attempting to unilaterally thwart the provisions of his own law to save his and his party’s collective hides, notwithstanding, this is probably going to get worse before it gets better.  Expect the insurance industry to consider lawsuits to kill the requirements. And there will likely be other legal challenges.  Of course that will then let the White House do its favorite thing to do and attack and demonize them.  But the only reason this predicament exists is a result of the Democratic party’s agenda.

Gallup concludes:

Gallup has long found that Americans have been generally divided in their views of the healthcare law, both before and after its passage. Now, they are tilting more significantly toward disapproval.

That more negative evaluation may not have as much to do with the content of the law as the implementation of it, in particular how that squares with the president’s earlier characterization of how the law would work.

Some Democratic members of Congress, as well as former President Bill Clinton, are urging the president to support legislation that would rewrite portions of the law to allow Americans to keep their insurance plan if they are being dropped from it, as a way to honor his pledge. At this point, it is not clear whether the president will seriously consider that, or attempt to adjust how the law is administered without rewriting pieces of it.

Additionally, many members of Congress from both parties are asking the administration to extend the deadline by a year for Americans to get health insurance before facing a fine, given the ongoing technical issues with the exchange websites, which are still being fixed. The White House recently extended the deadline by six weeks.

How the administration handles these challenges to the implementation of the law, plus any new ones that emerge in the coming months, could be critical in determining the trajectory of the “disapprove” line in Gallup’s trend chart for the healthcare law.

Obviously this was written before the President’s announcement today.  Politically it appears to be panic-city at the White House and among the Democrats.   When you have Howard Dean – Howard Dean for heaven sake – questioning the legality of the president’s announcement today, you know there’s trouble in Democrat-land.  How long it will last is anyone’s guess at this point, but I think it is safe to say, we’re nowhere near the end of this debacle.

~McQ

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Obama myth of a strong and decisive leader finally meets reality

I’m not sure why a majority of America once did consider Obama a strong and decisive leader, but then there are a lot of things I can’t explain.  But Gallup’s latest poll makes it clear than President Obama is no long considered a strong and decisive leader, at least for the moment:

After six messy weeks — defined chiefly by the partial government shutdown and troubled rollout of the federal government’s healthcare exchange website — President Barack Obama’s reputation with the American public has faltered in some ways, but not in others. Most notably, for the first time in his presidency, fewer than half of Americans, 47%, say Obama is a “strong and decisive leader,” down six percentage points since September.

The current spin coming from the White House and Democrats says this is all a cumulative bump in the road that had to be suffered.  The disastrous ObamaCare rollout, the government shutdown, the perceived lie about keeping one’s healthcare insurance if they wanted it have all, as Obama’s favorite preacher would say  have “come home to roost”.

The question, however, isn’t when will this pass, but whether it will pass at all?  Is this just a bump in the road for the Obama team or is it the “new normal” for him?

There’s no question the trend in his approval ratings the past few months have been anything but encouraging.  One thing politicians have learned throughout the ages that they’re unlikely to keep their job if they lose the trust of their constituency.  There’s obviously very little reason for Obama to be concerned about losing his job, however, loss of trust now, barely into his second term, could mean his second term agenda is all but dead on arrival.  His desire to push immigration reform and climate change legislation wouldn’t even get our of the starting gate.  That’s because other politicians, the ones he needs to get the job done for him, will have no fear of defying his wishes and facing the wrath of the people.

So how has Mr. Obama’s trustworthiness done?  Not well:

Similarly, the share of Americans who view Obama as “honest and trustworthy” has dipped five points. Exactly half of Americans still consider Obama honest and trustworthy, but this is down from 55% in September and 60% in mid-2012 as Obama was heading toward re-election.

He’s at 50% and sinking.  And you’ve got other Democrats taking the lead in trying to fix the ObamaCare debacle while he seems to be doing what he usually does – dither.

The hit, then, to both his trustworthiness and decisiveness are a bit of a double whammy to his ambitious agenda.  And it may not be recoverable as Gallup points out:

Of more concern for the White House, Obama’s once-positive image as a strong and decisive leader has suffered, in addition to his longtime reputation for being honest and trustworthy. Of these, the decline in Obama’s honesty rating may be the most noteworthy because Gallup has previously found that this dimension is one of the most important drivers of his overall job approval. Thus, the recent controversy over whether the president honestly described Americans’ ability to retain their own healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act could have the most significant implications for his presidency.

As Insty would say, indeed.  Taking hits in decisiveness and trustworthiness are not hits you shrug off.  They represent core qualities or a lack thereof and once lost, they’re very hard to regain. Mr. Obama is seen more and more to be  lacking those qualities.  That doesn’t bode will for him in the next 3 years.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 12 Nov 13

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell 2.3 points in October to 91.6.

ICSC-Goldman Store Sales rose 1.2% for the week, and 2.3% for the year. Redbook, meanwhile, shows a retail sales drop from 3.8% to 3.3% on a year-ago basis.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index was unchanged at 0.14 in September, with the 3-month moving average at -0.03.


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Blaming Typhoon Haiyan on climate change – no surprise there

First, let me say my heart goes out to the people of the Philippines. This was a horrific and very deadly event. And I can even understand their representative to the UN letting emotion carry the day when he said before the UN:

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness.

“We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here.

Well, emotion aside, no we can’t. As Bjorn Lomborg has said any number of times, the cost of doing what those who want to “stop this madness” want done would literally end life as we know it, ruin economies and yield, at best, marginal results. Or said another way, we can’t afford their desired programs and even if we could, they wouldn’t have much effect.

Then there is the reality of the day. Right now, for instance, carbon emissions in the US are at 1994 levels (and have dropped in most places around the globe due to the downturn in the global economy). Then there’s the inconvenient fact that warming around the globe has paused for ten years and some climate scientists say it may stay paused for another 2o years. And your guess is likely as good as theirs as to what the climate will do then. Oh, and arctic ice?  Back with a vengeance.  It is hard, in the middle of possible 30 year pause in warming, to claim a single event has been caused by … warming. But someone always will.

Finally, look on this side of the globe. Hurricanes and tornadoes are down – a lot:

Summer is almost over, and as of Tuesday morning, not a single hurricane had formed this year. Tornado activity in 2013 is also down around record low levels, while heat waves are fewer and milder than last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Meteorologists credit luck, shifts in the high-altitude jet stream, African winds and dust.

So it is possible that the “local” weather, in this case “local” is a rather relative term, in our tropics was cooler than the weather in the tropical region of the Philippines.  Luck or the way the climate works?  Is that something man has control over? Or, is it something that an increasing number of scientists seem to be concluding – that various “local” climatic events have more say over our weather than does CO2?

Since I don’t accept the science is settled on this issue, I think we have a lot to still learn about our climate and how it works and what effects it. To this point, I’m not convinced that a single trace gas that, until recently science said was a lagging indicator of warming, is not the culprit that spawns super storms like Haiyan.

~McQ

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Venezuelan government seizes electronics chain over “fair” pricing … or so they claim

If you thought Hugo Chavez was bad, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, is Chavez without the charisma.  But Maduro learned all of Chavez’s tricks to stay in power, and one of them is to claim to be involved in a perpetual war against outside forces who are bent on destroying their socialist paradise.   In this case the “high prices” in Daka stores (equivalent to our Best Buys) gained the ire of Maduro who sent the military in to seize the stores and require them to offer “fair prices” on their electronics:

Members of Venezuela’s National Guard, some of whom carried assault rifles, kept order at the stores as bargain hunters rushed to get inside.

Meanwhile:

Daka’s store managers, according to Maduro, have been arrested and are being held by the country’s security services. Neither Daka nor the government responded to requests for comment.

Of course, Daka is unlikely to continue to serve Venezuela if it can’t make a profit – something most socialists governments have never understood.  But let’s look at the real reason this is happening:

“I have no love for this government,” said Gabriela Campo, 33, a businesswoman, hoping to take home a cut-price television and fridge. “They’re doing this for nothing but political reasons, in time for December’s elections.”

Maduro faces municipal elections on Dec. 8. His popularity has dropped significantly in recent months, with shortages of basic items such as chicken, milk and toilet paper as well as soaring inflation, at 54.3% over the past 12 months.

Which means:

“This is more like government-sanctioned looting,” said 42-year-old Caracas-based engineer Carlos Rivero. “What stops them going into pharmacies, supermarkets and shopping malls?”

It is exactly like government-sanctioned looting.  And the engineer’s point is telling – what industry in Venezuela can feel safe given the actions of this government?  Why would any foreign entity ever invest or take the chance of establishing itself in Venezuela?  Each election would put them on a target list for seizure depending on how poorly the head of the government viewed his popularity and how much he felt it necessary to boost his reputation.

The one entity whose job it is to protect you from force and fraud is engaged in both “legally”.

Why would anyone feel safe?

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 10 Nov 13

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss Obamacare and the end of antibiotics.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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.

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Economic Statistics for 8 Nov 13

Non-farm payrolls increased by 204,000 in October, while the unemployment rate rose to 7.3%. Average hourly earnings rose 0.1%, while the average workweek declined to 34.4 hours. These headlines hide a lot. 720,000 people left the labor force, bringing the labor force participation rate down to 62.8%, the lowest since March, 1978. Meanwhile, an additional 17,000 people were counted as unemployed, while an additional 735,000 dropped out of the ranks of the employed. Overall, the total number of persons not in the labor force increased by 932,000. As a result, using the historical average labor force participation rate, the real unemployment rate rose from 11.45% to 11.98%, the highest in two years. Much of this oddness probably comes from skewing from the government shutdown.

Personal income rose 0.5% in September, while personal spending rose 0.2%. The PCE Price Index rose 0.1% both at the headline and core level. On a year-over-year basis, prices are up 0.9% overall, and 1.2% at the core level, i.e., ex-food and -gas.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index fell 1.2 points to 72.0 in the early November reading.


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Is the GOP better off than they think?

Andrew Kohut thinks so:

Tucked away in recent polls—which have documented the extraordinary anger directed at the Republican Party during the shutdown crisis—are measures of clear disappointment with the Democratic Party. The disappointment is substantial, and it raises big questions about the 2014 midterms.

The Republican Party’s favorable ratings fell substantially in most every national survey that uses this yard stick, declining to 28% in the Gallup poll at one point. Yet when the GOP was matched up against the Democrats on key political measures, it did not look so bad.

A mid-October Pew Research national poll found that a plurality regard the Republicans as “better able to deal with the economy” than the Democrats (44%-37%). Independents favored the GOP on the economy by a whopping 46%-30% margin in that survey.

The Republicans took most of the blame for the shutdown, yet a growing number see the GOP as “better able to manage the government.” In December 2012, the Democratic Party held a 45%-36% advantage over the GOP as the party Americans viewed as better able to manage the government. By Oct. 15—in the midst of the shutdown and debt crisis—the Democratic lead on this measure disappeared: 42% said the Republican Party is better able to manage the federal government, compared with 39% who named the Democrats.

An early read of voter preferences for the House in 2014 by the Pew Research Center in mid-October had the Democrats with a six-point edge: 49% to 43% among registered voters. In historical terms, this is a relatively modest margin. Six points is the same lead the Democrats had in 2009, a lead that steadily eroded in 2010. The GOP picked up six Senate seats and 63 House seats in that year’s midterm.

The anger over the government shut-down is fading. But at the moment, ObamaCare is the gift that keeps on giving. And, of course, there’s the struggling economy. Neither the economy nor ObamaCare promise to fade into obscurity before the mid-term elections next year. One indicator of how deep the looming trouble is for Democrats can be found in the numbers associated with independent voters:
One clear troubling sign for the Democrats at this early stage is independent voters, who decide most elections. They are evenly divided, according to Pew’s mid-October survey: 43% say that “if the elections for Congress were being held today,” they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, 43% say they would vote for the Democratic candidate.

The reason there’s hope for good results in 2014 for Republicans rests with the two issues nagging Democrats. Healthcare and the economy. Both are very personal issues, i.e. they are issues that effect all voters. They’re not some issue which voters simply have an opinion about. Both effect their lives, sometimes in dramatic fashion. And those are the very issues Republicans, if they’re smart, will focus on:

The economy and ObamaCare’s inauspicious debut are likely the most powerful drags on the president and in turn on his party. In a September Pew survey, 63% of Americans say the nation’s economic system is no more secure today than it was before the 2008 market crash.

A majority of Americans say their household incomes and jobs still have not recovered from the great recession. But pluralities think that government’s policies have helped large banks, corporations and the rich more than the middle-class, the poor or small businesses.

So maybe it isn’t as bleak for Republicans as some pundits would like to believe. That said, we’ve all watched the GOP manage to screw up all sorts of issues in the past. 2014 is going to take a focused effort to lay out those 2 issues for the pubic in clear fashion and with clear and appealing alternatives.

I’ll be interested to see if they can actually do that.

~McQ

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