Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

There is no voter fraud, except when there is voter fraud

Like in the MN Senate race that put Al Franken in office and provided Senate Democrats with their 60th vote.

Byron York provides the short version of the story and what was found subsequently:

In the ’08 campaign, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman was running for re-election against Democrat Al Franken. It was impossibly close; on the morning after the election, after 2.9 million people had voted, Coleman led Franken by 725 votes.

Franken and his Democratic allies dispatched an army of lawyers to challenge the results. After the first canvass, Coleman’s lead was down to 206 votes. That was followed by months of wrangling and litigation. In the end, Franken was declared the winner by 312 votes. He was sworn into office in July 2009, eight months after the election.

During the controversy a conservative group called Minnesota Majority began to look into claims of voter fraud. Comparing criminal records with voting rolls, the group identified 1,099 felons — all ineligible to vote — who had voted in the Franken-Coleman race.

And what has happened since?

And so far, Fund and von Spakovsky report, 177 people have been convicted — not just accused, but convicted — of voting fraudulently in the Senate race. Another 66 are awaiting trial. "The numbers aren’t greater," the authors say, "because the standard for convicting someone of voter fraud in Minnesota is that they must have been both ineligible, and ‘knowingly’ voted unlawfully." The accused can get off by claiming not to have known they did anything wrong.

Still, that’s a total of 243 people either convicted of voter fraud or awaiting trial in an election that was decided by 312 votes.

And, of course, the probability is these felons absolutely knew they were breaking the law and fraudulently voted anyway.

Obviously making a connection between them and Democrats is likely impossible, but it does point to something that the left consistently denies – the existence of voter fraud.

It exists.  Denying it exists, as the left does, only damages their credibility. 

Many times it is the system itself which enables fraud to be carried out.  Incompetence and inefficiency within government agencies charged with supervising voting are as much the problem as the frauds.  For instance:

The Houston-based True the Vote said it has identified 160 counties across 19 states with more registered voters on their rolls than eligible live voters. This chart highlights the 19 states and how they voted in the 2008 election.

Keeping the voter roles current and ensuring all registered voters are eligible would seem to be a primary mission of any state’s voter bureaucracy, wouldn’t it?

Yet what did we recently see – the Obama DoJ go after the state of Florida for doing its job and purging it’s voter roles of the dead and ineligible.  You’d think that they’d encourage such an action because it helps guarantee the integrity of the voting system.

But instead, it tried to stop it.

There is all sorts of fraud.  That like York points out.  That like this case in Miami:

It’s a shady world, as the case of 56-year-old Deisy Cabrera in Hialeah shows.

Cabrera was charged Wednesday with a state felony for allegedly forging an elderly woman’s signature on an absentee ballot, and with two counts of violating a Miami-Dade County ordinance banning the possession of more than two filled-out absentee ballots.

Much of the fraud takes place within the early voting venues.  As the above case illustrates, preying on nursing home residents is only one of many ways fraudulent ballots are cast.

However the Democrats contend that voter ID laws are a means of stopping a problem that doesn’t exist.  They claim there is very little if any fraud to be found in same day voting.  Of course that’s hard to substantiate when voter roles are larger than the pool of eligible voters in many areas and no on is asked to prove who they are. 

The other complaint is that voter ID laws “disenfranchise” minorities and the poor.  Yet Georgia’s experience directly contradicts that claim with minority and overall voter turnout increasing in the elections following the implementation of a voter ID law.

Bottom line: the integrity of the voting system is paramount to instilling confidence in the citizenry that their voices are being truly heard.   If ever there seemed to an issue that should be truly bi-partisan, this would be it.  Yet there are very clear battle-lines drawn with one side claiming fraud doesn’t exist (and they’re factually incorrect about that) and the other saying it does and something should be done about it.

Guess which side I come down on?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Law to exempt Olympians from taxes the wrong answer

I know there are some out there that will say, “hey you were whining the other day about taxing the winnings of Olympians”, weren’t you?  And now a politician plans to fix it and you bitch?!”

Yes.  Yes, I do.  Because this is exactly the wrong way to go about it:

Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill Wednesday to eliminate the federal government’s tax on Olympic medals, saying the levy amounted to yet another way the government tries to punish those who succeed.

Athletes who win a gold medal also earn a $25,000 honorarium — and with it an $8,986 tax bill to the IRS, according to Americans for Tax Reform, which crunched the numbers. That covers both the honorarium and the tax on the value of the gold in the medal itself.

The silver medal tax comes to $5,385, and the bronze medal tax is $3,502 — including $2 for the value of the bronze medal itself, and the $10,000 honorarium.

That could leave amateur athletes — in many cases still teenagers — facing stiff tax bills when they return to the U.S.

Mr. Rubio said that shouldn’t happen.

Of course you can make special pleadings for all sorts of types of special interest taxpayers, can’t you? 

But isn’t taxation supposed to fund the legitimate functions of government and be fairly applied to everyone?

How does exempting special constituencies because of their, well, “specialness”, do that?

Certainly Olympic level (and other) athletes compete in other competitive venues and it wouldn’t be at all unusual for them to win some sort of honorarium there.  So why is that taxable and this isn’t?

Quite simply visibility and outrage.

That’s no way to run a government.  There’s nothing rational about this exemption.  It is as arbitrary as many of the taxes we suffer under.

Important issue?  After the economy is up and running again, it is time to push – and push hard – for a total revamping of the tax structure and code in this country.

We suffer one of the least representative and certainly the least fair or equitable tax codes in the world.

Time to take it apart and start over again.  And this time, let’s make it impossible for Congress to fiddle with it in terms of rewarding or punishing special constituencies arbitrarily at its whim

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Is America’s economy stronger than reported?

That’s the argument Ruchir Sharma makes in the Atlantic this week.  It is one of those contextual or perspective arguments that says, “of course it’s bad, but look at the rest of the world”.   He also, heaven forbid, makes the American “exceptionalism” argument, saying":

Evidence of an American revival, against both developed and emerging world competition, is mounting, driven by the traditional strengths of the American economy–its ability to innovate and adapt quickly.

But … there’s always a “but”:

America’s worst worries — heavy debt, slow growth, the fall of the dollar and the decline of manufacturing — will look much less troubling when compared to its direct rivals. While US growth has slowed by a full point so has growth in Japan and Europe, leaving the United States on top of the league of rich nations.

Sharma says manufacturing is looking up and slowly growing.  As for debt?  Well, private debt is being shed in record numbers:

Consider the key challenge of "deleveraging" or digging out from debt. A new study from the McKinsey Global Institute shows that the United States is the only major developed economy that is even loosely following the path of countries that successfully negotiated similar debt-induced recessions, like Sweden and Finland in the 1990s. Total debt as a share of GDP has fallen since 2008 by 16 percent in the United States, while rising in Germany and rising sharply in Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain. As in Sweden during the 90s, the fall in total US debt is due entirely to sharp cuts in the private sector, particularly the finance industry and private households.

Note the emphasized points in the last sentence – “private sector”, “private households.”

So what’s our biggest problem, our biggest worry, in fact our biggest economic drag that is likely keeping us bouncing along the bottom of this recession/depression?

Well Sharma doesn’t hesitate in identifying it:

The weak link in the U.S. response to the debt crisis is the government. The Scandinavian cases show that government needs to start cutting spending and debt roughly four years after the downturn — exactly the stage where the US is today. Washington has so far failed to put in place a plan for long-term debt reduction, in part because some politicians and pundits are still pushing for more borrowing to ward off "depression." The Scandinavian cases suggest this is exactly the wrong worry right now. The public debt is a big reason that long-term US growth is likely to slow, but even then, it is important to keep America’s debt problem in perspective. China is arguably worse off, with total debt equal to 180 percent of GDP. The more wealthy you are, the more debt you can carry, so America’s total debt (350 percent) is actually less of a challenge.

Don’t worry, be happy … our debt problems is less of a challenge? No, that’s not the point.  It means, relatively speaking,  we’ve been somewhat lucky because the strength of our economy and its size has helped ameliorate the drag increased government debt has placed upon our economic recovery.

Note what Sharma says, given the evidence of the “Scandinavian cases” – we should be cutting spending and debt “four years after the downturn”.

That would mean what?   No QE3.  No trillion dollar budget deficits as far as the eye can see.

However, that’s the plan right now.

President Obama has a campaign ad out talking about how we don’t need to repeat the “Republican plan” because, in his words, we’ve tried that and it didn’t work.

Well I hate to break it to you but what he has planned for the next four years, if he’s re-elected, is a reprise of his first term.  Spend, spend, spend and expand government programs and services (to the tune of $46 trillion over 10 years, much of it debt).

And the Fed?  It’s easing its way toward another quantitative easing (QE3), essentially ignoring the fact that the first two pushed about $10 trillion in cash out there which it is going to have too wring out of the economy at some future date.  Adding even more doesn’t hit many as a very sound move.

One of those is Mitt Romney:

"I am sure the Fed is watching and will try to encourage the economy. But I don’t think a massive new QE3 will help the economy," Romney said, referring to a program called quantitative easing.

[…]

"I can absolutely make the case that now is the time for something dramatic and it is not to grow government,” he said. “It is the time to create the incentives and the opportunities for entrepreneurs – businesses big and small – to hire more people and that is going to happen.

Key takeaway?  Romney gets the proper role of government in the economy – “create the incentives and the opportunities for entrepreneurs – businesses big and small – to hire more people…”.

If government did that – became an enabler – then what should follow?  You should see employment begin to rise.

We should be seeing 200, 300, 400,000 jobs a month to regain much of what has been lost. That is what normally happens after a recession, but under this president we have not seen that kind of pattern. We have just been bumping along with barely enough jobs to just hold the unemployment rate about the same – above 8% – 42 months like that. You have to have the Steve Jobs of the world beginning businesses, making products that want to be purchased around the world. That gets Americans back to work."

He’s right.  Exactly right.  And the current president is clueless.  It isn’t about pumping more money into the economy and creating more debt and bigger government. If you want to see policies that continue to cripple what Sharma dubs the “traditional strengths of the American economy”, give the guy in charge 4 more years.

Government’s don’t produce wealth.  The private sector does.  Government spends that wealth.

(Oh, wait, the private sector “is doing fine”.  Never mind.)

Romney gets that part and it is indeed the most important issue of this upcoming election.  Getting government out of the way and into the enabler role of providing incentives and opportunities for businesses to grow and expand (while curtailing government spending and expansion) is what will get this nation on the road to recovery.

The current administration doesn’t understand that – at all.

And, for all practical purposes, that’s all you need to know to decide who should be sitting in the Oval Office next January 20th.

Hint: In case you somehow missed it, it isn’t the guy in there now.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 05 Aug 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the totalitarian mindset of the left, and its consequences.

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. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Lions, tigers and rich righty SuperPacs, oh my!

Digby at Hullabaloo is just, well, incensed.   It’s about those, those … SuperPacs.  It’s about those, those  … rich … trying to buy elections.

Digby now wonders “how anyone can call this democracy anymore.”

And the rant, based on a Mother Jones article, has charts and everything.

Says Digby:

I certainly feel a new found faith in democracy knowing that this handful of billionaires are finally allowed to have the same influence over our government that I do.

And for all this cash they’re spending, it’s chump change to them.They are that rich.

Oh, my.

One of the charts is entitled “The top five-dark money nonprofit groups have spent $53 million on ads.  They disclosed just $420,920, or 0.0079%.”

Ye gods, you say.  Those rascally Republicans.  Trying to buy an election.

Of course Digby tries to sell this, via implication, as some sort of recent GOP innovation.  You know something along the line that SuperPacs are, essentially, an invention of the right and best used by the right, and as noted in the Hullabaloo post, being set up for future use.  (cue scary music!)

Alarmingly missing from Digby’s hyperventilating about people that are “that rich”, however, is a leftist faction that’s been doing this better and longer for years and years.

Unions.

That’s right, unions perfected this long ago.  And you, and obviously Digby, might be a bit surprised what that means in dollars and cents.  Let me just put it this way, it makes $53 million seem like a drop in the bucket:

The usual measure of unions’ clout encompasses chiefly what they spend supporting federal candidates through their political-action committees, which are funded with voluntary contributions, and lobbying Washington, which is a cost borne by the unions’ own coffers.

These kinds of spending, which unions report to the Federal Election Commission and to Congress, totaled $1.1 billion from 2005 through 2011, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The unions’ reports to the Labor Department capture an additional $3.3 billion that unions spent over the same period on political activity.

$4.4 billion?  $4.4 billion since 2005?  Makes those spending $53 million seem like pikers doesn’t it?  And, of course, we know that union political activity has been going on well before 2005, don’t we?

But nary a mention, except in passing in an excerpt in the post, of that sort of spending by union or an exclamation about $4.4 billion seeming like “chump change” to them, they’re “that rich”.

But then, doing that would kill the meme in its tracks wouldn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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IRS sent 5 billion, with a “B”, to identity thieves

If you’re not very confident in government competence to begin with, this story should add fuel to that fire:

Investigators say the Internal Revenue Service may have delivered more than $5 billion in refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns for 2011.

They estimate that another $21 billion could make its way to ID thieves’ pockets over the next five years.

$5 billion.  $21 billion in 5 years if the ID thieves can’t be rooted out prior to sending the checks. 

Surely they have a way of doing that.  There have to be simple checks like, oh, I don’t know, an address getting more than one return hoisting a red flag maybe?   Or maybe a single bank account receiving more than one return?

For example, investigators found one single address in Michigan that was used to file 2,137 separate tax returns seeking a total of more $3.3 million in refunds. In other cases, hundreds of refunds were deposited into the same bank account.

Guess not.  Guess these new fangled computers and programming security checks are just beyond them (such a system would likely cost much less than $5 billion, huh?).

IRS incompetence costs you $5 billion.   Add that to the $60 billion a year in Medicare waste, fraud and abuse, and we’re talking real money.  And then just imagine all the other waste, fraud and abuse throughout the rest of the federal government and it isn’t at all difficult to understand why we constantly find ourselves in a deficit situation.  Or why government, in the form of the Obama administration is raising taxes on everyone (see ObamaCare and the new Medicare tax) and wanting to raise them on the “rich” segment of the society.

So it can give it away to ID thieves and Medicare fraudsters, among other grifters.

[HT: Jamie Dodge]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Economic Statistics for 3 Aug 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index rose 0.5 to 52.6. New orders rose 1 point to 54.3, while business activity, jumped 5.5 points to 57.2.

A net 163,000 new jobs were added to the economy in July, while the unemployment rate rose to 8.3%. This marks the 41st consecutive month that unemployment has remained above 8%. The broadest measure of unemployment measured by the BLS, the U-6 unemployment rate, rose to 15.2%. The average workweek remained unchanged at 34.5 hours, while hourly earnings increased by only 0.1%, rising 2 cents to $23.52. The civilian non-institutional adult population rose by 199,000 persons in July, while 195,000 fewer people were listed as being employed. As a result, the employment-population ratio fell back to its historical low of 58.4%, and the labor force participation rate fell to 63.7%, also a historical low. Prior to the current recession, the last time those ratios were this low was in 1983. If the labor force participation rate were at the historical average of 66.2%, the current rate of unemployment would be 11.72%. Overall, the report was merely "fairly bad", rather than "completely disastrous", like the last two months have been.

~
Dale Franks
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8.3% (updated)

Interesting, isn’t it?  I really don’t have to put anything else up there to explain that number.  Everyone in their brother will look at it and understand that the unemployment rate just rose from 8.2% to 8.3%.  Its sort of like celebrities who are identifiable by only their first name.  However, Obama and the Democrats certainly don’t want to grant that number that sort of status.

The U.S. economy closed out an otherwise weak second quarter by creating more jobs than expected, with 163,000 new positions added, but the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent.

Of course the job creation rate isn’t even at the break even point, even if up slightly.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t those out there spinning the results:

"While the monthly gain is still relatively small by historical standards, it might help spark somewhat higher consumer optimism and spending," Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at The Conference Board, said in response to the report.

Yeah, “spark.”  Like all the other “sparks” we’ve been told about.  Like the 3 “recovery summers” we’ve been promised.  Like the job saves/creation the stimulus was going to provide (Remember we’re supposed to be at around 5% unemployment right now.  That’s what Obama promised if we gave him a trillion dollars to throw down the sewer.  He claimed that without it unemployment would rise to … oh, wait, over 8%).  And this month we’ve seen the official unemployment rate go a tenth higher.

As for the spin, let’s get real instead:

Despite the seemingly good news, the report’s household showed that the actual amount of Americans working dropped by 195,000, with the net job gain resulting primarily from seasonal adjustments in the establishment survey. The birth-death model, which approximates net job growth from newly added or closed businesses, added 52,000 to the total.

The household survey also showed 150,000 fewer Americans in the workforce.

Perking right along, aren’t we?  Oh, and by the way:

June’s anemic 80,000 gain was revised down to just 64,000.

And does the 8.3% number really reflect the problem?  Well, we’ve said for years that it understates it. And it does:

While the figures themselves have been gloomy enough, there is considerable debate over whether the Labor Department’s headline numbers present the true picture.

A measure that takes into account those who have stopped looking for jobs as well as those working part-time for economic reasons has hovered near 15 percent. The so-called "real" unemployment rate, or U-6 measure, is above 20 percent in Nevada and California.

On a national level, that more encompassing rate edged higher to 15.0 percent.

But if you listen to Obama he’ll tell you that what he’s done “worked”.  Then he’ll try to convince you it would be much worse if it hadn’t “worked”.  Really?

If you honestly believe that, then you have a convenient memory that has obviously forgotten all the promises made about the stimulus spending.

None of what he and his administration has done has worked, we’re in horrible economic shape, he’s had 3 plus years to do something that would help the situation (just one example is the oil and gas industry where approving Keystone and opening federal lands and the offshore to exploration would have crated thousands of jobs), and he’s failed.

Time to give someone else a shot.

And yes, it’s that simple.

UPDATE: Zero Hedge chimes in – basically the numbers aren’t as good as they’re being spun:

We got the pre-spun job quantity data already, where we learned that nearly 3 times the headline print was due to seasonal and B/D adjustments and is thus nothing but noise. Now we get the quality. As can be seen below, courtesy of Table A9 from the Household Survey, in July the number of part-time jobs added was 31K, bringing the total to 27,925, just shy of the all time record of 28,038. Full time jobs? Down 228,000 to 114,345, lower than the February full-time jobs print of 114,408. Once again, more and more Americans are relinquishing any and all benefits associated with Full Time Jobs benefits, and instead are agreeing on a job. Any job. Even if it means working just 1 hour a week. For the BLS it doesn’t matter – 1 hour of work a week still qualifies you as a Part-Time worker.

UPDATE II: Meanwhile at the White House, unicorns and moon ponies continue to prance.  Alan Kreuger:

While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

UPDATE III: In case you need a reminder of “The Promise and The Reality”:

080312jobschart1-600x306

 

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Obama campaign moves to restrict military voting in Ohio

Breitbart’s Mike Flynn reports:

President Barack Obama, along with many Democrats, likes to say that, while they may disagree with the GOP on many issues related to national security, they absolutely share their admiration and dedication to members of our armed forces. Obama, in particular, enjoys being seen visiting troops and having photos taken with members of our military. So, why is his campaign and the Democrat party suing to restrict their ability to vote in the upcoming election?

On July 17th, the Obama for America Campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in OH to strike down part of that state’s law governing voting by members of the military. Their suit said that part of the law is "arbitrary" with "no discernible rational basis."

Currently, Ohio allows the public to vote early in-person up until the Friday before the election. Members of the military are given three extra days to do so. While the Democrats may see this as "arbitrary" and having "no discernible rational basis," I think it is entirely reasonable given the demands on servicemen and women’s time and their obligations to their sworn duty.

Flynn cites the National Defense Committee which reports:

[f]or each of the last three years, the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program has reported to the President and the Congress that the number one reason for military voter disenfranchisement is inadequate time to successfully vote.

So here is a law actually trying to provide a little extra time to address the problem cited (btw, the members of the military would most likely have to show their military picture ID to be granted the opportunity to vote during that “extra time”).  Why the resistance from the Obama campaign and Democrats?   Why the intent to disenfranchise military voters?

If the polls are to be believed concerning how the military is likely to vote, it wouldn’t favor Obama or the Democrats.  And, of course, Ohio is a swing state.  So they want no extra time allowed for the military to vote (and don’t expect the DoJ to jump in here and take the side of the military either).

Mystery solved.

But hey, the military is still useful as props during photo ops and when they help burnish the C-i-C’s rep by killing bad guys like Osama.  Voting?  Yeah, not so much.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Economic Statistics for 2 Aug 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Factory orders dropped a disappointing -0.5% in June, with non-durable goods down -2.0%. Durable goods rose 1.3%, but only because of aircraft orders, with other durable components mainly negative.

Initial jobless claims rose 8,000 in the July 28 week to 365,000. The 4-week moving average dropped 1,750 to 365,500. Continuing claims fell 19,000 to 3.272 million. The 4-week average dropped 11,000 to 3.299 million, the lowest in six weeks.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to -39.7, the lowest reading in five months.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report counts 36,855 layoffs for June, which is the lowest since April, 2011.

June chain-store sales reports are very positive so far today. A number of retail chains are raising guidance in reaction. Today’s results are the first increase since March for the ex-auto, ex-gas retail sector.

~
Dale Franks
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