Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) Tonight

Call in number: (718) 664-9614 Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

 

Subject(s):

 

The unemployment rate – better, worse, getting better, getting worse? We’ll talk about that.

 

How did the Japanese go from brutal conquerors to "victims" in 65 short years? We’ll explore that?

 

And do the Democrats really want to run against George Bush in the midterms? Really?

 

Tune in and find out.

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Idiots to the left of us, yahoos to the right …

I guess the GOP should thank its lucky stars that weeping George Vionovich is headed for the exit.

Of course, he could still team up with some on the Democratic side to do some damage before January if this is any example:

"Fuel taxes today fund the vast majority of the federal government’s investment in infrastructure projects," Voinovich wrote in the letter. "Due to dwindling fuel tax receipts, Congress has had to transfer billions of dollars from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to maintain our current level of federal involvement."

[…]

"The lack of investment in our crumbling bridge, highway, and transit systems is a missed opportunity for the creation of thousands of well paying jobs and long term economic growth for our Nation," said Voinovich. 

And the chorus warms up – anyone?

Yes, that’s right, a fuel tax is a regressive tax because it hits hardest those who can least afford it, but who’s jobs depend on them being able to drive to them daily.  And who is suggesting such a tax in the middle of a deep recession?

That’s right – a Republican.  Even the Obama administration is against a freakin’ increased fuel tax, and there’s hardly a tax they’ve met they don’t like.

“I believe Americans are willing to pay a higher gas tax to create jobs, improve our infrastructure and better our climate," Voinovich said at a business conference in Ohio last month. "And many of my conservative colleagues do not consider that gas tax as a tax, but as a user fee.”

And I believe you’re as full of beans as you usually are, Mr. Voinovich.  Americans have made it clear over and over and over again that they’re not willing to pay more taxes for any reason until government can prove it can balance its budget and pay down the debt.  On top of that, Americans also don’t give a flip what you and your idiot conservative colleagues consider it, it’s a freakin’ tax.

Now I know that Voinovich doesn’t represent the conservative side of the GOP in the Senate.  But there’s still that “R” beside his name and crap like this is why many people don’t trust the GOP any further than they can throw a Democrat.

~McQ

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Democrats to run against Bush – again – in November

As I pointed out yesterday, for the first time the latest poll shows more blame Obama for the economy than Bush.

However, as someone pointed out, if they’ve blamed Bush this long, the attempt must have met with a measure of success. And that’s probably true.

But, as mentioned in the post, blaming someone else for current problems is only effective if it is clear that person is directly responsible for the situation today.  18 months after taking office and with more than enough time to enact one’s own economic policies makes that former connection iffy at best.  Bottom line – blaming someone else for today’s problems has a shelf life, and in this case it seems it is expiring.

While it may be silly in some respects to blame (or credit) the president in power for the economy, it is the way politics in this country work.  So, given that and the length of time Barack Obama has been in office, people are coming to consider this the Obama economy.  And, as you might imagine, they’re not pleased.

So blaming Bush now, as the new poll demonstrates, is loosing whatever steam it once had.  Common Sense 101 says you abandon that political card in favor of another one then.

But as I’ve pointed out so many times in the past, politicians and common sense seem only to meet by coincidence and not on purpose.  Enter Congressional Democrats.

They’ve decided their best strategy for this November is to dust off the “blame Bush” mantra and have another go at running against the former president.

As they brace for a difficult fall election, dispirited Democrats hoping to get back some of that 2008 magic are turning to the president for inspiration.

President Bush, that is.

Grainy images of the former president flashed across the screen in a recent ad by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) is attacking his GOP rival in a Senate race for his "advancement of the Bush agenda."

Even President Obama has begun taking direct shots at his predecessor, something he had been careful to avoid in recent months. "They don’t have a single idea that’s different from George Bush’s ideas — not one," Obama said during a speeches this week at fundraisers in Atlanta and Chicago.

Such a strategy smacks not only of desperation but of an attempt to divert attention.  If, as Democrats like to claim, they’ve “accomplished more” during this presidency and this Congress than any previous Democratic administration, why aren’t they running proudly on their record?

My goodness, they passed health care and financial regulation. They saved the car companies.  They “saved or created” 3 million jobs via the trillion dollar “stimulus”.  And they’ve got a 1.4 trillion dollar debt heavy budget in the wings waiting to be passed after the election.   What’s not to be proud of?

Well, those polls they pay attention too and they know as well as anyone that running on their “accomplishments” is a sure-fire way to defeat. 

So they will attempt to nationalize the mid-terms on the back of a former president thinking it will rescue them by repeating history.

"God bless America that he’s back in the conversation," a senior Democratic official on Capitol Hill said. "It’s a blessing from the heavens. If this becomes a referendum on George Bush, we are in a much better spot than anyone could imagine."

You have to chuckle at the inanity of such a statement, the pure stupidity that would allow someone to imagine that given their performance in these past 18 months and the visceral voter reaction to that performance, that trying to play the “blame Bush” card will do anything but worsen their defeat.

But most of us have always at least secretly wondered how those that reside within that fantasy land called “inside the beltway” become so disconnected from reality.  Well, here’s a perfect example of exactly that.  It must be something in the water.

~McQ

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Unemployment Rises

Today’s news of 131,000 jobs lost last month comes as no great surprise. What should also come as no great surprise is that the official unemployment rate of 9.5% continues to seriously underestimate the actual rate of unemployment.

Civilian population: 237,890,000
Historical Average Labor Force Participation Rate: 66.2%
Proper Labor Force Size: 157,483 000
Actually Employed: 138,960,000
Real Unemployment Rate: 13.3%

Using the same method of calculation, the unemployment rate in June 09 was 11.4%. Over the past six months, the rate had varied as follows:

Feb: 13.2%
Mar: 13%
Apr: 12.7%
May: 12.8%
Jun: 13.1%
Jul: 13.3%

Since April, 495,000 payroll jobs have been lost.

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Arab opinion poll – not good news for the Obama administration

A very interesting poll is out which measures Arab public opinion on a number of questions. Two of them give a damning review of the results of the Obama initiatives in the area.

One question asks: “How would you describe your views of President Barack Obama and the United States”. In 2009, soon after Obama took office among all his promises and in the wake of the Cairo speech, Arab public opinion, as measured by this poll, found 45% to be positive about him and the US, 28% neutral and only 23% negative.

Oh what a difference a year and actually having to do something makes. Now 62% have a negative view, 16% are neutral and only 20% are positive.

On the question of, “How would you describe your attitudes toward the Obama Administration policy in the Middle East?”, a majority of 51% said they were “hopeful” in 2009, while 28% were neither encouraged or discouraged and only 15% were discouraged. Now? 63% say they’re discouraged while only 16% say they’re hopeful.

In 2008, when the evil Bush regime was still in power, 83% of those polled said their general attitude toward the US was somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable. That number is now 85%.

Probably the most telling of all as to the effectiveness of the administration’s foreign policy in the area is the change in attitude about a nuclear armed Iran.

In 2008, most Arabs believed that Iran was pursuing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Now most believe it is pursuing it for nuclear weapons. When asked in 2008, “If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, which of the following is the likely outcome for the Middle East region?”, those polled replied 44% “more positive”, 12% “wouldn’t matter” and 29% “more negative”. After a year of Obama’s policies toward Iran, Arab public opinion has shifted. Now 57% say it would be “more positive”, 20% “wouldn’t matter” and a mere 21% say “more negative”.

Viewing the results, given the trumpeting by the incoming administration as to how their new approach would improve our image in the area and yield results with Iran, one would have to objectively say it’s been an utter failure.

~McQ

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I have little sympathy for the Japanese on this subject (update)

It is the annual Hiroshima remembrance in Japan and the usual cries of "outrage" and demands for an “apology” fill the air.

My father fought against the Japanese in WWII on Saipan, Leyte and Okinawa. I have studied the war in detail. I’ve been particularly interested in the planned invasion of Japan.

Okinawa was the first indicator of what that would have been like – it was and is considered a Japanese “home island”. My father was slated to be with the first wave of divisons landing on Kyushu. The technical description of their anticipated condition after a day or so was “combat ineffective”. That means those initial divisions would have been destroyed and unable to continue to fight.

The assumed number of casualties for that first big fight – and it wasn’t even on the main island – was about a million men on both sides. Don’t forget that they had a regular army home defense force of well over a million men and a home defense militia of 14 million. They had with held thousands of kamakazi aircraft and boats back for the expected invasion. And they planned to make a last stand and take as many invaders as possible with them.

Remember also how the territories the Japanese conquered were treated. Korean women forced into prostitution as “comfort women”. The rape of Nanking. Babies tossed around on bayonets.

So when I read things like this –

Moments before the atomic bomb was dropped, my mother’s friend happened to seek shelter from the bright summer sunlight in the shadow of a sturdy brick wall, and she watched from there as two children who had been playing out in the open were vaporized in the blink of an eye. “I just felt outraged,” she told my mother, weeping.

– I had difficulty summoning any outrage myself. The Japanese people supported the war, cheered the victories and reveled in the spoils it brought. They were brutal and murderous conquerers. And they refused to surrender.

After the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese war cabinet of 6 split in their vote, refusing to surrender. After Nagasaki, they still refused to surrender until, in an unprecedented move, the Emperor intervened and essentially ordered them to do so.

If those who survived the atomic bombings at Hiroshima feel “outrage”, they should look in the mirror. They enabled and supported a regime that “outraged” the world. They cheered and shared in the spoils of a war they started which devastated much of Asia. They supported a brutal, murderous and criminal militaristic war machine that raped and murdered at will. If anyone should be “outraged”, it is those who suffered under the horrific but thankfully short Japanese rule of that time. If anyone should be apologizing yearly, it is the Japanese.

UPDATE: Richard Fernandez also discusses the subject.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-08-05

The number of Americans who are receiving food stamps rose to a record 40.8 million in May. http://bit.ly/aWauTW #RecoverySummer #

Economy concerns send US mortgage rates to the lowest ever recorded in the Freddie Mac Survey. http://bit.ly/cGYoKW #RecoverySummer #

Jobless claims in U.S. climb unexpectedly–there's that word again–to three-month high of 479,000. http://bit.ly/98GQpV #RecoverySummer #

Best. Gubernatorial. Candidate. Ever. http://bit.ly/9XrZRX #

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Jobless claims “unexpectedly” rise

Yup, as Tim Geithner would say – “welcome to the recovery”.  And, given the trends, I would guess this isn’t the last of the “unexpectedly” high unemployment report we’ll see.  Again, ad nauseam, there’s been no incentive provided by government, but plenty of disincentives that are keeping businesses on the sidelines and consumers from spending:

Initial jobless claims climbed by 19,000 to 479,000 in the week ended July 31, the most since April and exceeding the highest estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits dropped, while those getting extended payments rose.

A cooling economy means employers will resist taking on more staff in coming months, raising the risk consumer spending will weaken further. The jobless rate rose last month as payroll increases weren’t large enough to keep up with gains in the labor force, economists forecast a government report tomorrow will show.

As if anyone has to be told, this is not good.  And it wouldn’t surprise me to see the U6 unemployment rate tick up over 10% again in the next few months:

“There really is no upside momentum in the labor market, and that’s a critical long-term determinant of where the economy is going,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. in New York. “People just aren’t getting jobs.”

That’s because jobs aren’t being created and offered.  Name the incentive, at this point, to do so?  Tax increases are in the offing, health care laws, 1099 requirements, Democrats still pushing for cap-and-trade, new financial regulations that impact the market and economic policies which give the impression the administration is at war with business.

Why would any sane business owner invest in his business in times as unsettled as these?

Answer: he or she wouldn’t.  And that’s the biggest reason unemployment continues to “unexpectedly” rise.  Headcount is the easiest thing to add when times are good.  It’s also the easiest thing to reduce when times are bad.  And if they stay bad – as we’re seeing now – few if any are going to be adding jobs.

Economics 101 – provide incentives to get the behavior you want.  Provide disincentives to discourage the behavior you don’t want.  The administration’s economic policies have, to this point, provided business with all manner of disincentives to hiring.  And then the “experts” are surprised when jobless rates are “unexpectedly” higher than estimated.

Go figure.

~McQ

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