Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

New Debt Limit To Be Reached This Month (Update)

But don’t be concerned, because, you know, they have everything under control in Washington:

The US debt is on track to hit a congressionally proposed debt ceiling of 14.3 trillion dollars by the end of February, the Treasury said Wednesday, a day ahead of a key vote to raise it to that level.

“Based on current projections, Treasury expects to reach the debt ceiling as early as the end of February. However, the government’s cash flows are volatile, making it difficult to forecast a precise date,” the Treasury said in a statement.

This isn’t the old debt ceiling of $12.374 trillion. Nope, this is the new one that the Senate approved (and still awaits House approval) that adds $1.9 trillion to the ceiling. By the end of February they’ll apparently have spent another $2 trillion or so. In case you’re wondering, that proposed debt ceiling finally puts our total debt at 100+% of our GDP. We finally owe more than we make.

And yes, both political parties have added to this – but none like the present one.

None.

Guess what – with the “jobs bill” in the wings, they’re going to want to raise that ceiling again since we’re borrowing $0.42 cents for every dollar spent by government.

And they wonder why there are tea parties and the natives seem restless, angry and “ungovernable”.

UPDATE: Apparently AFP got the story wrong.  AP says:

The Treasury Department said Wednesday it expects to hit the government’s debt ceiling by the end of February, putting pressure on Congress to raise the limit from its current level of $12.4 trillion.

Still not good at all, but not at all what the AFP claimed. So to quote SNL’s Emily Litella – “nevermind” -well, until they finally do spend to the new limit which most likely won’t be that far in the future (see upcoming “jobs bill” or “health care reform” if they manage to sneak that through – your choice).

HT: Doug Mataconis for the heads up.

~McQ

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Fox News Channel Dominates

I bring this story to your attention because of the questions it raises.  First the story by Steve Krakauer – then the questions:

Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year.

FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.

• FNC grew in double digits in both total viewers and the A25-54 demographic from January 2009. In prime time, it was up 22% in total viewers and 51% in the demo[graphic]. CNN was down 34% and 37% and MSNBC down 26% and 38%. In total day, FNC was up 16% and 28%. CNN was down 34% and 41% and MSNBC down 28% and 39%. Last January all networks performed while with the Inauguration coverage. This month, the big political event was Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, which FNC dominated in the ratings.

Fox News Channel has been a target of a concerted campaign by the White House to discredit it for a year. How well does that strategy seem to be working?

If, as the left likes to claim, FNC is simply a mouthpiece for the Republican party, what do these numbers tell us?

If, as the right contends, MSNBC is a shill for the left, what do its numbers tell us?

Why does FNC dominate the all important 25-54 demographic?

Last – do these numbers really portend anything of political significance, or does FNC just do a more entertaining (and dare I say it, more “fair and balanced”) job of presenting news and opinion?

~McQ

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Kos Compares Republicans To Taliban

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos is finishing up a book about Republicans he’s decided to entitle “American Taliban”.   Yeah, no poisoning of the well there – it ought to be a real page-turner, no?  One problem.  He wasn’t sure what he’d written was based on anything factual. That may not come as a big surprise to most who’ve watched and read Kos over the years:

…I’m putting the finishing touches on my new book, American Taliban, which catalogues the ways in which modern-day conservatives share the same agenda as radical Jihadists in the Islamic world. But I found myself making certain claims about Republicans that I didn’t know if they could be backed up. So I thought, “why don’t we ask them directly?” And so, this massive poll, by non-partisan independent pollster Research 2000 of over 2,000 self-identified Republicans, was born.

The results are nothing short of startling.

Those startling results? Well, leave it to Steve Benen, even more clueless than Kos, to give us the “startling results” that “catalogues” (sic) “modern day conservatives” (notice the interchangability of words “conservative” and “republican”) as “shar[ing] the same agenda as radical Jihadists in the Islamic world” (notice too the rather loony premise of all “conservatives” and “republicans” being driven by radical religious beliefs).

The findings? Benen distills those most useful to the “Republicans are nutters” left (poll results here):

A plurality of rank-and-file Republicans wants to see President Obama impeached. More than a third of self-identified Republicans believe he wasn’t born in the United States. A 63% majority is convinced the president is a socialist, about a fourth believe he wants terrorists to be successful, and about a third think Obama is a racist who hates white people.

Now as I recall, the majority of the left not only wanted Bush impeached, they wanted him frog-marched before a court and tried as a “war criminal”. Most Democrats (I’m borrowing the broad brush that these two are using) believed Bush had been AWOL from his military duty and had stolen the 2000 election. A good plurality of Democrats thought (and still think) 9/11 was an inside job. And it goes without saying that a vast majority of them where convinced Bush was a tyrant, a “Nazi” and a significant number of them thought he’d declare a “national emergency” near the end of his 2nd term in order hold onto power.

And a majority of them wanted Bush to fail in Iraq and actively worked against that war – which to most people would handily translate into “they wanted the terrorists to be successful”. Racism, of course, has been a charge the left slings with impunity whenever it has nothing real to complain about. A third of Republicans think Obama’s a racist? Well if we want to play that game, I’m sure it wouldn’t be at all difficult to find a third of Democrats who think George Bush is a homophobe that hates gay people.

Does that make the Democratic party “crazy”?

Benen continues:

Nearly a third of Republicans think contraceptive use should be outlawed.

And over two thirds don’t. But at least a third of Democrats think that abortion should be allowed in every possible situation without exception and enshrined in law too boot. So both sides want laws that the government really has no business making – what’s new?

More than three-quarters of Republicans want public schools to teach children that the book of Genesis “explains how God created the world.”

As opposed to a good majority of Democrats who already have their religion of environmentalism being taught in public schools and the have completely bought into the religious zealotry of man-made global warming even while the myth crumbles around them. Gaia is their god, Al Gore is their high priest and man is the sinner.

A third of Southern Republicans want to see their state secede from the union.

This is my favorite “startling” find (the result for “all” was 58% no/23% yes). Perfectly insignificant (a third of “Southern” Republicans), however the implied stereotype was just too useful to ignore (just as were all the others). Let me translate – “Southern” is a code word for “redneck racist religious zealots”. Thus the broad tarring of an entire region is accomplished and they can safely ignore a place they can never have electorally.

Of course, the secession claim is no different than the constant threats we heard from liberals that they’d leave the country if George Bush won the presidency. They didn’t, but I can’t imagine the usefulness of the Kos poll question that would have determined “one third of Hollywood liberals would leave the country if a Republican won the presidency” except to try cast the left in a poor light.

And that’s the point, of course. To demonize. Had Benen (and most of the left) not been so focused on trying to make the Republicans seem “crazy”, he could have said “significant majorities said they didn’t want to secede, thought openly gay men and women should be allowed to serve in the military, teach in schools and be allowed to marry and receive federal benefits. They believe sex education should be taught in schools and that marriages are equal partnerships. They don’t believe the “pill” is “abortion” but do believe that abortion is murder and they support the death penalty. They also overwhelmingly believe that women have the right to work outside the home and, as a group, are overwhelmingly Christian.”

But if Kos and Benen had said that, then they’d be hard pressed to use these results to claim Republicans are the “American Taliban” wouldn’t they?  Because everyone knows that the Taliban are a bunch of gay and women’s rights supporting fellows, don’t they?

As I read the poll, it doesn’t at all support the contention clear in the title of Kos’s book.  In fact, his title is hyperbole to the highest degree possible.  I also find it interesting that he wrote the book  based on stereotypes he’d developed and then wondered if what he wrote was true. Now, given this poll, he’s trying to try to make the results fit the premise.  His problem, however, is they don’t fit at all, if, in fact, his intent is to prove the premise of the title (i.e. Republicans = Taliban).  Square peg, round hole.

Result? Epic fail.

Given that, I’d say the book is a definite miss, nothing more than a poorly researched political pot boiler and most likely won’t be showing up on the reading list of many thinking people.  Of course that means it will get glowing reviews from the likes of Benen and other lefty blogs.  But then, that’s not unexpected at all, and we certainly don’t need a poll to know that will happen, do we?

~McQ

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Foreign Policy Is A Real Area Of Strength For Obama Administration

And yes, I’m being very facetious when use that title.

Again, the Obama administration has managed to PO our allies. This time, the entire EU:

President Obama’s decision to skip a United States-European Union summit meeting scheduled for Madrid in May has predictably upset European officials, who suggested on Tuesday that the summit itself will now be postponed, possibly to the autumn.

In addition to the palpable sense of insult among European officials, there was a growing concern that Europe is being taken for granted and losing importance in American eyes compared to the rise of a newly truculent China.

Jetting off to Europe to watch the UN’s global warming initiative fail is ok. And so is making an unscheduled trip to pitch the Olympics for Chicago.

But a US-EU summit? Phaa … it wasn’t even important enough to put on the schedule:

The White House explained the decision as a matter of scheduling, insisting that the May visit to Europe was never on the president’s agenda, so it could not be said to have been canceled.

Well there you go.

Speaking for Mr. Obama, Mr. Gordon told journalists in Washington on Monday that the trip to Spain “was never on his agenda.” The president had “traveled more to Europe in his first year probably than any president has ever done in the past, and he looks forward to continuing his engagement bilaterally with European allies and directly with the European Union.”

But that doesn’t include the US-EU Summit, which for some reason, the Europeans see as a very important.

The Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who is scheduled to arrive in Washington this week on a visit, was described as angry and embarrassed, and European officials said there was a set of high-level diplomatic exchanges overnight.

And, of course, with a PO’d Spanish PM, one of the goals of the administration is surely to be helped along:

But a senior American official said that Mr. Gordon and Mr. Burns emphasized to Spanish officials, when the summit was raised, that they “were not in a position to commit to one.” In fact, the official said, the Obama Administration has been “pursuing and getting a better relationship with Spain and the new E.U.,” with Mr. Zapatero visiting Washington twice.

Ummm … sure seems like it, doesn’t it?

~McQ

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Virginia State Senate Rejects Health Care Insurance Mandate

In a bit of a surprising move the Virginia Senate has rejected the Obama health care insurance mandate:

Virginia’s Democratic-controlled state Senate passed measures Monday that would make it illegal to require individuals to purchase health insurance, a direct challenge to the party’s efforts in Washington to reform health care.

Let’s just say that “direct challenge” seems to be an understatement here. I was expected that the lower house, the GOP controlled House of Delegates, would pass such a bill, but not the Democratically controlled Senate:

Each of three similar bills that passed the state Senate on Monday would run counter to legislation passed by both chambers of Congress, which would require all individuals to purchase health care.

The bills were also expected to be approved by the GOP-controlled House of Delegates. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said he will review the bills but supports their intent.

What legal power this would have if such a mandate was passed by Congress is anyone’s guess, but it sure does set up an “interested party” for a law suit doesn’t it?

And, as I implied in the opening, VA isn’t the only state making such moves:

Measures prompted by the Washington debate are pending in at least 29 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

VA’s argument is a constitutional one – backers of the bill claim that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to require anyone buy insurance. This bill, if signed into law, puts VA in the position to challenge any such law on those grounds should Congress pass one.

And that is the fate, I believe, of any such reform that Congress tries to pass – lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit. And frankly I’m glad to see states trying to reassert their rights in this supposedly federal system. That is another great way to begin reigning in the national government.

Of course most of this is driven by politics and the desire of pols to keep their jobs. Any guess as to what is getting the credit?

The bills, a top priority of Virginia’s “tea party” movement, were approved 23 to 17 as five Democrats who represent swing areas of the state joined all 18 Republicans in the chamber in backing the legislation.

Yeah, baby!

For Congressional Democrats, it’s another warning shot right across the bow.  I have to wonder how many it will take to finally get their attention and have them scuttle that health care reform bill monstrosity on their own?

~McQ

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Global Warming “Science” And The Media

Another day, another revelation of fudged numbers in the so-called “settled science” of man-made global warming.  The Guardian has a piece about Phil Jones and what appears to be made-up data about temperatures in China.  You can read it here.

But Andrew Bolt has the bigger story that is strarting to finally emerge. That is how complicit the media – to include the Guardian – have been in promoting the alarmist screed over the years.

The only real things that’s changed now is the media’s willingness to see the fraud and fiddling that was always part of the great global warming scam. To finally see the fraud and fiddling that bloggers have written about for years.

Indeed. Now that there’s blood in the water, they’re interested (well at least the UK media is) in the story and the fraud. But:

For nearly three years, mathematician Douglas Keenan has campaigned to get the University of East Anglia, the University of Albany, the IPCC and the media to accept that a key piece of evidence behind the IPCC’s claims that the world was warming was based on a study that was wrong, if not outright fraudulent. Keenan described not just the tricking up of results to hide the urban heat island effect, but the disgraceful efforts by climate scientists and University of Albany administrators to hush up the scandal.

And, for three years Keenan was ignored by the media which showed very little skepticism when it came to alarmist claims.  Instead, they kept promoting the alarmist agenda until it could no longer be supported and only then, when confronted by factual evidence that couldn’t be waved away, did they finally decide to look into the growing scandal.

But now there’s a great change. There is now a race on to uncover the next big IPCC scandal, and I doubt the great climate change scare can survive. The papers will, of course, take the credit.

Well, they’ll certainly try. But there are years of blog archives which are available to point out where the credit really goes for helping to expose one of the most massive “scientific” frauds ever perpetrated. And it isn’t “the papers”.

~McQ

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Obama Budget Built On Tax Increases For Everyone

Progressives like to talk about “progressive taxes”. It’s code language for screw the rich. That’s precisely what President Obama is proposing in his budget proposal. Now to be clear, none of this is new or a surprise – he said this is what he planned on doing all along. However that doesn’t make it “progressive” or sustainable. His budget proposal includes plans to:

—Raise the top two income tax rates for individuals, from 33 percent and 35 percent, to 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively. Unless Congress intervenes, those rates will rise next Jan. 1 when Bush’s tax cuts expire. That government would reap $365 billion over the next decade.

—Limit the itemized tax deductions high earners can claim for charitable donations, mortgage interest and state and local taxes, raising about $210 billion for the next decade.

—Increase the top capital gains tax rate from 15 percent to 20 percent for families making more than $250,000 a year and individuals making more than $200,000. The proposal would raise about $105 billion.

Of course we’re back to the old “static” analysis model here. These numbers hold if none of those effected do anything to protect their earnings and assets (or the market doesn’t research and find loopholes which allow such protection of assets) over the next decade.

So the chance of this revenue stream remaining intact and at the level suggested here is highly unlikely if you know anything about human nature and how markets work. Look at the UK for instance where the same sort of nonsense is happening:

Mike Warburton, senior tax adviser at Grant Thornton, one of Britain’s biggest accounting firms, said that clients were pursuing four main ways to avoid paying half their salary in tax: bumping up this year’s pay; storing up pay in their firm to be drawn down at a later date; leaving the country; or choosing to pay it to charity rather than the taxman.

“People are taking obvious avoidance measures because they are not prepared to pay 50 per cent tax,” Mr Warburton said.

It is unlikely they’ll be any more “prepared” to do so here than there.

Also unlikely are cuts in spending which are really what are needed. Once Congress sees this revenue stream established, even for a year – heck, even hypothetically – they’re likely to spend what is promised in the outlying years and use it in their PAYGO justifications.

Then there’s the aspect of his proposals which use the tax code to punish businesses or encourage them to not do business here at the level at which they are now engaged:

—Change the way profits made by investment fund managers are taxed, raising an additional $24 billion over the next decade.

—Impose a “financial crisis responsibility fee” on large financial institutions, raising $90 billion over the next decade.

—Restrict the ability of international companies to defer taxes on profits made overseas, raising about $26 billion over the next decade.

—Impose a total of about $39 billion in tax increases on oil, gas and coal companies over the next decade.

The tax on oil, gas and coal will simply raise the price at the retail level for all consumers, giving lie to the Obama promise that taxes won’t go up “one dime” for 95% of Americans. Additionally, the tax on the energy companies, passed on to consumers, will affect the poor much more than others. There are other ways to extract that pound of flesh than through income taxes and the administration knows that only too well, whether or not Obama supporters want to admit it or not.

And both he and they will have difficulty making that claim at all if this remains in the budget:

According to a report by The Hill President Barack Obama is seeking to end a middle-class tax break he once said would be permanent.

The $3.8 trillion budget request rolled out by the White House on Monday would renew the Making Work Pay tax credit for fiscal 2011, but then would have it sunset

Yes, that’s right, instead of making that middle class tax cut permanent as he promised, he’s proposing it “sunset” (i.e. go away) after FY 2011 (just before the 2012 election and the tax prep season so it won’t effect voters till after the election).

All in all, taxes would increase $1.1 trillion (again, assuming no person or no business effected does anything to avoid these taxes) over a decade.

Yes, that’s a lot of money – but then we’re running a deficit this year of $1.6 trillion, of which 40 cents of every dollar spent is borrowed. So while $1.1 trillion seems enormous, it’s really a drop in the ocean when looking at the promised spending over the next decade.

So listen carefully to soothing promises of fiscal restraint and concern about the deficit (and debt) in the coming weeks as the administration and Congressional Democrats give lip service to PAYGO and spending restraint. Then review this chart. The chart is their plan. If you can find any spending restraint or real deficit or debt reduction in there, please point it out. This budget and the outlying budgets are a plan for fiscal ruin. We now, for the first time, owe more than our entire GDP is worth, and the Obama administration apparently plans to see if it can double that in the shortest time possible. Any doubts about where this is headed?

And: are you beginning to understand what the Tea Parties are about yet?

~McQ

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All you need to know about Canada’s health care system…

…is encapsulated in this short CBC story.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is set to undergo heart surgery this week in the United States.

CBC News confirmed Monday that Williams, 59, left the province earlier in the day and will have surgery later in the week.

The premier’s office provided few details, beyond confirming that he would have heart surgery and saying that it was not necessarily a routine procedure.

So, nobody can do it in St. Johns or Mt. Pearl?  OK, maybe not.  I mean, it’s Newfoundland, for Cripes sake!  But, still, no room at a Halifax or or Moncton hospital, eh?  Nobody qualified to perform the procedure in Quebec, Montreal, Ottowa or Toronto?

How is it that the Canadian health care system is just fine for all the little people, but when a provincial premier hears the thump of mortality in his chest, it’s off to Cedars-Sinai,  Sloan-Kettering, or Mayo?

‘S’funny how that works, huh?

But don’t worry.  When we get our free health care down here in the US, everything will be tiddly.

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Record Budget, Record Budget Deficit Proposed By Obama Administration

The President, Democrats and some pundits have been trying to set the public up for this for a few weeks. They talk about how important deficit reduction is in the long term, but claim that when the economy is bad and unemployment is high that is not the time to be pursuing that goal. Paul Krugman, for one, has been saying it for months. And Obama made that claim in his State of the Union address. The entire reason behind the prep was to prepare the public for massive spending and budget deficit proposal – neither of which we can afford. In anticipation of this, Democrats quietly raised the debt ceiling $1.9 trillion last week:

President Barack Obama will propose on Monday a $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal 2011 that projects the deficit will shoot up to a record $1.6 trillion this year, but would push the red ink down to about $700 billion, or 4% of the gross domestic product, by 2013, according to congressional aides.

The deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, would eclipse last year’s $1.4 trillion deficit, in part due to new spending on a proposed jobs package. The president also wants $25 billion for cash-strapped state governments, mainly to offset their funding of the Medicaid health program for the poor.

Now of course, as any good Democrat knows, this is all George Bush’s fault. They are being forced to spend this money because Bush wrecked the economy.

With that now out of the way, some interesting things are to be found in the two paragraphs cited. One, deficit year two is larger than deficit year one. Why? Because the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress spent the previously budgeted money (40 cents of every dollar borrowed) on pet projects and nonsense which were not simulative at all. Now they’re faced with the same crisis that faced them at this time last year and they’re again coming up with the same solution – throw money at it. However this time the new “stimulus” will be disguised as a “jobs bill”.

Then take notice of the claim by “congressional aides” that the deficit will be “down” to a mere $700 billion by 2013. That’s based on the assumption, per the Wall Street Journal, that some spending cuts “that have previously been proposed without success” will be passed and work as promised. Anyone – what’s the track record on those sorts of assumptions?

Of course what’s interesting is that $700 billion will be less than half the deficit proposed in this year’s budget thereby allowing Obama to claim he fulfilled the promise of “cutting the deficit in half” by the end of his first (and hopefully only) term. Hey, he never said how high he’d run it to make that promise come true, did he?

Note too that there’s a bailout of the states included in this budget. Is that a precedent we want to set? And what does the bailout address? Government run health care. It is, as usual, costing more than anticipated. Why should anyone believe government’s control of more of that market will cost less?

President Obama is also pushing for a bi-partisan debt committee to be empanelled by Congress to address the debt.

A bipartisan 18-member debt commission would forward any deficit-reduction proposals they come up with to Congress after this year’s midterm elections. Issues it would face would include how to cut the deficit further in the short term and how to rein in long-term growth of entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Commission members would have to come up with between $180 billion and $190 billion in cuts to meet the president’s target.

Congressional leaders have promised the president that they would submit the panel’s recommendations to an up-or-down vote in the lame-duck session of Congress, after the elections but before the newly elected House and Senate take office.

Although it is recognition of the critical problem to our national solvency the debt represents, it is also a political ploy to shift responsibility to Congress and require them to make all the unpopular cuts necessary to reduce that debt. Congress becomes the focus of the public’s ire if it cuts favored programs, not the President. It’s another attempt by Obama to shirk his leadership role and avoid blame for making tough choices. As usual, he’ll talk about it and he’ll pontificate, but he expects others to do the dirty work and suffer the political consequences of proposing and making spending cuts and ending programs. That’ll work out well, I’m sure.

Note too that even Congress isn’t at all enthusiastic about it – they would only do these cuts in lame-duck sessions after an election but before the new Congress is seated.

And I had to laugh at this:

White House officials say they are ready to make some tough choices to get the deficit under control. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House Web site this weekend that the president’s budget would propose to terminate or cut back more than 120 programs, saving about $20 billion in the fiscal year beginning in October.

Budget proposal: $3.8 trillion. Deficit: $1.6 trillion. “Tough choices”: $20 billion.

Programs which might – I want to stress that point, might – be terminated to achieve that huge $20 billion in savings?

The proposals include consolidating 38 education programs into 11, cutting the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America grant program, and eliminating the Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit, which allows low-wage workers to get tax-credit checks in advance but which is rife with abuse, White House officials say. The Brownfields Economic Development Initiative, which converts decayed former industrial sites to new uses, would be cut, and payments ended to states to restore abandoned mines, many of which have been long cleaned up.

Social Security? Medicare? Medicaid? You know, the big drains on the budget?

Nada. Can firmly kicked to the non-existent Congressional panel (and no, the health care reform debacle didn’t address Medicare or Medicaid reform in any meaningful way) to address. He can find the will to propose huge budgets and incredible levels of spending, but apparently he’s just not going to take the political risk of proposing real and substantial cuts to spending or ending wasteful and unnecessary programs.

So we are now well into the Obama era of trillion dollar deficits (all Bush’s fault, remember) with really no end in sight. Certainly the administration wants you to believe an end is in sight, but recall that all rests on their projections and assumptions. And we all have enough experience with government projections and assumptions to know what they’re really worth.

A bucket of warm spit, if that.

~McQ

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