Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Government is problem #1

Or so the most recent Gallup poll says:

pm7sqx2akuocbruzcjlhwaHere’s a quiz for you – name the one “problem” that this administration has given top priority that doesn’t even make the list?

Yes, that’s right – climate change.

Notice the top “problem”, and apparently increasingly seen as such by more and more Americans.

Notice also that every other problem listed is one in which government has at least a finger in if not stuck in it up to the elbow.

Our public education system is not good – it’s run by the government.  Our federal budget is a disaster – government ill-discipline.  Foreign policy doesn’t exist – government malfeasance.  Terrorism is increasing – government ineptitude.  National security at risk – government incompetence.  Race relations – government partisan bias.  Poverty – government enabling.  And healthcare – don’t even get me started. Etc. etc.

Every “problem” under the top problem have become more of a problem because of government meddling, incompetence, over-reach, bumbling, malfeasance or partisan bias.

And yet one of Obama’s stated goals as president was to again make big government “cool”.

Well, heck of a job there, Barack.

~McQ

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Where’s the “treason?”

You know, anymore you have to wait a couple of days for the hysteria to settle before you can figure out what may or may not have happened.   And unfortunately, our “National Enquirer” media is usually the leaders of the hysteria.

This supposed “treasonous” letter, for instance.  Finally, Jennifer Rubin lends a little sanity to what have been the equivalent of click bait headlines these past few days.

First:

[T]he letter was “open” — that is, akin to an op-ed, not dropped in the mail with a Tehran address. This is not a private negotiation or even a message primarily to the Iranians; it was a statement concerning the president’s powers, in contravention of prior promises, to make an critically important deal without Congress. It was unfortunate that it was not instead a letter to the editor or the president; the content would have been the same and Democrats would have been deprived of a silly but unifying talking point. But let’s get to the reason it had to be sent in the first place. As Jeb Bush noted in a statement, “The Senators are reacting to reports of a bad deal that will likely enable Iran to become a nuclear state over time. They would not have been put in this position had the Administration consulted regularly with them rather than ignoring their input.”

Can’t begin to see how that measures up to “treason”.  I can see how the subversion of the Constitution could lead in that direction though.

Second it is a warning to Iran to deal straight with the President:

Republicans are saying to the mullahs they’d better not sucker the president into a sweetheart deal because ultimately that deal will have to pass muster with Congress. Any savvy negotiator would use that to say to the mullahs they need to deliver more, not less, because of the ornery lawmakers. But Obama is so determined to give the mullahs whatever they demand he cannot recognize bargaining leverage when it is staring him in the face. It is only when you are trying to give away the store that you consider a letter warning the mullahs the bar will be high for a deal to be “sabotage.”

So instead, it’s backing this idiot’s sucker’s President’s play.  They’ve actually managed to give Obama some leverage and Obama is rejecting it for heaven sake.

Finally:

The letter was meant to highlight a point about which critics have not quarreled: The president can have a binding treaty with Senate approval, or he can have an executive agreement that may be null and void when he leaves office. (If he has told the Iranians otherwise, either he is confused or he is selling snake oil.)

Got that?  Deal straight and make the sort of deal we will approve in the Senate.

But, as Rubin points out, there’s a bigger question:

What does the president think he is negotiating if he intends to keep Congress in the dark and present a fait accompli?

Does he understand that if he thinks its a “treaty” and it doesn’t go before (and get passed by) the Senate, it isn’t worth a war bucket of spit?  I mean, he may have a pen and a phone, but he can’t agree to a treaty without Congress’s okay no matter how hard he tries to pretend he can.

Which may necessitate some more “depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” reasoning from Democrats.

There’s the story.

So, in terms of the letter, another partisan tempest in a teapot.

Meanwhile, the big Constitutional question mostly gets ignored.

Thanks media.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 10 Mar 15

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales dipped to 2.6% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 2.7%, as weaker sales continued.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index edged 1 tenth higher to 98.0 in February.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.3% in January, while a -3.1% plunge in sales drove the stock-to-sales ratio up to 1.27, the worst since July, 2009.


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Quote of the Day: Rule of Law edition

From the inestimable Kevin Williamson:

When the law does not apply to the lawmakers and law-enforcers, you are not being governed: You are being ruled. And we are ruled by criminals. If you treat IRS rules the way the IRS treats IRS rules, you go to prison; if you treat federal law the way the secretary of state does, you go to prison. If you treat immigration controls the way our immigration authorities do, you go to prison. If you’re as careless in your handling of firearms as the ATF is, you go to prison. You cook your business’s books the way the federal government cooks its books, you go to prison.

If you believe that any of those who you’ve watched arrogantly refuse to follow the law are going to actually be prosecuted and pay the same penalty you would, you’ve not been paying close attention.  When’s the last time you saw any politician or bureaucrat with any real power frog marched off to jail?  When is the last time you actually saw one held accountable for their actions?

All of Williamson’s statements are true when applied to you and I.  I’ve always used the example of a numbers racket.  You run a numbers racket and you go to jail.  The government runs one and they call it “the lottery” – and, of course, it’s proceeds are “for the children” – so its ok if they do it.

Until we see scofflaws like Hillary Clinton and others actually held accountable by law and suffer consequences for breaking it, there’s no downside for politicians and bureaucrats who break or ignore the law.  And since there is no incentive right now for them to change and every incentive not too (in terms of increasing their control and power) we’re not going to see anything change.  They’ll just continue to abuse and disobey the law and dare us to do anything about it.  We’ll be treated to outrageous story after outrageous story (sort of what our fare has been for the last few years) and nothing will change.  In fact, you can count on those stories becoming even more frequent.

But “rule of law”?  That, apparently, is an old fashioned concept for our ruling elite and reserved only for the “little people”.  And they hang us high when they get the chance to keep the fear of government alive and ensure their control doesn’t slip.

We have a ruling elite, folks, and we need to hold them accountable in the most basic way – if we want to see a return of the “rule of law” for all, bring government under control and again have the politicians and bureaucrats serve us instead of rule us.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 6 Mar 15

The labor department reports that 295,000 net new jobs were created in January, as the unemployment rate fell from 5.7% to 5.5%. The labor force participation rate slipped -0.1% to 62.8% as 178,000 people left the labor force. Average hourly earnings rose 0.1%, while the average workweek remained unchanged at 34.6 hours. The U-6 unemployment rate, the broadest measure of labor utilization, fell from 11.3% to 11%. Normally, at this point, I would calculate the “real” unemployment rate based on the historical labor force participation rate of 66.2%. Well, I’m not going to do that any more. Labor force participation has been declining steadily for the past 15 years, so I’m no longer sure what the “real” labor force participation rate should be. Below is labor force participation since 1960.

Labor force participation rate since 1960

Lower oil prices narrowed the US Trade deficit from $-46.6 billion in December to $-41.8 billion in January.

Consumer credit rose $11.6 billion in January, but revolving credit fell $1.1 billion. Credit increases mainly came from auto financing and the government’s acquisition of student loans. 


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Screw the science, we need the money!

The title is essentially what is going on in California as the Democratic controlled state imposes a tax for the “prevention” of global warming.

Californians will now have to pay yet another tax as part of the state’s effort to fight global warming. Residents will now pay a global warming tax for buying gasoline on top of the already existing state gas tax.

But being “smart” politicians, they don’t call it a tax:

The global warming tax on gas retailers is part of the state’s cap-and-trade program. But state officials are not calling the global warming charge a tax, instead they are saying it’s a fee paid by gas retailers when distributors load tanker trucks — even though the cost is passed onto consumers through the cost of fuel.

“They are not calling it a tax, and these guys (wholesalers) are adding it to the cost of the fuel, so you are paying a tax on a tax,” Max Castillo, who owns a convenience store and gas station, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “California is the leader of the nation in paying taxes.”

That’s right, folks, it’s a “fee”.  So Californians, who live in the state with the highest taxes, now get to pay a tax on a tax “fee”.  The result?

The global warming tax adds about 10 cents a gallon to wholesale gas prices and 12 cents to diesel prices, reports the Union-Tribune. But with gas prices down about one dollar from last year, few residents have noticed the global warming fee being added to their gas bills.

Californians pay a whopping 77 cents per gallon extra on gasoline due to fees and taxes. The Union-Tribune reports that “[e]xcise taxes… cost consumers 36 cents per gallon for the state and 18.3 cents for the federal government.” This is in addition to the 2 cent underground storage tank fee and the “global warming fee, which is variable and could soar in the future, added about a dime this week.”

The global warming fee adds 2.25 percent to the full retail price of gasoline — which includes existing taxes and fees — meaning that once gas prices start to rise, Californians may take notice when their gas bills go way up.

Science doesn’t support this.  It simply isn’t there.  And California’s politicians deciding to do it on their own is simply an exercise in political arrogance and vanity.  A decision to get the “little people” to again pay for a political boondoggle (see current “light rail” boondoggle).  Nothing will come of this in real terms.  California fossil fuel usage for transportation needs is 96%. That hasn’t changed much and isn’t likely to change anytime in the near future.

However, that apparently doesn’t prevent politicians from imposing their utopian pipe dreams on the citizens of that state – and frankly, they richly deserve this given their past voting record.

The imposition of a global warming tax on fuel retailers comes as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announces plans to push the state to get 50 percent of its energy from green sources and move away from oil.

“If we have any chance at all of achieving that, California, as it does in many areas, must show the way. We must demonstrate that reducing carbon is compatible with an abundant economy and human well-being,” Brown said in a recent speech.

Brown wants to put the state on track to get 50 percent of its energy from green sources, like wind and solar, by 2030 and cut the state’s use of petroleum in half in the next 15 years. Brown also promised more rules to make buildings more energy-efficient.

“All of this is a very tall order. It means that we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities,” Brown said.

It’s BS built on a questionable scientific theory based in models which have been found to be horribly wanting and consistently wrong.  This isn’t about the environment (other than it will help keep that lobby a bit quieter and in the politician’s pocket), it’s about money – revenue.  And power.

But then, when isn’t it anymore?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 5 Mar 15

Chain stores are reporting roughly the same rates of year-on-year sales growth as they did in January, indicating flat sales.

Challenger’s layoff count fell to 50,579 in February vs 53,041 in January. But, the monthly average during the 4th quarter was below 40,000, so the 1st quarter’s layoff count is significantly higher.

Nonfarm productivity growth for the 4th quarter 2014  was revised down to an annualized drop of -2.2%, as unit labor costs increased 4.1%.

Factory orders fell -0.2% in January, the 6th straight decline, as a -3.1% decline in non-durable goods offset a 2.8% rise in durables. The increase in durable goods orders, however, mainly resulted from the volatile transportation sector, due to a big gain for commercial aircraft, which jumped 9.7%.

Gallup’s US Payroll to Population rate dropped slightly in February from 44.1% to 43.9%.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 7,000 to 320,000. The 4-week average rose 10,250 to 304,750. Continuing claims rose 17,000 to 2.421 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.7 points to 43.5 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $0.9 billion last week, with total assets of $4.488 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-10.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $43.5 billion in the latest week.


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