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Economic Statistics for 22 Oct 14

Consumer prices rose 0.1% in September at both the headline and core rates of the CPI. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 1.7%, again at both the core and headline levels.

The MBA reports that, thanks to falling lending rates, mortgage applications rose a sharp 11.6% last week, with purchases down -5.0% but refis up 23.0%.


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The executive end run

Want to know what the Berghdal investigation found?  You’ll have to wait till after the election.  Want to know what your new health insurance rates will be?  You’ll have to wait until after the election.  Why?  Because it appears they both will be unpopular with most of the citizenry.

Interested in what is happening on the immigration front?  You’ll have to wait until after the election … however there does seem to be some prep going on as AP reports:

The Homeland Security Department appears to be preparing for an increase in the number of immigrants living illegally in the country to apply for work permits after President Barack Obama announces his long-promised plans for executive actions on immigration reform later this year.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services confirmed to The Associated Press that it has published a draft contract proposal to buy the card stock needed to make work permits and Permanent Resident Cards, more commonly known as green cards. The proposal calls for providing material for at least 5 million cards a year, with as many as 9 million “during the initial period … to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements.” The contract calls for as many 34 million cards over five years.

USCIS, the Homeland Security agency that oversees immigration benefits, produces about 3 million work permits and Green Cards annually, so the new contract would at least provide the Obama administration with the flexibility to issue far more work permits or green cards even if it chose not to exercise that option.

So they’re either ordering a 10 year supply or something is up.  ABC’s Rick Klein reports:

Republicans can thank the reliable old federal bureaucracy for their latest little gift-wrapped present. The AP reports that the Department of Homeland Security is soliciting millions of new green cards – yes, the physical paperwork needed for legal status – “to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements.” That’s right: The federal government is already ordering as many as 34 million new cards over five years to accommodate legal changes that haven’t been announced, much less approved by Congress. If and when this factoid makes its way into a campaign ad or a stump speech, it will be another reminder of the questionable political strategy of the White House deciding to delay immigration action until after the election. You don’t get full credit for not acting if everyone knows you’re about to. And the idea that tax dollars are set to be expended to support a sweeping new policy, before that policy is even announced or enacted? How better to confirm voters’ mistrust in government?

Congress? This president don’t need no stinkin’ Congress.  And certainly not one that is run by Republicans.  Nope … instead that will provide the perfect excuse (despite the obvious premeditation) to blame the GOP and take unilateral action.

And what will Congress do about such an end run?  Well, likely nothing if their history is an indication.

So here we are with a wretched economy, the lowest labor participation rate in decades, stagnant wages and what does it appear our brilliant President is about to do?

That’s why you have to wait till after the election to find out.

~McQ

 

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A little reminder

A short one today, but I thought it instructive to bring up the fact that despite the claims of Democratic operatives and media types, the GOP isn’t the reason that Barack Obama’s Surgeon General nominee isn’t in that office.  Byron York explains:

There are 55 Democrats in the Senate. Since Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the rules to kill filibusters for nominations, it would take just 51 votes to confirm Murthy. Democrats could do it all by themselves, even if every Republican opposed. But Democrats have not confirmed Murthy.

 

In other words, the claim is worthy of 4 Pinnochios if fact checkers were doing their job.

No, apparently the job is still vacant (yeah, I know there’s an acting SG) because apparently Democrats have a problem with the nominee.

Go figure.

~McQ

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The obligatory “here come the midterms” post

Meh.  I’ve come to realize, given the last few wave elections, that if either of the two majority parties are in charge, little if anything will change significantly. Or said another way, for the next 2 years, we’re in for the same nonsense we’re suffering now and the only thing that will change is the name of the Senate majority leader.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of divided government. I like” do nothing” Congress, because divided government means fewer laws entailing government interference are likely to pass. However, that doesn’t change the fact that both parties are heavily invested in interfering with our lives. They simply have different priorities in that regard.

That said, let’s look at the mood of the country prior to the selection.  POLITICO starts us off with a handy chart:

politico_poll_generic_ballot

Too bad we don’t have the “none of the above option”.  Me thinks the gray wedge would be significantly larger.  As with most recent elections, there’s a large “hold your nose and vote” segment at play here.

However, that particular part of the poll isn’t the most interesting to me.  These results say more about the “mood” than any:

- Terrorism: Eighty-four percent of voters say the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant poses a “serious” threat to the U.S. homeland, including 43 percent who say it poses a “very serious” threat. Just 12 percent said the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is not a serious concern.

This is an Obama made problem and he and the voters know it.  And if it is an Obama-made problem, then it is also a problem for the Democrats.  But more importantly, it reflects a belief is how poorly this administration has handled the terrorism problem.  They didn’t buy the “JV” wave-off and, it seems, are much more able than our security experts to see the type and possibility of the threat ISIS poses to the US homeland.   When you have an enemy that will go to any extreme to get to you and doesn’t mind if they die doing it, you have a formidable threat facing you.  And while you may have more of a chance of being hit by lightning or winning the lottery than being a victim of ISIS terrorism here, please don’t try to sell these people on ISIS not being a threat here.  This also reflects a tremendous amount of distrust the public in general have for anything this administration puts out there.

- Health care: Most voters believe their health care costs will go up under the Affordable Care Act. Fifty-seven percent said they believe their personal costs will increase, while only 7 percent said they will decrease. A third said their costs would remain the same. (At the same time, support for repealing Obamacare has continued to drop, now down to 41 percent.)

Here’s another huge trust in government issue that has been a disaster for Democrats.  This is one they own lock, stock and barrel.  Thus far they’ve been able to mostly manage the bad news to fall after elections.  But that’s unlikely to help them when 2106 rolls around.  ObamaCare has, for the most part, failed in every way possible.  We now have reports of less people availing themselves of routine health care because the deductibles are so large they can’t afford the visits.  If you don’t think this is a part of the mid-term calculations by voters then you have to believe there’s no reason to withhold the increases for insurance until after the election.

- Presidential management: Voters in the midterm battleground states are evenly split on whether President Barack Obama or George W. Bush was more effective at managing the federal government. Thirty-eighty percent named Bush, while 35 percent preferred Obama. A quarter of respondents said the two men were equally competent.

As hard as the left and Democrats worked to make Bush the poster boy for bad government, this one has to hurt.  All hail the new poster boy, and the GOP hasn’t had to even break a sweat selling this one.  Most, if not all of Obama’s failures have been via self-inflicted wounds.  Will there be a portion of the voters who use the mid-terms as a referendum on the President?  You bet there will.  This guy is about as bad as we’ve ever had, and voters are going to make that point in November.

That brings us to this last issue in this particular poll which pretty well makes an important point I want made:

- Ebola: Only 22 percent of respondents said they had a lot of confidence that the government is doing everything it can to contain the contagious disease. Thirty-nine percent they had some confidence, while a third said they had little or no confidence. The poll concluded Oct. 11, before the hospitalization of the second nurse who treated an Ebola patient in Dallas.

Confidence in government and the competence of this administration are at rock bottom.  I welcome that.  Ebola just happens to be the latest issue to demonstrate both executive and bureaucratic fumbling and incompetence.  The only consistent thing this administration has done is demonstrate that.  The guy whose goal it was to make “government cool” again, has failed miserably.  I welcome that as well.  I’d like to see the point understood by more.  Instead of success, we’ve seen an increasingly intrusive but ossified bureaucracy fail time after time when tasked to do their job.  They may not know it, but that’s one of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, that 64% of Americans believe “things in the U.S. feel like they are out of control right now.” We’ve seen how politics has subverted our public servants into servants of the party in power.  And we’ve also seen various government agencies hold themselves to be above the law in certain instances.  How changing parties at midterm will change any of that remains a mystery.

Usually at this point before an election, analysts have decided who will decide the election.  You remember “Soccer Moms” etc.  Well, this year it’s simply “women”.  Women will decide this.  And the implication is that women have always been more of a Democratic constituency than a Republican one … for various reasons.  Well, that may not pan out for the Dems this year and of all people, Tina Brown explains why:

But, you know, the fact is that Obama’s down with everybody, let’s face it, there’s a reason,” Brown said. “And I think that particularly for women. I don’t think it makes them feel safe. I think they’re feeling unsafe. Economically, they’re feeling unsafe. With regard to ISIS, they’re feeling unsafe. They feel unsafe about Ebola. What they’re feeling unsafe about is the government response to different crises. And I think they’re beginning to feel a bit that Obama’s like that guy in the corner office, you know, who’s too cool for school, calls a meeting, says this has to change, doesn’t put anything in place to make sure it does change, then it goes wrong and he’s blaming everybody. So there’s a slight sense of that.”

If you’re not feeling unsafe with this clown in office, then you have no fear.  Security – safety – is one of the key reasons women consider a vote for a candidate (or so the experts tell us).   If that’s the case and we go with the “women will decide the vote” meme, then Dems are in even worse shape than I thought.

And I welcome that as well.

~McQ

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Calmly angry.

The New York Times answers another call for help and pretends to do some scolding yesterday.

“Amid Assurances on Ebola, Obama is said to Seethe”

A message sent out to the faithful.   The President is angry, his people have let him down, though we’re certainly not going to name names, or call for heads to roll.     To rip off the Saturday Night Live gag about Bush 41  “That wouldn’t be prudent” .

How refreshing.  Instead of the traditional, worn out, unacceptable story that ‘he found out from the news and he’s angry!’ that has played over and over for the last 6 years, they have a new plan.   Let the news tell us how angry he is.     Why, he even cancelled (a fund raiser) his  schedule on Wednesday to deal with this!    Big Fat Hairy Deal.  He was golfing on his 200th round of golf a mere 5 days ago.   So, now we’re supposed to be impressed that 3 days ago he cancelled a fund raiser?

5 days ago, he could golf, but 3 days ago he suddenly realized how very very serious this whole Ebola thing was, and he had to have a meeting and we’re supposed to understand he was angry in that meeting.

“It’s not tight,” a visibly angry Mr. Obama said of the response, according to people briefed on the meeting…He was not satisfied with the response,” a senior official said.”

He was angry, but not panicked, is that clear?   Because he’s No Drama Obama.

It’s almost as if once again all of this comes as a surprise though.  Nearly a month since Thomas Eric Duncan entered the United States after the difficult task of lying on his documentation in Liberia about his contact with an Ebola infected individual there.  That was our safe guard, forms, and thermometers.  Oh, and a reliance on honesty.   This administration in particular should know how foolish THAT is.

Our President is angry, but apparently, he’s unable, as the holder of the most powerful office in the world, to do anything about this,  aside, that is, from being angry and acting calm while being angry and demanding answers and that it be ‘tight’.

At the meeting on Wednesday, officials said, Mr. Obama placed much of the blame on the C.D.C., which provided shifting information about which threat category patients were in, and did not adequately train doctors and nurses at hospitals with Ebola cases on the proper protective procedures.

Notice, no names named, no one fired,  or resigned,  or reassigned, or given a transfer, or even put on extended leave pending investigation.    It was, most probably, 2 interns in Cincinnati that caused all this, or perhaps spontaneous rioters reacting to an Ebola video on Youtube.

Ah, Obama theater.

 

Now then, how are to fix this problem?    It’s been nearly a month since his assurance that Ebola would be unlikely to ever reach our shores and two weeks since his assurance that Ebola wouldn’t gain a foot hold here.

We must first understand he is alert in this time of crisis!  There are many other things they must deal with you understand, because this is practically like a job, this task of having to run the most powerful nation in the world!   If we make too much of this the ignorant populace might panic!  Now he’s wracked, torn, possibly in turmoil.  How to handle this, and still preserve his option to play a round of golf on Sunday without looking like he doesn’t give a rat’s back side.

Times to the rescue!   We discover the White House had a kabuki meeting, details and quotes from which just happen to be printed on the pages of the New York Times.

The answer ladies and gentlemen…

 

is to appoint a political hack lawyer to be the new Ebola Czar.

 

This is a move surely designed to instill confidence and give the nation a sense that someone who knows what they’re doing is NOW going to take the reigns and master this runaway virus.

“On Friday, Mr. Obama took a step to both fix that response and reassure the public, naming Ron Klain, a former aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden, to coordinate the government’s efforts on Ebola.

We’re appointing a lawyer to manage what the certified medical professional head of the CDC ( who’s very sorry about all these mistakes and inconveniences you know)  could not.

“Part of the challenge is to be assertive, to be in command, and yet not feed a kind of panic that could easily evolve here,” said David Axelrod, a close adviser to the president in his first term. “It’s not enough to doggedly and persistently push for answers in meetings. You have to be seen doggedly and persistently pushing for answers.”

At this point I trust everyone has the sense of what the White House (I originally typed that as White Hose, and perhaps that’s not incorrect) thinks of the American public.    The most powerful job in the country, probably the world, and his job is to push for answers.

Not to take action on THIS issue….no, push doggedly for answers.     Pretend this is the one thing in the world, of all the other things he pretends to be master of, pretend in this case he’s at a loss about how to handle it.  Even though the protocols have been in place for years, the methods of isolation for years, the disease itself, known for decades, the historical methods of quarantine known for centuries.   Pretend on THIS one, they’re just all kinda stumped, but are fiercely pushing for answers.

Push for answers!   Not take action.

After all, if you’re going to take action, for heaven sake do it by granting executive amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.  Do it by letting the executive agencies under your command investigate, harass and if possible destroy your political enemies.   Do it by running guns to Mexico, do it by stonewalling valid Freedom of Information Act requests into various government activities.   Do it by allowing the IRS to destroy documentation without so much as an angry sniff.   Take action by banning flights to Tel Aviv when a mortar round hits too close to the airport.  Take action by sending DOJ investigators around to see if Civil Rights have been violated only in hot button cases.  Push for action by sending representatives from the White House to funerals of thugs when you can’t be bothered to send them to the funeral of Maj. General Harold J. Greene, or even a representative of the Administration to the funeral of a well respected ally leader like Margaret Thatcher.

Lord knows, let the planes continue to fly out of West Africa directly to the US.    Don’t fire the head of the CDC or quietly and politely demand he resign so he can spend time with his goldfish or kids, or brush up on methodologies for handling communicable diseases like Ebola.     Take action by appointing a lawyer to head up a medical crisis.   That will certainly bring an air of calm to this whole sorry mess.

 

It’s a durned good thing most Americans, and almost all of the people I see around me in Dallas are NOT panicking, and I continue to pray that no crisis that demands a yes/no, go/no-go NOW, “you have less than 2 hours to make a decision Mr. President”, EVER presents itself.  Because if that happens, the New York Times may not be around to write an excuse ridden story about how calm but angry the President is 4 weeks later.

Meanwhile, if the President wants a course on calm un-panicked anger, he should come to Dallas.  There are plenty of instructors available right now.

 

UPDATED:

Well, now that didn’t take long did it.    I missed it by a day….And you wondered why he was so suddenly wanting to look concerned about Ebola.   Valerie must have told him, no Ebola solution, no golf!

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To the Shepard Smiths of the world, STFU!

Smith has essentially jumped the shark by lecturing the audience to remain calm and not to believe most of the media hype surrounding the Ebola scare.   And Smith should know about media hype being one of the main purveyors of it during the Hurricane Katrina coverage.  Anyone remember that?  Yeah, me too.

But here’s the point.  I’m remaining calm.  I’m not panicking.  However I am more than a little bit angry about the fiasco, the circus, that surrounds the US case of Ebola.

Here’s a hint about why the CDC has been so blastedly inept in its handling of a single freaking case:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a public-health agency, and public health is an uneasy combination of two very different things: emergency disease containment and nannyist do-goodism. It is a field that exists to save us from the plague and to tell us to drink less soda. To expect the same agency, and many of the same people, to be very good at both of these missions is a lot to ask, and the CDC is much better at the second than the first. Since (thank God) we don’t experience many plague outbreaks, public health spends most of its time on that second mission: preaching the virtues of green vegetables and contraception. So the CDC is for the most part an agency engaged in a kind of low-grade, often silly social activism much of the time. When we confront a disease outbreak or similar public-health emergency, the CDC turns to the other part of its mission, and has an impressive core of experts and resources to call upon in doing so. But the turn is no simple matter, and the fact is we (thankfully) just haven’t had much experience with public-health emergencies on American soil, so the people charged with handling them haven’t had much practice here. It is not hard to imagine how all of this could lead to failures of the sort we have seen.

And who is the head of the CDC?  The same guy who helped NYC’s mayor Bloomberg impose tobacco bans, try to ban Big Gulps and chase your salt use.  That’s right, a “nannyist do-gooder” who hasn’t the faintest idea, or so it seems, on how to address the core mission of the CDC (i.e. the mission for which it was originally formed).  Shouldn’t we be angry and upset about that? After the initial whining by the bureaucrats about how “funding” was a problem we learned about how they prioritized the funding they got (which, by the way, was more than adequate).  It certainly wasn’t primarily spent on the core mission as is now very obvious.

Ever hear of Dr. Nichole Lurie?  Yeah, me neither.  But she is the defacto “Ebola Czar”.

…Dr. Nicole Lurie, explains that the responsibilities of her office are “to help our country prepare for, respond to and recover from public health threats.” She says her major priority is to help the country prepare for emergencies and to “have the countermeasures—the medicines or vaccines that people might need to use in a public health emergency. So a large part of my office also is responsible for developing those countermeasures.”

Or, as National Journal rather glowingly puts it, “Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.” A profile of Lurie quoted her as saying, “I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover. It’s a pretty significant undertaking.” Still another refers to her as “the highest-ranking federal official in charge of preparing the nation to face such health crises as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and pandemic influenza.”

Lurie is the Asst. Secretary of HHS for “preparedness and response, whose job it is to “lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters, ranging from hurricanes to bioterrorism.””

Really?  Where IS she?!  Instead, CNN reports, we’re getting a different Ebola Czar:

President Barack Obama is expected to name Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to two Democratic vice presidents, as the country’s Ebola czar, knowledgeable sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper today.

Klain is a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and also to former Vice President Al Gore. Klain is currently president of Case Holdings and General Counsel of Revolution, an investment group. He has clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court and headed up Gore’s effort during the 2000 Florida recount.

Yes, that’s right friends, we’re getting a lawyer and political hack inserted into the mess.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Belize, a Carnival cruiseliner is being barred entry to a port because one of the healthcare workers who treated our Patient Zero is on board (so far no symptoms, thank goodness).  I guess it was too forward thinking to sequester all those workers to ensure they weren’t infected and didn’t pose a threat to others.  I mean, you know, Epidemic Prevention 101 is so 20th Century … or something.

So Shep, STFU.  You’re an overpaid news reader.  Confine yourself to doing that.  Talking about panicking because of media hype is about as hypocritical as anything you can do, given your history.

As for me, I’ll remain outspoken about how poorly this particular event has been handled and continues to be handled.  It is all about ineptness and lack of leadership at many levels and in many bureaucratic agencies.  It is the poison fruit of big government.  The only silver lining in all of this is the media coverage is keeping that front and center for the public to see.

I’m fine with that.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 15 Oct 14

The Fed’s Beige Book report indicates economic growth—again—is modest to moderate. Slowing inflation and weak growth overseas is spurring concern about slower economic growth. There is even talk, based on this report, of another new round of Quantitative Easing.

Reinforcing the Fed’s concerns, Producer Prices for Final Demand fell -0.1% in September, while prices less food and gas—the so-called “core rate”—were unchanged. The PPI-FD less food, energy & trade services also fell 0.1%. Goods prices fell -0.2% and services prices fell -0.1%.  On a year-over-year basis, the PPI-FD is up 1.6% at the headline level and 1.8% at the core.

The Treasury reports that a revenue surplus of $105.8 billion in September pushed the FY2014 deficit down to $483.4 billion from $680.2 billion in FY2013.

The October Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations survey shows that businesses expect 1.9% inflation over the next year. This is down from 2.1% in the previous month.

The Empire State manufacturing index for October fell sharply to 6.17 from September’s 5-year high of 27.54.

September retail sales fell a worse-than-expected -0.3% in September. Sales less autos fell -0.2% and sales less autos and gas fell -0.1%. Analysts expected an overall increase of 0.3%.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 5.6% last week, with purchases down -1.0% but refis up 11.0%.


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