Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 9 Jul 14

Gallup’s self-reported Consumer Spending measure for June fell $-7 to $91.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell -2.0 points to 95.0 in June.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC-Goldman reports a 1.7% increase from last week, but down 1.3% to a year-on-year rate of 3.3%. Redbook, however, reports a big 6.0% year-over-year sales increase.

Consumer credit rose $19.6 billion in May, with revolving credit up $1.8 billion. Strong credit card use is a big plus for retailers.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 1.9% last week, with purchases up 4.0% and refinancings up 0.4%.


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Obama’s “blame game” attempt on immigration crisis is weak broth

As usual our “Blamer-in-Chief” is trying to lay off the blame for the crisis at the border on others.  Adriana Cohen of the Boston Herald points out why that dog won’t hunt:

The massive crisis of tens of thousands of illegal children and hundreds of thousands of illegal adults flooding over our borders is, no surprise, not President Obama’s fault. It may have been entirely preventable, and certainly was highly predictable. But as usual, six years after he took office, the blame belongs elsewhere.

It’s the Republicans, blocking immigration reform, the Obama administration wants you to believe. They’re even trying to hang it on Obama’s favorite blame target, George W. Bush, saying deportations are being slowed by a bipartisan 2008 law aimed at human trafficking — a claim none other than Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein says doesn’t hold water, while other critics note it’s a little thin, blaming a crisis now on a law that’s been around for six years.

As Mitt Romney noted in 2012, “For two years, this president had huge majorities in the House and Senate — he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system.

The crisis is in fact wholly owned by the Democrats.

Democrats — here and elsewhere — have been pushing for years to let people without Social Security numbers have driver’s licenses and welfare benefits. They’ve pushed for in-state university tuition for people who don’t belong here. Obama himself acted to dramatically reduce deportations — specifically of children — and has broadly signaled he wants to legalize the estimated 12 million illegals.

Who can blame the hundreds of thousands flooding across our borders for thinking they are welcome? The Democrats told them so. Never mind that 92 million Americans are unemployed or no longer looking for jobs.

And now he’s out fundraising while refusing yet again to take a leadership role in solving the crisis.  While in Texas, one of the states effected by this crisis, he refused the governor’s invitation to visit the border, preferring again, to talk about it instead (another of his endless and useless roundtables that solve zip).

Can the President really come to Texas to fundraise and avoid going to the border? Now two Southwest Democrat congressmen have spoken out, saying it’s an important issue and he should schedule a visit. Henry Cuellar said exactly that while making the comment that this issue could be Obama’s Katrina Moment, and then Raul Grijalva, representing Arizona’s 3rd district, chimed in,urging the President to go.

The answer to the question is “yes”.  And not only that he can then go to Colorado, swill beer, play pool and pretend all is well.  Beer and pool – the modern version of Nero’s fiddle.

I see the left hyperventilating over all this impeachment talk, but if ever a guy was working hard to give good cause to be removed, it is this clown.

~McQ

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The downside of central planning – minimum wage version

Nothing new here, but let’s repeat it for the umpteenth time so perhaps somewhere some lefty will actually figure out why minimum wages are a bad idea:

One of the results of the state and local minimum wage increases across the country is more young people out of work, according to Puzder. The more entry-level jobs pay, the more willing experienced, qualified workers will be to take them, thereby bumping the young and inexperienced out of the work force. Puzder says that is causing a real problem for the young people of America.

“The real problem with youth is: You have to have these entry-level jobs to get the experience you need to move forward in your life. If they don’t have those jobs, they’re sitting at home – I don’t know – looking at the posters from the last election or waiting for mom to make dinner, as opposed to being out there actually working and getting the experience that they need to go forward in life,” argues Puzder. “The experience is the important part and we’ve got a whole generation of kids ages 16 to 29 who are missing out on that.”

So how does the economy regulate the price of labor?

“When there’s a demand for labor, the cost of labor goes up. When there’s no demand for labor, it goes down and you can’t solve that problem by having the government artificially mandate a wage increase when there’s no economic growth to support that,” says Puzder. “What businesses do is they increase their prices and they move to automation so you have less jobs.”

Yes, as usual, central planning will fail and have negative consequences.  I know, you’re shocked.

Oh, and this:

“When politicians tell people, ‘We’re going to increase the minimum wage and your check will be bigger,’ what they don’t say and [what] the next sentence should be [is]: ‘However, it’s not going to be worth as much as the increase, because everybody’s going to increase their prices so you’re not going to be able to buy as much as you could have if we’d just had economic growth that justified that increase.”

So what does Andy Puzder propose instead of artificially inflated minimum wages? “Government needs to get out of the way. If government gets out of the way, businesses will create jobs,” he says. “Wages will go up and the country will go back to a state of prosperity instead of what we’re in now.”

So you get the usual self-serving half-truth from pols when they claim they’re doing something to help the “little people”. By the way, Andy Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants.  He and I disagree on one thing:

Puzder says he believes states and municipalities have the right to raise the minimum wage, but he believes people need to understand the consequences, including higher prices and increased automation, which his company is undertaking using iPads to take orders at some restaurants instead of people.

Uh, no, Mr. Puzder … states have the power to raise the minimum wage, but unless you believe some entity other than yourself has a “right” to mandate how you spend your labor dollar, they have no “right”.

Anyway, prepare for some lefty to come by and assure us that the laws of economics aren’t really iron-clad at all, that supply and demand regulated by the market is old thinking and that central planning has a much better chance of assuring a “living wage” … if, given their skills, anyone can find a job at that price.

~McQ

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US government data shows no warming in US for last decade

So, when you hear Obama and the alarmist bleating incessantly about the crisis of “global warming” or “climate change” or whatever phrase they choose to characterize the hoax they’re trying to perpetrate on the people of the country, ensure you point out that not even their own data supports their claim:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most accurate, up-to-date temperature data confirm the United States has been cooling for at least the past decade. The NOAA temperature data are driving a stake through the heart of alarmists claiming accelerating global warming.

Responding to widespread criticism that its temperature station readings were corrupted by poor siting issues and suspect adjustments, NOAA established a network of 114 pristinely sited temperature stations spread out fairly uniformly throughout the United States. Because the network, known as the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN), is so uniformly and pristinely situated, the temperature data require no adjustments to provide an accurate nationwide temperature record. USCRN began compiling temperature data in January 2005. Now, nearly a decade later, NOAA has finally made the USCRN temperature readings available.

According to the USCRN temperature readings, U.S. temperatures are not rising at all – at least not since the network became operational 10 years ago. Instead, the United States has cooled by approximately 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is more than half of the claimed global warming of the twentieth century.

But, but, that’s only the US … yup, and that supports the observation that globally there has been no warming for the past 17 years.  The models are wrong.  Just flat wrong and it’s time we started saying that.  There is no credence to be found in their predictions and certainly nothing to support the alarmist’s claims.

Carly Fiorino, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and a senate candidate remarked this weekend on the cobbled up “war on women”.  On CNN, she pulled out a fortune she’d gotten from a fortune cookie and said:

“‘Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause,’” Fiorina read. “And that’s exactly right. The War On Women is shameless, baseless propaganda. There’s no fact to it. But it’s worked because it’s scared women to death. Enough.”

Substitute the alarmist’s “climate change” for “war on women” and it describes precisely what is going on with them.  They have no case, only propaganda, and their only “argument” is to call the other side names and call for violent action against them.

Meanwhile, the case against the alarmist cause just keeps on getting stronger and stronger, not that it will slow them down or cause them to decrease the volume of screaming.  It’s not about science, it’s abotu power and money … and they want both.  More power over the way you live and more money to use against you to enforce their edicts.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 06 Jul 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the week’s events.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

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 Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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Economic Statistics for 3 Jul 14

A net 288,000 new jobs were created in June, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1%. Average weekly earnings rose 0.2%, but weekly hours were unchanged at 34.5 hours. Underlying fundamentals aren’t great, however. In June, 2013, 89.7 million people were out of the labor force. In June, 2014, it was 92.1 million.  In the same time period, the civilian non-institutional population rose from 245.6 million to 247.8 million, or 2.2 million. So, 2.2 million were added to the working age population, while 2.4 million fewer were in the labor force. In other words, Job growth is still less than population growth, hence the 62.8% labor forces participation rate Since October, 2013, labor force participation has hovered at levels not seen since 1978, as the unemployment rate has “declined”. 

The trade deficit in May shrank to a better-than-expected $-44.4 billion, down from $-47.0 billion in April.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.7 points to 36.4 in the latest week.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index fell -0.3 points to 56.0.

The US Services Purchasing Managers’ Index rose 1.9 points to 61.0 in June.

JP Morgan reports the global Composite PMI rose 1.1 points to 55.4, while the Services PMI rose 1.2 points to 55.8.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 3,000 to 315,000. The 4-week average rose 750 to 315,000. Continuing claims rose 10,000 to 2.579 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $8.7 billion last week, with total assets of $4.377 trillion. Total reserve bank credit fell by $-1.6 billion.

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

The Challenger Job-Cut Report estimates there were 31,434 layoffs in June, down from 52,961 in May.


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How centralized bureaucracies work

In another indicator of how low a priority veterans have with this administration, a whistleblower in Atlanta has revealed that VA employees were switched from processing VA applications to those of the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Scott Davis told the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“We don’t discuss veterans. We do not work for veterans. That is something that I learned after working there. Our customer is the VA central office, the White House and the Congress. The veterans are not our priority. So whatever the initiatives are or the big ticket items, that is what we focus on.”

He later appeared on the Neil Cavuto show and claimed that 17,000 applications for VA Healthcare were destroyed.  He also said  they’re “also looking into a backlog of over 600,000 pending applications for VA Healthcare.” Davis said the applications were purged as a way to deal with pressure from Washington D.C.

Davis: What I think happened, Neil, is that there was pressure by people in Washington for us to hit our numbers. You’ve heard a lot about the 14-day turn around time for the hospitals. But what most people don’t know is that there’s a five-day turn around time for health applications. And if we don’t hit that five-day turn around time, it affects performance goals for people in senior leadership positions.

Cavuto: So if you don’t have that, and you’re not paying that out, it looks like you’re meeting your numbers and then some, right?

Davis: Absolutely. But what also happens, Neil, is that we’re currently neglecting not only the right thing to do, which is to process applications, not delete them. We have a huge system integrity issue at VA. For example, the VA right now can’t even tell the investigators what happened to those applications, because they can’t verify where they are, what happened to them, if they were deleted, why were they deleted, and why there was no paperwork showing the justifications for those deletions.

Cavuto: We’ve asked for a statement out of the VA on this and we have yet to get one, Scott. I’m trying then to give them the benefit of the doubt here. It seems like a crazy situation. Did you or any of your co-workers ever get so overwhelmed — not you specifically — but they just say the heck with it, more files, more applications, just dump them in the trash, we’re overwhelmed. Do you think that has gone on?

Davis: I know that there was rumors that suspect those activities before I started work thing in 2011. What I can tell you is that there’s so much pressure on the employees to get stuff done so management can meet goals, it’s easy to make mistakes, it’s easy to have mishaps. What happens is, instead of the VA focusing on doing what’s right for our nation’s veterans — meaning taking time, processing each application diligently and appropriately — pressure is placed on front line employees to overwork themselves, rush through the application process, to hit goals for members of management.

Cavuto: When you say to hit goals, is the goal a dollar goal or is it get the applications complete? Sometimes keep on top of this so there are no delays, or is it keep on top of it and get rid of something that could hurt our numbers?

Davis: Well, for what I’ve witnessed, it’s based on a performance goal.

Cavuto: How is that performance measured?

Davis: That performance is measured based on our ability to turn around an application from beginning to end within a five-day turn around. There’s an acceptable percentage that we have to have, which is in excess of 80% for all applications that comes into that office. What you find is that there’s extensive pressure on the staff to process applications, to focus our attention to applications based on specific campaigns. For example, I shared with your producer that we actually put incoming applications aside so we could focus on the ACA related applications that came in over last summer. That’s wrong. We should treat each veteran equally and focus on applications, as they come in, not because of special campaigns coming out of D.C.

His statement is precisely how veteran’s applications should be treated.  But they weren’t because of partisan politics and the heavy hand of the administration.   Naturally the VA  bureaucracy cooperated.  When your “customer” is Washington DC and not the veteran then that’s unsurprising.

This is outrageous, but my guess is, as they dig deeper into the VA, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

This is the face of government run health care.  It is fair warning.  Just as Soviet bureaucracies fudged whatever numbers necessary to “meet” the government’s “5 year plans”, the government bureaucracies here are not above doing the same.  The bonus system along with identification of Washington as their “customer” was all the incentive the bureaucrats needed to let veterans down … again.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 1-2 Jul 14

Motor vehicle sales rose 1.2% in June to a 17.0 million annual rate. That’s the strongest rate since July 2006.

ICSC-Goldman reports retail sales rose 1.0%, while the rear-over-year rate rose to 4.6% in the latest week. Conversely, Redbook says year-over-year retail sales growth fell to 3.1% in the latest week.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index rose 0.3 points to 57.3 in June.

The ISM Manufacturing index fell 0.1 point to 55.3 in June.

Construction Spending rose a less-than-expected 0.1% in May. Spending rose 6.6% on a year-ago basis.

The J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI rose 0.5 points to 52.7 in June.

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index fell -1 point to -15 in June.

The MBA reports that mortgage application fell 0.2% in the latest week, with purchases down -1.0%, but re-fis up 0.1%.

The ADP national employment report estimates that a strong increase of 281,000 private payroll jobs were created in June.

Gallup’s Job Creation Index is unchanged at 27 in June.

Gallup’s Payroll to Population employment rate rose 0.5% to 45.0% in June.

Factory orders fell 0.5% in May, but nondefense orders rose 0.2%. A 0.7% rise in nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft is a positive.


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It’s not a law, it’s a rule

More outrage smoke from Ezekiel Emanuel on the Supreme Court women’s contraception ruling over at Politico lamenting unintended consequences.

Someone should lament the unintended consequences of the ACA, assuming they are unintended.

Blah blah, no personal choice, your company’s religious belief trumps yours, what a crime that companies have provided the majority of American’s health insurance since World War II when we could have had a super good program like ObamaCare is offering right now.  Don’t you just wish those evil Supreme Court justices had gone the way of progressive liberal goodness and niceness and made up law like Justice Roberts did when he magiced a penalty, unlawful, into a tax, lawful, instead of reading this new rule to see if it clashed with laws already on the books?

The ACA was crated to, uh, prevent you from being locked into your job you see.  Odd, I personally changed jobs, as a father of a family, which HAD pre-existing conditions, of a serious nature, some 9 times over the course of the last 35 years BEFORE the ACA, and oddly must have missed the handcuffs that kept me locked in my job(s).   The ACA is a cure all, it will prevent job lock, it will raise wages AND it will keep health care inflation under control.   Yeah, course it will.    It would have helped win the War on women, but not now because Sharia law!

Here’s a snip….

‘To minimize disruption and reassure most Americans, the Affordable Care Act kept employer-sponsored health insurance intact. The ACA includes an employer mandate enforced by a $2,000 per worker penalty: Employers with more than 50 full-time workers who do not provide insurance that satisfies a minimum requirement must pay.

The minimum requirement includes preventive services from vaccinations to cancer screening tests to cholesterol screening. It also includes contraception. The Hobby Lobby case basically says employers need not cover contraception in the health insurance it provides” (my emphasis)

The ACA includes contraception.   Zeke left out part of the history, conveniently because it’s easier to manufacture outrage when you leave out the incriminating realities.

So well crafted was this law, that women’s contraceptive health coverage wasn’t even included in it.   That would be the rule that the evil religious folks NOW can use to control women’s uterus’s!  I mean that would be the rule that means the evil religious folks have to pay for birth control.

Wasn’t there.

The ACA passed into law on March 23, 2010 – there was NO provision in the original law for birth control – here’s a FAQ from the National Women’s Law Center web site that explains it was added on August 1, 2011.   Added, not voted on, not sent to the House, Senate, President.   Just added.

“The health care law (the Affordable Care Act) requires certain preventive health services and screenings to be covered in all new health insurance plans without cost sharing. This means that, for the preventive health care services included, you will not be charged a co-payment for the services, and the costs of the services will not be applied to your deductible. The list of covered preventive services is extensive and includes services such as mammograms, pap-smears, and smoking cessation supports….(I snipped a link ‘for more info)

On August 1, 2011, the list was expanded to include birth control alongside other women’s preventive services, such as an annual well-woman visit.”

Maybe Nancy Pelosi should have read it first to see if that was in there.  Or maybe it was, we just couldn’t see it,  yet.

That was, not so soon, taken care of by Kathleen Sebelius and the good folks down at US Department of Health and Human Service, a year later.   Really, you’d have thought they’d have done it sooner, but maybe they finally read the ACA.

Free contraception for women.       They couldn’t possibly have left that out, that would be like a war on women or something, and not a Bush or Republican in sight to take the blame!  It’s important, right?  It couldn’t have been overlooked.    It’s important enough that the government just tried to use it to tell people with objecting religious convictions (dirrrrrrrrty Christians) ….they were going to have to provide contraception coverage.

And now because of the Jihadi Sharia loving 5 maniacs on the Supreme Court, women can’t have contraception, or contraception of their choice, or health care, or something!!!!!!!!

Well, not quite, in this case, specifically, the government mandated Hobby Lobby had to pay for methods they considered to be tantamount to ”abortion’ coverage.  Hobby Lobby actually agreed to cover some other forms of contraception, a pretty fair number, in fact, 16.

Robin Abcarian at the LA Times weighed in on the decision too.   According to Robin the Supremes should have looked at what the drugs and devices did and made their decision on that basis.   So long as when it was done the 5 male Justices that didn’t know for sure what 1 male and 3 female Justices didn’t know for sure, that is, when life begins, listened only to the 3 females because, uh, they have a uterus and ovaries.

Seems to me they probably did consider what those drugs and devices did as it really figures in their determination it was in fact a religious argument, or an argument of ‘faith’ if you will.

Here’s a summary from The Atlantic of what Hobby Lobby is thinking… and that’s where the argument gets religious for them.  Hobby Lobby views life as beginning at the point the egg is fertilized by the sperm.   The counter argument, and the Atlantic linked an authority appeal of ‘Most Doctors’ which turns out to be the Federal Government and a reference to the American Congress of OBGYNs, is that it begins at implantation  (and we all know from Roe v. Wade that what implants is a puppy, or goldfish,  or protoblob, until 9 months later a miracle occurs and a human is born.)    The Atlantic summary is okay, but to me they torpedo themselves right around the straights of IUD diagram because they rely on their experts to make a decision of faith for Hobby Lobby, and decide that Hobby Lobby’s faith is politely, crap.

Once again, note if the egg hasn’t implanted (yet), the now hysterical side of the argument has decided it’s not a pregnancy.   The IUDs prevent implantation and the pills in question prevent fertilization rather than stopping ovulation.   And that’s where faith/belief comes in because we didn’t get the instruction book from the Deity of your choice.  If you don’t have a deity, I’m not sure what you’re going to decide, but at some point LIFE begins and the two sides do NOT agree definitively when that is.

The 5 mad male Mullah’s on the Supreme Court decided to err on the side of Hobby Lobby’s beliefs.    Owing to the Religious Freedom Restoration act.   A law, already, on, the, books.   Which the new ‘rule’ seemed to contradict in the 4 instances specified.

More from Zeke:

“The closely held corporation limit is no limit at all. It turns out that more than half of U.S. employees work for closely held corporations. While many are small, many, like Hobby Lobby, are large. And it gives an incentive for more employers to become closely held corporations.”

It doesn’t stop contraceptives from being covered, it’s probably not going to lead to a massive rush by companies to drop contraceptive coverage, it’s not some fundamentalist plot to control women and (re)gain control over their reproductive systems.

It was a loss for the progressives though, because they made such a freaking big deal out of making sure the crazy faith holders at Hobby Lobby did as they were damn well told.    Hence the lamentations of their…uh, various genders.

As a final note, I can’t help thinking it is interesting to note that while 4 methods of “contraception” are no longer available to female Hobby Lobby employees, no one  of these outraged folks is particularly concerned that the Democrats left such an important item out of the original encyclopedic bill or that an Executive branch agency came along and created an entire entitlement completely out of whole cloth a year after “the law” was passed.

You’d almost think they had some plan to make sure they were going to remain permanently in control of those agencies, otherwise that sort of thing would be dangerous if the crazy faith holders ever got back into power and turned the tables on them.

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Is it finally Obama’s turn “under the bus?”

As the crisis at our southern border continues to stagger on, a recent IBD/TIPP poll found that a majority of Americans hold President Obama and his administration responsible for the problem:

The public largely blames President Obama for the flood of children who have poured over the border in recent weeks, creating a growing humanitarian crisis, according to the latest IBD/TIPP Poll released Monday.

[...]

The poll found that 59% of those closely following the immigration crisis agree that “current administration policies and lack of focus on securing the border” are behind the human tide of illegal crossings. Six in 10 say that the children should be ordered to leave the country. (The survey found that 73% of Americans are following this story closely.)

The responsibility for the border crisis is one Obama can’t duck or deny – it is a crisis of his own making.  His refusal to enforce the laws of the land and his permissive policies and rhetoric all but invited this to happen.  Now that it has, he’s “frustrated” with Congress – his personal candidate for being tossed under the blame bus, and is asking for 2 billion in emergency funds to address the crisis he created.  As you can see, most Americans aren’t buying the White House spin.

He doesn’t get a pass on Iraq either.  Per the poll, 56% believe his decision to withdraw troops in 2011 had a direct bearing on the crisis there today.

What’s more, 55% say that Obama wasn’t being honest when he claimed that Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was entirely responsible for the decision to bring the troops home.

Meanwhile, 55% say that the administration’s failure to contain the Syria conflict contributed to the rise of the militant forces in Iraq. Just 27% give Obama high marks for his handling of the Iraq situation.

Finally, the IRS scandal is considered anything but a “phony scandal” by the public:

The IBD/TIPP poll found that 65% believe that the lost IRS emails are an attempt by the administration to “hide evidence that the IRS deliberately targeted conservative groups” prior to the 2012 presidential election.

The lost emails are the latest twist in a more than year-long saga that erupted when an inspector general report detailed how the IRS held up Tea Party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status before the 2012 elections.

[...]

Obama dismissed the IRS scandal earlier this year, saying there was not “even a smidgen of corruption.” Congressional Democrats argue that the IRS wasn’t singling out right-wing groups.

Those defenses aren’t flying with most Americans who’ve been tracking this story. Among independents, 66% think the lost emails were an attempt to cover up wrongdoing. Even 36% of Democrats say it was a cover-up.

These are three very hot topics that Americans are following  closely and a majority doesn’t believe the administration’s side of the story.  As Mr. Obama’s favorite preacher would say, it appears as if the Obama chickens “are coming home to roost”.

~McQ

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