The Complete Employment Picture

Yesterday CBS News posted an article about jobs and employment in America. On Friday the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate has remained at 6.7 percent and that 192,000 new jobs were added in March. That sounds reasonable, but it does not tell the whole story.

The article included the following snapshot of the statistics:

march-jobs.jpg

There are currently 7.4 million Americans who are working part-time because full-time jobs are not available. The economy has not recovered from the 2008 recession, and unfortunately until ObamaCare is repealed, it will not. As long as employers can save large amounts of money by hiring part-time employees that they do not have to provide healthcare for, they will do so. Robert Gibbs suggested this week that the employer mandate would probably never actually go into effect. If the employer mandate does not go into effect, America may see the return of the full-time worker. However, if the employer mandate does not go into effect, and the uninsured do not sign up for ObamaCare (which they have not), then what exactly did ObamaCare accomplish other than totally disrupting the American medical infrastructure?

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The Change In Work Hours In America

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal posted an article about the February jobs report released on March 7. The report shows that employment fell, as it has in four out of the past six months and in more than one-third of the months during the past two years. This is not an indication of a strong, growing economy.

The article reports:

Although it is often overlooked, a key statistic for understanding the labor market is the length of the average workweek. Small changes in the average workweek imply large changes in total hours worked. The average workweek in the U.S. has fallen to 34.2 hours in February from 34.5 hours in September 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That decline, coupled with mediocre job creation, implies that the total hours of employment have decreased over the period.

…What accounts for the declining average workweek? In some instances—but not this one—a minor drop could be the result of a statistical fluke caused by rounding. Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics only reports hours to the nearest 1/10th, a small movement, say, to 34.449 hours from 34.450 hours, would be reported as a reduction in hours worked to 34.4 from 34.5, vastly overstating the loss in worked time. But the six-month decline in the workweek, to 34.2 from 34.5 hours, cannot be the consequence of a rounding error.

There is a rather strong possibility that the decline in working hours is due to the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Under that law, businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees (full time is defined as 30 hours a week), are not required to provide health insurance for their employees. This is one example of one of the many unintended consequences of ObamaCare, although there are many people who would argue that it is an intended consequence.

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Giving Our Children Information They Don’t Need While Not Telling Them What They Need To Know

Camille Paglia posted an article at Time Magazine yesterday entitled, “Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed.” It’s a rather odd concept, but she makes some very worthwhile points.

The article states:

Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.

The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity.

The first paragraph is something that was not an issue thirty years ago, the second paragraph involves issues that parents used to handle thirty years ago. Ms. Paglia is looking for a scientific approach to sex education in biology classes and a practical non-agenda driven approach to life issues in single-sex classes. This makes sense. Many parents are not telling their children the truth about the emotional and physical cost of abortion or the emotional differences between men and women.

Please follow the link and read the entire article. This is a very common-sense approach to an issue that has our society needs to deal with in a way that helps our young people grow up to be healthy and productive adults.

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The Mystery Deepens

The world is searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The Diplomat posted an interesting story yesterday about the flight. There were at least two passengers on the plane with stolen passports.

The article notes:

“The counterfeiting of all sorts of identifications is very widespread, particularly out of Thailand,” Steve Vickers, a Hong Kong-based risk consultant, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s pretty easy to pick up a stolen or a counterfeit passport.”

…“Any flight of that size in Asia would be carrying a couple of people with false passports,” said Clive Williams, a counter-terrorism expert at Macquarie University in Australia. “When you think about the number of passports that have been stolen or gone missing around the world, it could be related, but it is probably not.”

This morning, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said that a total of four passengers are being investigated: the two impersonating Kozel and Marald, as well as two other travelers with European passports described as “possibly Ukrainian.”

There are a lot of theories as to what has happened to the plane. One commenter on the article in The Diplomat explained how an empty fuel tank could have exploded. While that explanation is as feasible as any other, it doesn’t explain why the plane would have changed direction and dropped below the radar. I would also wonder if there are any old World War II airfields in the area that could be used without raising suspicion. But what would be the purpose of stealing an airplane? Why has no one demanded ransom or claimed credit?

It is also somewhat odd that we have not heard stories from anyone who is relieved that by some chain of events that they missed the plane. Usually after a plane crash, at least one person comes forward explaining that they got caught in traffic and missed the plane. I personally know a soldier who was coming home from Iraq and had to change planes in an American airport and missed at least three flights because kind, patriotic Americans kept on buying him drinks!

Like everyone else, I really have no clue as to what has happened.

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The Timeline Of The IRS Scandal

This article has two sources, an article posted in the Wall Street Journal yesterday and an article posted by Scott Johnson at Power Line today. Both articles printed the timeline of events surrounding the IRS’s attempt to curtail the free speech of groups that opposed the Obama Administration.

One of the most telling events on the timeline is from the Wall Street Journal article:

• Feb. 11, 2010: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) says he will introduce legislation known as the Disclose Act to place new restrictions on some political activity by corporations and force more public disclosure of contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations. Mr. Schumer says the bill is intended to “embarrass companies” out of exercising the rights recognized in Citizens United. “The deterrent effect should not be underestimated,” he said.

All of this was in response to the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations to make political donations. This ruling finally leveled the playing field–the unions had been contributing massive amounts of money to political campaigns for years. (See rightwinggranny.com). The actions of the IRS were an attempt to undo the leveling of the playing field that occurred with the Citizens United decision.

Please follow one of the links above to see the timeline. It paints a picture of a genuine attempt to limit free speech in America.

The President may or may not have given any direct orders regarding the use of the IRS to limit free speech, but the ending paragraph of the Wall Street Journal article truly sums up what happened:

In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out, on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Four knights then murdered the archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by the king.

Unfortunately we are dealing with a President who chooses to act more like a king than a president.

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I Might Be A Member Of The Flat Earth Society

I might be a member of the flat earth society. I don”t believe the earth is flat, but I don’t believe that global warming is caused by man either. So Secretary of State John Kerry compares me to a member of the flat earth society. Well, let’s see how John Kerry’s data on man-made global warming stacks up with reality.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posted an article today about what the scientific models have predicted about global warming and what has actually happened.

This is the chart:

wsj-temps-lg2

As you can see, the truth has simply not kept up with the scientific predictions.

The Wall Street Journal posted an article yesterday that stated:

“Consensus” science that ignores reality can have tragic consequences if cures are ignored or promising research is abandoned. The climate-change consensus is not endangering lives, but the way it imperils economic growth and warps government policy making has made the future considerably bleaker. The recent Obama administration announcement that it would not provide aid for fossil-fuel energy in developing countries, thereby consigning millions of people to energy poverty, is all too reminiscent of the Sick and Health Board denying fresh fruit to dying British sailors.

Before we take actions that negatively impact the economy of the entire world, we really do need to make sure that the science we are using to justify the actions is valid.

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Big Brother Has Plans To Get Bigger

On February 10, The Wall Street Journal posted an article by Ajit Pai about a proposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiative.

The article reports:

Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.

The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”

The FCC has a list of questions for station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters. Those questions deal with the ‘news philosophy’ of the station and how the station ensures that the community gets crucial information. Answering the questions is supposedly voluntary, but the FCC is in charge of renewing the station’s license every eight years, so it is in the station’s best interest to answer the questions.

The article also reports:

The FCC says the study is merely an objective fact-finding mission. The results will inform a report that the FCC must submit to Congress every three years on eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry.

This claim is peculiar. How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businesses from entering the broadcast industry? And why does the CIN study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?

The bottom line here is that this is a really bad idea. It is an interference with the free press, which used to be considered unconstitutional.

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More IRS Abuses Are Coming To Light

On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal posted an article about the IRS targeting conservative groups for audits. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp has stated that the committee’s continuing investigation has found that the IRS also singled out established conservative tax-exempt groups for audits. That is not a surprise when you consider the harassment that donors to conservative causes underwent during the run-up to the 2012 election. As I have previously mentioned, my husband and I were audited for the first time in 45 years. The auditors found nothing, but it took them almost a year to find nothing.

The Democrats in Congress are currently attempting to pass laws that would severely limit the free speech of conservative organizations. Under the new guidelines the Democrats are seeking, the voter guides showing the voting records of candidates would be considered unlawful political activity by organizations that have traditionally distributed them.

The article includes the current spin the Democrats are using to attempt to hide what they are doing and what they have done:

“Instead of this prestigious committee using its broad jurisdiction to address critical issues that confront us, it has been consumed by a tireless effort by Republicans to find political scandal, regardless of what the truth holds, as they look toward the November election,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.).

He also chided Republicans for seeking to delay the regulations, noting that “what really remains hidden are donors to groups pouring millions of dollars into campaign advertising.”

The new IRS regulations proposed by the Democrats are a threat to free speech. If they are enacted, most Americans will only hear one side of any political issue.

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Controlling The Message

Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal posted an article on Thursday about the IRS and the 2014 election.

The article reports:

President Obama and Democrats have been at great pains to insist they knew nothing about IRS targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits before the 2012 election. They’ve been at even greater pains this week to ensure that the same conservative groups are silenced in the 2014 midterms.

That’s the big, dirty secret of the omnibus negotiations. As one of the only bills destined to pass this year, the omnibus was—behind the scenes—a flurry of horse trading. One of the biggest fights was over GOP efforts to include language to stop the IRS from instituting a new round of 501(c)(4) targeting. The White House is so counting on the tax agency to muzzle its political opponents that it willingly sacrificed any manner of its own priorities to keep the muzzle in place.

The article explains that a new rule introduced by the Treasury Department and the IRS during Thanksgiving will recategorize as “political” many of the educational activities that 501(c)(4) social-welfare organizations currently engage in.

The article further reports:

And an IRS rule that purports to—as Mr. Werfel explained—”improve our work in the tax-exempt area” completely ignores the biggest of political players in the tax-exempt area: unions. The guidance is directed only at 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups—the tax category that has of late been flooded by conservative groups. Mr. Obama’s union foot soldiers—which file under 501(c)(5)—can continue playing in politics.

Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represents targeted tea party groups, has filed a Freedom of Information Act requesting documents or correspondence with the White House or outside groups in the formulation of this rule.

The article reports the response:

Treasury sent a letter to Ms. Mitchell this week saying it wouldn’t have her documents until April—after the rule’s comment period closes. It added that if she didn’t like it, she can “file suit.” The IRS has yet to respond.

The abuse of the IRS is continuing. Unless someone in Congress stands up against it or Ms. Mitchell is successful in her quest for information or her lawsuit, the 2014 election is in danger. If the Tea Party and similar groups are silenced, there will be no one to stand for the Constitution during the 2014 campaign.

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Why Leadership Matters

Yesterday Hot Air posted an article about the loss of economic freedom in America.

The article reports:

For going on 20 years now, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal have been putting together an annual Index of Economic Freedom by evaluating countries the world over based on ten criteria along the lines of property rights, government spending, freedom from corruption, trade freedom, and the like. They released the 2014 edition of their annaul Index today, and here’s the good news: Worldwide economic freedom has reached record levels, huzzah! The various governments of 114 countries took steps in 2013 that increased their citizens’ economic freedom, and 43 countries all over the world have now reached their highest ranking in the Index’s history. Awesome, right?

But, here’s the bad news: The United States is no longer among the relative elite of these economically free nations. Oof.

What happened? The article points out that a tax rate exceeding 43% cannot even keep pace with the government’s runaway spending. The article also cites the problem of over-regulation by the government which impacts economic and personal freedom.

The article concludes:

As I mentioned earlier today, the Obama administration is currently prepping for the president’s fifth State of the Union address by touting all the sweet executive actions they’ve freshly come up with to spur along the economy should Congress fail to act on their legislative proposals. Yet again, however, the Obama administration’s ideas all seem to center around ways to spend more taxpayer money, increase top-down federal intervention, and layer the regulations on even more thickly — i.e., take our economic freedom even further down the drain — and their only regret seems to be that this spitefully obstructionist ‘Republican’ Congress of ours hasn’t permitted them to do even more of the same.

Leadership matters.

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Crony Capitalism At Work

It is not news that the Obama Administration practices Crony Capitalism, but sometimes it is news to see how far the Administration will go to destroy a business or industry they have decided they do not like.

Breitbart.com posted a story today about the Obama Administration’s war on the private lending industry: third party payment processors (“TPPPs”), payday lenders, and online lenders. The war, referred to in the Administration as ‘Operation Choke Point,’ is designed to destroy these three industries.

The article at Breitbart.com explains:

According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal initiative now known as ‘Operation Choke Point’ is an outgrowth of the President’s Financial Fraud Task Force, established by President Obama by Executive Order in 2009. It also appears to have been kicked off in secret by the Department of Justice, FDIC, and the CFPB in early 2013 without the requisite statutory authority. Officials at the Department of Justice have withheld information about the program from Congress, though they have eagerly shared details with federal financial institution examiners authorized to supervise and discipline the nation’s banks and related financial institutions.

…The members of Congress warned Holder and Gruenberg that these actions were undertaken by their respective agencies without statutory authority. ”Your actions to ‘choke off’ short-term lenders by changing the structure of the financial system are outside your congressional mandate,” they wrote. “With the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress acknowledged the need for short-term credit products and did not try to limit online lender’s or storefront operators’ ability to offer such products.”

The article goes on to explain some of the efforts by Congress to obtain information on the program and to fulfill their constitutional responsibility of oversight. Generally speaking, they have been blocked at every turn.

The article concludes:

The Obama administration, by treating Congress with disdain and failing to provide evidence of the statutory authority for its actions, is signaling that it has no intention of stopping. Up next for the administration is the expansion of the tactics used in ‘Operation Choke Point’ to a whole host of industries the Obama administration does not like and has identified for targeting, including manufacturers of guns and ammunition.

When will we get our real constitutional government back?

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If The American Economy Is Recovering Why Do We Need To Extend Unemployment Benefits?

I am not unsympathetic to people who have lost their jobs during the recession. I know that there are a lot of them. I don’t mind paying unemployment benefits to people while they look for jobs. I just don’t understand why unemployment benefits should be paid to people for almost two years. I don’t think that encourages people to look for jobs.

The Wall Street Journal posted an editorial today about the economic impact of extended unemployment benefits. The article reminds us that according to the current unemployment numbers, the unemployment rate is 7 percent–not 10 percent rate as it was when the extension of benefits was originally passed.

The article reports:

This also ignores that states and employers are already paying for this supposed free lunch in the form of higher job-killing payroll taxes under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act, or Futa. At least 24 states have been forced to raise this tax since 2010 and the Labor Department says it will rise again in 13 states to repay $20 billion in loans and interest they owe the feds for helping to finance state-funded benefits. This federal tax is applied to 0.6% of a worker’s first $7,000 of annual wages. The rate rises automatically by 0.3% for every year states fail to repay their unemployment insurance loans from Uncle Sam.

…Economist Martin Feldstein long ago proposed a better plan to create a self-insurance component of unemployment insurance with tax dollars going into an employee trust fund for each worker that could be drawn during a bout of unemployment. Workers could keep whatever money was left over at retirement, which would encourage workers to become re-employed more quickly after losing a job.

Instead the current system provides as much as two years of benefits for not working and raises payroll taxes on employers even as some 20 million Americans are still unemployed, underemployed or discouraged from looking for work. None of this will help the economy create more jobs, which is what the jobless need far more than another government check.

The American taxpayer cannot afford to pay people not to work for extended periods of time. We are in danger of losing our work ethic. There was a time in this country when a person would take any job available rather than take money from the government. Unfortunately, we have come a long way from that time. Unemployment benefits should be paid for a long enough time period to allow a person to find a job. Two years is simply too long to pay a person for not working.

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The End Of The Judicial Filibuster

On Thursday the Senate voted to end the filibuster for most presidential nominees.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

The vote was a landmark moment for the Senate, a tradition-bound institution that is slow to change and prides itself on giving power to the minority party. Dozens of senators were seated at their desks as the day’s proceedings began, a rarity.

The key midday vote was 52-48, with all but three Democrats—Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—voting for the change and all 45 Republicans opposed.

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posted his thoughts on the vote yesterday.

The article at Power Line reminds us:

At a fundraiser earlier this month, he told liberal donors that he is “remaking the courts.”

Recognizing that the filibuster stood in the way of a full radical makeover, Obama personally lobbied three Democratic Senators who were undecided about whether to eliminate it. Obama reportedly told them “how important this was to him and our ability to get anything done for the rest of the term.”

The White House stressed the need to confirm three new judges for the D.C. Circuit, which rules on a wide swath of regulatory issues. Stymied by Congress, Obama plans to push his left-wing agenda through regulatory overreach. He needs liberal judges to prevent the resulting rules from being overturned.

Paul Mirengoff explains in the article that the value of the decision by the Democrats in the Senate to change the rules about filibusters is that is confirms that fact that our courts have become political entities. He celebrates the fact that the passage of this law exposes the fact that our courts have become political. As Americans, we can now go about the business of electing people who will begin to undo the damage that has been done to our government by politicizing our courts. Every Senator who opposed this measure during the Bush Administration and supported it now should be voted out of office just on the basis of being a hypocrite.

Just a side note on this article. I went to my usual site of Thomas.gov to look for more information on the filibuster change. Thomas.gov has been altered considerably and is no longer as user-friendly as it used to be. I am hoping that this is a step in the direction of improvement of the site and not an attempt to make it more difficult for people like me to find out what is going on in Congress.

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Why ObamaCare Will Not Work For Everyone

President Obama sold ObamaCare as a program that would provide healthcare for everyone who needed it, improve healthcare and lower cost for those who already had insurance, and generally do wonderful things for the American healthcare system. The Wall Street Journal posted an article yesterday explaining why ObamaCare is potentially a death sentence for Edie Littlefield Sundby. On Monday I posted an article about Ms. Sundby (rightwinggranny.com). Ms. Sundby has been fighting stage-4 gallbladder cancer for seven years. Stage-4 gallbladder cancer has a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. She has survived with the help of good doctors and good health insurance. Under ObamaCare she can no longer keep that insurance or all of her doctors.

Yesterday’s article in the Wall Street Journal explained:

Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s chief political spinner, sent out a now infamous tweet on Monday linking to a left-wing website that blamed Mrs. Sundby’s policy loss on UnitedHealthcare. The White House default is always to blame the insurers. But UnitedHealthcare only fled the state because ObamaCare’s subsidized exchanges are meant to steal their customers. As more people are pulled into government coverage, policies like Mrs. Sundby’s are harder to sustain economically, so insurers bail.

…As it imposes these policy cancellations, ObamaCare is also systematically destroying one of the best features of the current individual market, known as “guaranteed renewability at class-average rates.” This meant that once an insurance policy was issued, people could renew their coverage year after year at the same rates as their peer group. So someone like Mrs. Sundby who got sick would not pay higher premiums than average and her insurer could not deny coverage—unless UnitedHealthcare quit the business. This guaranteed renewability is no longer a guarantee thanks to ObamaCare.

…The reason Edie Sundby had to lose her plan is because her needs, and her measure of her own well-being, are different from Mr. Obama’s, and that is now unacceptable.

Healthcare should be a decision made between people and their doctors. The government has no place dictating medical care. If the government wants to provide health insurance and healthcare to Americans without health insurance, it should do that with tax credits–not in a way that disrupts those Americans who already have insurance and doctors they like. We also need to remember that being a profitable company is not a sin–profitable companies employ people and help the economy.

 

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The Realities Of ObamaCare

ObamaCare is more than a political issue. ObamaCare is an issue of life and death for people with serious diseases who have health insurance. It would have been very easy to pass a law that provided people who did not have health insurance with insurance without impacting those people who had health insurance they depended on. Unfortunately the Obama Administration chose to disrupt the health insurance of Americans with insurance in order to provide coverage for those Americans without health insurance.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal posted an article by Edie Littlefield Sundby about how ObamaCare is impacting her healthcare.

Ms. Sundby writes:

For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.

…Two things have been essential in my fight to survive stage-4 cancer. The first are doctors and health teams in California and Texas: at the medical center of the University of California, San Diego, and its Moores Cancer Center; Stanford University’s Cancer Institute; and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The second element essential to my fight is a United Healthcare PPO (preferred provider organization) health-insurance policy.

Since March 2007 United Healthcare has paid $1.2 million to help keep me alive, and it has never once questioned any treatment or procedure recommended by my medical team. The company pays a fair price to the doctors and hospitals, on time, and is responsive to the emergency treatment requirements of late-stage cancer. Its caring people in the claims office have been readily available to talk to me and my providers.

But in January, United Healthcare sent me a letter announcing that they were pulling out of the individual California market. The company suggested I look to Covered California starting in October.

…Before the Affordable Care Act, health-insurance policies could not be sold across state lines; now policies sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges may not be offered across county lines.

This lady has beat the odds of survival because of very good healthcare. She will now be denied that quality of healthcare under ObamaCare. This is no longer an abstract issue–it is now personal. Not only can she not keep the health insurance she liked, she cannot keep the doctors and the hospital she depended on. ObamaCare needs to be fixed quickly or done away with and replaced with a plan that actually works.

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The Empty Chair In The Oval Office

Bret Stephens posted an article at the Wall Street Journal yesterday  about the leadership style of President Obama. The article is titled, “The Unbearable Lightness of Obama.” Mr. Stephens points out that the President says that he was briefed on NSA eavesdropping in general, but never told the specifics of listening in on foreign leaders. In terms of ObamaCare there was no person with the right technology experience involved in launching the website.

Some other observations in the article:

Besides the Syrian government‘s gains, there was mounting evidence that Mr. Assad’s troops had repeatedly used chemical weapons against civilians.

“Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient and disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.”

…”On Saturday, as the shutdown drama played out on Capitol Hill, President Obama played golf at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.”

…”In polo shirt, shorts and sandals, President Obama headed to the golf course Friday morning with a couple of old friends, then flew to Camp David for a long weekend. Secretary of State John Kerry was relaxing at his vacation home in Nantucket.

“Aides said both men were updated as increasingly bloody clashes left dozens dead in Egypt, but from outward appearances they gave little sense that the Obama administration viewed the broader crisis in Cairo with great alarm.”

Please follow the link above to the article to see further examples. The article concludes:

Call Mr. Obama’s style indifferent, aloof or irresponsible, but a president who governs like this reaps the whirlwind—if not for himself, then for his country.

I don’t think this is the kind of leadership America wants, but since the majority of Americans voted for this man, they got what they asked for.

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Gangster Government???

Periodically I post an article on this website that deals with something I have no clue about. This is one of those articles. I understand some of the basics, but the details of this situation are very much in the financial weeds.

Peter Wallison was a guest on the Bill Bennett radio show this morning talking about some recent government actions against J P Morgan Chase. A website called bizjournals.com offers some insight as to what is going on.

The bizjournals article reports:

Warren Buffett came to the defense of JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon Tuesday even as the New York bank is reaching a $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department over the sale of mortgage-backed securities ahead of the financial crisis.

…”I think $13 billion is a lot of money, and I think Jamie has done a very good job of running JPMorgan,” Buffett said. “He helped out the economy enormously when he took on Bear Stearns and he didn’t get an indemnification clause. There wasn’t even time for that sort of thing.”

The thing to keep in mind here is that Jamie Dimon originally supported President Obama. Mr. Dimon became a critic of the Obama Administration after the Dodd-Frank bill was passed. The latest charge against JP Morgan is only one of several charges against JP Morgan that have come in the past three or four months.

Evidently the latest charge against JP Morgan is related to the fact that they sold sub-prime mortgages to investors. Somehow the government seems to have forgotten that they were the ones that demanded the writing of these sub-prime mortgages. Mr. Wallison also mentioned that many of the things JP Morgan is charged with are things they did not do, but that the companies they acquired at the request of the government did.

In his interview with Bill Bennett, Mr. Wallison noted that it is very worrisome that the government can go after a company in the way that they have gone after JP Morgan. This tactic could be used to discourage CEO’s of companies from speaking out against the policies of the government.

 

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Did You Know About The Belly Button Tax?

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal posted an article about the debate over the Belly-Button Tax in Obamacare. Yes, you read that right. There is a tax on every person covered by an insurance plan–policy holder, spouses, and children. This has become known as the belly-button tax.

The article reports:

It’s paid by every company that provides insurance — big businesses, organized labor, and insurance carriers. The likely beneficiaries of the compensation fund, though, are just the traditional insurance carriers, who will become required to sell coverage to everyone, regardless of their medical history.

Large employers and unions have fought hard to get an exemption, saying the levy is unfair because they don’t directly benefit from the fund. Insurers say it’s an important fee they need to keep.

If you are going to require insurance companies to insure everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions, you need to find a way to keep them from going bankrupt. We need to remember that companies are in businesses to make money. If they are not able to make money, why should they stay in business? The International Economic Development website reports that the profit margins for health insurance companies is about 3 percent. They rank about 88 among 215 industries as far as profit margins go. That profit margin is not overly large–these companies don’t have a lot of wiggle room to accommodate the federal government seriously impacting their profits. I don’t support ObamaCare, but if you are going to have ObamaCare, you need a belly-button tax.

ObamaCare does not make sense economically or otherwise. It will eventually collapse under its own weight. We just need to make sure it collapses before it totally destroys healthcare in America.

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The Handshake That Was Never Going To Happen

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal posted an editorial entitled, “He’ s Just Not That Into You.” The editorial dealt with the fact that Hassan Rouhani, Iran‘s current president, was not interested in a photo-op handshake with President Obama. The editorial points out that President Clinton was met with a similar refusal in 2000.

The editorial reports:

Back then, the explanation for Mr. Khatami’s refusal was that internal Iranian politics would not have allowed it. On Tuesday, a senior Obama Administration official peddled a similar line after the Rouhani snub, telling reporters that Iranians “have an internal dynamic that they have to manage.”

That’s one way of putting it. Another way is that Iran’s ruling clerics and Revolutionary Guard Corps remain ideologically incapable of reconciling themselves to the Great Satan. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who reviews the 34-year-history of Iranian rebuffs to American diplomatic overtures, which makes the U.S. embarrassment on Tuesday all the more acute.

The thing to keep in mind here is that the president of Iran has no power–the clerics rule the country. The president is chosen by the clerics and controlled by the clerics. Just for the record, they are not a moderate group.

The editorial concludes:

Politics in the normal sense doesn’t exist in Tehran, where the rules are set and the players chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who is accountable to nobody. What Iran’s leaders do understand is how to humiliate adversaries they consider to be weak. We hope Mr. Obama appreciates how he has been schooled.

 

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Leopards Don’t Really Change Thier Spots

The Wall Street Journal posted a story this morning entitled, “Russia’s Anti-American Foreign Policy” (no link–subscribers only). So what happened to ‘reset’? Regardless of what is said between the two countries, the freedom of America is a potential threat to the totalitarianism of Russia.

The article notes:

The U.S. needs three things from Russia: understanding in defense matters, assistance in the war on terror, and help in curbing the ambitions of rogue states. In each case, the record of the Putin regime is one of relentless obstruction.

Among other things, Russia has objected to the idea of an antimissile shield in Europe. Why? There is no logical reason for that opposition. NATO has never been a threat to Russia. The Russians have recently taken in Edward Snowden, and whether you see him as a traitor or a hero, that was definitely a slap in the face toward the United States.

One of the things that the article points out is that the Russian economy is deteriorating–in the second quarter of 2013, the growth was 1.2 percent. During the 2000′s the growth rate was 7.2 percent. Russia needs high oil prices to keep its economy afloat. Middle East instability results in high oil prices.

There are two lessons to be learned here. First of all, we need to remember that Russia is looking out for Russia’s interests–not America’s interests. Peace in the Middle East is not in their interest. Second of all, we could be done with all this kowtowing to the tyrants of Russia and the Middle East if we would develop our own energy sources. We need the Keystone Pipeline so that we won’t be at the mercy of Russian foreign policy–we need to determine our own foreign policy without being enslaved to Middle East oil.

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The Positive Impact Of Sequestration

On Sunday, Stephen Moore posted an article at the Wall Street Journal about the positive aspects of sequestration. The bottom line in the story is that because of sequestration the federal government is shrinking.

In fiscal 2013, the sequestration will save the government more than $50 billion.

The article explains the potential future impact of sequestration:

In other words, Mr. Obama has inadvertently chained himself to fiscal restraints that could flatten federal spending for the rest of his presidency. If the country sees any normal acceleration of economic growth (from the anemic 1.4% growth rate so far this year), the deficit is on a path to drop steadily at least through 2015. Already the deficit has fallen from its Mount Everest peak of 10.2% of gross domestic product in 2009, to about 4% this year. That’s a bullish six percentage points less of the GDP of new federal debt each year.

Discretionary spending soared to $1.347 billion in fiscal 2011, according to the CBO, but was then cut by $62 billion in 2012 and another $72 billion this year. That’s an impressive 10% shrinkage. And these are real cuts, not pixie-dust reductions off some sham baseline. Discretionary spending as a share of the economy hit 9.4% of GDP in fiscal 2010 but fell to 7.6% this year and is scheduled to slide to 6.4% in Mr. Obama’s last year in office.

There are still major problems with entitlement programs going broke (I would like to repeat myself here and say that Social Security is not an entitlement program. If you are going to call it an entitlement program, just give everyone the money they have paid into it over the years and stop payments.). Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will eventually have to be reworked in order to make them viable, but I seriously doubt that will happen under a Democrat president. Partial privatization of all three programs would extend their viability, but would need politicians willing to take a political risk for the good of the country. Right now that’s not what we have in Washington.

 

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A Press Conference To Remember

This is part of the transcript of today’s Presidential Press Conference posted at the Washington Post today:

With respect to health care, I didn’t simply choose to delay this on my own. This was in consultation with businesses all across the country, many of whom are supportive of the Affordable Care Act, but — and who — many of whom, by the way, are already providing health insurance to their employees but were concerned about the operational details of changing their HR operations if they’ve got a lot of employees, which could be costly for them, and them suggesting that there may be easier ways to do this.

Now what’s true, Ed, is that in a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the speaker and say, you know what? This is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law. It has to do with, for example, are we able to simplify the attestation of employers as to whether they’re already providing health insurance or not. It looks like there may be some better ways to do this. Let’s make a technical change of the law.

That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do, but we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to, quote- unquote, “Obamacare.”

We did have the executive authority to do so, and we did so. But this doesn’t go to the core of implementation.

Let me tell you what is the core of implementation that’s already taken place. As we speak, right now, for the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they are benefiting from being able to keep their kid on their — on their plan if their kid is 26 or younger. That’s benefiting millions of young people around the country, which is why lack of insurance among young people has actually gone down. That’s in large part attributable to the steps that we’ve taken. You’ve got millions of people who’ve received rebates because part of the Affordable Care Act was to say that if an insurance company isn’t spending 80 percent of your premium on your health care, you get some money back. And lo and behold, people have been getting their money back. It means that folks who’ve been bumping up with lifetime limits on their insurance that leaves them vulnerable — that doesn’t exist. Seniors have been getting discounts on their prescription drugs. That’s happening right now. Free preventive care, mammograms, contraception — that’s happening right now.

I met a young man today on a bill signing I was doing with the student loan bill who came up to me and said, thank you — he was — he couldn’t have been more than 25, 26 years old — thank you; I have cancer; thanks to the Affordable Care Act, working with the California program, I was able to get health care, and I’m now in remission. And so right now people are already benefiting.

Now, what happens on October 1st, in 53 days, is for the remaining 15 percent of the population that doesn’t have health insurance, they’re going to be able to go on a website or call up a call center and sign up for affordable, quality health insurance at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can get right now on the individual market.

And if, even with lower premiums, they still can’t afford it, we’re going to be able to provide them with a tax credit to help them buy it. And between October 1st, end of March, there will be an open enrollment period in which millions of Americans for the first time are going to be able to get affordable health care.

Now, I think the really interesting question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail. Their number-one priority. The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care; and presumably, repealing all those benefits I just mentioned — kids staying on their parents’ plan, seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs, I guess a return to lifetime limits on insurance, people with pre-existing conditions continuing to be blocked from being able to get health insurance.

That’s hard to understand as a — an agenda that is going to strengthen our middle class. At least they used to say, well, we’re going to replace it with something better. There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better.

This is such total garbage I don’t know where to start. ObamaCare is not going to strengthen the Middle Class in America. It may well destroy it. Employers are increasing the number of part-time employees in order to avoid the mandate that says they must provide insurance for full-time employees.

On July 1, Forbes Magazine reported:

Three months from today—October 1, 2013—is X-Day, the day that Obamacare’s subsidized health insurance exchanges are supposed to become fully operational. And today brings more news of “rate shock,” the phemonenon by which Obamacare dramatically increases the underlying cost of health insurance for people who buy it on their own. Louise Radnofsky of the Wall Street Journal looked at insurance rates in eight states, and found that while some sicker people will get a better deal, “healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage.”

The President neglected to mention that one way that the government is attempting to save money on healthcare is to decrease the amount of money it pays to hospitals and doctors for providing care. The result of that is that some doctors and hospitals will stop taking Medicare patients and other patients covered by government health care. Every American may have a card saying that they have health insurance, but they will have a hard time finding a medical facility that will accept that card.

The President is lying to us. ObamaCare is a bad deal for all Americans. As all of us begin the experience its ‘benefits,’ I hope we will remember to vote out every member of Congress who voted for it. We also need to remember that, thanks to the President, Congress is exempt from ObamaCare. That should tell us all we need to know.

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About That Free Speech Thing

Today’s Wall Street Journal posted an article about a Democrat effort to limit political donations by businesses after those donations were allowed by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision.

The House Oversight Committee is investigating events that occurred under the previous chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Events similar to those at the Internal Revenue Service–senior officials rolling over career staff to politicize the agency–evidently also occurred at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The article reports:

Last year politicians like then-Rep. Barney Frank and liberal tax-exempt groups like Public Citizen were encouraging the SEC to demand more disclosure from public companies about the organizations they support. Staff for Mr. Frank specifically told the SEC that, “There is particular interest in what the authority is for disclosure of 501(c)(4) contributions (political contributions).” Mr. Frank’s staff also noted that the interest was coming from the House Democratic leadership.

A former Democratic Congressman gave the political motive away while lobbying the SEC’s then-chairman Mary Schapiro. The former lawmaker, unnamed in a memorandum accompanying the Issa letter, was asked by Ms. Schapiro why this wasn’t a job for the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The former pol responded, “because the FEC is even more broken than you,” according to a May 2012 email sent by the deputy director of the SEC’s division of corporation finance. Democrats couldn’t get what they wanted out of the Congress or the FEC. So they went to the SEC.

This sort of behavior is unacceptable. Hopefully the House Oversight Committee will be able to hold the people who initiated this sort of illegal political activity accountable.

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A Compromise Is Not Always A Compromise

This story is based on two articles–one posted in Investor’s Business Daily yesterday and one posted in the Wall Street Journal today. Both articles deal with President Obama’s proposed “grand bargain” on tax reform.

Yesterday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, President Obama offered to cut taxes for corporations in return for increasing government spending. (I believe he calls it “investment.”)

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Obama will agree to reform the corporate tax code—a GOP priority and one even the President claims to support—but only if the reform raises more revenue and only if he is allowed to spend that windfall on his priorities.

A White House press release clarified that the President would also like to raise taxes on individuals, not just businesses, while allowing federal spending to rise still higher. But showing they retain a sense of humor in the West Wing, the press release suggests that the President is willing to forgo this tax increase for now because he wants to “work with Republicans.”

Investor’s Business Daily reports:

Since Obama’s “stimulus” took effect, job growth has been subpar, GDP gains are at record lows, median incomes have shrunk and the number of Americans on welfare has surged.

So we know that won’t work. But what about corporate tax cuts?

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation reckons a simple cut in the corporate tax rate to 25% would boost GDP more than 2% and wages by nearly as much. And capital investment would jump more than 6%.

Moreover, a corporate cut would increase federal revenues and help lower our deficits — assuming, that is, Obama doesn’t spend the new money.

Unfortunately, part of Obama’s “bargain” is to increase taxes on U.S. companies that operate abroad and to reduce business writeoffs for investments — the seed corn of future economic growth.

Even at 28%, Obama’s new tax rate would be higher than the 25% average paid by our main competitors.

So with one hand the president giveth, and with the other he taketh away. Worse, he seems intent on rewarding big companies with tax cuts while punishing small companies that account for 85% of all new jobs.

So what is going on here? The President wants to continue the tax and spend policies the Democrat party is known for while claiming to support tax reform and lower tax rates for corporations. Those tax and spend policies are what is causing the slow growth of the economy and also what got us into the fiscal mess we find ourselves in. However, depending on how the mainstream media reports this, the low-information voters may wonder why the Republicans won’t compromise. There is no compromise being offered here, but the media will probably neglect to mention that fact.

This proposal will kill any economic growth we may have in the near future. Hopefully the Republicans will not be drawn into the trap.

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Stating The Obvious

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal posted an article stating that Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is warning his country that America‘s development of shale oil will be a threat to the Saudi economy. The letter, written to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi and several other ministers warned that the U.S. shale oil boom will decrease the amount of oil purchased from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The Prince also asked the government to accelerate its plans to diversify the Saudi economy.

The article reports:

In contrast to Prince Alwaleed, Mr. Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, has so far played down the significance of rising shale-oil production, despite the fact that some OPEC members, such as Nigeria and Algeria, have seen a sharp drop in their exports to the U.S. At an OPEC meeting in late May, he said it wasn’t the first time OPEC has had to compete with a surge in output from countries outside the group.

“We disagree with your Excellency on what you said, and we see that rising North American shale gas production is an inevitable threat,” Prince Alwaleed’s letter said, in comments directed at Mr. Naimi.

Neither Mr. Naimi nor a spokesman for the ministry could be reached to comment.

The chart below shows American imports of Saudi oil in the past thirteen years:

image

Notice that the biggest drop in American oil imports was during the height of the recent recession.

You’ll excuse me if I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Saudi Arabia and OPEC. Both OPEC and Saudi Arabia have used their monopoly on oil to support tyrannical rulers and international terrorism. Because of that monopoly, America and Western countries have been reluctant to deal with the death and carnage the Saudis and OPEC nations have been responsible for. It would be very nice to see a Saudi economy so diversified that a middle class could form.

In January of this year, The Guardian reported on poverty in Saudi Arabia:

The article reported:

Under King Abdullah, the Saudi government has spent billions to help the growing numbers of poor, estimated to be as much as a quarter of the native Saudi population. But critics complain that those programmes are inadequate, and that some royals seem more concerned with the country’s image than with helping the needy. In 2011, for example, three Saudi video bloggers were jailed for two weeks after they made an online film about poverty in Saudi Arabia.

“The state hides the poor very well,” said Rosie Bsheer, a Saudi scholar who has written extensively on development and poverty. “The elite don’t see the suffering of the poor. People are hungry.”

The Saudi government discloses little official data about its poorest citizens. But press reports and private estimates suggest that between 2 million and 4 million of the country’s native Saudis live on less than about $530 a month – about $17 a day – considered the poverty line in Saudi Arabia.

The money we are sending to Saudi Arabia for oil could be better spent building energy independence for America. We need shale oil, we need the Keystone Pipeline and we need new refineries. Development in those areas would greatly improve the American economy as well as improve our national security by making us more energy independent.

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