June 17, 2006

Saturday Stand-up

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:33 pm


Oh, So Now Global Warming Skeptics are “Exx-Cons”

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:55 pm

Robert Pollock reported today in a subscription-only column in The Wall Street Journal about the response to a factual statement he made.

His final sentence is a direct hit at the assumptive arrogance of the global warming crowd (“elide” means “to leave out of consideration”; bolds are mine):

Confessions of an ‘Exx-Con’

Global-warming alarmists take it for granted that they have the “scientific consensus” on their side. The truth is that their views can be as much an article of faith that avoids or elides basic facts.

I was reminded of this recently after suggesting on our weekly television show — The Journal Editorial Report on Fox News Channel — that “everyone agrees there has been some warming over the past century, but most of it happened before 1940.”

“Not true,” declared a subsequent editorial in the New Republic magazine. “The last three decades have seen the sharpest rise.” TNR suggested I was what they’ve dubbed an “Exx-Con” — that is, a conservative whose views on climate change are so unmoored from reality that they can only be explained by a slavish devotion to Exxon and other big oil firms.

WSJtempGraph WSJtempGraph2

But it is TNR that’s having trouble with the facts here. I’ll grant that my off-the-cuff remarks could have been worded a bit more precisely. I probably should have said “more than half” instead of “most.” But that doesn’t change the fact — as the NASA charts nearby illustrate — that the early 20th century saw a rise in global and U.S. temperature, followed by about three decades of declining or stable temperatures that global-warming alarmists have a hard time trying to explain.

….. In any case, the graph at issue presents a challenge to those who claim that the recent warming trend is primarily caused by carbon dioxide and is not part of a natural rebound from a cool 19th century. The early 20th century saw a rise in temperature rise at least as great. And far, far more CO2 has been pumped into the atmosphere in the years following 1940 than the years before.

What’s more, there’s a debate over whether recent global data is biased upward by the fact that many measuring stations are located in or near cities around the world that have grown rapidly over the past half-century. Anyone who’s ever crossed the George Washington Bridge can understand the concept of the urban “heat island” effect.

….. Finally, a word about motive. Why wouldn’t I want to be on the safe side and embrace the Kyoto Protocol? Not because of an attachment to oil companies, but because meaningful CO2 cutbacks would entail drastic reductions in energy use by billions of people in places like China and India who are finally getting a chance at a better life. The New Republic doesn’t seem to have addressed such consequences in any serious way. Attempting to wave someone out of the argument by calling them an Exx-con is much easier than confronting the difficult facts beneath the global warming debate.

Paraphrasing what I said a couple of weeks ago: The global-warming-is-gospel crowd wants to skip the dirty work of actually having to prove what they believe, so they can get on with their primary goal of slowing down the march of economic progress that has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and promises to lift out billions more in as little as 40 years. Go figure.

UPDATE: Amy Ridenour has another example of a Media Matters dispute of an argument made by Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute on Fox News about then-President Clinton’s degree of interest in pursuing ratification of the environmental movement’s holy grail, the Kyoto Treaty. Her post includes a timely reminder of the Senate’s 95-0 resolution in 1997 AGAINST Kyoto. The fact is that Mr. Clinton never brought the treaty before the Senate for formal ratification, and was willing to expend no political capital in such an effort. Instead, Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, in what would have been a serious separation-of-powers issue if they had been serious about it (but they weren’t, at least until Gore got elected [oops], and everyone with a brain knew it), were fond of saying “Well, we’ll comply with it anyway.” That was meant to placate their (apparently quite gullible) enviro base.

Weekend Question 1: Why Are We Discussing ‘Means Testing’ Government Benefit Programs? (Social Security)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 12:01 pm

UPDATE: Thanks to Porkbusters.org for picking up this post!

Part 1 of 3: Social Security (this post)
Part 2 of 3: Medicare
Part 3 of 3: College Financial Aid

A TCS Daily article by Jeffrey Alan Miron, identifies five ideas for reducing federal spending and the budget deficit that he believes liberals as well as conservatives should support.

Two of them, cutting agricultural subsidies and reducing earmarks, make plenty of sense. The other three involve “means-testing” government programs, under the implicit assumption that they somehow give benefits to the well-off to which they really shouldn’t be entitled and which they can “afford” to pay for on their own.

There’s only one problem: All three of the programs mentioned (Social Security, Medicare, and federal financial aid) already have significant means-testing built into them, and, if anything, need less means testing, not more.

This post covers how Social Security is already means-tested — TWICE.

First, the more you make, the less of a benefit you get during retirement compared to what you paid in.

Upper-middle income people get less income replacement in retirement than those with lower middle incomes. Someone earning an average of $25,000 per year (inflation-adjusted) during the course of their working career retiring a Social Security’s “normal” retirement age will receive an first-year retirement benefit of about $12,000 (it goes up with inflation after that). But someone making $60,000 will get a first-year benefit of about $18,000. That’s 50% more, but the higher-earing person paid more than twice as much into the system during his or her working career, since the Social Security tax is a flat 12.4% of earnings (6.2% from the employer, 6.2% from the employee). If this isn’t means-testing, I don’t know what is.

Second, middle- and upper-income earners have to pay federal income tax on anywhere from 50% to 85% of their Social Security benefits, while those who rely primarily on Social Security benefits for retirement income pay none.

Specifically, if you file an individual federal tax return and your “income” (defined in a pretty complex formula — nothing’s ever easy with federal income taxation) is between $25,000 and $34,000, you will have to pay federal income tax on 50% of your Social Security benefits. If your “income” is above $34,000, 85% your Social Security benefits will be subject to income tax. The analogous amounts for joint returns are between $32,000 and $44,000 for taxation of 50% of Social Security benefits, and above $44,000 for taxation of 85% of benefits.

All amounts noted are NOT indexed for inflation, meaning that in each successive year a greater percentage of retirees is paying at least some income tax on their Social Security benefits (it was about 30% of retirees 12 years ago; now it’s over 50%).

(Aside: To illustrate how arbitrarily written the law is — if your “income” as a single person is $24,999, none of your Social Security benefits are subject to federal income tax. If your “income” is $25,001, half of it is. If your benefits were $12,000, with $2 in higher reported income, you’d have to pay income tax of typically 15% on $6,000 of your benefits. $2 in additional “income” costs you $900!)

There may be an argument for not taxing the benefits of those relying heavily on Social Security, but there’s no denying that taxing those who are better off in retirement is a form of means testing.

I suggest that two forms of means testing represents quite enough “progressiveness.” Reducing benefits paid to well-to-do-retirees during retirement, which Miron proposes, while the other two forms of means-testing remain in effect, would be nothing short of punitive.

Why Did Connecticut Governor Rell Extend the Kelo New London Holdouts’ Settlement Deadline to June 22?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:28 am

Recapping the Situation

The image of the area from Google maps is dated. Most of the properties in the area have been razed, but the placements of the various properties involved in recent settlements, the remaining holdouts, and the high-powered, politically-connected Italian Dramatic Club are accurate:


Kelo and Cristofaro remain in their homes, pending eviction and demolition, or settlement. The high-powered, politically-connected Italian Dramatic Club (IDC) also remains, but will stay right where it is. That’s because the high-powered, politically-connected IDC, which you will notice is right next door to Cristofaro’s home, was arbitrarily exempted from eminent domain by the City of New London and The New London Development Corporation (NLDC) in the late 1990s. The Supreme Court rendered its outrageous Kelo v. New London decision last year in full knowledge of the exception made for the high-powered, politically-connected IDC by the powers that be. (I am emphasizing the treatment of the high-powered, politically-connected Italian Dramatic Club because I believe it remains the dirtiest and most inexcusably underreported aspect of this entire corrupt enterprise.)

For more background, including all posts since August 2005, going back to when the city initiated its first heavyhanded efforts at forcing settlements or evictions, see The Kelo New London Collection.

The Governor’s Deadline Extension

Here’s the 6PM time-stamped story from Friday’s New London Day, which, again, appears to be the only publication following what may be the final chapter of the Kelo saga (link requires registration after one day, and a paid subscription after seven days; June 17 update — the state wire for AP put out an abbreviated version of the story from The Day, which has been picked by about a half-dozen area news outlets):

Rell gives Fort Trumbull holdouts until Thursday to settle

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has extended until Thursday her deadline for the two remaining plaintiffs in the Fort Trumbull development project to reach settlement agreements with the city.

Rell had earlier said that Susette Kelo and Pasquale Cristofaro had to strike deals with the city by June 15 or the state would rescind the extra money it has offered to try to convince the two to surrender their properties at Fort Trumbull without being forcibly evicted by the city.

But this Thursday’s deadline came and went with negotiators from the state and city and the former property owners themselves in around-the-clock talks, trying to find a compromise that would end the final chapter of the fight over the city’s taking of the homes for a mixed-use economic development project.

“The governor had a deadline yesterday, which she felt very strongly about, but she felt equally strong that resolution to the remaining disputes is vitally important to New London and the region,” said a person familiar with the state’s position, who was granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks. “Because of the nature of the negotiations, and the fact that multiple parties have come to agree on a number of issues and we’ve gotten some major progress, she has allowed us to continue on our negotiations until next Thursday.”

Interesting that this story has Rell leaning on the holdouts while in yesterday’s post Rell’s pressure seemed more directed towards the city. Without being there, it’s hard to tell for sure where she’s coming from (even being there might not help).

As to the answer to the post’s question, look at the calendar, folks. Thursday is June 22; the day after the deadline passes If form holds, and the intransigence on both sides continues, Rell’s new June 22 deadline will pass. The “trouble” is that Friday, June 23 is the one-year anniversary of the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision.

It seems very unlikely that this is a coincidence, but I can’t begin to guess what the Governor has in store for us. My guess is that none of the other parties involved have any idea either.

I would expect that with each passing day as the ruling’s anniversary approaches, more and more attention will be focused on the town that brought us the eminent-domain decision that shook, and shocked, America. If the Governor wants a national audience next Friday, she’ll probably have one. If I were a Northeastern-area property-rights activist, I would strongly consider keeping this coming Friday open.

June 17 — Wizbang Weekend Trackback Carnival Participant; Gribbit’s Open Trackbacks Participant.

Positivity: A Miracle AND a Mystery

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:02 am

Heather Chandler is surviving, is what matters: