January 31, 2008

WSJ Op-Ed: RomneyCare Is Life-Threatening CoerciveCare

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:52 pm

John McCain has gotten a lot of heat over McCain-Feingold, all totally deserved. Forcing advocacy groups to go silent over the airwaves in the last 30-60 days before an election is an unconscionable and unconstitutional restriction of the First Amendment.

(Sidebar: Those arguing passionately about constitutions need to understand why Mitt Romney is Objectively Unfit, and comment on his extra-constitutional and unilateral imposition of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, before getting too huffy about McCain’s serious breach.)

But if we’re going to talk about force, let’s look at Massachusetts, the Cradle of Liberty, and see what Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney’s RomneyCare is forcing onto its residents.

No, RomneyCare isn’t about ending free speech. It may end up being about prematurely ending lives.

You doubt? Grasp the full impact of what Shikha Dalmia says in his Wall Street Journal op-ed today (HT Gregg at Pundit Review).

First, the coercion, thanks to out-of-control costs (bolds are mine throughout):

Massachusetts uses a sliding income scale to subsidize coverage for everyone up to 300% of the poverty level — or a family of four making around $60,000. Everyone over that limit is required to pay for their own coverage if their employers don’t provide it. All this has inflated demand, which, combined with onerous regulations on insurance suppliers, has triggered premium increases of 12% for this year — double last year’s national average.

No one is escaping the financial sting. The state health-care bill for fiscal 2008-2009 is expected to touch $400 million — 85% more than originally projected. Still the state won’t be able to fully shield those it subsidizes from the premium increases. But uninsured folks who don’t qualify for government help really get pounded. Before the hike, the cheapest plan for uninsured couples in their 50s cost $8,200 annually. Now, unless government bureaucrats hand them an exemption, they might well find it cheaper to pay the penalty — up to half the price of a standard policy — than purchase insurance. That is, pay to remain uninsured. This is legalized extortion: TonySopranoCare.

Now to the life-threatening part:

….. the Connector is encouraging insurance companies to include only a limited network of cheaper physicians and facilities in some plans to hold down premiums. Patients who wish to see more expensive providers will have to dig into their own pockets. Dr. Steffie Wollhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, worries that the Connector will revive Gov. Romney’s original idea of enrolling poor people in plans that only offer access to neighborhood health centers ill-equipped to treat anything beyond routine ailments. Forcing people to buy substandard care they cannot afford is not universal care, she says. “It is a hoax.” And so Massachusetts is marching toward a system of two-tiered medicine — the alleged market inequity that universal care is supposed to cure.

I can already hear the single-payer enthusiasts bleating that we have a two-tiered healthcare system today. That is incorrect — though have a two-tiered insurance system, no one who needs it is denied care. That’s the law.

So RomneyCare is already “encouraging” the rationing of care. Even worse, it is well on its way to institutionalizing two-tiered access to medical care. Poor people who have to go to “neighborhood health centers ill-equipped to treat anything beyond routine ailments” are more likely to suffer negative consequences, up to and including dying, if they have a condition that is “beyond routine.”

Just what the country needs. (/sarc)

Dalmia goes on to the column’s punch line:

The problems with RomneyCare have prompted Mr. Romney himself to abandon it.

WHAT?

Uh, Mitt ….. your talk-radio and pundit buds can gloss over this all they want, but you don’t have the option of abandoning your RomneyCare handiwork, because …..

You’re responsible for it.

Has anyone heard Romney make a suggestion to current Bay State governor Deval Patrick on how to fix the mess he (Romney) created? RomneyCare doesn’t morph into PatrickCare just because he wants it to.

Can anyone remember a politician attempting such a monumental “never mind,” and still expecting voters to reward him with the presidency?

Of course, it’s not like Romney hasn’t said “never mind” quite a few times already. These are just the most obvious:
- Abortion.
- Second Amendment rights (as a “lifelong hunter“).
- Tax cuts.
- Immigration.
- Opposition to same-sex marriage, when he imposed it himself in Massachusetts.

But the RomneyCare whopper is different, because it was seen at the time as his signature accomplishment.

Some “accomplishment” — besides the obvious problems with RomneyCare itself, look at the Romney Administration’s other side effects:

  • A stagnant population — per the Census Bureau (downloadable Excel sheet at link), up only 0.17% in the four years ended June 30, 2007 (you have to wonder how many freeloaders have come in, and how many productive folks have left, in effect voting with their feet in response to RomneyCare).
  • Weak employment growth while he was in charge.
  • A demoralized state Republican Party holding fewer legislative seats.

You’ve got to hand it to the Mittster — he’s probably the only GOP opponent on earth with the capability of sending some conservatives who fully understand his record fleeing in fright into John McCain’s arms. The rest? I’d say they’re heading for the exits. Many aren’t coming back.

Talk about an Inconvenient Truth (Bill Clinton: Kowtowing to Globaloney Slows the Economy)

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:54 pm

From Jake Tapper at ABC’s Political Punch Blog (via Drudge):

Former President Bill Clinton was in Denver, Colorado, stumping for his wife yesterday.

In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: “We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”

At a time that the nation is worried about a recession is that really the characterization his wife would want him making? “Slow down our economy”?

Hillary should spare us her whining about the slowing economy. Given what her husband just said, assuming she agrees with it (silence equals consent, ma’am), one would assume that she’s celebrating yesterday’s unimpressive GDP report.

In fact, I believe a case could be made that green initiatives flunking normal cost-benefit analysis already in place at companies, along with environmental regulations ranging from overbearing to nonsensical (and let’s throw in Sarbanes Oxley for good measure), more than likely contributed to an economy that did not grow as much as it could and should have during the past 4-1/2 years (at an annualized 3.0% in the 19 quarters ended 12/31/07) vs. prior prosperities’ 3.8% or more [see chart at end of linked post]).

Those impediments to growth are, if anything, becoming more powerful at a time when the economy least needs them.

And for what? A complete fiction, known around here as globaloney. “Global warming” stopped in 1998. The hot air expended on political stumps over it never stops.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (013108)

Filed under: Economy,Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:44 am

Breaking through some of the backlog …..

++++++++++++++++++++

In case you missed it, North Korea is corrupt and has abused the UN aid provided to it:

North Korea used the bank accounts of a U.N. agency for deceptive cash transfers, among a wide range of abuses of that organization’s presence in the communist state, a U.S. Senate panel reported on Wednesday.

The United Nations Development Program deviated from its standard practices in the way it hired local North Koreans and paid their salaries, but was not complicit in — or aware of — the host government’s improper financial transactions, said the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

I know, the shock must be overwhelming. The press coverage, of course, has been underwhelming.

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Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Eugene Scalia, who formerly served as general counsel of the U.S. Department of Labor, made some important points about how shareholder activism by union pension funds violates ERISA (bold is mine):

….. “union pension funds” do not belong to unions. The funds are managed by trustees — half appointed by the union and half by the companies that contribute to the fund pursuant to their collective-bargaining agreements. Under the federal employee benefits law (ERISA), which is administered by the Department of Labor, these trustees are to act “solely in the interest of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries, and for the exclusive purpose of paying benefits and defraying reasonable administrative expenses” ……

Before undertaking “to monitor or influence the management of corporations,” the department said, fiduciaries “must first take into account the cost of such action and the role of the investment in the plan’s portfolio, and cannot act unless they conclude that the action is reasonably likely to enhance the value of the plan’s investments.”

Most shareholder actions undertaken by retirement/health and welfare funds managing union members’ money are actions that are, by any reasonable benchmark, more likely to reduce shareholder value than to enhance it — which is why Scalia’s conclusion is absolutely correct:

In a word, unions are not entitled to use retirement funds to raise costs at the companies where the funds are invested. And unionized corporations are not required to permit this. Rather, management trustees and the Labor Department are obligated to prevent it.

These retirement/health and welfare funds managing union members’ money have sometimes gone even further from their mission — illegally — in their attempts to influence Social Security reform legislation, as noted here almost three years ago (first item at link). They have no right to do this — none.

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John Stossel had a great column last week on continued growth in the worldwide economy:

This week’s newspapers are full of predictions of an impending recession, and maybe they’re right. But the great untold story is the good news: the worldwide boom in economic growth.

“I think one of the best kept secrets is that the world is in the midst of an economic boom, and it is largely driven by increases in economic freedom,” says economics professor James Gwartney, director of the Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education at Florida State University. “The world has become more free, and, at the same time, growth is soaring to new highs. During 1995 to 2005, the growth rate of per capita GDP in99 countries for which data are available has increased to 2.2 percent, nearly twice the rate of recent decades. Since 2000, the annual growth rate of per capita GDP has been even more rapid, 3.2 percent.”

….. The story the index tells couldn’t be clearer: Economic freedom produces high living standards.

Read the whole thing.

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Rich Karlgaard didn’t know it at the time, but the opening of his Forbes column last week turned out to be a fitting epitaph for the now-ended John Edwards campaign:

Gallup poll taken in December says Americans are, surprisingly, not as angry as politicians and pundits want us to be. From Gallup’s Web site: “More than eight in ten Americans say they are satisfied with their personal lives at this time, including a solid majority who say they are ‘very satisfied.’ This personal satisfaction level contrasts sharply with the low level of satisfaction Americans express with the way things are going ‘in the U.S. at this time.’”

Now you know why the John Edwards presidential candidacy has flamed out. The rags-to-riches trial lawyer and onetime hedge fund adviser ran as the angry man. While most normal people might have accepted their spectacular rise in fortune with gratitude, Edwards has run as “the hater,” as described by Rich Lowry of National Review. Writes Lowry: “Edwards is like a stand-up comedian who has honed his act down to the most effective material. In the case of the comedian, all that’s left is laughs; in the case of Edwards, almost all that is left is unbridled hostility.”

Look at how far this has gotten him.

Positivity: Girl, 8, saves her stepdad

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:10 am

From Newcastle upon Tyne, England:

Jan 26 2008

X-SOLDIER Jonathan Noble has seen his share of acts of bravery.
But he doubts if even some of his burly Army pals would have shown the same quick thinking as that of his eight-year-old stepdaughter Becky Willis when she rushed to his rescue as he suffered a violent seizure – and ultimately saved his life.

“She’s my little hero,” he said. “When I found out what she’d done I was amazed. There are big Army lads I know who would have panicked and not known what to do. But she’s saved my life.”

The drama unfolded last Saturday when Jonathan, 35, who suffers from diabetes, went for a lie down in bed after being struck down by a stomach bug.

At about 2.30pm Becky, who was downstairs with mum Charlene Willis in their house in Clipstone Avenue, Walker, went upstairs and, as she walked past his room, heard strange noises like he was crying.

When she walked in she saw her stepdad shaking violently with blood and foam pouring from his mouth.

Instead of flying into a panic, Becky remembered her first aid lessons from school a week before, and rolled him into the recovery position before running to get her mum.

She said: “I heard my dad making funny noises, like he was crying. I looked and saw he was shaking.

“I knew he was having a seizure. There was blood coming out of his mouth and I saw he had bitten his tongue.

“I was frightened and crying a bit, but I knew what I had to do because we’d done it at school.

“I knew I had to check his response, so I gave him a shake and he didn’t do anything, so I rolled him over to make sure he was comfortable.

“Then I ran downstairs and told my mum to call an ambulance.”

Mum Charlene, 25, told how she panicked when she saw what was happening, while her daughter remained calm.

She said: “Becky was amazing. She came downstairs and said dad was making funny noises and I should check on him, but I didn’t need to worry as she had put him in the recovery position.

“I phoned the ambulance and when they arrived they said she had done a brilliant job.”

Jonathan had suffered a seizure as his blood sugar had fallen so low. Paramedics gave him an injection and he began to recover. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

January 30, 2008

‘Universal’ Health Care ‘Terminated’? Yes, in California. But RomneyCare Is Alive in Massachusetts (and WE Are Paying for It)

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:10 pm

Okay, I get that California is our most populous state, the land of uber-liberalism, and deserving of a shot or two when it tries, and fortunately fails, to pass something dumb.

But if the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal is going to exult in the Golden State’s inability to enact a “universal” health-care plan, the least it could do is spend more than about 30 words on the one such plan that exists — especially when it was the brainchild of a GOP presidential candidate now pretending to be a conservative.

I am, of course, referring to Massachusetts, its former governor, Willard Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney, and the already-imploding Commonwealth Care aka RomneyCare.

I fully understand, as does the Journal, that the Cali failure is important. But even more important, the paper makes a direct correlation that Super Tuesday GOP voters simply must note:

The idea was that Mr. Schwarzenegger would set a national precedent, leading to a groundswell for reform in Washington. Not to mention that the Schwarzenegger plan was a near-copy of the one Mitt Romney pioneered in Massachusetts, and the one Hillary Clinton now favors.

….. Like collapses in Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, this one crumpled because of the costs, which are always much higher than anticipated. The truth teller was state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who thought to ask about the price tag of a major new entitlement amid what’s already a $14.5 billion budget shortfall.

An independent analysis confirmed the plan would be far more expensive than proponents admitted. Even under the most favorable assumptions, spending would outpace revenue by $354 million after two years, and likely $3.9 billion or more. “A situation that I thought was bad,” Mr. Perata noted, “in fact was worse.”

This reveals that liberal health-care politics is increasingly the art of the impossible: You can’t make coverage “universal” while at the same time keeping costs in check — at least without prohibitive tax increases.

….. What the California collapse should discredit in particular is the individual mandate as a policy tool for Republican reformers. This was Mr. Romney’s enthusiasm for a time, helped along by the Heritage Foundation. But in order to be enforceable, such a mandate inevitably becomes a government mandate, and a very expensive one at that.

The last item I bolded has me banging my head. It’s as if Mitt Romney (and Heritage, for that matter) can walk away from and repudiate their “enthusiasm for a time,” and that’s okay.

No, it’s not.

Real people are living under the regime of Mitt Romney’s/Heritage’s “enthusiasm,” and it’s a fiscal nightmare (HT Jay Tea at Wizbang) in progress:

Spending on the state’s landmark health insurance initiative would rise by more than $400 million next year, representing one of the largest increases in the $28.2 billion state budget the governor proposed yesterday.

….. the long-term cost of the insurance initiative continues to concern policy makers and analysts, who are worried that it may become unaffordable.

“These increases are more than anticipated, so we absolutely have to find ways to hold down the rate of growth in future years,” said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded budget watchdog that has supported the initiative.

The state’s top budget official, Leslie Kirwan, said yesterday that projecting costs for the health insurance initiative is difficult because the state is in “uncharted territory.”

So Mr. Spreadsheet/Mr. Business Plan left the state he governed in “uncharted” territory. Naturally, he deserves a promotion to president of the whole country (/sarc).

Oh, and guess what? It would be even worse in the Bay State if it weren’t for the fact that taxpayers in the rest of the country are going to be fleeced to prop up Commonwealth Care:

State and federal taxpayers are expected to bear nearly all of the additional cost.

I guess this is businessman/leverage artist Mitt Romney’s idea of using Other People’s Money. And the fun part is that Massachusetts doesn’t have to pay the rest of the country back.

Thanks to the RomneyCare implosion, we’re already seeing single-payer advocates like the radical Robert Kuttner come out for having the government just take over the whole thing (HT again to Jay Tea):

When Lyndon Johnson devised Medicare in 1965, he didn’t order senior citizens to go out and buy private insurance, adequate and affordable or not, or be fined. Medicare covered everyone, bypassing the notoriously inefficient private insurance industry.

….. The Legislature, by building half a bridge, has set up one more perceived government failure.

Geez, “somebody” predicted that all of this would happen back in October (fourth item at link), even before I became aware of why Mitt is Objectively Unfit, and before I learned how many alleged conservative stalwarts had sold their souls to this hollow shell masquerading as a presidential candidate:

Let me be the first to say it: It’s becoming painfully clear (link requires subscription) that Mitt RomneyCare in Massachusetts is blowing up, and will get nothing but worse between now and November 2008. If he’s the nominee, he’ll be playing the same game Michael Dukakis played unsuccessfully in 1988 — covering up the Bay State’s disastrous financial situation. Except this time, the other party controls the Governor’s Office. Deval Patrick will gleefully point to the mess he has inherited, and will then tout HillaryCare II as the “better, more comprehensive” solution.

For this reason alone, I believe that Mitt Romney should NOT be the GOP nominee. Period.

Okay, it could be that BOOHOOcare (the health plan of Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama), and not HillaryCare, is the subject of the general election. The more important point is that I overestimated how long it would take for RomneyCare’s problems to become drop-dead obvious. But in a way that’s a good thing, because it’s just in time for GOP Super Tuesday voters to hopefully conclude that the real liberal with the failed liberal track record in the GOP nomination race is not the one just about everybody but yours truly is concentrating their fire on (not that he’s perfect either — he’s far, far from it).

Just once, I’d like to hear an alleged conservative talker, or even see a conservative publication, put RomneyCare under the microscope and expose it for the out-of-control, bordering-on-a-scam monster that it is.

Just yesterday, El Rushbo himself said (link expires in a week):

“Whenever I find liberalism and it seeks power, I’m going to oppose it.”

With all due respect, El Rushbo, when it comes to liberals like Mitt Romney, where the bleep have you been?

Romney should not be allowed to run away from his liberal record and his comprehensive, worse-than-Bob-Taft, legacy of failure. So why are Rush Limbaugh, the majority of his talk-show compadres, and quite a few conservative megabloggers and pundits who should know better, letting him do it?

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UPDATE: Here’s what McCain has to say about health care and health insurance. While not a model of clarity and coherence, it’s certainly not “universal” coverage.

I’m not linking to Romney’s site on this, because what he did is infinitely more important than what he says now (unless he’s offering an unconditional “I was wrong, I am sorry” — and even that would be yet another spectacular MittFlop that we’re supposed to buy into).

As to what McCain did, Democrats are outraged that “McCain voted against reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for five years, expanding the program by $35.2 billion.” That is, he was on the fiscally conservative, anti-incremental government takeover side on this issue, unlike, to name a few, Norm Coleman, Orrin Hatch, Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, Dick Lugar, and John Sununu.

UPDATE 2: Gregg Jackson just e-mailed and confirmed something I wasn’t sure of. While Mitt Romney is fond of saying how difficult it was to try to govern in a liberal state, the fact is that RomneyCare was an unforced error. No one was clamoring for it, and there was no citizen or legislative pressure to “do something.” The Mittster apparently felt that “universal” healthcare would be his signature accomplishment, and that referring to it would be a winning strategy in a presidential campaign. Uh, not exactly.

UPDATE 3: Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, because I just heard most of it, but not all of it. Just after 5, Sean Hannity read from the WSJ editorial referenced at the beginning of this post. He managed to mention the various states that have tried to pass something, but “somehow” avoided mentioning Massachusetts and Romney.

Advance 4th Quarter GDP Growth: 0.6%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:45 am

Well, that’s unimpressive:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to advance estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 4.9 percent.

The deceleration in real GDP growth in the fourth quarter primarily reflected a downturn in inventory investment and decelerations in exports, in PCE, and in federal government spending that were partly offset by a deceleration in imports and an acceleration in state and local government spending.

It’s also a lot less than the economic reports issued throughout the quarter presaged.

I bolded inventories because the durable goods report yesterday indicated that inventories in that sector were up quite a bit:

Inventories of manufactured durable goods in December, up five of the last six months, increased $3.5 billion or 1.1 percent to $320.7 billion. This was also at the highest level since the series was first stated on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 0.8 percent November increase.

That doesn’t mean inventories in other segments of the economy didn’t turn down, but they would have had to turn down a lot to make up for the durables boost.

Resolving those things is why the first report gets adjusted later. Typical adjustments have been upward in the past several years. Brian Wesbury predicted 1.5% as the final number on Monday, and there’s reason to believe there will be upward adjustments in February and March. I think the final number will end up close to Wesbury’s, but we’ll just have to see.

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UPDATE: I just bolded the “decelerations in exports” above, because that doesn’t square with the October and November balance of trade reports from the Census Bureau. Both of the Census Bureau reports show increases, not “decelerations,” in exports, of $1.4 billion and $0.6 billion (1.0% and 0.4% month over month), respectively. That’s another reason to believe that the February and March revisions will be upward.

Positivity: Jogger is alive because strangers knew CPR

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:16 am

From San Jose, California:

Article Launched: 01/28/2008 02:08:48 AM PST

Claire Welgan could have been jogging anywhere that morning nine days ago. But she chose the Los Gatos Creek Trail – and that just might have saved her life.

She was jogging alone there Jan. 18 when her heart stopped. She crashed so hard to the ground that her face bled. That’s when Nicole Eden and Leslie Eichler saw her.

They felt her pulse. She wasn’t breathing. They rolled her over. And for the next seven nerve-racking minutes, they prayed and administered CPR on the 23-year-old Welgan.

“It was really frightening to know that her life could end right in front of me,” said Eichler, 30, a San Jose educator and mother. “I felt so responsible for her that moment, even though she was a complete stranger.”

Paramedics soon arrived and Welgan was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where doctors said she suffered from ventricular fibrillation – a condition in which the heart fails to adequately pump blood.

“My daughter is alive thanks to these women,” said Dennis Welgan, speaking on behalf of his daughter. His daughter remains hospitalized and is suffering from short-term memory loss. She remembers little to nothing from that day, he said.

But for Eden and Eichler it remains a stark memory.

Though trained in CPR, neither Eden nor Eichler had ever applied the technique – at least not to save someone. Eichler said she was certified years ago because it was required of her as an educator. “I realize now it’s more than just a requirement, it can save a person’s life,” Eichler said.

Go here for the rest of the story.

‘Ford’s PC March to the Brink Continues, as Does Media Enabling’ Now Up at BizzyBlog

My Monday morning column originally posted at Pajamas Media is up on BizzyBlog, and back-posted to the same time it originally went live at Pajamas.

January 29, 2008

Color Me Relieved

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:57 pm

Note: I didn’t say that I’m happy with who won.

I’m relieved over who didn’t.

Hard as it is for those who have been insulated from it by the shockingly gullible conservative talkers, the guy who finished second is much more liberal, and much less reliable, than the guy who won.

Ask almost any Republican and/or social conservative in Massachusetts.

Oh, and anyone who thinks this thing is over is forgetting that the war switches from the ground to the air Wednesday. Unfortunately, only one guy has the money to command his own air force.

Much more in the coming days.

CNNMoney, AP, and the Not-So-’Durable’ Goods Report

Where did the story about the “durable” goods report go?

Y’know, the one that I found out about in this CNNMoney e-mail this morning….

CNNmoneyEmailDurableGoods0108

….. and the one referred to on this CNNMoney index page (middle story, middle column):

CNNmoneyHomePageIndex0108

In the “Highlights” from this morning’s Census Bureau announcement, the underlying news source, the word “durable” appears seven times.

But “the AP report” referred to in the e-mail, as CNNMoney carried it, did not contain the word “durable” once, either in its headline or its content.

Here are the first few paragraphs from that CNNMoney story:

Factory orders strongest in five months
Commerce Department says big-ticket orders jumped 5.2% in December, well above forecasts.

Orders to factories for big-ticket manufactured goods soared in December by the largest amount in five months, welcome news for an economy buffeted by talk of recession.

The 5.2 percent increase in orders was a surprise finish for the manufacturing sector at year’s end — a segment of the economy considered to have had a poor year.

The increase in orders, as reported Tuesday by the Commerce Department, was far larger than had been expected. The strength came from a big increase in demand for commercial aircraft, but even excluding the transportation sector, orders posted a solid 2.6 percent gain.

The December orders increase was more than double what had been expected.

This, by the way, is very good news for the economy, indicating that the weakness shown in manufacturing in December’s Institute for Supply Management report might be very short-lived.

But getting back to this “durable” thing — A visit to the full-length AP story by Martin “Talk of Recession” Crutsinger reveals that he at least put the word “durable” into the final paragraph, while whoever wrote AP’s headline had the sense to use the correct descriptive word (“Durable Goods Orders Rise by 5.2 Percent”). CNN edited out Crutsinger’s final few paragraphs, changed the headline to refer uninformatively to “Factory Orders,” and eliminated the word “durable” in the process.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Perhaps. But it seems that first Crutsinger, and especially CNN, were trying very hard to avoid using the word that actually describes the underlying report. Why?

The fact also remains that if CNN, and to a lesser extent the AP and Crutsinger, had set out to make it difficult to find their stories, they could hardly have done a better job. A search done on “durable goods,” with or without quotes, probably won’t pull up the full AP report in its primary results (other stories using the word “durable” more often will come in ahead of it), and almost definitely won’t list what CNN posted at all.

So these “durable dodges” are either examples of sloppiness that at the same time hurt CNN and AP (because of fewer page hits), or “clever” hiding (conscious or subconscious) of pretty good economic news. You make the call.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (012908)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:12 am

The problem is, I’m noticing too much…..

+++++++++++++++++++

Kim Strassel thinks the stimulus package is a Bush economic surrender. She’s mostly right, especially in that he should have held the stimulus package hostage to making the current tax system permanent.

But IBDeditorials.com — whose conclusion is “Not to damn it with faint praise, but it could’ve been a lot worse. It also could have been a lot better.” — justifiably sees a silver lining in the expansion of immediate deductions for capital investments:

Of the plan’s total $150 billion in cost, $50 billion will go to businesses. No, it’s not a “giveaway,” as some have styled it. Businesses will take their breaks and create new products, new jobs and more wealth for all Americans. In time, they will also pay more in taxes, not less. If it’s a giveaway, it’s to all Americans — not business.

The package also lets companies immediately write off up to half of their investments in plant and capital equipment. In addition, small businesses will be able to rapidly expense equipment costs.

Two other items need to be mentioned.

The first was noted on January 18 by IBD:

As economist Allen Sinai has noted in a study for the American Council for Capital Formation, (the Bush 2003) tax cuts added 2.5% to GDP in 2004 alone. The reason is that, contrary to the Keynesian model used by the Democrats, business investment — not consumer spending — drives the economy. Thriving businesses boost incomes, add jobs and create shareholder wealth.

I lost track of the link to the second, but I recall reading about a study finding that each additional dollar of immediate expensing allowed for capital investments increased GDP by $9. I’ll take that deal any day.

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Supply-side guru Arthur Laffer’s “The Tax Threat to Prosperity” is too good to excerpt. So just read the whole thing.

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The immediate expensing of capital investments that I just referred to in the stimulus package is supposedly going to cost state governments about $4 billion. Companies will be paying less because most states use federal taxable income as the starting point for determining state income tax liability.

So of course the National Governors Association wants a $12 billion relief package for the states. You read that right.

______________________________________________

Last week, IBDeditorials.com usefully reminded us that Hillary Clinton’s husband locked up billions of tons of clean coal in 1996 in exchange for political contributions.

Here’s an interesting bit of non-trivia I didn’t know about that deal:

Why would ….. (President Clinton) dedicate a Utah monument while standing in Arizona? Well, this federal land grab was done without any consultation with the governor of Utah or any member of the Utah congressional delegation or any elected official in the state. The unfriendly Utah natives might have spoiled his photo-op.

The state already had six national monuments, two national recreation areas and all or part of five national forests. Three-quarters of Utah already was in federal hands. Still, the land grab was sold as a move to protect the environment.

Now, while that coal is untouchable, Mrs. Clinton is chiding George Bush for not being tough enough on the Saudis. Zheesh.

It would be tons of fun to see last-minute Executive Order by the President undoing the coal lock-up. Go ahead, Mr. Bush. Make our January 20, 2009.

Positivity: CPAs to prepare tax returns free of charge for deployed Ohio troops

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 5:57 am

From the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants web site (HT Bearing Drift Ohio):

(COLUMBUS, OH–January 18, 2008)―The Ohio Society of CPAs is once again sponsoring Operation CPA in partnership with the Ohio National Guard and Ohio’s Inter-Service Family Assistance Committee.

CPAs from throughout Ohio have volunteered their time and expertise to prepare 2007 tax returns free of charge for deployed Reserve and National Guard members this filing season.

“Deployed service members have many challenges to deal with professionally and personally. The prospect of filing a tax return can be a daunting task for military personnel and their families,” said Clarke Price, president and CEO of The Ohio Society.

“Through Operation CPA, our members help lighten that load and show support for the men and women who are risking their lives daily for our country.”

Military personnel who are Ohio residents currently deployed outside of the state will qualify for free preparation of their 2007 individual or joint local, state and federal personal tax returns.

January 28, 2008

The Latest Comprehensive Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney Index

CORE POST, Jan. 3 — One More Time: Why Is It “Objectively Unfit Mitt”?

Hot Off the Presses and Other Important Recent Items:
- Jan 28 (external), CNS News — “Massachusetts Health Care Costs Skyrocket” (RomneyCare implosion continues)
- Jan 28 (external), insidecatholic.com — “Why I Don’t Trust Mitt Romney” (money quote: “For a lot of people, especially Christian conservatives, it’s one of those black and white issues. You’re either pro-life or not. That’s the trouble with Governor Romney — he’s gray.”)
- Jan. 14 (external) — The Mitt Romney YouTube Boxed Set — 22 different vids on the various dark sides of Romney
- Jan. 14 (external) — Michael Medved: “Romney the Weakest Candidate”

Previous Two Weeks’ Collection:
- Jan. 24 — The Bob Taft vs. Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney “Face-off”
- Jan. 23 — Romney Roundup (012308)
- Jan. 19 — On Objectionably Unfit Mitt Romney, Peter Robinson Makes the Closing Argument
- Jan. 18 — Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney Roundup (011808)
- Jan. 17 — Romnian Semantics
- Jan. 17 — Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney Roundup (011708)
- Jan. 16 — Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney Roundup (011608)
- Jan. 15 — GOP Michigan Primary Update — The Three Stooges
- Jan. 15 — The Three Stooges (Michigan GOP) Primary (Update: And the Winner Is …. Apathy!)
- Jan. 15 — Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney Roundup (011508): Dean Barnett’s NY Times Column

RomneyCare:
- Jan. 15 — Midnight Message for Michigan on (Objectively Unfit) Mitt (A Model for HillaryCare II)
- Jan. 7 — The RomneyCare Crackup Is Arriving Early (Heavy Fines and Rationing)
- Oct. 18 — The Coming RomneyCare crackup (fourth item at link)

“Romney, the Courts, and the Constitutions” (RC&C), and Gay Marriage:
- Jan. 10 — Mitt Romney Calls Gregg Jackson “Delusional”; What Does That Make Romney?
- Received Jan. 7, External post — Did Mitt Romney Break the Law?
- Jan. 7 — A Miracle: Someone in the Media Gets It On Objectively Unfit Mitt
- Jan. 3 — One More Time: Why Is It “Objectively Unfit Mitt”?
- Jan. 1 — Romney’s Crunch-Time Choke Game Fix on Same-Sex Marriage
- Nov. 26 — Index to RC&C Posts and “Cliff’s Notes” Explanations
- Nov. 21 — RC&C Part 1 — Abortion Coverage in RomneyCare
- Nov. 21 — RC&C Part 2 — Mitt Romney and Same-Sex Marriage
- Nov. 23 — RC&C Part 3 — Various Excerpts, Statements, and Comments
- Nov. 24 — RC&C Part 4 — What’s Beck Got to Do with It?
- Nov. 25 — RC&C Part 5 — The Next President and the Courts

Tax- and Econ-related Posts:
- Jan. 14 External link — The American Spectator, “Mitt’s Mythical ‘Mass. Miracle’”
(more…)

Brian Wesbury: ‘The Economy Is Fine (Really)’ — and Recession Is Not the Threat

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:57 am

I have referred to Mr. Wesbury’s work frequently here. That’s because he has been, as he is today, a sober voice standing up to Old Media-driven economic hysteria with those stubborn things known as facts.

Wesbury first caught my attention when he expressed alarm in late 2005 that 43% of the country thought we were in a recession — not about to go into one, actually in one. That same poll metric reads 35% today. There wasn’t a recession then, and odds are, as Wesbury notes, we’re not near one now.

Here are some snips from his Wall Street Journal column today, making a number of points that I was hoping to get around to, and reminding us that inflation has not been relegated to irrelevancy. Since he has studied reams of data that I haven’t, I’ll delegate the point-making to him:

It is hard to imagine any time in history when such rampant pessimism about the economy has existed with so little evidence of serious trouble.

….. housing is now a small share of GDP (4.5%). And it has fallen so much already that it is highly unlikely to drive the economy into recession all by itself. Exports are 12% of the economy, and are growing at a 13.6% rate. The boom in exports is overwhelming the loss from housing.

….. incomes rose 3.9% faster than inflation in the year through September.

….. the over-reaction to very spotty negative news is astounding. For example, Intel’s earnings disappointed, creating a great deal of fear about technology. Lost in the pessimism is the fact that 20 out of 24 S&P 500 technology companies that have reported earnings so far have beaten Wall Street estimates.

Models based on recent monetary and tax policy suggest real GDP will grow at a 3% to 3.5% rate in 2008, while the probability of recession this year is 10%. This was true before recent rate cuts and stimulus packages. Now that the Fed has cut interest rates by 175 basis points, the odds of a huge surge in growth later in 2008 have grown. The biggest threat to the economy is still inflation, not recession.

….. What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently estimated as a $100 billion loss on subprime loans would represent only 0.1% of the $100 trillion in combined assets of all U.S. households and U.S. non-farm, non-financial corporations.

….. The irony is almost too much to take. Yesterday everyone was worried about excessive consumer spending, a lack of saving, exploding debt levels, and federal budget deficits. Today, our government is doing just about everything in its power to help consumers borrow more at low rates, while it is running up the budget deficit to get people to spend more. This is the tyranny of the urgent in an election year and it’s the development that investors should really worry about. It reads just like the 1970s.

The good news is that the U.S. financial system is not as fragile as many pundits suggest. Nor is the economy showing anything other than normal signs of stress. Assuming a 1.5% annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter, real GDP will have grown by 2.8% in the year ending in December 2007 and 3.2% in the second half during the height of the so-called credit crunch.

I’m guessing that Wesbury’s 1.5% estimate for fourth quarter GDP growth is low — possibly very low. We’ll find out Wednesday morning at 8:30.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

This Post Is a Must-Read: ‘Arshinkoff and a Whistleblower’

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:05 am

Matt has an important scoop about the intolerable situation the Summit County, Ohio (Akron-area) Republican Party is in at Weapons of Mass Discussion.

Read the whole thing. Summit County Republicans who care cannot allow this nonsense to continue.

The situation calls for a comprehensive cleanup that would include the unceremonious ouster of people like Alex Arshinkoff from the halls of power.

___________________________________________

UPDATE: Cleveland Scene’s C-Notes blog has more (HT Matt at WoMD; aside – Cleveland is the “Paris of the Rust Belt”?).

Also, Boring Made Dull weighed in a month ago, and has more now.