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.

Latest Pajamas Media Column: ‘Driven a Ford Lately? Not If You’re Boycotting’

It’s here.

My title will be “Ford’s PC March to the Brink Continues, as Does Media Enabling” when I post the column at BizzyBlog on Wednesday morning.

_______________________________________

UPDATE 1: Holy moly. Shortly after midnight ET on Jan. 29, the PJM post has over 350 comments (and not one of them is mine). UPDATE 1A: The Ford boycott comment swarm was, uh, driven by an American Family Association e-mail Action Alert (web version here) that referred to the PJM column.

UPDATE 2, Jan. 29, 10:15 a.m.: Go through the 460 comments at PJM (comments there closed a few hours ago) and the ones posted below, and you can’t help but think that Ford is losing a disproportionate share of business to truck buyers because of the AFA boycott (beyond the 63-37 truck car split used in the post’s estimate — and remember, “trucks” includes minivans, SUVs, and crossovers). If so, the bottom line impact is much greater than the amount estimated at the post.

UPDATE 3, Feb. 3: The Auto Prophet makes a case that the AFA boycott is anti-Christian.

I think that reasonable people can disagree on this. Those who wish to dissociate themselves from something they consider evil surely have that right, but they should consider the implications of what they’re doing very carefully.

Ironically, in my opinion, the AFA might be inclined to call off the boycott in the name of showing mercy to employees and communities affected by Ford’s suicidal stubbornness. But Old Media, perhaps the most irresponsible party in all of this, would surely, and falsely, interpret such an action as an admission of defeat by AFA. They would say “What boycott? No one ever wrote anything about the boycott” — even though they are the ones who created the virtual blackout.

There’s little objective doubt that the AFA boycott has cost Ford an absolute minimum of $2 billion in gross profit on trucks and cars in the past two years. From a pool of 12-20 million estimated boycott supporters, it would only take 160,000 lost truck sales times the $11,000 used in the post plus 80,000 lost car sales x $3,000 to get to $2 billion — i.e. roughly 1%-2% of those promising to boycott carrying through on that promise ONE TIME in two years (many PJM commenters cited multiple vehicles not purchased by themselves and/or their families). That would be only about 35,000 lost sales per quarter, only about 40% of the 85,000 I exemplified for the fourth quarter at the Pajamas post.

To call off the boycott, AFA would thus have to deal with an undeserved loss of prestige and perceived clout, jeopardizing future efforts to influence the culture, thereby unacceptably compromising its mission. Because Old Media has painted AFA into that corner, AFA simply can’t do that.

Now, barring a sudden willingness by Old Media to report the obvious, only Ford can save itself.

Positivity: Power of Prayer

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Watermelon Park, Florida:

Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 11:33 PM EST

Pam Cribbs believes in the power of prayer. Last September, the 47-year-old mother of two was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer. Instead of sinking into depression, Cribbs pulled herself up by the bootstraps and decided to keep on living and let God handle the hard stuff.

“Throughout all of this I have had peace, I haven’t worried about it,” Cribbs said. “I wasn’t in control, God knew me before I was born, he knew this was going to happen.”

Two days before a camping trip in Stone Mountain, Ga., Cribbs decided to go to the doctor to check out some minor stomach pain she had been having.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal. I thought maybe I had a hernia or an ulcer,” Cribbs said. “Then the doctor started feeling my abdomen and said my liver was enlarged.”

By the end of the day, Cribbs was at Lake City Medical Center getting a Computerized tomography (CT) scan on her abdomen. The next day, Cribbs went back to the doctor who told her she had a mass on her pancreas and several on her liver.

She was then referred to a digestive disease specialist.

“I didn’t even want to think it was bad. They didn’t say it was cancer,” Cribbs said.

The digestive disease specialist was a little more nervous about the spots on Cribbs’ liver.

“He said the spots were innumerable and innumerable is not a good word,” Cribbs said.

The specialist suggested a biopsy and after the findings were observed by several pathologists and oncologists, Cribbs was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

The doctors told Cribbs the cancer was as bad as it gets.

“The doctors said I needed a miracle,” she said.

Asking the doctors how long she would live was never a question posed by Cribbs. For her, the doctors have no control on her life span, only God does.

“(The doctor) is not God. I believe that He is sovereign over all of it,” Cribbs said.

So Cribbs came up with a plan to keep herself healthy and keep life as normal for her kids as possible. Healthy eating, a positive attitude and a passionate belief that God would watch over her has given Cribbs an upbeat energy even as the chemotherapy brings her down.

She is bubbly and passionate, discussing her pre-teen children, D.J. and Callie, their artwork and homeschool lessons and the power of faith. The family are members of Hopeful Baptist Church. Cribbs’ father is a preacher in Tennessee. Without her faith, Cribbs said she would have probably fallen into a deep despair after the diagnosis.

“A lot of church family knew about it and they got prayer groups together to pray,” Cribbs said. “A lot of people still are.”

The thought that so many people have her health and family in their hearts and minds moves Cribbs to tears, especially since she has forgone praying for herself and has remained focused on her family.

“All throughout this I haven’t felt like praying for myself,” Cribbs said. “Everyone else has interceded for me and God has honored that.”

Cribbs said that when she prays, she prays for her husband and children and that they will have the strength to carry on and that God would comfort them if something did happen to her.

As Cribbs prepared herself for an uphill battle another less threatening but still dangerous diagnosis came through. Doctors had ruled out stage four pancreatic cancer, and Cribbs was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer.

Neuroendocrine cancer is a rare type of cancer which originates in the neuroendocrine system where the nervous and endocrine systems work together. The doctors told her that the diagnosis was better because they had a treatment plan they could treat the cancer with.

“This was the first miracle,” Cribbs said.

The procedure has Cribbs receiving six chemotherapy treatments. She goes for the treatments for a period of three days and then has two weeks off. Five of the six treatments have already been completed, Cribbs said.

The fourth treatment was completed just before Christmas.

Before the end of the year, and because of insurance constraints, Cribbs decided to get another CT scan to see how the chemotherapy was working on the cancer. A week after the scan, Cribbs went back to Gainesville to get some bloodwork done.

While waiting, a physician’s assistant told Cribbs and her husband, Rodney, that the tumors on her pancreas were gone and that except for some small lesions on her liver, the cancer was gone from there as well.

“It was nothing short of a miracle,” Cribbs said. “I said, ‘to God be the Glory,’ there is no way to explain it.”

Go here for the rest of the story.

Ford’s PC March to the Brink Continues, as Does Media Enabling

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 12:01 am

Maybe Ford Motor Company management can be forgiven for not taking seriously the American Family Association (AFA’s) call for its members to boycott the automaker in May 2005.

(Note: Yours truly does not support the AFA boycott, has one relative currently working for Ford, and another who is a Ford retiree.)

But several Ford dealers, recognizing the threat, convinced the AFA to suspend its boycott while they tried to convince the company to be less aggressive in promoting gay-agenda causes.

Ultimately, the dealers failed to change minds at the company’s Dearborn, Michigan headquarters.

AFA put the boycott back on in March 2006. AFA’s position, stated at its boycottford.com site, is that “Ford could have easily avoided this boycott had they desired to do so by simply remaining neutral in the cultural battles.”

The boycott has been in force, and has grown in force, ever since. That it has teeth is difficult to dispute:

  • The AFA’s home page claims that over 778,000 have signed its boycott petition.
  • The AFA itself claims to have over 3.3 million supporters.
  • Boycottford.com lists over 30 suporting organizations.
  • It is likely that each boycott supporter, AFA member, and at least some members of the other boycotting organizations have influenced three to five others not to buy Ford products.
  • That would mean that there are somewhere between 12-20 million Americans who will not buy Ford products.

In the 22 months since the boycott began, the company has suffered staggering losses in US sales volume:

FordMonthlySalesDeclinesThrough1207

The dropoffs at Ford are far worse than those seen during the same time period at the company’s Metro Detroit counterparts at General Motors and Chrysler.

There are, of course, other contributing factors, including a weak product line and the company’s conscious effort to reduce low-profit fleet sales. But despite the fact that the US Mainstream Media has paid almost no attention to it, there’s little doubt that the AFA boycott has contributed to a substantial portion of Ford’s pain.

Now the company may be on the brink.

Less than two years after about 33,000 employees left the company during a round of buyouts, the company is going to the buyout well again, to a degree that I believe is unprecedented, and with the cooperation of the United Auto workers, creating a staggering difference between the experienced haves and the newbie have-nots on the shop floor (bold is mine):

Ford Motor Co. will offer buyout and early retirement packages to 54,000 U.S. hourly workers, or 93 percent of its hourly work force, in an effort to cut costs and replace those leaving with lower-paid workers. Thursday’s announcement came as Ford said it narrowed its losses in 2007 but warned that the outlook for U.S. sales in 2008 remains grim.

….. Ford lost $2.8 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the fourth quarter, narrower than a loss of $5.6 billion, or $2.98 per share, in 2006. The full-year loss of $2.7 billion, or $1.35 per share, was significantly better than 2006, when Ford lost $12.6 billion, or $6.72 per share.

….. Under Ford’s new contract with the UAW, which was signed in November, Ford can pay new workers $14.20 per hour, or about half the wages of a current worker. Under the contract, up to 20 percent of Ford’s U.S. hourly work force may be paid at the lower wages.

Ford’s official results announcement noted that, excluding special items, “Fourth-quarter pre-tax loss (from continuing operations) was $620 million ….. All Automotive operations, with the exception of North America, were profitable for the full-year.”

For those who doubt the AFA boycott’s relevance, consider this — Assuming there are 17 million boycott participants, and that only 1/2 of 1% of them (85,000) had bought a Ford vehicle during the fourth quarter, the margin earned on those additional sales (assuming a product mix and incremental profit margins before fixed costs consistent with those identified at this July 2007 Forbes article on the auto industry) would have turned that $620 million fourth-quarter loss from continuing operations into a $63 million gain:

FordLost4thQsales

That’s an awfully high price to pay for political correctness.

Now consider this: Last September, Ford had $27.4 billion in cash. The Truth About Cars blog, bringing back a nearly forgotten term from the late-1990s bubble, estimates that the company’s cash “burn rate” is $12-$14 billion per year. At that rate (excluding possible sales of assets, etc.), the company, which has already utterly mortgaged itself, could run out of money by the end of 2009.

All in all, it would be much better if the suits in Dearborn had heeded the late Milton Friedman, who said that “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” One hopes for the sake of the company’s shareholders and remaining employees that it’s not to late for Ford to face this reality, and the Mainstream Media to recognize it.