February 25, 2008

AP’s Snow Wants You to Know: Cuban Communism Is ‘Unshaken’

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:51 pm

In a report yesterday from Cuba, Anita Snow of the Associated Press, with the help of the headline writers at ABC, seemed intent on telling any Yanqui imperialists or hard-liners in Miami’s Little Havana who might have any ideas of doing something rash during the transition of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul to forget about trying anything (HT Rush Limbaugh; story #4 at link; link will be available until next Monday):

CubaCommieSystemUnshaken0208

Later in the article, Snow enumerated some of the island’s Communist wonders that will also apparently remain “unshaken,” or virtually so (bolds are mine):

Raul Castro indicated at least one change is being contemplated: the revaluation of the Cuban peso, the national currency most people use to pay for government services such as utilities, public transportation and the small amount charged for their monthly food ration.

Cubans complain that government salaries averaging a little more than $19 a month do not cover basic necessities something Raul Castro acknowledged in a major speech last year. But he said any change would have to be gradual to “prevent traumatic and incongruent effects.”

….. a 51-year-old man hefting a wide metal tray of homemade guava and coconut pies through the streets near Havana’s train station said “this country, it’s like jail.”

“They close the doors and say ‘The president is Peter or the president is Paul’ and everyone responds ‘Good, it’s Peter or Paul.’ There’s no openness,” said the man named Isidro, who like many Cubans declined to give his last name to a foreign journalist when criticizing the government.

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to “shake up” something as marvelous as Fidel’s, and now Raul’s, Workers’ Paradise. It’s so wonderful that anyone who complains about it fears for his or her safety.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

AP Article on States’ Budget Woes Ignores Spending Excesses That Have Led to Them

Old Media coverage of government budget difficulties usually focuses on the here and now, and all the “tough decisions” that have to be made.

Seldom is there ever an examination of how a state or local government entity got into its current fix. Scratch just a little bit beneath the surface, though, and you’ll almost inevitably find that an annoying habit of overspending during the good times has left the state or municipality unprepared for when things go even a little bit sour, as they invariably and eventually do.

Sunday’s Associated Press report on the budget situations many states governments face was no exception. In it, AP reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins:

  • Recited a litany of current woes.
  • Failed to mention that most states have allowed spending to greatly exceed inflation during the past several years, and that most are still experiencing increases, though smaller, in tax collections
  • Gave those supporting a second round of federal government assistance (the first occurred mostly during 2003 and 2004) a chance to make their case early in the article, while saving a rebuttal for near its end.
  • Gave unchallenged quotes to advocates of further tax and fee increases.

Here’s how Welsh-Huggins presented the big picture:

As many as 18 states have deficits, totaling $14 billion in the current budget, and 20 forecast spending shortfalls for 2009 — $34 billion when combined.

It is so bad that some governors are debating whether to pressure Congress for a second economic aid plan; this one would focus on upgrading roads, bridges and sewer systems.

“Stimulus that would focus upon infrastructure would be both great for jobs but also would really speak to a need that we’re seeing around the country,” Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Governors cite a variety of factors for their economic woes: proposed new federal rules to limit Medicaid spending; relying too much on one-time sources of money, such as payments from the 1998 national settlement with major tobacco companies; and the sluggish economy.

What Welsh-Huggins totally ignores is that during the past four years, state and local government spending has exploded, and is now taking a greater share of income than ever, as shown here (Source: The Tax Foundation; HT to the Foundation’s William Ahern for guidance provided; more detailed looks at each state can be found here):

StateLocTaxBurdens2003to2007

This chart blows the excuses presented by Welsh-Huggins for the situation the states find themselves in out of the water. Here are most of them, with retorts provided:

  • From the article: “‘Stimulus that would focus upon infrastructure would be both great for jobs but also would really speak to a need that we’re seeing around the country,’ Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’” Retort: Hey Tom, your state’s tax burden went up 0.5% in a growing economy; you should have plenty of money for that. Why don’t you?
  • From the article: “‘The hardest thing I’m going to have to do is face foster-care parents, disabled adults and children,’ said Gov. John Baldacci, D-Maine. In his state, there are back-to-back forecasts of revenue shortfalls of about $200 million.” Retort: This is from a governor whose state tax burden is now the second-highest in the nation, and is now taking 1.2% more of Mainers’ income? Where did all the money go?
  • From the article: Topping the list of troubled states is California. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger faces a deficit as high as $16 billion. Retort: See how the Golden State (+1.0%) squanders welfare dollars (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) more than any state in the union. Why not work on that first, before looking at how to make the tax burden even worse?
  • From the article: “In Rhode Island, Republican Gov. Don Carcieri is proposing reducing the state’s work force by 1,000 to help address an estimated $385 million shortfall next year. He says the situation is the worst in memory.” Retort: That’s because your tax-burden increase (+1.2%) must be about “the worst in memory.”
  • From the article: “Gov. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., proposed raising turnpike tolls to pay down the state debt and is suggesting budget cuts. Neither idea is popular, but Corzine says the state has to do something, especially when it comes to highway maintenance.” Retort: This is from a state that shut down the government in the summer of 2006, and supposedly solved its problems by mostly raising taxes (tax burden up 0.9% in the past four years). Uh-huh.
  • From the article: “In Arizona, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano has proposed new borrowing to build schools and shifting some prison costs to counties to address an estimated shortfall of $1.2 billion.” Retort: Congrats on the slight decrease (-0.1%) in the tax burden. But borrowing pushes the pain out to the future, but doesn’t address the fundamental problem. Unfortunately, other states, including Ohio (+1.4%), are attempting to employ this tactic.

Welsh-Huggins waited until Paragraph 19 to quote South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who said that “The idea of borrowing a bunch more money so we can then put it into our pockets so we can then repay it later, I don’t think is a great route to go.” Since Welsh-Huggins didn’t bother to look, he also didn’t make the connection that the states which haven’t increased their tax burden much, or have in fact reduced it, are, with the exception of Arizona not among the whiners he quoted.

Welsh-Huggins had roughly 700 words to give his readers the full picture. He easily could have, and should have, included information about how the states’ profligate spending during the past four years has contributed to their “tough budget times.” Why wouldn’t he?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Former Massachusetts governor and recent GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney doesn’t exactly come across with a great record (+0.6%), does he? And almost-former contender Mike Huckabee’s Arkansas is just awful (+1.3%).

Obama’s Very Shaky 10-Minute CEO Earnings Claim

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:27 am

It’s an extraordinarily clever claim. It gets your attention. It’s misleading.

And of course, Old Media isn’t questioning it.

I am referring to the following statement made by the candidate I refer to as BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama) in radio ads currently running in Ohio and Texas:

Some CEOs make more in 10 minutes than some American workers make in a year.

In the full context of the ad, I believe that what Obama wants listeners to take away is that “Quite a few CEOs typically, year after year, make more in 10 minutes than some American workers make in a year.”

But let’s limit things to the literal wording. Start with a full-time minimum-wage worker who earns (rounded) $12,000 annually ($5.85 per hour times 2,080 hours is a bit more than that). How much would a CEO have to make in a year to be earning over $12,000 every 10 minutes?

The answer: At least $187 million — and, uh, “change”:

Obama10thouPerMin0208

So how many CEOs made that much in 2006? The answer in 2006, according to Forbes, was three:

Forbes2006CEOcomp

How about 2005? Try one (per Forbes), maybe two (woopidoo.com has an additional name on its list):

Forbes2005CEOcomp

One-year wonders are fine, but how many CEOs averaged $187.2 million or more in earnings over 5 years? As you can see above, the answer is “none in either year.”

It’s also worth noting that three of the four CEOs above (Jobs, Semel, and Diller) are in charge of high-tech businesses that are not exactly known for having high concentrations of minimum-wage workers.

If Obama’s claim stands, it does so using the narrowest of definitions, and even then it only survives by the very thinnest of margins. An ordinary listener would clearly believe that Obama’s ad refers to more than four people (or five, if you include the additional CEO listed at woopidoo.com) in a two-year period.

Obama’s single-out of CEOs is also conveniently selective. If you wonder why he did not include certain entertainers in the list of those making more in 10 minutes than some workers, wonder no more:

Forbes2006Celeb100comp

Lee Cary at American Thinker adds this:

Sure, the gross disparity between CEO and average worker pay is a valid issue. And, for a relatively few CEOs and other mega-earners like Oprah Winfrey, top professional athletes, and major Hollywood movie stars, Obama’s claim may be mathematically accurate. But as a blanket assertion, it’s a level of derogatory rhetoric that only works when adulation kills critical thinking.

It’s also appears to be a level of derogatory rhetoric Old Media doesn’t mind letting go by unchallenged.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Here are a few other possible wiggles in Obama’s statement:

  • “Some American workers” don’t work full-time.
  • “Some CEOs” could be seen to “make” more in certain 10-minute blocks of time (such as board meetings when bonuses are declared).
  • CEO income outside of work (directors’ fees from other companies, etc.) could push the amounts noted above higher than indicated.
  • Oprah is the CEO of her own corporation(s), so he really was picking on her (uh-huh).

Positivity: Coma woman woken by husband’s ‘rollicking’ as doctors were about to switch off life-support machine

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Somerset, UK:

Last updated at 23:42pm on 23rd February 2008

It was Dom’s stern telling-off that gave Yvonne Sullivan the strength to fight for life after she fell into a coma

A mother who fell into a coma during labour came back from the brink of death after her husband gave her “a bloody good rollicking”.

Yvonne Sullivan, 28, suffered blood poisoning and blacked out after being told her newborn son had died during a traumatic birth.

She was taken to intensive care where Dominic, her 37-year-old husband, kept vigil for two weeks.

When doctors told him they might have to switch off her lifesupport machine, he sprang into action.

Holding his wife’s hand, he told her: “You start fighting, don’t you dare give up on me now. I’ve had enough, stop mucking around and start breathing. Come back to me.”

Two hours later she started breathing on her own.

Within five days Mrs Sullivan’s ventilator was switched off and she regained consciousness.

Yesterday she said she remembered her husband berating her.

“I can’t remember exactly what he said but I never liked getting told off by Dom,” she recalled.

“Something inside me just clicked and I began to fight again. ….

Go here for the rest of the story.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (022508)

I don’t want to claim any special insight into things like this, but the claims about the product Enzyte always seemed bogus to me. The fact that so many people were clearly willing to spend money on the stuff bordered on astonishing. Now the company’s president has been found guilty “of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.” It could not have happened soon enough.

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If I were from New Orleans or the Gulf Coast and had gone through the devastation of the 2005 hurricane that struck there, I’d be insulted by those characterizing the subprime lending and foreclosure problems in Northeastern Ohio as “Cleveland’s Katrina.” For cryin’ out loud, 1,836 people died in the real Katrina.

Oh, NEO’s problems are partially George Bush’s fault too. Zheesh.

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On Hillary’s sinking campaign:

  • If you have to deny that your campaign is in trouble, it probably is.
  • The superdelegate bleed continues. On Friday the 15th, Hillary was ahead of the candidate I often refer to as BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama) 242-156. Tuesday the 19th (first item at link), it was 239-168. Now a February 23 AP story puts things at 241-181. Obama has picked up 25, and she has lost 1, in just eight days. At that rate, her “superdel” lead will be will be gone within about three weeks.
  • Speaking of bleeding, the campaign has bled green, as in money, ever since it began. January was no exception.
  • This poll, showing Obama up 57-43 in Texas, would appear to mean that the Lone Star State is lost to her. I believe that an Ohio poll with Obama on top, but by a smaller margin, will appear shortly.
  • Terrier Ted Strickland, according to Robert Novak, has his doubts about whether she can win Ohio.
  • The final insult — The print edition of the Sunday New York Times had the picture at the top of this story covering at least half of the territory above the fold. Ouch.

Update: Going after this, which even troubles hard-core Democrats, is — correction, WAS — Hillary’s Hail Mary pass. Problem: “Clinton’s husband pardoned more than a dozen convicted violent radicals, including a member of the same group mentioned in the Obama stories.”

Mrs. Clinton could still conceivably risk the hypocrisy charge and bring Obama’s cozy ties with 1960s radicals up at the debate in Ohio this week. I don’t think she will do it, because the spotlight might be turned back to her own radical past. Can you say “Black Panthers“?

Update 2: Her recent mocking of Obama is clever (HT Darke County GOP), but probably not enough to matter. She needed to hammer this for about three weeks for it to have significant impact, and, again, bring it up herself in a debate.

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Obama does have seem to have a certain glow about him. But its source may be nuclear in origin. Given the bogus charges thrown at Jean Schmidt in October 2006 in Ohio’s Second District, the Obama-Exelon situation needs to filed away for future reference, especially if Victoria Wells Wulsin Whatever gets too close to the Obama glow.