May 27, 2009

40 Days Later, Someone in the Press Notes Uncle Sam’s Tax Receipts Dive

From USA Today via Drudge, with a really odd headline, accompanied by pathetic reporting:

IRS tax revenue falls along with taxpayers’ income

Federal tax revenue plunged $138 billion, or 34%, in April vs. a year ago — the biggest April drop since 1981, a study released Tuesday by the American Institute for Economic Research says.

When the economy slumps, so does tax revenue, and this recession has been no different, says Kerry Lynch, senior fellow at the AIER and author of the study. “It illustrates how severe the recession has been.”

For example, 6 million people lost jobs in the 12 months ended in April — and that means far fewer dollars from income taxes. Income tax revenue dropped 44% from a year ago.

Give me a break. There’s a lot more at work here than unemployment. Reporter John Waggoner wants readers to think that a roughly 4% increase in the unemployment rate (from 5.0% in April 2008 to the current 8.9%) leads to a 44% decrease in income tax revenue. Sure, John.

Memo to Mr. Waggoner: This factor is also at work, so to speak. Or, I should say, at non-work.

USA Today and Drudge didn’t have to wait for a “study” learn that tax receipts were dropping like a rock. I first flagged the 14% decline during the first six months of the fiscal year over 40 days ago on April 15 at Pajamas Media. On April 22, as current-month collections continued to be alarmingly slow, I asked “When Will the Press Catch On to Uncle Sam’s Collections Meltdown?”

I guess we have our answer.

For those in the press who want more current info, here’s what May looks like as of the second-last Friday of the month in 2009 and 2008 (from the May 22, 2009 and May 23, 2008 Daily Treasury Statements):

USreceipts052209v052308

As you can see, the cliff dive continues.

Name That Party: Blago’s, Burris’s Party IDs Largely MIA in Latest Revelations

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:47 pm

Burriss0509.jpgMaybe it should be put to music:

Blago and Burris,
Sitting in a tree,
But they’d rather we not know their political party.

There has been yet another revelation about contacts between Democratic President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate successor, Democrat Roland Burris and former Illinois Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich over Blago’s pre-Senate appointment, uh, deliberations. A released FBI audio recording reveals that Burris offered to make a campaign contribution to Blago as he lobbied to be selected.

This news has brought on yet another wave of stories that fail to tell us what party Blago and Burris belong to.

The Washington Post is the only publication that identified the party of both men in the course of reporting their story. The Post’s Peter Slevin and Perry Bacon Jr. also identified the Democratic Party affiliation of the Senate Ethics Committee’s Barbara Boxer:

Burris Offered to Write Check To Governor Before Appointment

CHICAGO. May 26 — Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) can be heard on an FBI audio recording promising to make a campaign contribution to then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) at the same time he was pressing the governor for a Senate appointment.

The recording, secretly made by the FBI and released Tuesday by a Chicago federal judge as part of a Senate ethics investigation, contradicts a Jan. 5 Burris affidavit in which he said under oath that he had not discussed the Senate seat with Blagojevich or any of his representatives.

During the Nov. 13 conversation, Burris told the governor’s brother, Rob Blagojevich, that he was willing to join a fundraising event and would send a personal check.

“I will personally do something. And it’ll be done before the 15th of December,” Burris said. He added, “And tell Rod to keep me in mind for that seat, would ya?”

Rod Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 8 on corruption charges that included allegations of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Obama. Three weeks later, he appointed Burris to fill the remainder of Obama’s term.

Burris did not send a check. He also did not mention his discussions with Rob Blagojevich, who headed the governor’s fundraising operation, with state lawmakers investigating the governor — either in his Jan. 5 affidavit or during sworn testimony Jan. 8.

…. A spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Senate ethics committee, declined to comment on the judge’s decision, citing a committee policy against speaking about ongoing investigations

Here are a couple of clear press failures to identify the party of either Burris or Blago:

  • Compared to the Post’s headline above, the New York Times’s headline was extraordinarily message-free (“Burris-Blagojevich Ties Come to Life in Transcript”). The report by Monica Davey and Karen Ann Cullotta is also party ID-free.
  • The Chicago Tribune’s coverage by Jeff Coen and John Chase (“Burris talks cash on wiretap”) seems oddly tolerant of what transpired at one point, when they write that “The transcript provides a behind-the-scenes portrayal of the give-and-take world of Illinois politics.” An adjective like “seamy” might have been a bit more appropriate. Though Coen and Chase never identify Burris’s or Blago’s party, the reporters somehow manage to name the parties of Democrat Harry Reid, Democrat Dick Durbin, and a Illinois Republican legislator Jim Durkin in two of their final five paragraphs.

Other observations:

  • CBS2 in Chicago did manage to hang a “D-Ill.” tag in the caption under a photo of Burris in two different reports (here and here). The text of both items is party ID-free.
  • The Chicago Sun-Times (“Burris on tape: Promises to ‘do something’ for Blagojevich”) waited until the ninth paragraph to identify Burris’s party, and never identified Blago’s.
  • Early Associated Press coverage that seems to no longer be available did not identify either man’s party. The AP, perhaps with the help of the search engine titans, seems to be getting better at audit-proofing the evolution of its work product, unless you happen to monitor it — and save it as revisions take place — in real time.

Reinforcing the point made in the last bullet, a search on Burris’s last name at the Cincinnati Enquirer has a listing for last night’s AP story. But clicking on that search listing’s link takes you to a related but very different story at Enquirer Gannett affiliate USA Today. The story, with today’s date, is by Michael Robinson, and is about Burris touring central Illinois while attempting to fend off his latest troubles. That story identifies Burris as a Democrat in its third paragraph:

APonBurris0526and052709

This evolution may indicate that AP has a “clever” strategy in place. By keeping Burris’s party out of initial reports when the story is hot, AP was able to keep his party ID out of radio and TV broadcasts that depend on its feeds. Once the story cooled down a bit, they put his party into a later story to demonstrate that they really, really do follow their Stylebook rules.

This could be evidence that the wire service is looking over their shoulders to see what their blog critics are saying.

If so, “Hi guys!”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

How to Make Evaluating a Supreme Court Nominee Easy

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:35 am

The recipe is simple — Nominate a white male who says this:

I would hope that a white male with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman who hasn’t lived that life.

This statement would justify — no, it would actually demand — an instant rejection of this person’s nomination. This man clearly has a racist, sexist mindset drenched in a stereotype that is not and never has been true.

Without a prompt, unconditional, contrite retraction and apology, this man would be objectively unfit to be a Supreme Court justice, or for that matter any kind of judge.

Here’s Barack Obama’s variation on that recipe — Nominate a woman who actually said this (HT Ilya Somin at Volokh):

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

This statement justifies — no, it actually demands — an instant rejection of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination. This woman clearly has a racist, sexist mindset drenched in a stereotype that is not and never has been true.

Give that about eight years having passed since Sonia Sotomayor made this statement in 2001, if she hasn’t issued an unconditional retraction of and apology for this statement by now, it’s way too late for any such retraction or apology to have any meaning.

It should be noted that the New York Times link indicates that former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg do not share Sotomayor’s racist, sexist perspective.

Absent a years-ago apology and retraction, Sonia Sotomayor is objectively unfit to be a Supreme Court justice, or for that matter any kind of judge.

No further elaboration is required, or will occur.

Lucid Links (052709, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 9:04 am

Noteworthy Net-Worthies:

Social Security early retirement claims have increased dramatically. Many more Boomers than expected are electing to receive reduced Social Security benefits at Age 62 rather than wait until the system’s “Full Retirement Age” of 66. That’s good and bad news for two reasons. The more immediate than expected cash drain is bad news in the short-term for the system’s finances, and may cause the more pessimistic predictions that it will pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in the next year or two to come true. Perversely, since the Age-62 benefit is only 75% of the FRA benefit, and it stays that way permanently, it’s good long-term news for the system’s cash flow. At a personal level, the good news is that it gets needed funds to some who wish to continue working but can’t find work right now. The bad news is that many who are making this decision probably don’t realize that between when they get back to work and their FRA, they’ll be subject to the unconscionable 33%-50% Social Security earnings penalty, which should have been repealed years ago, and ought to be repealed immediately retroactive to January 1. That Earnings Penalty, a relic of the FDR era, when that administration was trying to chase older people out of the workforce, is doubly outrageous because it stifles the earnings, and often the long-term workforce viability and earning power, of people who are probably going to have to work longer both because they took the lower early-retirement benefit, and because their investment portfolios, to the extent they exist, have suffered.

At the Wall Street Journal “Millionaires gone missing.” One year after a huge income tax hike in Maryland targeting the rich, “One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller’s office concedes is a ‘substantial decline.’” Some of the decline is due to the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy we’ve been enduring since June of last year (now known as the POR Recession As Normal People Define It), but that doesn’t fully explain the drop. Disgusted but productive people voting with their feet to leave the state more than likely fills in the rest of the gap. Update: GetLiberty.org’s comment: “Yes, Atlas can shrug.”

William McGurn at the Wall Street Journal — “By goading a sitting president into responding to his arguments on his terms, Dick Cheney won the contest with Barack Obama last week before either said a word.” That’s statesman and patriot Dick Cheney, in case you didn’t realize it.

Must read from last week, courtesy of Bjorn Lomborg at the Wall Street Journal (link within quote added by me) — “The Climate-Industrial Complex.” Large companies that benefit from rent-seeking behavior stand to benefit hugely from cap-and-trade at our expense. Sadly, U.S. utility companies appear to be falling all over themselves to get in on the action. One of them, Duke Energy, is familiar to many in the Midwest and South. Lomborg notes that “Duke …. has long promoted a U.S. cap-and-trade scheme. Yet the company bitterly opposed the Warner-Lieberman bill in the U.S. Senate that would have created such a scheme because it did not include European-style handouts to coal companies.” A alleged quote from Stalin comes to mind.

Follow-up quote from Lomborg — “U.S. companies and interest groups involved with climate change hired 2,430 lobbyists just last year, up 300% from five years ago. Fifty of the biggest U.S. electric utilities — including Duke — spent $51 million on lobbyists in just six months.” We haven’t heard a lot of whining in the press about the evils of K Street lobbyists since Dear Leader ascended, have we?

Positivity: Edward Cloonan, 90 passes away; was Waltham (MA) fire chief, WWII hero

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Waltham, Massachusetts:

Posted May 23, 2009 07:02 AM

In January 1945, Edward A. Cloonan Jr. was a staff sergeant with the 70th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II when he and other US soldiers were ambushed. As bullets flew, one struck him in the chest, tearing into a Catholic daily missal.

“It was a prayer book that his mother had sent to him,” said Mr. Cloonan’s son Richard, of Manassas, Va. “Basically it saved his life. He had it in his upper left chest pocket, right over his heart, and he would have been mortally wounded.”

Spared on the battlefield, Mr. Cloonan went home to the job he had started just before joining the Army and rose to become chief of the Waltham Fire Department, a position he held for 20 years. Mr. Cloonan, who lived in the city of his birth his entire life, died Tuesday in his Waltham home. He was 90.

“It’s an incredible story,” said Mr. Cloonan’s son Ned of Greenwich, Conn., calling the prayer book a kind of spiritual body armor.

“I’ve seen this missal,” he said. “There’s a hole and burn marks all around, but it acted as the very first Kevlar. I mean, it was God’s Kevlar.”

Mr. Cloonan graduated in 1936 from St. Mary’s High School.”His father was a policeman for the city of Waltham,” Richard said. “I think that’s where he got his sense of service to the community.”

Joining the fire department in 1941, Mr. Cloonan was a call firefighter before leaving to fight in World War II. He served in the 275th Infantry Regiment of the 70th Infantry Division, which was known as the Trailblazers, and fought in France, Germany, and the Battle of the Bulge.

For helping to lead troops under heavy fire on three separate days in Philippsbourg, France, and Saarbrucken, Germany, Mr. Cloonan was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroism. Despite the honor, he was reticent about discussing his wartime service.

“This is a guy who never spoke about the war until five or six years ago,” Ned said. “He always participated in the various alumni services, but never talked about what he saw. He basically went to honor all those people who didn’t come back.”

Mr. Cloonan had specific plans for his return to Waltham.

“When he was in the war, he said to guys in the service, ‘This is what I want. I’m going to go home, I’m going to join the fire department, and I’m going to marry an Irish girl,’ ” his son said.

The Irish girl turned out to be Patricia Sullivan of Wellesley, whom he met through a relative. They married 61 years ago.

But before marrying, he was already back with the Waltham Fire Department, where he was promoted to lieutenant in 1948, to captain in 1951, and to deputy fire chief in 1954. Ten years later, Mr. Cloonan was named chief of the department, a position he held until 1984.

“He came up through the ranks very quickly,” said Waltham Fire Chief Richard Cardillo, who joined the department while Mr. Cloonan was the boss and became chief in 2005. “He was chief for 20 years. I can’t even imagine that.” ….

Go here for the rest of the story.