September 13, 2010

Comments: Please Use the Pop-up Form

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:13 pm

Don’t know what has happened, but the “Leave a comment” form after each post doesn’t work right now. The pop-up comment form still works, so if you would like to leave a comment, please use that mechanism. To do so, click on the “Comments (moderated)” link at the bottom right of any post where you wish to put up a comment, and the pop-up will, uh, pop up.

Sorry for the inconvenience. I’m looking into the problem, which is proving elusive. Fortunately, issues that may have been broader in scope seem to be under control now.

Why Is It a Given That Interest Rates Will Stay Low?

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(Posted early AM, moved to near the top.)

I guess CNBC now stands for Can Not Be Critical.

Watch the vid that follows from late last week (direct YouTube), and you’ll see CNBC moderator Erin Burnett (in my opinion) decide that she doesn’t like what she’s hearing. She then plays the “boo hoo, you’re being rude” card to cut off Europac’s Michael Pento, the person delivering the unpleasant perspective:

If or when (that’s the really big question, isn’t it?) the Fed’s unprecedented attempts to use monetary policy and aggressive market interventions to keep inflation in check and interest rates low run out of steam, credibility, or both, largely because fiscal policy has been so unbelievably reckless, what will happen?

Whether or not Pento is right about where rates are going, I believe he is absolutely right, in light of the facts and lessons of history, to assert that the burden of proof is on those who believe that rates and inflation can be forced to stay low indefinitely.

Pento had more to say about this exchange and the matter under debate at KingWorld News on Saturday, including some “what will happen?” thoughts that are quite unpleasant but sadly plausible.

NYT Howler of the Day: ‘Lawmakers Were Apparently Unaware’ of New ObamaCare 1099 Requirements

IRSsymbolNote to readers: Please use the “Comments [moderated]” pop-up link at the bottom right of each post if you wish to comment.

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From an item posted online on Saturday and placed in the Times print edition at Page A25 on Sunday:

Many Democrats have joined Republicans in pushing for the repeal of a tax provision in the new health care law that imposes a huge information-reporting burden on small businesses.

To improve compliance, the law requires businesses to file a 1099 tax form identifying anyone to whom they pay $600 or more for goods or merchandise in a year. Businesses will also have to send copies of the form to their vendors, suppliers and contractors.

Oh, I get it now. It’s a way to keep the Post Office in business.

Back to the Times article:

Under the law, businesses will be required to report purchases of items like office equipment, food and bottled water, gasoline, lumber and plumbing supplies if payments to any vendor in the course of a year total at least $600. They will, in many cases, also have to report payments for things like travel and telephone and Internet service.

The annual reports must include the vendor’s address and taxpayer identification number.

Note that the Times never tells readers that businesses will have to generate hundreds of millions (possibly billions) of these busywork documents — not to mention spend millions of hours of personnel and programmer time — generating these 1099s.

But here’s the punch line:

The reporting requirement was in the health care overhaul bill unveiled in mid-November by the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. But it drew little attention at the time — it was one of more than 15 revenue-raising measures in the bill — and many lawmakers were apparently unaware of it when they voted for final passage of the legislation.

Well golly, how could that be, Robert Pear, New York Times reporter extraordinaire?

Could it possibly be because, well, uh, they never read the bill in the first place and had no idea what they were voting for? Nancy Pelosi infamously said, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

We wouldn’t want to give anyone the idea that Democratic lawmakers didn’t carry out their most basic duty to read legislation before whipping through statist health care now, would we?

A related entry is at NewsBusters.org.

Michael Barone Again Invokes ‘Gangster Government’ in Calling Out Sebelius’s Intimidation Tactics

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Properly so (bolds are mine):

Gangster government stifles criticism of Obamacare

“There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”

That sounds like a stern headmistress dressing down some sophomores who have been misbehaving. But it’s actually from a letter sent Thursday from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans — the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies.

Secretary Sebelius objects to claims by health insurers that they are raising premiums because of increased costs imposed by the Obamacare law passed by Congress last March.

… Ignagni, the recipient of the letter, says, “It’s a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs.”

But Sebelius has “zero tolerance” for that kind of thing. She promises to issue regulations to require “state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases” (which would presumably mean all rate increases).

And there’s a threat. “We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: Those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014.”

That’s a significant date, the first year in which state insurance exchanges are slated to get a monopoly on the issuance of individual health insurance policies. Sebelius is threatening to put health insurers out of business in a substantial portion of the market if they state that Obamacare is boosting their costs.

The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone’s business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration’s transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government.

The silence of the left and the establishment press (but I repeat myself) as the thuggery progresses is deafening. The Associated Press’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar can only bring himself to call all of this a “war of words.” Horse manure.

One can reasonably assume, in the absence of objection, that any Democrat not speaking out against this is fine with it.

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UPDATE: A reminder — “Dems Deserve No Distance.”

WSJ Op-ed Rips the $578 Million LA RFK Schools Complex

Filed under: Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:44 am

money_down_toilet2

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I meant to get to this sooner, but maybe it’s just as well, since the school is officially opening today.

Following up on an item first covered here a few weeks ago, OpinionJournal.com assistant editor Alyssia Finley let fly in a target-rich environment:

Broke—and Building the Most Expensive School in U.S. History
Benches that talk, a Cocoanut Grove auditorium, and a marble slab engraved with quotes from Ted Kennedy.

At $578 million—or about $140,000 per student—the 24-acre Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in mid-Wilshire is the most expensive school ever constructed in U.S. history. To put the price in context, this city’s Staples sports and entertainment center cost $375 million. To put it in a more important context, the school district is currently running a $640 million deficit and has had to lay off 3,000 teachers in the last two years. It also has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country and some of the worst test scores.

The K-12 complex isn’t merely an overwrought paean to the nation’s most celebrated liberal political family. It’s a jarring reminder that money doesn’t guarantee success—though it certainly beautifies failure.

… Set to open Sept. 13, the school boasts an auditorium whose starry ceiling and garish entrance are modeled after the old Cocoanut Grove nightclub and a library whose round, vaulted ceilings and cavernous center resemble the ballroom where Kennedy made his last speech.

… Talking benches—$54,000—play a three-hour audio of the site’s history. Murals and other public art cost $1.3 million. A minipark facing a bustling Wilshire Boulevard? $4.9 million.

The Kennedy complex is Exhibit A in the district’s profligate 131-school building binge. Exhibit B is the district’s Visual and Performing Arts High School, which was originally budgeted at $70 million but was later upgraded into a sci-fi architectural masterpiece that cost $232 million.

Even more striking is Exhibit C, the Edward Roybal Learning Center in the Westlake area, which was budgeted at $110 million until costs skyrocketed midway through construction when contractors discovered underground methane gas and a fault line. Eventual cost: $377 million.

… The Roybal center now ranks in the bottom third of schools with similar demographics on state tests, while Belmont High ranks in the top third. But even though many Roybal kids can’t read or do math, at least they have a dance studio with cushioned maple floors and a kitchen with a restaurant-quality pizza oven.

Expect more such over-the-top and inefficient building projects in the future. Los Angeles voters have approved over $20 billion of bonds since 1997 and state voters have chipped in another $4.4 billion of matching funds. Roughly a third of the cost of the Kennedy complex will be shouldered by state taxpayers.

It’s reasonable to question if some federal funds made their way into that $4.4 billion.

As I wrote at the end of my post several weeks ago:

Please — Can we dispense with the claptrap about the “under-resourced” and “starving” public sector once and for all?

Positivity: Remembering 9/11′s Heroes — Welles Crowther

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

Welles CrowtherNote: Cassy Fiano at David Horowitz’s NewReal Blog “I wanted to spotlight just a few of the incredible heroes of that fateful day.” This is the second (go there for the full story) of five such tributes.

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Welles Crowther

It was not Welles Crowther’s job to save anyone’s life on September 11. He worked for Sandler O’Neill and Partners on the 104th floor of the South Tower as an equities trader. At about 9:00 in the morning, he was on the phone in his office. His body would be recovered from the lobby along with NYFD firefighters. Having worked as a volunteer firefighter as a teenager, when disaster struck, Welles Crowther sprung into action.

They sat bloody and petrified — the lights out, smoke engulfing the room and pain searing through their bodies. There was no escape from where they were in the South Tower, in pieces after being hit by United Airlines Flight 175 as far as they could tell.

Then out of nowhere, a young man burst in and took control. In a strong, authoritative voice, he directed them to the stairway — which was veiled by darkness, wreckage and haze — telling the injured to get out and the healthy to help them down.

“I see this incredible hero, running back and forth and saving the day,” recalled Judy Wein. “In his mind, he had a duty to do — to save people.”

“He’s definitely my guardian angel — no ifs, ands or buts — because without him, we would be sitting there, waiting [until] the building came down,” echoes Ling Young.

Wein and Young were separated by a few minutes and a few floors that day, but they share a similar story and a single hero: Welles Crowther.

Both women credit the equities trader and volunteer firefighter with saving their lives and dozens of others on September 11.

Crowther has been credited with saving at least 18 lives that day, if not more. One of the people he helped escape, Ling Young, keeps a framed photo of him in her home. …