April 12, 2011

In Reports on March Deficit, Wire Services ‘Forget’ to Tell Readers Spending Reached All-Time Highs

In a business that is supposed to treat record achievements, dubious or otherwise, as news, it’s more than a little curious to note that the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger, along with Reuters and AFP, all “somehow” forgot to tell readers that March’s reported federal outlays, as seen in the Monthly Treasury Statement released today, came in at an all-time record of $339.047 billion, and that this year’s spending through six months of $1.849 trillion — also an all-time record — is 3.5% higher than last year’s comparable figure of $1.786 trillion ($1.671 trillion plus a non-cash credit of $115 billion explained here last year).

This year’s six-month spending total annualizes out to $3.7 trillion, and amount that is almost $1 trillion, or 36%, higher than fiscal 2007. Though spending is the self-evident real problem, frontline reporters and their bosses would apparently prefer that news consumers not see how ugly those numbers really are.

Reuters and AFP can cop out to an extent by claiming that their reports were short. Crutsinger, who used about 575 words in his dispatch, has no such excuse. Here are selected paragraphs from his rendition, indicating that he preferred to relay days-old shutdown-prevention news over fully informing readers of the Monthly Treasury Statement’s contents:

… The Treasury Department reported Tuesday that the deficit already totals $829.4 billion through the first six months of the budget year – a figure that until 2009 would have been the biggest ever for an entire year. For March alone, the government ran a deficit of $188 billion.

President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans averted a government shutdown last week by agreeing to the largest-ever spending cuts for a single year. But David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s in New York, said those cuts amount to a “rounding error” in this year’s deficit.

The cuts include unspent money from the 2010 census, which is completed, and $2.5 billion from the most recent repeal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. They also include $3.5 billion in unused bonuses for states that enroll more children in a health care program for lower-income families.

Wyss expects the deficit will surpass the record of $1.41 trillion hit in 2009. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office raised its estimate earlier this year from $1.1 trillion to $1.5 trillion. A tax-cut package negotiated in December by Obama and Republicans, which includes a one-year reduction in the Social Security payroll tax, prompted the CBO to raise its estimate.

Sure Marty, it’s all the fault of that “tax-cut package.” Give me a break. Though it did reduce Social Security taxes by two percentage points for this year only, the legislation negotiated in December did not cut federal income tax rates at all. Instead, it avoided avoided tax increases which everyone with a brain agreed would do damage to the historically weak recovery from the recession that ended in June 2009.

Crutsinger also “somehow” forgot that the pile of refuse known at the White House’s February budget projected a fiscal 2011 deficit of $1.645 trillion.

It’s really easy to forget that spending levels should be going down, partially because the economy is sort-of recovering, but far more importantly because the 2009-2010 disaster known as the “stimulus,” which by itself was supposed to have inflated spending by $400 billion in both fiscals years, is basically over. Notice that spending has not only not gone down, it has increased, showing that the “stimulus,” regardless of its alleged intentions, ended up being more about increasing the spending baseline than it was about bringing about an economic recovery.

President Obama, as noted yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) has decided to recast himself as a born-again deficit-cutter after two months of deliberately sitting on the sidelines with a budget proposal that was absurd on its face on the mid-February day it was issued. His current solutions, predictably, include a trillion-dollar dose of tax increases.

The wire services’ collective failures to report record spending levels plays right into the administration’s desire to put tax increases back on the table. How convenient.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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BizzyBlog Update: In the interest of space at NB, I didn’t go after the following statement by Crutsinger — “Wyss expects the deficit will surpass the record of $1.41 trillion hit in 2009.” That is true of the reported deficit, but emphatically not true of the cash spending deficit, because of the $115 billion non-cash accounting adjustment noted in the body of the post above.

Specifically the cash spending and deficits, as seen in the graphic at my February 16 Pajamas Media column, are as follows:

  • Fiscal 2008 (the last year mostly unaffected by the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy — Spending of $3.072 trillion, deficit of $455 billion
  • Fiscal 2009 — Spending of $3.407 trillion, deficit of $1.302 trillion
  • Fiscal 2010 — Spending of $3.571 trillion, deficit of $1.408 trillion
  • Fiscal 2011 (projected by the White House) — Spending of $3.819 trillion, deficit of $1.645 trillion

Real year-over-year outlays and year-over-year deficits have been increasing this adminstration began.

BizzyBlog Update 2: If spending continues at the $335 billion monthly average seen in February and March for the next six months, the year-end total will be $3.85 trillion.

Why Are You Protesting Against Israel?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:40 pm

Stock response:

“It is the progressive thing to do.”

The audio is a little annoying, but getting through the vid (HT to an e-mailer) is definitely worth it:

Wrap-up:

“You are trying to confuse me with facts.”

That’s progressivism in a nutshell. It crumbles in the face of facts every time.

Longtime Sports Journalist: ‘NFL players need Obama’s support’

According to his University of Maryland faculty bio, Kevin Blackistone “is a former award-winning sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News from September 1990 to September 2006.” He has written for AOL’s FanHouse; his most recent column is here); he was likely released when AOL recently laid off its FanHouse employees as a result of what I refer to as “Huffington’s Heist.”

In a Monday opinion piece at Politico (HT Hot Air) entitled “NFL players need Obama’s support,” Blackistone criticized the President of the United States for not supporting the players in their dispute with the league’s owners, and — I kid you not — said it “differs very little” from the recent public-sector collective-bargaining controversy in Wisconsin. Blackistone even brought Martin Luther King into the mix (bolds are mine):

… President Barack Obama refused early last month to support — or even get involved in — the players’ labor fight against NFL owners. He dismissed the players as millionaires fighting billionaires, saying he was more concerned about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on state-employee unions.

… Obama may have made a politically astute move by not picking a side in pro football’s offseason showdown. But it smacked of disingenuousness after he criticized as “an assault on unions” Walker’s proposal to strip public-sector employees of collective-bargaining rights. The NFL owners’ fight against the league’s proletariat, regardless of the players’ wealth or the public’s perception of it, differs very little from the Wisconsin battle.

… NFL players, like state workers in Wisconsin, deserve equitable remuneration for their labor, safeguards for their future and safer working conditions. Whether workers are pro football players, school teachers or firefighters, collective bargaining provides labor a means to negotiate with management for all concerns — hallmarks of the American working class. None of those concerns were givens; they were won by collective bargaining.

So, to riff on a quote from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., not to stand up for unions everywhere is a threat to unions everywhere. And unions seem to be under siege across the country now.

… It may be that the majority of pro football players are even more in need of union representation than public workers because their careers are, on average, far shorter.

The careers of 50 percent of NFL players last slightly more than three years. Most wind up unemployed and unprepared for what lies ahead.

… someone has to represent players as a collective group,” (former Green Bay Packer tackle Ken) Ruettgers said.

It’s a point lost on too many — including the commander in chief.

It would be interesting to know how widespread Blackistone’s viewpoint is in sports journalism.

It’s also curious that Blackistone, in an unexcerpted paragraph, asserts that 65% of players end up with permanent injuries by the time they leave the game, given that neither side in the current stalemate seems particularly concerned about the plight of many of the game’s old-timers:

(Former Chicago Bears player and coach Mike) Ditka is affiliated with Gridiron Greats, an organization which provides financial assistance and coordinates social services to dire-need retired NFL players who are considered pioneers of the game.

“We’ve got about seven medical complexes around the country that give pro-bono service, surgery and rehab to guys,” Ditka said of Gridiron Greats. “Why can’t the league do that? We did it. Now we’ve got a dental program coming to fix the old guys’ teeth. We did it. Why can’t they?”

In one notable case, that lack of concern extends to shocking (at least to me) indifference:

When the players decertified their union on March 11, Saints quarterback Drew Brees posted on Twitter the motivation of the players to seek satisfaction in the courts rather than through negotiation with the owners.

“Past players sacrificed a great deal to give us what we have now in the NFL, and we will not lay down for a second to give that up,” Brees tweeted. “We have a responsibility and at some point you just have to stand up for what is right.”

However, in January 2009, Brees had a different take on past players and their financial plights.

“There’s some guys out there that have made bad business decisions,” Brees told USA Today. “They took their pensions early because they never went out and got a job.

“They’ve had a couple divorces. And that’s why they don’t have money. And they’re coming to us to basically say, ‘Please make up for my bad judgment.’”

Ditka professed not to be a Brees fan.

“I have no respect for the guy,” Ditka said. “I don’t care how good he is.

Brees’s sentiments are hardly an expression of the kind of solidarity Kevin Blackistone seems to expect from “the league’s proletariat.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Happy Anniversary Obamacare — Not!! (Robert Roll Column)

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Rob Roll @ 10:12 am

NoObamaCare0809Amid the hoopla over a possible government shutdown and the battles over the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees, a very important event slipped through the cracks. March 23rd was the one-year anniversary of when President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.

Known colloquially as Obamacare, the act’s first year has been a trying one. When the Democrats passed the bill without a single Republican vote and against the will of an overwhelming majority of the public, they were betting that as people began to see the “benefits” of the law, public opinion would turn in support of the bill. In the year that has passed, the Democrats’ hopes have fallen flat. In an April 4th poll, Rasmussen Reports found that 54% of likely voters favor repeal of the law. That is even after the Department of Health and Human Services ran $3.5 million worth of blatantly political ads promoting Obamacare. The popularity of the law has waned so much that Democrat Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman-Shultz asked that members of Congress not refer to the law as Obamacare because it was “demeaning to the President.” You know it is bad when you cannot attach the president’s name to his crowning legislative achievement without it being “demeaning.”

The public’s ire for the law was a large reason for the Republicans’ historic performance in the 2010 midterm elections. As they promised during the campaign, the GOP-run House of Representatives passed a bill that would have repealed Obamacare in its entirety. Unfortunately, the vote failed in the Senate. In the year since, the cost estimates for Obamacare have jumped 8.6% to $1.13 trillion. Beyond the economy-breaking debt that will be incurred from this law, Obamacare is an assault on freedom. Obamacare forces every single American to purchase government-approved health insurance or pay a fine. Where does the government get the power to coerce the people into buying a product? The logic behind forcing every person in the county to be insured is that those who are uninsured pass the costs of their treatment onto those who have health insurance. Thus, if everyone had health insurance, then there would be no “cost shifting.” It is too bad that the whole idea of “cost shifting” is a myth. Three recent studies have shown that the effects of cost shifting are negligible. So even if it were constitutional for the federal government to force you to buy health insurance, doing so would not reduce the cost of health coverage one iota.

Obamacare attempts to make health insurance affordable. It does this by providing subsidies to families with income of up to 400% of the federal poverty level. I do not see why a family making $88,000 needs a subsidy from the government. While that family is by no means rich, they should have enough income to pay for their own health insurance and not have to rely on you and me, the taxpayers. On a related note about the subsidies, they will discourage people from working and contributing to the economy. Under Obamacare, a family with an income of $55,000 would get $10,432 of subsidy. Add the family’s income to the subsidy and you get $65,432. However if one of the family members decides to work overtime and earns an extra $5,000, the family would lose all subsidies and would therefore would only have $60,000. The family would be $5,432 worse off if they decided to work overtime. What is the point of working extra if you are going to be worse off for it? The subsidies in Obamacare will make people refrain from working. In order to grow the economy, we need to use all of the resources, including human resources, in the most efficient way possible.

While its proponents claim that Obamacare will reduce the cost of healthcare, it will actually do the exact opposite. Obamacare will increase the cost of healthcare because it equates health insurance with healthcare. While many people use the terms interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. Healthcare is the actual medical treatment that you receive whether it is an MRI, a surgery or a prescription drug. Health insurance is a product you buy that covers some of the costs of healthcare. Healthcare is expensive is because of health insurance. The reason that health insurance causes healthcare to become more expensive is because it disconnects the consumer from cost of treatment. With the current system, the consumer, i.e. the patient, feels no effect of the cost. Therefore they can spend with impunity. To think of this another way, pretend that you had a “food insurance” policy and went to restaurant. You could have anything you wanted on the menu and you only had a co-pay of $25. Because you do not feel any of the cost of the meal, you would have no qualms about ordering the Kobe steak with a side of Maine lobster. In addition, the restaurant would be free to charge whatever it wanted because it would not lose customers because of price. Replace the food with healthcare and the restaurant with doctors or hospitals and you have the reason health insurance causes the price of healthcare to rise. In order to truly make the cost of healthcare go down we need patients to say, “I’ll go to Dr. Smith for the MRI because he charges $50 less than Dr. Martin.” In other words, we need to create an environment where doctors compete against each other for patients. This competition will lower the cost of healthcare.

It is too bad that Obamacare guts the one thing that allowed market forces to act in the healthcare market. Health Savings Accounts allowed people to put money away tax-free so that they can pay cash for medical services. Because it is their own money in the account, individuals had an incentive to economize on their healthcare purchases. Obamacare makes it so that any money left in a HSA at the end of the year is taxed as ordinary income. This makes HSAs less attractive so less people will use them.

The biggest shame about Obamacare is that it may very well destroy the greatest healthcare system in the world. In a report about health in the United States in 2009 released by the Centers for Disease Control, the life expectancy rose .2 years from 2008 to 78.2, the infant mortality rate hit an all-time low of 6.42 per 1,000 births and the five-year cancer survival rate increased to 66%, the highest in the world by far.

The fact that Obamacare tramples on our liberties, discourages people from working, will increase the cost of healthcare even more, and may very well destroy the greatest healthcare system in the world, is why it must be repealed. But do not expect that to happen while the current president is sitting in the Oval Office. That is why the 2012 election will be one of the most consequential in the history of this nation.

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Robert Roll is a freshman majoring in Finance at Ohio Northern University.

Lucid Links (041211, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 9:56 am

In the opening of a Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday:

Governor Pat Quinn recently added to his reputation as America’s most taxing politician by signing a law applying the state’s 6.25% sales tax to Internet purchases made in Illinois. Within hours, Amazon, the online book and merchandise seller, announced it would discontinue using any of its 9,000 Illinois small business affiliates to avoid having to collect the tax. Congratulations, Governor.

Regardless of where one stands on taxing Internet purchases (I’m against it unless the states lower their sales taxes across the board to compensate, and then put a hard cap on them, which of course none of them will do, especially Illinois), it’s interesting how the left doesn’t denounce Amazon for moves such as this one, given that it’s avoiding collecting millions in taxes by doing so and hurting lots of “little people” to perpetuate that avoidance. Is it because the company is an Internet darling, because it doesn’t make messy, gooey oil, or what?

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Joe Nocera, in a New York Times op-ed, properly calls out the NCAA for hypocrisy:

I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time stomaching the sight of Jim Calhoun holding the championship trophy after Monday’s final game of the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament.

… To put it more bluntly: UConn cheated. Among the punishments meted out was a three-game suspension for Calhoun.

… Calhoun’s suspension was (of course!) deferred until next season … One of his own players described the school’s penalties as “a slap on the wrist.”

… (Meanwhile, the NCAA suspended Baylor freshman) 19-year-old Perry Jones III … literally hours before the team’s conference tournament. Without Jones, Baylor lost big.

… Jones’s main crime was that he is poor.

Jones was in 10th grade when he supposedly broke the N.C.A.A.’s rules. (That’s right. You can break N.C.A.A. rules years before you become part of the N.C.A.A.) His mother, a cafeteria worker, has a heart condition so serious that she will likely need a transplant. Sometimes she’s confined to a wheelchair, causing her to miss work. During one such period, she got behind on her rent.

Three times, she asked Jones’s A.A.U. coach, whom she’d known for years, to lend her $1,200 to pay the rent. Each time, she repaid the loan as soon as she got her paycheck. That, believe it or not, is Jones’s transgression.

Jones says he had no idea his mother was borrowing money to pay the rent, which is completely believable. If you needed a short-term loan to keep from getting evicted, would you tell your teenage son?

What an outrage.

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Bookmark this: “The New Weathermen.” It’s an excellent history of the self-dealing frauds and phonies in the globaloney movement, with links and references galore. It wraps with this assessment of its advocates:

Some are credulous do-gooders who truly believe in the delusion of global warming and will fudge or obscure the facts they find inadmissible in order to preserve their messianic agenda. Soothsayers with an ostensibly noble mission whose auguries are constantly trumped by reality, they are impervious to doubt or reason — just as in the 1970s when they were earnestly warning that the earth was about to freeze over and we should all stock up on parkas and Coleman heaters. These poor people stagger around like late-night party-goers with a pre-dawn hangover, squinting into the unaccustomed light.

But the majority, I suspect, are out-and-out schemers and defalcators who have stumbled on a growth industry and have no intention of getting off the gravy train, which they wish to render, as in a recent movie, unstoppable. They will not surrender the advantages and remunerations that accrue to their shady and canting profession and will fall back on every means at their disposal to stay in business. They will suppress countervailing data. They will slander their opponents. They will “disinvite” authoritative scientists from climate conferences. They will caulk the leaks continually springing in their theories rather than engage in reconsideration. They will cook the books. They will close the scientific journals to their critics. When challenged, they will simply double down in their dividends and gratuities like badgers comfy in their setts.

And they will do everything in their power to instill fear in the multitudes, resembling nothing so much as terrorists armed with improvised statistics. They will detonate data bombs to terrify the unsuspecting. They will lay ambushes on the road to truth. They will plant explosive media devices packed with spurious details to gain their objectives, all the while inundating us with propaganda. They will labor tirelessly to establish the dictatorship of the climatariat. And they will not be deterred from carrying out their subversion of truth, common sense, and society as we know it.

In short, they are the new Weather Underground.

This is as succinct an explanation as any I’ve seen demonstrating why they must be marginalized.

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Apparently, the New York Times won’t correct the following grievous errors in an early-April David Callahan op-ed identified by Mark V. Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Koch Industries, Inc. (HT Powerline; bolds are mine):

First, Mr. Callahan’s description of what the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows is completely incorrect and his entire analysis seems to rely on his erroneous understanding of this case and its effects. 501c4 groups have always been permitted to accept unlimited corporate, union, and individual contributions without publicly revealing their donors except to the Internal Revenue Service. Further, these groups could spend unlimited amounts on lobbying, grass roots activities, voter registration and other advocacy. In fact, as the Times reported at the time of the Citizens United decision in January 2010, the Supreme Court decided by an 8 to 1 majority to uphold the Federal Election Commission’s disclosure requirements for 501c4 groups like Citizens United.

Second, contrary to what Mr. Callahan suggests in his opening paragraph, donors cannot deduct their contributions to political activities. Such a fundamental error in the opening paragraph calls into question everything that follows. In fact, Mr. Callahan compounds his errors by equating philanthropy and political giving, as evidenced by his second sentence in the sixth paragraph.

Third, Mr. Callahan failed to check his facts when he declared that Charles and David Koch have contributed funds to FreedomWorks. As noted in past stories in the Washington Examiner and the Washington Post, Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks.

The Times may offer the defense that Callahan’s piece is an op-ed and requires no fact-checking. Horse manure. When fundamental facts are wrong, the Times, now shown to have incredibly ignorant editors (or editors who don’t even bother checking what’s about to go into their newspaper) must correct the record. Otherwise, people will erroneously trust Callahan’s blatantly wrong assertions.

If the Times fails to make the necessary corrections, it will expose itself as every bit as fundamentally dishonest as Mr. Callahan.

Quick-Hit Headlines (041211, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:34 am

From the “Poor Baby” Dept.“‘I miss being anonymous’: President Obama laments life in fishbowl.” Voters can address the Whiner-in-Chief’s lament 19 months from now. Democrats really should work on ensuring that it happens sooner.

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PC Gone Wild (HT Aaron Worthing at Patterico’s place) — “Easter eggs renamed spring spheres at Seattle school.” And it’s a private school.

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Sadly, this kind of labeling bias caught by Doug Ross last week is routine at the Associated Press“Style Note to A.P.: It’s Not ‘Tea Party Purists’ — It’s ‘Constitutional Conservatives’”

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Relative to the previous item, here’s an AP item about “fracking” for natural gas — “Fracking shale for gas brings wealth, concerns.” The underlying article is entirely about alleged environmental safety issues, and contains no reference to the economics (capital investment, revenues, costs, etc.) of fracking. The only reason for such a headline is to build resentment on the part of those who will only read the headline that somebody, somewhere is actually doing well.

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From the “This Cannot Work Out Well” Dept.“Microsoft Reaches Out to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

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Unlike the orchestrated campaign against Toyota, this problem isn’t made-up: “Chevy Recalls Cruze After A Steering Wheel Falls Off.” Video is here.

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Break out Darth Dilbert’s “Reasons to Home School” graphic (scroll down a little at link) for this one: “Chicago school bans some lunches brought from home.” Instapundit gets it: “More and more, it seems like parental malpractice to let your kids go to public schools, where they seem to be viewed as state property, and guinea pigs for social experimentation.”

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The aforementioned “Reasons to Home School” graphic gets another workout: “Teachers support cop-killer.” Specifically, “The California Federation of Teachers has adopted a resolution of support for convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Unreal.

Positivity: Ryo Ishikawa giving to Japan while playing 2011 Masters

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Augusta, Georgia and Japan (HT Daryn Kagan):

April 8, 2011

Despite being a small nation, Japan has top athletes competing around the world in a variety of sports, including Major League baseball and World Cup skiing.

These athletes have expressed sympathy and concern about what’s happening in their homeland, following the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear crisis. Japan Tour golfer Ryo Ishikawa, who’s playing in the Masters golf tournament in Georgia this week, is no exception. And he’s taking it a step further.

Last week, Ishikawa announced that he would donate all of his 2011 golf earnings to the victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. He also wants to donate a set amount for every birdie he makes this season on the Japan Tour and in other pro events, like the Masters.

Ishikawa is a nine-time winner on the Japan pro golf tour and made his US debut in 2009 at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, Calif.

On Thursday, Ishikawa posted a one-under par in his first round at Augusta National, with four birdies. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

Ishikawa finished tied for 20th at Augusta with a 72-hole score of 285, three under par. Japan’s prize for ishikawa’s performance was roughly $100,000.