April 25, 2011

Overnight Outrage: Tax-Funded Courses in Missouri on Strategic Union Violence

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:57 pm

UnionThugCourseVidsIntro0411Imagine if a Tea Party backer by some miracle got to teach on a college campus, and began describing ways to, oh, I don’t know, keep opposing politicians from conducting business, hack into their computers and destroy data, and make their staffs feel threatened. How long would that class last, and how long would it be before it became a national news story?

Well, Publius at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com reports that ” the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) sponsored two college courses: Introduction to Labor Studies and Labor Politics and Society, to be taught simultaneously through a video conference between to two campuses.” Publius asserts, with video proof, that the courses really really are “How-to College Course(s) in Violent Union Tactics.”

The two must-see BigGov posts are here and here. The videos follow the jump.

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Income and Life Expectancy Ambush Repelled

Filed under: Economy,Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:01 pm

Pajamas Media asked me to appear on a “progressive” talk radio show this afternoon, and I dutifully assented.

The topic was my second most recent column, “End the Life Expectancy ‘Handouts’ and Encourage Post-Retirement Work.”

The host was intent on twisting my column into a supposed to desire to see people work until they drop dead and get buried on the spot (What about “encourage post-retirement work” didn’t he understand?). This of course is not the case; his angle is why you’re not going to see me mention his name in this post. Fortunately, I was able to head the attempted misdirection off at the pass as soon as I detected it by reminding him of the column’s title.

I was surprised that the host was apparently unaware of the existence of Social Security’s retirement earnings penalty, as he questioned whether there were any current disincentives discouraging post-retirement work.

What I wasn’t ready for was the host’s assertion that there are radical life expectancy differences at age 65 between high-income and low-income groups. I said “I don’t think so.”

Well, now I know that it isn’t so. The info which follow is a little dated, but there’s no way that things have changed that much for the worse (they’ve probably improved) in the intervening decade.

First, there’s this:

How long you live depends on which USA you live in
Updated 9/12/2006 5:16 PM ET

America is a nation divided by vast differences in life expectancy, a “longevity gap” that can’t be readily explained by race, income or access to health care, a study reported Monday.

… supported by this:

Map out the ’8 Americas’
Updated 9/11/2006 10:16 PM ET

The vast differences of life expectancy separating the “eight Americas” reported by Harvard’s Christopher Murray and his co-workers in September’s PloS Medicine appear to be due mainly to chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer, along with homicides and injuries with well-known risks such as alcohol-related car crashes.

Murray says the “longevity gap” can be reduced by “cheap and effective” measures to lower cancer and heart disease risks; among those measures are eating healthier foods, exercising regularly and taking medications that lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.

The following is a snapshot of the “eight Americas” and how life expectancy divides us:

• 1. 10.4 million Asians with a per capita income of $21,566 and an average life expectancy of 85.

• 2. 3.6 million whites in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska, with a income of $17,758 and an average life expectancy of 79 .

• 3. 214 million middle Americans, with a per capita income of $24,640 and an average life expectancy of 78.

• 4. 16.6 million whites in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley with an income of $16,390 and a life expectancy of 75.

• 5. 1 million Western Native Americans with a per capita income of $10,029 and life expectancy of 73.

• 6. 23.4 million black middle Americans with a per capita income of $15,412 and a life expectancy of 73.

• 7. 5.8 million southern low-income blacks with a per capita income of $10,463 and a life expectancy of 71.

• 8. 7.5 million high-risk urban blacks, living in counties with a homicide risk that tops the 95th percentile of U.S. counties, with a per capita income of $14,800 and a life expectancy of 71.

Simply stated, if income were a controlling determinant, Groups 1 and 2 wouldn’t be Groups 1 and 2. Group 3 would be living longer. They don’t.

Now I guess to definitively prove the obvious I should to go to the next step and look at Age-65 life expectancies. But I couldn’t readily find relevant income-related data at that age, including at the web site my interviewer suggested.

In reality, there’s really no reason to dig any further. It’s intuitively clear that Groups 1 and 2 can’t possibly all of a sudden have short life expectancies at age 65 if their life expectancies at birth are so long. The numbers wouldn’t work.

Really, seeing that the conclusion is so obvious and the original assertion so absurd, I’ve already put too much effort into this. Income isn’t a hugely influential determinant. Consider this another liberal meme that’s busted.

It’s ridiculous how easy this is.

NYT ‘Shazam!’ Moment: ‘Stimulus by Fed Is Disappointing’

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:38 pm

NYTlogoWithPaper0209Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but in late August 2010 Ben Bernanke took on complete responsibility for everything — especially everything mediocre or bad — that occurs in the economy.

I know this because on August 27 and 28 (covered here and here), the Associated Press issued three reports essentially telling readers that it was up to Ben to save us. There wasn’t anything Barack Obama, Tim Geithner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, or then-present Larry Summers could possibly say or do to improve the economic situation, described at the time as “appears to be stalling” in one of those AP items.

Out of this came what has come to be known as “QE2″ (the second round of “quantitative easing”), otherwise known as “electronically printing money to buy U.S. debt because possibly no one else will.”

Well, it hasn’t worked out so well, according to the New York Times, whose Binyamin Appelbaum reported the “surprisingly” pathetic results on Sunday:

Stimulus by Fed Is Disappointing, Economists Say

The Federal Reserve’s experimental effort to spur a recovery by purchasing vast quantities of federal debt has pumped up the stock market, reduced the cost of American exports and allowed companies to borrow money at lower interest rates.

But most Americans are not feeling the difference, in part because those benefits have been surprisingly small. The latest estimates from economists, in fact, suggest that the pace of recovery from the global financial crisis has flagged since November, when the Fed started buying $600 billion in Treasury securities to push private dollars into investments that create jobs.

As the Fed’s policy-making board prepares to meet Tuesday and Wednesday — after which the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, will hold a news conference for the first time to explain its decisions to the public — a broad range of economists say that the disappointing results show the limits of the central bank’s ability to lift the nation from its economic malaise.

“It’s good for stopping the fall, but for actually turning things around and driving the recovery, I just don’t think monetary policy has that power,” said Mark Thoma, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, referring specifically to the bond-buying program.

Well, wait a minute. If monetary policy doesn’t have that power, what does? Maybe it’s fiscal policy, the massive disaster perpetrated by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid during the past four budget years (2008 through 2011), with President Barack Obama leading the cheers and signing the bills since January 2009.

Well then, maybe Appelbaum should have addressed how fiscal policy has failed us, and is endangering us. He didn’t; you will search in vain for the following words in his coverage: Obama, Democrats, Pelosi, Reid, Congress.

Continuing, with an incredible assertion by Appelbaum that doesn’t pass the laugh test in bold:

Mr. Bernanke and his supporters say that the purchases have improved economic conditions, all but erasing fears of deflation, a pattern of falling prices that can delay purchases and stall growth. Inflation, which is beneficial in moderation, has climbed closer to healthy levels since the Fed started buying bonds.

“These actions had the expected effects on markets and are thereby providing significant support to job creation and the economy,” Mr. Bernanke said in a February speech, an argument he has repeated frequently.

But growth remains slow, jobs remain scarce, and with the debt purchases scheduled to end in June, the Fed must now decide what comes next.

I’m so glad that inflation is “closer to healthy levels.” Meanwhile, producer prices are up at an annual rate of 4.2% during the first quarter. Binny, my friend, we can only stand so much “health.”

As to “what comes next,” what happened last time, in my opinion, is that Team Obama and the Democratic Congress told Ben: “Pal, you’d better keep priming the pump or we’re going to pin the double-dip entirely on you.” Perhaps Ben will be similarly forced into QE3 this time — after which the Times will again be “surprised” at its ineffectiveness. But with Republicans controlling the House, maybe Ben will pass on QE3 so the administration can blame Boehner. Regardless, you can pretty much count on the Times and the rest of the establishment press to do everything they can to disassociate Barack Obama and his administration from any blame for the calamity it and the Pelosi-Reid Congress have created.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Advance Excuse of the Day: ‘Worse Than Normal’ Weather Will Make 1Q11 GDP Look Bad (Update: ‘Strangely’ Missing Words)

From Steve Goldstein at MarketWatch:

‘Limited’ first-quarter U.S. growth to be revealed
Signs of faltering recovery down to ‘one-off factors,’ including oil

The nation’s economy in the first quarter didn’t grow nearly as quickly as it did in the fourth quarter, and on Thursday the government will release the grim data.

To be fair, none of the economists that MarketWatch tracks is expecting the Commerce Department to report that gross domestic product shrank in the January-to-March period. But the MarketWatch consensus for the GDP data, due for release Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, pegs growth as slowing to a 1.7% annualized pace from 3.1% in the fourth quarter.

Some readers will roll their eyes, but this winter actually was worse than normal in terms of snowfall. The Middle East, the dominant provider of world if not U.S. oil, isn’t always in the throes of a revolution that both limits actual output (Libya) and raises fears about future output (Saudi Arabia, Iran).

“Several one-off factors — a significant jump in oil prices, weather-related disruptions and an anomalous shortfall in defense outlays — limited growth temporarily in the first quarter,” said Robert DiClemente, chief U.S. economist at Citi, in a note to clients. He’s forecasting 1.8% first-quarter GDP growth.

“In our judgment, these special factors alone were not enough to quash a recovery that otherwise exhibited healthy demand, accelerating employment gains and surprisingly stable financial conditions,” according to DiClemente.

That’s the typical view on Wall Street. Even though 38 out of 52 economists have reduced their annual GDP growth view in a poll by Blue Chip Economic Indicators earlier this month, the 2011 estimate still stands at 2.9%, which is how fast the U.S. economy grew last year.

Weather? You want weather? Try 1976 and 1977, arguably the worst winters in my lifetime nationwide (esp 1977, when an incredible blizzard rendered virtually the entire Midwest helpless for a week). 1Q76 and 1Q77 growth were 9.4% and 4.7%, respectively. Please, people: Cut the crap.

As to that full-year forecast, this Zero Hedge post says “good luck with that”:

And following the continuing plunge in new homes for sale reported earlier, we get the second validation of the theory that the Q2 GDP is about to get the rug pulled from underneath it. The April Dallas manufacturing number came precisely at the borderline we expected earlier would mean an outright downgrade of Q2 economic data by Goldman, or 10.5%. Of note: The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, moved down from 24 to 8, suggesting slower growth in output.” We thing the proper word is “plunged.”

If gas prices go where predicted, 2.9% would seem to be a pipe dream, especially if the first quarter comes in between 1.5% and 2.0%, as the rest of the year would have to average well over 3%. The irony: If gas prices don’t go where predicted, it may only be because of reduced demand because of less robust economic activity, i.e., less growth. Catch-22.

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UPDATE: Search Mr. Goldstein’s article and you’ll find no reference to “Obama,” “President,” or “Congress.”

Well, Here We Are (Update: Pictured Station Lowers Price to $3.859)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:58 pm

$4 a gallon gas (okay $3.999) — Taken shortly after 3:00 p.m. at I-71 and Ohio SR 741:

Speedway399pt9Apr252011

Our President is getting his wish, if he considers a two-year climb from $1.79 to $4 “gradual,” and/or if he similarly views an increase of over $1 in less than 6 months:

One may question how much responsibility Obama’s administration has for current prices — I maintain that it’s more than minor — but no one can question whether he believes that $4 and higher gas is inherently desirable. He does, and it’s not arguable.

__________________________________________________

UPDATE: CincyGasPrices.com shows about a dozen other stations besides the one pictured above at $3.99, with a current local average of $3.86.

UPDATE 2: Well, I could either say “BizzyBlog gets results” or acknowledge Murphy’s Law. The price at the station in question changed about an hour later to $3.859. Sadly, I think it’s Murphy’s Law. :–>

UPDATE 3: At Gateway Pundit — “As Gas Prices Reach $4 Per Gallon – The Obama EPA Forces Shell to Abandon Arctic Drilling” (HT to commenter “Gregory” below). From here, it looks like they did it for no valid reason — except that they can.

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Maxed Out America: Coming Sooner Than You Think’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:12 am

It’s here.

It follows up on the “Maxed Out America” of the PJ Institute announced on Thursday (“Fiscal Solution Window Closing”).

The column will go up here at BizzyBlog on Wednesday (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

Quick-Hit Headlines (042511, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:55 am

Ruh-roh (HT to commenter dscott):

China should reduce its excessive foreign exchange reserves and further diversify its holdings, Tang Shuangning, chairman of China Everbright Group, said on Saturday.

The amount of foreign exchange reserves should be restricted to between 800 billion to 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars, Tang told a forum in Beijing, saying that the current reserve amount is too high.

China’s foreign exchange reserves increased by 197.4 billion U.S. dollars in the first three months of this year to 3.04 trillion U.S. dollars by the end of March.

Tang’s remarks echoed the stance of Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of China’s central bank, who said on Monday that China’s foreign exchange reserves “exceed our reasonable requirement” …

That’s a potential 57% reduction.

QE on steroids, here we come?

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Investors Business Daily Editorial: Did White House Try To Bully S&P?

Given that there is always an unbalanced relationship between a government and a private entity in such “discussions,” the very act of having such “discussions” carries a presumptive aroma of bullying. And yes, that means that the Obama administration had no business trying to influence S&P’s deliberations beyond providing the company the information it needed to do its work.

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What!? Per Apple: “To provide the high quality products and services that its customers demand, Apple must have access to the comprehensive location-based information.”

Well, that only works if customers are okay with being tracked and are okay with the cops having the info, whether they need it or not, and if customers have no recourse the next time they buy a computer or wireless device.

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At the 5:16 mark of the video found here (HT Instapundit), “Stefan Fitch” (that’s a guess at the spelling), when asked about what people who are spending a large percentage of their paycheck at the grocery store need to do, responds that “they need to find a better job.” Thanks, big guy.

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So predictable: Washington (State) considers annual flat fee for electric cars.”

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In an op-ed piece at the Washington Post (“China’s Train Wreck”; HT Hot Air, Charles Lane examines the wreckage of China’s $300 billion high-speed rail project, which has run up a debt load (not a misprint) of $271 billion:

… China’s bullet-train experience shows what can go wrong when an unelected elite, influenced by corrupt opportunists, gives orders that all must follow — without the robust public discussion we would have in the states.

The fact is that China’s train wreck was eminently foreseeable.

That eminent foreseeability is why John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida turned down Uncle Sam’s “free” rapid-transit money. Kasich’s rejection was a particularly obvious call, given that the mediocre-speed Cincy-Columbus-Cleveland choo-choo would have required $17 million in annual subsidies — and that’s for openers, before the inevitable cost overruns and disappointing passenger utilization which surely would have followed, and which surely would have sharply increased the required subsidies. The experience of China, the supposed exemplar, should embarrass lefties never stop promoting the mass-transit elixir. But it’s a safe prediction that it won’t.

Positivity: Pope Benedict — Easter brings us to the side of reason, freedom and love

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Vatican City:

Apr 23, 2011 / 05:54 pm

During the Easter Vigil celebrated this evening at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict said that, thanks to the resurrection of the Lord, “life remains good,” “hence we can and must place ourselves on the side of reason, freedom and love – on the side of God who loves us so much that he suffered for us, that from his death there might emerge a new, definitive and healed life”.

Pope Benedict’s full homily follows.
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