June 18, 2011

Ohio’s Senators Opposed Ending Ethanol Susidies; The Real Rob Portman Revealed

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:34 am

A Friday Investors Business Daily editorial opined on a positive development in the Senate. Unfortunately, as will be seen after the excerpt, Ohio’s delegation didn’t join in the return to a bit of sanity.

Here are excerpts from the editorial:

A bipartisan group of 73 Senators votes to end both the ethanol tax credit and the tariff on imported ethanol. Maybe we can finally cut the federal deficit and stop putting food in our gas tanks.

Apparently staring at the bottom of an economic abyss concentrates the mind wonderfully, as a, dare we say it, bipartisan group of 38 Democrats, 33 Republicans and both independents in the U.S. Senate voted to end the government boondoggle that subsidizes a wasteful but politically vested form of energy.

We have noted that since Iowa is the first presidential contest it activates the pandering gene in most ambitious politicians and suggested that if the first caucus state were Idaho we would probably be trying to stuff potatoes in our gas tanks.

Even Al Gore has admitted exploiting ethanol in his global warming crusade for political reasons.

The 73-27 vote on an amendment by Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., exceeded the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the measure as part of an economic development bill. While the bill itself is unlikely to go anywhere, the vote, after an earlier disappointing vote on a procedural matter, signals that when the ethanol subsidy expires on Dec. 31 it is not likely to be renewed.

The amendment not only would repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit that subsidizes ethanol producers, a favored industry unlike Big Oil, but also a 54-cent a gallon tariff on foreign ethanol from the likes of Brazil.

… Ethanol has never made much sense economically or environmentally. It never would have made it to market without politically motivated congressional mandates and huge subsidies.

Believers in free markets and less government need to join the effort to shuck corn as an energy source. Corn belongs in our breakfast cereal and on our dinner plates, not in our gas tanks.

The roll call vote indicates that Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a firm non-believer in free markets and less government, voted no. That’s hardly surprising.

But commenter Greg also noted several days ago that alleged conservative and free-market champion Rob Portman also voted no. That’s disappointing, but hardly surprising, for 183,750 reasons, one for each dollar agribusiness PACs contributed to his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. Portman’s vote reflects the outmoded thinking of someone who is a self-proclaimed — and stubbornly proud of it — Washington insider, and reflects why sensible, constitution-loving conservatives held their noses and hoped for the best when they pulled the lever and voted for him last fall (I couldn’t bring myself to do it).

Rob Portman is not a U.S. Senator representing Ohio. He only accidentally represents the interests of the Buckeye State’s people when those interests happen to coincide with the interests of his PAC and heavy-hitter contributors.

Rob Portman is really a U.S. Senator who represents pay-to-play participants from around the nation. His only meaningful connection with Ohio is that he happens to need enough votes from Buckeye State residents once every six years to be able to continue his pay-to-play representation. He is the poster boy demonstrating why the 17th Amendment was such a serious mistake.

Machines Are Exempt From Obamacare

stop_obamacare-300x300Why businesses are buying more equipment and not hiring more people.

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Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Thursday.

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On June 10, Catherine Rampell at the New York Times presented what she thought was a seemingly inexplicable and troubling conundrum, which this column will clear up:

Spending on equipment and software has risen 25.6 percent in the last seven quarters, while companies’ aggregate spending on employees has risen only 2.2 percent.

Somehow, capital spending is growing faster and labor spending is growing more slowly than has been the case in almost every previous recovery on record.

A few days later, in an interview with President Barack Obama which has become infamous for his out-of-touch reference to how ATMs are replacing bank tellers — as if that’s something new — NBC’s Ann Curry opportunistically jumped on Rampell’s report to take a shot at America’s private sector:

Curry: You’re here encouraging private sector hiring. This just after the New York Times this past Friday reported that business have spent just 2% more on hiring people while at the same time spending 26% more on equipment. So why at a time when Corporate America is enjoying record profits have you been unable to convince business to hire more people, Mr. President?

Obama: I don’t think it’s a matter of me being unable to convince them to hire more people, because they’re making decisions based on what will be good for their companies.

The statist subtext of Curry’s words was offensive enough. Her venom is even more apparent if one looks at the interview segment’s video. What she really seemed to want to ask was: “Darn it, why aren’t these companies doing what they’re supposed to do? Don’t they know it’s their duty to follow your wishes, Mr. President?”

In Curry’s world, companies apparently have an obligation to spend their “record profits” (itself a questionable contention; corporate income tax collections of $85 billion through May of fiscal 2011 are less than half of what they were through May 2008) on hiring people, even when doing so doesn’t make sense. If it did, Ann, they’d be doing it. Worse, she seems to believe that El Presidente should be able to “convince” companies to add people even if doing so costs more than the newbies will contribute. It’s as if she’s begging Obama to use the bully pulpit — and to go further, if necessary — to “persuade” and if necessary force employers to take on people they don’t need or want.

Obama’s initial answer to Ms. “Command and Control” Curry was uncharacteristically good. Of course businesses have to look out for “what will be good for their companies.” Obama’s statement just before his awful ATM cite was also correct:

There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers.

Ah, but what are these “structural issues,” Mr. Obama? What is so fundamentally different about this attempted recovery compared to “almost every previous recovery on record”?

At the Times, Ms. Rampell only nibbled around the edges, citing “rising benefits costs and, in particular, rising health insurance costs.” But employee benefits have been increasing much faster than wages and salaries almost continuously since World War II. Why would they have a disproportionately negative effect this time around?

On Tuesday, Douglas French at the Christian Science Monitor, commenting on Rampell’s work, blamed the 2007-2009 hikes in the minimum wage. There is no doubt that an artificially high minimum wage is harmful to job-seeking teens and low-skilled workers. But in real terms, the current minimum is about 25% lower than it was at its peak in 1968. So in theory and in ordinary circumstances, perhaps those who thought that the job market might be able to absorb such large increases without hurting employment too badly had some basis for that belief.

Except for one thing: These aren’t ordinary circumstances.

In March 2010, Congress passed and Obama signed a certain law. Nicknamed “Obamacare,” this law “will force most American business firms to offer government-approved health insurance to their employees or else pay new federal taxes for not doing so.” The legislation will apply to any employee “working 120 hours per month.”

But why does Obamacare matter if it mostly won’t kick in for another 2-1/2 years? That’s easy, but clearly not well understood.

If you are running a business, you structure it and design your future plans based not only on the world as it is today, but also on what it may look like in the reasonably near future. You must prepare yourself for likely worst-case scenarios. The one relating to employment is that Obamacare will survive legal and electoral challenges. Facing that possibility, you avoid hiring people. When looking at “man vs. machine” decisions, you choose the machine if it’s at all affordable. You do everything you can to squeeze productivity out of your current crew, even larding on extra duties and overtime if they can handle it.

Additionally, companies are run by human beings who, especially at smaller businesses, really hate to have to let people go (and of course, they, like their larger brethren, also must worry about unemployment insurance costs, wrongful termination lawsuits, and the like). If you believe that having additional employees around will become cost-prohibitive in 2014, you avoid hiring them today. Combine all of this with historically weak post-recession economic growth, and you have the perfect recipe for what has resulted: lackluster hiring, heavy use of part-timers and temporary help, and the aforementioned bias towards automation.

There’s a quick answer which mostly explains why these job-market and economic conditions are present. It’s not what Ann Curry apparently believes and wants her viewers to believe, which is that it’s some kind of unprecedented orchestrated exercise in corporate greed.

Five words explain businesses’ rational response: Machines are exempt from Obamacare.

Positivity: Medical miracle, girl survives rabies infection without vaccination Continue reading on Examiner.com Medical miracle, girl survives rabies infection without vaccination

Filed under: Health Care,Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Atlanta:

June 14, 2011 7:36 am ET

There have only been two cases of people surviving after contracting rabies. That is until now. An 8-year-old girl is now the third rabies victim to beat the deadly disease.

In April the 8-year-old Precious Reynolds from California, contracted rabies from a rabid cat, who scratched her outside her elementary school.

In May the girl’s grandmother took her to the doctor because of flu-like symptoms. However, after running several tests doctors confirmed Precious had rabies.

“Rabies was not on my list,” Dr. Theresa Vlautin, her pediatrician at Children’s Hospital, told the Sacramento Bee. “It’s very, very rare to get rabies in a human – there about 30 cases in the world.”

After the virus is active and symptoms have started, it’s too late to give the necessary vaccines that are given following an animal bite or scratch.

“None of us thought she would leave the PICU,” Krystle Realyvasquez, a nurse who cared for Precious, said in the statement. “When she did it was unbelievable.”

The girl’s treatment was a combined effort of the University of California Davis Children’s Hospital, federal and state health officials and Atlanta based CDC.

Precious received the same treatment as Jenna Geise did in 2004, after she contracted rabies from a bat. She was the first such survivor.

Doctors placed Precius in a drug-induced coma as she received anti-viral medication. She spent two weeks in intensive care and was then moved to the hospital’s general pediatric unit.

Her doctor says, “From the very beginning, Precious had a very rapid, robust immune response to her infection, which is a significant contributor to why she survived.”

Go here for the rest of the story.