July 10, 2011

AP Coverage Of Minn. Shutdown Frets Over Govt. Employee ‘Brain Drain,’ Doesn’t Mention Taxes

minnesotaIn their Sunday evening coverage of the Minnesota government shutdown, Associated Press reporters Steve Karnowski and Amy Forliti failed to mention any form of the word “tax,” failed to mention “spending” in the context of government outlays, and fretted that a prolonged shutdown might cause a “brain drain” from state government.

The failure to bring up taxes is clearly the item’s most egregious oversight, since the shutdown is all about taxes, specifically Democratic Governor Mark Dayton’s refusal to sign a state budget that doesn’t contain tax increases on high income-earners. On the plus side, though it took an one of the people interviewed to say it and the disclosure didn’t appear until the end, the wire service has acknowledged that “Dayton vetoed all major state agency funding bills Republicans passed at the end of the session.” In other words, it is inarguably the case that Dayton chose to shut down the government when he could have kept it running.

Here are several paragraphs from the AP pair’s report, concentrating on the ones very late in the story which contain workers’ varying opinions of the situation:

Idled Minn. public employees holding on — for now

(Paragraph 4)

Many of the 22,000 public employees out of work in Minnesota’s budget impasse say they will get through the extended layoff by tapping into personal savings, relying on a spouse’s income or unemployment checks, and making household spending cuts. But others are looking for new jobs, creating the potential for a brain drain that would be one more negative from the nation’s longest state government shutdown in a decade.

(Paragraphs 13 through 21)

… Jim Ullmer, of Crystal, a commercial vehicle inspector for the Department of Public Safety, has been babysitting his 18-month-old granddaughter, who he took to an anti-shutdown union rally at the Capitol last week.

… Ullmer also has been spending time on the phone. He’s the chief steward statewide for members in his agency who belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He tells members curious about how long the shutdown will last to call their legislators.

“Ask them. They’re the ones who are keeping us out here,” Ullmer said.

The workers’ money woes contrast sharply with the position of state lawmakers, who are still eligible for their salaries during the shutdown – although some have chosen not to take them. And while their unions are a traditional power base for Democrats and support for Dayton remains strong, it’s not universal.

Brian Lindholt, of Minneapolis, says Republicans could end the shutdown simply by meeting the Democratic governor halfway.

… But Pakieser, who belongs to the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, criticized the unions for their close alliance with the governor.

“I feel like Dayton has gone out of the way to mislead people about his compromise attitude,” Pakieser said. He said a video is circulating on YouTube of Dayton imploring lawmakers in February to join him in pledging not to shut down the government, yet Dayton vetoed all major state agency funding bills Republicans passed at the end of the session.

“It just looks to me like he wanted to force a shutdown. … He chose to spread maximum pain throughout the state government,” Pakieser said.

The final paragraphs cite and quote a gentlemen who believes both parties are equally to blame.

As to the “brain drain” argument, c’mon. It’s hard to believe that as well-paid as public-sector employees are that finding others to fill in the breach wouldn’t be all that difficult.

As noted earlier, there’s no discussion of Dayton’s obsessive desire to raise taxes, and how he’d rather shut down the government and idle 22,000 state employees than keep the government running and work on justifying the increase he wants. The wire service reporters’ defense may be that it was supposed to be a human interest story about how public-sector employees are faring, but shouldn’t readers know why it’s happening to have meaningful context for understanding the the woe-is-us factor?

The first half of the previous paragraph sounds like someone we know in Washington, doesn’t it? It would not be a surprise if that person is also looking to shut down the government to make a tax-raising point. The success or failure of Dayton’s effort would appear to have significance beyond the Gopher State.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

The Updated Obama Stimulus vs. No-Stimulus vs. Reality Chart

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:17 pm

Here it is, with yours truly adding the June dot (May version found at e21):


The dark blue line represents what the Obama administration promised if Congress passed the stimulus bill, which it did, with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown “flying aboard a government plane from Ohio, where he was mourning his mother’s death,” to cast the deciding vote.

The light blue line represents what the administration said would happen if the stimulus bill didn’t pass.

The red dots represent actual unemployment rates since then.

Clearly, doing nothing would have been better.

This chart should end up being one for the history books — and become standard fare in macroeconomics texts.

OK, It’s Long Past Time to Stop the Knee-Jerk Hatin’ on Boehner (Update: A Look at the Current Fiscal Year)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:57 pm

BoehnerFrom time to time, including during Friday’s Truth in Blogging broadcast, I direct some needling at show orchestrator and Weapons of Mass Discussion co-blogger Matt Hurley, who is a constituent of John Boehner, whom Matt routinely describes as “my congressman, House Speaker, and a great American.” This time, it was to ask, “So when’s Boehner going to sell out?”

It was meant in jest, because I know that Matt is more than a little tired of the reflexive disdain for the Speaker coming from the right, which, though perhaps partially justified, has gotten way out of control.

The possible partial justification is how the hoped-for $100 billion in current fiscal year spending reductions “promised” during the 2010 congressional campaign were prorated to $62 billion, morphed into $30 billion during negotiations, and supposedly ended up being only $300 million by the time all was said and done. More on that in the Update.

Look, I get it. I’m a Chicago Cubs fan. For longer than I’ve been alive — heck, going back to before my father was born — they’ve been figuring out ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

With just about the sole exceptions being the eight glorious years of Ronald Reagan and a brief period during 2003, Washington Republicans have been like the Cubs for as long as I’ve been following the news. You think they really mean it about holding out for their principles — and they cave.

The most notorious cave was during the 1994 government shutdown. Republicans led by House Speaker and now supposedly qualified critic Newt Gingrich had the Clinton administration on the ropes — and a GOP majority in the Senate. As We The People Convention speaker and Wall Street Journal reporter John Fund reminded attendees last week, Bill Clinton aide George Stephanopoulous, who would seem to have no motivation to fudge in this instance, wrote in his late 1990s book that Team Clinton was on the edge of caving during the shutdown — when Senate Majority leader Bob Dole decided that it couldn’t go on any longer. Gingrich apparently felt he had lost his leverage, and went along. Though the early years of the GOP-led Congress were marked by a few years of (relatively speaking) spending control and gave people like John Kasich and others the ability to get the country to a balanced budget for the first time in 30 years in later in the decade, the PR battle was lost.

John Boehner doesn’t have a GOP majority to lean on in the Senate (given that Mitch McConnell would be the majority leader, that may be a good thing in any event). Boehner still faces a hostile government-media complex — with a bigger government and far more hostile establishment press — than did Gingrich and Dole. In theory, he has the center-right New Media on his side, but too many of “us” are worse than Cub fans, who at least hold out hope until the final out in the ninth inning. Too many in the center-right start booing, leave the game and cry out for the manager to be fired when we’re only halfway, if that, through the game.

The reax to what was leaking out last night before the Speaker issued his statement went way over the top. Based primarily on items coming from the Wall Street Journal (since updated), whose beat reporters are often no better than Associated Press or Washington Post hacks (even if the Editorial Board’s output is usually pretty strong), and James Pethokoukis, who openly admitted he was relying on media accounts and thus not his own sources, they assumed all was lost.

I really don’t know why we’re supposed to think that, in light of Boehner’s actual statement last night (bold is mine):

“Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes. I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase.”

That statement was strong enough that two apparatchiks at the Associated Press felt compelled to split its two sentences and place seven paragraphs of Obama hype in between to water it down.

What about “without tax hikes” am I missing?

Those who doubt should at least read Pethokoukis’s latest from early this morning, which references a real source this time, before concluding that all is lost (bolds are mine):

Like Reagan at Reykjavik, Boehner passes on a bad deal

So in the end, it was bit of a Ronald Reagan moment for John Boehner on Saturday. Just as the U.S. president walked away from a bad arms control agreement with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik, Iceland in 1986, the House speaker passed on President Barack Obama’s mega-debt reduction deal in Washington.

In both case(s), the asking price was just too high. For Reagan, it was lethal limitations on his Strategic Defense Initiative. For Boehner, it was a trillion-dollar tax distraction from America’s true fiscal threat: spending run amok: “Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes.”

A GOP congressional source was a bit less diplomatic, telling me Saturday afternoon via email:

Their fierce insistence on higher taxes is beyond bizarre. After months of demanding ‘clean’ increase to avert economic calamity (default), WH threatens economic calamity (default) unless they get economic calamity (trillions in tax hikes). No wonder these guys are governing over an economic calamity (9.2% & growth malaise), w/ an economic calamity on the horizon (debt explosion as mapped out in president’s budget). The bipartisan consensus on tax reform (broader base & lower rates) was championed by President’s fiscal commission, and yet now is being rebuked by the President. Lowering top rates that would help make America more competitive was too large a leap for a true class warrior.

Indeed, as negotiations wore on, Obama got tougher on taxes (pushed hard by the hard left), and the deal he was cooking up almost certainly wouldn’t have been revenue neutral as he tweaked rates and reduced tax deductions. Not even close. Nor did it help that Obama reportedly balked at a spending-cut trigger if certainly tax reforms were not completed.

Or maybe Boehner also realized he was becoming a role player in an Obama-directed drama whose dramatic focus was securing a second-term for Obama. Either Obama got his big tax-hike deal and a) created a tea party revolt in the GOP, b) looked like a statesmen and c) partially deprived Republicans of a valuable line of attack in 2012 … or there was no deal, and Obama could hammer the GOP until Election Day for caring more about tax cuts for the rich than fiscal responsibility.

Boehner apparently will take his chances with door #2 and push for a roughly $2.4 trillion deal (with a debt ceiling hike, too) based on spending cuts already agreed to and some non-tax revenue raisers. Deeper spending cuts and structural entitlement reform would be better, but that is going to have to be a 2013 thing. Indeed, what entitlement reforms Obama was agreeing to were insufficient to Republicans.

Someone’s going to have to explain to me how what Pethokoukis is reporting is a sellout. The closest one can get is that Boehner might have been open to some tax increases if Team Obama hadn’t turned into complete jerks. But … he didn’t.

My guess is that the Democrats and Biden are now going to try to pretend they never really agreed on $2.4 trillion in cuts, because they’re more interested in testing the shutdown waters than making any real progress towards putting the nation’s fiscal house in order.

How Boehner and the GOP react will be critical. The knee-jerk naysayers should be civilly bucking up the Speaker’s and their Congresscritters’ resolve instead of griping and moaning about the supposedly inevitable sellout. The Speaker’s contact form is here; the main form for the House is here; the list of U.S. Senators is here.

Or is griping and moaning more comfortable?


UPDATE: I said I was going to get to the fiscal 2011 situation. The established meme is: “Boehner promised $100 billion, prorated to $62 billion, said he settled for $30 billion, and it ended up being only $300 million.”

Well, let’s look at how the actual spending numbers are coming in (figures are per the May Monthly Treasury Statement, except June, which comes from the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent Monthly Budget Review):


The above is quite interesting. Follow this sequence:

  • Obama’s unsustainable, gutless, irresponsible February budget projected $3.819 trillion in FY 2011 spending.
  • The CBO has projected at least $3.7 trillion (actually $3.708 trillion, as seen at this large PDF).
  • In February, March, and April alone, the government spent over $1 trillion.
  • The fiscal 2011 deal was done in April.
  • Since then, after correcting for TARP shenanigans, May spending stayed the same as last year and June, at least per the CBO, is going to come in lower.
  • If average monthly spending stays at the average of May and June for the rest of the year (don’t get me wrong, on an annualized basis it’s still at least $600 billion, or $50 billion a month, higher than it should be), total spending will end up being $3.618 trillion.
  • If that happens, total spending will end up being about $90 billion lower than CBO predicted, and $200 billion lower than Obama projected.

If this is really how things turn out, why won’t John Boehner and the Republican House deserve some credit for that?

Additional question: Will this mean that the April deal has been deliberately misportrayed, or that Team Obama, having faced Boehner in April, decided to ramp back the spending as a hedge against Boehner and the GOP demonstrating resolve on the debt ceiling? Alternative explanations are welcome.

Mark Steyn on Selective Public Shaming

At Investors Business Daily, the one-man global content provider notes how a private entity (News of the World) is held accountable by its owner — with all of its employees losing their jobs in its shutdown, while those in the Atlanta’s public schools who have engaged in systematic de facto child abuse and those in federal law enforcement responsible for the death of at least one of their own, a considerable number of Mexican civilians, and who knows how many others by the time it’s all done will largely escape any repercussions for their heinous actions:

… you can’t help but notice that this supposed public shaming is awfully selective.

In the week of the News Of The World revelations, it was reported that the Atlanta Public Schools system has spent the last decade systemically cheating on its tests. Not the students, but the superintendent, and the union, and 38 principals, and at least 178 teachers — whoops, pardon me, “educators,” and some 44 of the 56 school districts.

Teachers held “changing parties” at their homes at which they sat around with extra supplies of erasers correcting their students’ test answers in order to improve overall scores and qualify for “No Child Left Behind” federal funding that could be sluiced into maintaining their lavish remuneration. Let’s face it, it’s easier than teaching, right?

… In reality, Beverly Hall’s Atlanta Public Schools system was in the child-abuse business: It violated the education of its students in order to improve its employees’ cozy sinecures. The whole rotten stinking school system is systemically corrupt from the Superintendent down. But what are the chances of APS being closed down? How many of those fraudulent non-teachers will waft on within the system until their lucrative retirements?

Or consider “Operation Fast and Furious,” about which nothing is happening terribly fast and over which Americans should be furious. The official explanation is that the federal government used stimulus funding to buy guns from Arizona gun shops for known criminals to funnel to Mexican drug cartels.

… what did the drug cartels, the recipients of the guns, do with them? Well, they used them to kill at least one member of a third federal agency: Brian Terry of the United States Border Patrol. If that doesn’t bother you, well, they also killed not insignificant numbers of Mexican civilians.

If, by this stage, you’re wondering why U.S. stimulus dollars are being used to stimulate the Mexican coffin industry, consider the dark suspicion of many American gun owners — that the real reason the feds embarked on this murderous scheme was to plant the evidence that the increasing lawlessness on the southern border is the fault of the gun industry and the Second Amendment, and thereby advance its ideological agenda of ever greater gun control.

We’re not talking about hacking a schoolgirl’s cell phone here. Real people are dead. Yet nobody’s going to close down any wing of the vast spendaholic DEATFBI hydra-headed security-state turf-war. And while Eric Holder, the buccaneering attorney general at the center of this wilderness of mirrors, doesn’t yet have as many Distinguished Public Servant of the Year awards as Beverly Hall, judging from his cheerfully upfront obstruction of the Congressional investigation, he’s not planning on going anywhere soon.

So, at The News Of The World, every single employee is clearing out his desk. But, at the Atlantic Public Schools, at the DEATFBI, life goes on. A curious contrast.

The striking feature of Big Government, from Athens to Sacramento, is its imperviousness to any kind of accountability — legal, fiscal, electoral, popular.

Equally striking is how “progressives” want to grow the government, which would result in even greater lack of accountability in many more aspects of life, while shrinking the private sector, where accountability largely, if imperfectly, remains.

Positivity: Vatican spokesman recalls John Paul II’s message to South Sudanese

Filed under: Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Vatican City:

Jul 9, 2011 / 03:04 pm

On the day the Republic of South Sudan becomes the world’s newest country, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., recalled Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to the troubled nation nearly 18 years ago.

“It was February 10, 1993, and John Paul II was at the end of an intense and extraordinary day in Khartoum,” Fr. Lombardi said in his weekly editorial as General Manager of Vatican Radio July 9.

“With his usual and extraordinary courage, he addressed the dramatic themes of justice and freedom in the presence of the governing authorities and was greeted with incredible enthusiasm by an immense crowd of Sudanese Catholics, for the most part displaced people from the south, fleeing from the violence of a civil war without end.”

The civil war that gripped Sudan was fought over two decades between a Muslim Arab-dominated north and a mainly Christian and animist south. It was a conflict that cost over two million lives, mainly civilians. Fr. Lombardi’s editorial quoted the words Pope John Paul II spoke that night in Sudan’s capital city of Khartoum in 1993.

“The immense suffering of millions of innocent victims impels me to voice my solidarity with the weak and defenseless,” said Pope John Paul, “who cry out to God for help, for justice, for respect for their God–given dignity as human beings, for their basic human rights, for the freedom to believe and practice their faith without fear or discrimination. I earnestly hope that my voice will reach you, Brothers and Sisters of the South.”

South Sudan’s independence is the end result of a 2005 peace agreement that began a partitioning of Sudan into two states. The split was finally ratified earlier this year in a referendum that saw over 98 percent of southern Sudanese vote for secession. …

Go here for the rest of the story.