July 17, 2011

Congrats to Japan’s Women on Winning the World Cup

Filed under: General — Tom @ 5:53 pm

It’s not the result I was rooting for, and it will be of no comfort to a U.S. women’s team which is understandably devastated, but what a wonderful story for a nation which has been through so much this year.

Breaking: Mecklenborg to Resign

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:36 pm

This took too long, and has apparently been expected in some quarters for a few days.

Mr. Mecklenborg has finally done the right thing; those who pressured him to do the right thing also did the right thing.

Just received this in an e-mail from Bill Batchelder spokesman Mike Dittoe:

Rep. Robert Mecklenborg to Resign from the Ohio House of Representatives

(COLUMBUS) – Today, State Representative Robert P. Mecklenborg (R-Cincinnati) issued the following statement:

“It has been rewarding and humbling to serve the great people of western Hamilton County as their voice in state government. As a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, I believe that I have served well and faithfully my constituents of the 30th House District by focusing on the issues that matter a great deal to all Ohioans, including election reform, pro-life legislation, and a host of other priorities.

However, my recent actions have become a distraction to the additional important work that lies ahead for the members of the 129th General Assembly. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I resign from the Ohio House of Representatives effective August 2, 2011.

Most importantly, I want to sincerely apologize for any pain and embarrassment I have caused my family, my constituents, and my colleagues. I will be forever grateful to the many constituents and colleagues who have urged me to stay, but I believe it is in the best interests of my family and my constituents to step aside during this difficult time.”

In response to Rep. Mecklenborg’s resignation, Speaker William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) and Speaker Pro Tempore Lou Blessing (R-Cincinnati) offered the following statements:

“My friend and colleague Bob Mecklenborg has guided the Ohio House of Representatives with his expertise on a variety of legislative initiatives since he became a member,” Speaker Batchelder said. “As I have said before, Bob has been a dedicated public servant and his contributions to the Ohio House have been vital to the important work of this great institution. Bob has admitted his mistakes and, while difficult, I believe he has made the appropriate decision to step down as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. I thank him for his dedicated and loyal service to the people of Ohio, particularly to the people of western Hamilton County.”

“As a friend and fellow member from Hamilton County, I believe Bob Mecklenborg has provided valuable insight on a number of legislative issues over the years,” said Rep. Lou Blessing.” His service will be missed but I am pleased that he has appropriately decided to put the interests of his family and constituents first by stepping down from the Ohio House. I echo Speaker Batchelder’s comments and wish Bob and his family all the best in the coming weeks and months ahead.”

SOB Alliance bloggers Matt and Mark at Weapons of Mass Discussion were virtually alone in leading a blogospheric charge in a no-compromise push for an outright resignation (here, here, here, and here, just as a sample; here’s the tag for all related posts), and deserve Southwest Ohio’s thanks for having done so.

Of course I wish Mr. Mecklenborg and his family well — as private citizens.

_______________________________________

UPDATE: Beat the Cincinnati Enquirer by 42 minutes.

UPDATE 2: Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion has the official comment of Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou.

UPDATE 3: I revised WoMD’s role in the Mecklenborg story to a more accurate characterization, and intended no slight in my original description (though I can see how umbrage might have been taken).

AP Claims Bush Tax Cuts Caused National Debt to Grow by $1.6 Trillion

In an unbylined update of the latest developments in the budget-tax-spending-debt ceiling discussions in Washington this morning, the Associated Press committed several blunders in attempting to explain what’s going on and how we got to where we are. First and foremost was its list identifying “contributors” to the $8.5 trillion growth in the national debt since 2001.

Here’s the AP’s you-can’t make-this-up, Comedy Central-worthy list of debt contributors:

Q: How did the debt grow from $5.8 trillion in 2001 to its current $14.3 trillion?

A: The biggest contributors to the nearly $9 trillion increase over a decade were:

- 2001 and 2003 tax cuts under President George W. Bush: $1.6 trillion.
- Additional interest costs: $1.4 trillion.
- Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: $1.3 trillion.
- Economic stimulus package under Obama: $800 billion.
- 2010 tax cuts (these weren’t cuts at all; they were really a continuation of the current income tax structure — Ed.), a compromise by Obama and Republicans that extended jobless benefits and cut payroll taxes: $400 billion.
- 2003 creation of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit: $300 billion.
- 2008 financial industry bailout: $200 billion.
- Hundreds of billions less in revenue than expected since the Great Recession began in December 2007.
- Other spending increases in domestic, farm and defense programs, adding lesser amounts.

So I guess the AP’s assertion that the Bush tax cuts were the biggest contributor to the deficit explains why the following graph shows how government collections tanked from 2003-2007:

FederalReceipts2003thru2007.jpg

Oops. What happened?

The graph doesn’t show collections tanking, does it? Instead, the graph shows that collections increased by 44%, or almost $800 billion in four years. Adding up the individual increments in each of the four years compared to 2003 (2004 – $98B; 2005 – $371B; 2006 – $624B; 2007 – $785B; 2008, not shown, treating IRS stimulus payments as outlays instead of negative receipts – $835B), what really happened is that in the five full fiscal years after George W. Bush got the across-the-board and investment-related tax cuts he had been pushing for since taking office in 2001, the cumulative increase in tax collections was over $2.7 trillion.

Doubtless, the static analysis crowd will claim that collections would have been even higher (I guess by a cumulative $1.6 trillion, given the AP’s Democratic Party talking point above) if the Bush cuts hadn’t been enacted. Two words, guys: Prove it. Two follow-up words: You can’t.

We can argue all day long about the how much of the increase in collections was due to the incentive effects of the tax cuts and how of the improvement might have occurred anyway, but no one can credibly act as if it’s an established fact that the Bush cuts somehow caused collections to go $1.6 trillion in the opposite direction. There is absolutely no proof for this contention, and plenty of evidence that the Bush cuts jump-started an economy and federal collections, both of which had been flat or declining during the two years leading up to mid-2003. The more reasonable conclusion to reach is that the country would already be dead in the water if the Bush tax cuts hadn’t passed in 2003. Instead, the wire service hopes that its “Bush tax cuts cost us” meme will be gullibly recited during the next few days at its subscribing newspaper, TV, and radio outlets. “Disgraceful” doesn’t even begin to describe this pathetic promotion of self-evident falsehood.

The fact is that the federal budget was one good year away from balancing after the $162 deficit reported in fiscal 2007. Unfortunately, that was the last budget passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, and it was the only year which showed a modest increase in overall spending. Beginning in 2007 with effects beginning in fiscal 2008, the House and Senate controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid began increasing spending at rates far beyond what profligate Republicans spent earlier in the decade, and, unfortunately, Bush 43 made no real effort to stop them:

UncleSamSpending2001to2008-3

If we turn the tables and (in my opinion) safely assume that there was no need to increase the overall level of spending beyond what was seen in fiscal 2007 except to allow a probably overly generous $100 billion in increases each year, the fact is that by September 2011, the Pelosi-Reid Congress and the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate will have spent roughly $2.7 trillion more than they needed to, or should have.

And oh by the way, by September 2011, the collections shortfalls since the end of fiscal 2008 will total roughly $1.3 trillion, not the “hundreds of billions” the AP lazily reported.

The AP also erred, as it did back in 2009 (and probably has done at other times not detected by yours truly), by incompletely explaining how the national debt has grown. For a separate explanation of why the wire service’s assertion that “The debt is the sum of deficits past and present” is incorrect, go here. This repeated error betrays the depth of consistent and persistent ignorance which pervade the Essential Global News Network.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Steyn on the Social Security ‘Trust Fund’

Several have made this point since President Obama threatened that Social Security checks might not go out in early August. Here’s Mark Steyn’s formulation:

… as he (Obama) told Scott Pelley on CBS the other night, gran’ma gets it. That monthly Social Security check? Fuhgeddabouddit. “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on Aug. 3 if we haven’t resolved this issue,” declared the president. “Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.”

But hang on. I thought the Social Security checks came out of the “Social Security trust fund,” whose “trustees” assure us there’s currently $2.6 trillion in there. Which should be enough for the Aug. 3 check run, shouldn’t it? Golly, to listen to the president, you’d almost get the impression that, by the time you saw the padlock off the old Social Security lockbox, there’s nothing in there but a (stack of) yellowing IOUs.

That’s because there’s nothing in there but a stack of yellowing IOUs from government that, including the $2.6 trillion just noted, is over $14 trillion in debt.

Positivity: Stevie Nicks — Betty Ford Saved My Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From California:

July 11th, 2011
10:24 AM ET

After news broke last Friday that former First Lady Betty Ford had died, one of the first statements CNN received was from Stevie Nicks. The legendary Fleetwood Mac singer sent just one succinct sentence: “As far as I’m concerned, Betty Ford saved my life.”

An hour or so later, she followed it up with a phone call – made as she was driving to a Vanessa Carlton concert from her home in Malibu. She was talking on a borrowed phone, since she doesn’t own one herself.

Here are excerpts from that 10 minute phone conversation:

“As far as I’m concerned, Betty Ford DID save my life. I went to Betty Ford [The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California] at the end of 1985 for cocaine addiction. In those days, she would actually come to speak at Betty Ford two or three times a month, so I got to hear her tell the whole story on just the pressure of being in politics, being married to a famous politician and getting addicted to whatever it was she was addicted to.

I thought, ‘God, if Betty Ford can come through this, I can come through it, too.’ Talk about being famous and being in rehab! ‘Oh no, I can’t do that, I’m too famous’ – well, come on! She was the First Lady of the United States. So that really, really made my need to fix myself even stronger.”

“A couple of years ago, I went to Betty Ford to speak and she was there. And I actually got to kind of get down on one knee and talk to her for about five minutes, and she was very, very fragile. And I just looked up at her and I said, ‘You’ve got all these children here for you, and had it not been for you, so many of us would not have gotten well.’

Anyway, she was so lovely, and I don’t think she really realized the impact she had on so many lives. Sometimes I don’t think truly great people people realize how great they are – and I told her that night. I said, ‘If it were not for you, Betty Ford, I would be dead. Absolutely. So all the songs that I have written since I was here, I dedicate to you. All the songs, and all the poems, and the shows and all the amazing things I got to do between 1985 and now is because of you.’”

“Betty Ford was not easy. I call it Betty Ford Boot Camp. And it was not an easy four weeks to go through, and nobody gets any special treatment there. It’s hard, but it’s kind of brilliant in its hardness. It’s kind of what I image it’s like to be in the army. There’s four dorms, and there’s 20 people in each dorm, and everybody has their chores, and everybody keeps that building clean and beautiful, and does dishes, makes coffee, vacuums the carpet – and she just insisted on it. The outside, the grass, the duck pond – that’s her facility, and you’d better take care of it.

And it was tough. But two weeks in, you start to think, ‘Oh my God, I’m getting better’ – because when you first get to Betty Ford, that’s basically what they tell you, is that you’re dying. And that’s not an easy thing to hear.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.