July 18, 2011

Green Vehicles Inc. Is No More; Governments (i.e., Taxpayers) Are Losers; Media Will Likely Be Mum

Green Vehicles is no more. The world will somehow have to get by without the lovely vehicle pictured after the jump populating our streets and highways.

Given that its owner put an “I’ve giving it up” blog post last Tuesday, and even though Drudge just caught it a few hours ago, it’s pretty safe to assume that the Green Vehicles debacle won’t be a national establishment press story.

It is, however, a fairly hot story in Salinas, California, a city of about 150,000 fifty or so miles south of San Jose.
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Two Charts Which Should Influence the Discussions in Washington

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:55 pm

As noted in a post last week, the growth in federal collections, which given the pathetic lows established during 2009 has been decent but not exceptional during the past year or so, slowed down in June. In fact, June’s total collections of $249.7 billion trailed June 2010 by about $1.4 billion (before adjustments explained in the next paragraph). By contrast, April 2011 came in 18% ahead of April 2010.

To fairly evaluate the strength of the economy, it has become important to separate what the government is taking in as a result of economic activity from what it is taking in because Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has ramped up his electronic money-printing operation. After subtracting “Deposits of Earnings by Federal Reserve Banks” from both June 2011 and June 2010 ($8.3 billion and $6.8 billion, respectively), we’re left with receipts from economic activity of $241.4 billion and $244.2 billion. (Context: During the Bush 43 years, when interest rates were somewhat higher, related Fed receipts were about $3 billion per month. During the current fiscal year, they’re on track to hit $90 billion by year’s end, or about $7.5 billion per month.)

The first chart shows 12-month trailing receipts going all the way back to September 2007 (figures incorporating months during 2008 and early 2009 treat the Bush 43 IRS stimulus payments as outlays instead of as negative receipts, as the government incorrectly did):

Trailing12monthUSTeconomicReceipts0611

June 2011 marks a significant level-off — actually, make that a drop-off. It is much more significant than the one seen in March 2011, as will be explained in the next paragraph.

To tune out some of the noise, the second chart, which compares receipts from economic activity to the same month of the previous year, looks only at receipts during five calendar months: January, April, June, September, and December. That’s because these are by far the heaviest months for federal collections, and are the best indicators of where collections are really headed. The first four identified months represent when federal quarterly estimated tax payments are due from individuals and regular corporations. December is important because many taxpayers need to get their payments in before the end of the calendar year to avoid penalties. Especially in the flat employment market we’ve endured during the past two years, the collections bumps or declines which occur in these months are there largely because of changes in federal tax payments made by the nation’s individual and corporate wealth and job creators.

So here is the second graph:

YOYkeyMonthFederalReceipts0611

Yikes. Year-over-year collections during these five key months made a comeback to a decent rate by the middle of last year and remained decent after that (only decent because the bounceback after such steep declines should have been much greater, and would have been with the right fiscal policies), with April’s aforementioned 18% increase representing a high-water mark. June 2010 brought an abrupt end to that.

Translation, when combined with (to name just a few) disturbing employment news, dropping consumer confidence (at the lowest level since March 2009), and sharply reduced GDP forecasts: The economy is seriously slowing down. Unless the goal is to keep it slowed down, the last thing that needs to come out of the current debt-ceiling negotiations would be tax increases, especially on wealth and job creators who are already starting to bail and who instead need to be given a reason to stay in the game.

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UPDATE: “Totally unrelated” news which couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the overall state of the economy (company press release here) –

Cisco to reduce work force by 9 percent in cost-cutting effort, will take $1.3B charge

Networking equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. is cutting 6,500 employees — about 9 percent of its work force — as it follows up on a plan announced in May to eliminate thousands of jobs to reduce costs and raise profits.

Cisco, which has about 73,400 employees worldwide, said Monday that it was laying off 4,400 layoffs people. Another 2,100 employees chose to leave as part of an early-retirement program. The company said the cuts include the elimination of 15 percent of its employees at and above the level of vice president.

Cisco said the cuts will cost it $1.3 billion in severance and termination benefits. The company plans to take the charge over several quarters. It will take $750 million of that, including $500 million for the early-retirement program, during the current quarter.

Cisco will inform employees who have been cut in the U.S., Canada and some other countries during the first week of August.

Given that Cisco was considered THE bellwether stock of the late 1990s, this is at the very least a devastating symbolic development.

From Boehner’s Office, on Obama’s Veto Threat

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:23 pm

President Obama has officially moved into Mark Dayton territory. Just as the Minnesota Governor vetoed legislation which would have kept the Gopher State running because it didn’t contain tax increases he wanted, President Barack Obama is moving the federal government closer to busting the debt ceiling and creating the economic calamity his own Treasury Secretary has threatened by promising to veto legislation which would reduce spending if it has no tax increases.

Here’s John Boehner’s statement, received a short time ago (direct link):

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement today after the Administration announced that the President would veto H.R. 2560, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011. The House is expected to vote on this legislation tomorrow.

“It’s disappointing the White House would reject this common-sense plan to rein in the debt and deficits that are hurting job creation in America. While American families have to set priorities and balance their books, this White House obviously isn’t serious about making the same tough choices. While the House is once again acting responsibly, the Administration still won’t say what cuts it’s willing to make to end Washington’s spending binge and the economic uncertainty it’s creating. This unfortunate veto threat should make clear that the issue is not congressional inaction, but rather the President’s unwillingness to cut spending and restrain the future growth of our government. If we are going to raise the debt limit and avoid default, the White House must be willing to demonstrate more courage than we have seen to date. The House will proceed as planned with its vote on the Cut, Cap and Balance Act.”

Exit question: Why did Obama threaten a veto when Harry Reid could have just said whatever the House passes is dead on arrival?

It seems doubtful, but just about the only way Obama’s vocalizing would make sense is if Democratic Senators are feeling the heat from the home front, and thinking about voting for spending cuts to keep constituents off their backs — secure in the knowledge that they’ll be taken off the hook with a presidential veto anyway. Is this Obama’s way of telling wavering Democrats “you’d better stay with me on this”?

Lucid Links (071811, Early Afternoon)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 1:21 pm

Via Erin Brown at NewsBusters: “Numbers Don’t Lie: ‘Daily Show’s’ Stewart Hammers Right Nearly Four Times More than Left.” But Jon Stewart does when he claims that “there is not a designed, ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change, because that’s the soup you swim in.”

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A gentleman named Dan Bloom has brought his relatively lonely campaign to make “Internet” a lowercase word in everyday usage to my attention. It got a little less lonely when the Christian Science Monitor published his column (“Four reasons why American media should lowercase ‘Internet’”), giving each of his four reasons a separate web page.

I have mixed feelings about it, but lean towards lowercase. Is it a place (the big web in the sky)? Not really. Is it a specific entity? Again not really. When we refer to the “Internet,” we’re rarely thinking of ICANN. It is also true that the BBC and other foreign news organizations have moved to lowercasing “internet.”

In an email, Dan noted that last year I criticized the New York Times and the Associated Press for NOT capitalizing “Ground Zero” or “Ground Zero Mosque,” even though these ARE specific places. He further informed me that the NYT’s Phil Corbett told him that the Old Gray Lady will lowercase “Internet” when it seems to go that way in common usage. This is quite hypocritical, because the NYT (and AP) have clearly attempted (and mostly failed) to lead the way in lowercasing Ground Zero, failing to convince the general populace and at least one grammarian.

That linked grammarian happens to be holding out for capitalizing “Internet,” because “the Internet is one big specific network that people visit.” Not really; when we visit, many if not most of us become participants. In that sense it’s like going with others to an open field owned by no one to play baseball or soccer.

To wrap up what may be the fluffiest kerfuffle ever: I think the American press is holding out against lowercasing the Internet because they don’t want to be seen as downgrading Al Gore’s invention.

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Janny Scott, the author who busted President Obama’s claim about his mother quarreling with health insurance companies during her life-ending bout with cancer, (covered here last week by yours truly), isn’t talking.

Scott went on leave from her employment at the New York Times to write her book (“A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother”) about Ann Dunham, Obama’s mom. I wonder if a buttoned lip has been communicated as a condition of reemployment at the Times?

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Unemployment is still Galluping along (HT Hot Air via Instapundit).

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In addition to linking reader to Bob Owens’s latest on the Gunwalker scandal, I’m also linking to his author page at Pajamas Media containing related items going back at least two months. This makes Iran-Contra look like the traditional definition of a tea party.

Since there were lefty clowns at the time who believed (and some still do) that Ronald Reagan should have been impeached over Iran-Contra, I’m waiting for them to say that, if demonstrated, an Americans president’s knowledge and at least tacit approval of an operation which deliberately failed to track guns which knowingly went into foreign criminals’ hands — guns which ended up being used in killing and injuring members of American law enforcement as well as American citizens — is grounds for impeachment.

Think I’ll be waiting long? (/sarc)

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Herman Cain: Communities have right to ban mosques — Herman Cain is right, if the mosques involved have as a goal imposing sharia law on their members as a “law” which supersedes local, state, and federal law. It would be no different than a community rejecting the building of a Mormon church if its pastor and congregation insisted that polygamy is okey-dokey, that it would fail to report related lawbreaking, and that it would prevent the state from investigating and prosecuting congregation members who have chosen to be in “marriages” with multiple partners. True believers in sharia law as commonly practiced throughout the Muslim world would not report what U.S. law would consider to be clear cases of domestic violence and other mistreatment of women.

Placed in the correct context above, Cain’s is clearly a noncontroversial statement.

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Globaloney: The Statist Push Continues’) Is Up (Update: The Global Warming Policy Foundation)

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:15 am

It’s here.

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

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UPDATE: In the column, I refer to Benny Peiser’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). On a daily basis, it delivers the latest developments in globaloney debunking and the latest attempts by statists to ruin living standards with their energy-control regimes.

In today’s email alone (I’ve been receiving the emails for years; I wish I could give a link on how to subscribe now, but I couldn’t find one), there are the following stories, most of which will never see the light of day in the U.S. establishment press:

1) Green Policy: David Cameron’s Big Mistake – Tim Montgomerie, The Sunday Telegraph, 17 July 2011 — actually, the underlying article identifies three big mistakes. Number 2 is “Supporting climate change policies that will increase energy bills 40 per cent.”

2) Britain’s Green Suicide: Jobs Gone With The Wind – The Sunday Telegraph, 17 July 2011 — “Crippling new taxes proposed by (UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) Chris Huhne to subsidise green energy could force key employers out of business.”

3) Matt Ridley: Thank Green Energy For That Enormous Bill – The Times, 11 July 2011 — “The future belongs to countries that can get their electricity, heat and fuel supplied as cheaply and reliably as possible. That is the priority, not the carbon fetish.”

4) CERN Chief Forbids “Interpretation” Of CLOUD Results – Calder’s Updates, 17 July 2011 — The results of an important climate-related experiment appear on the way to getting a politically-corrent filter.

5) Paleoclimate In Doubt – Science A GoGo, 18 July 2011 — “Paleoclimate studies, where scientists look into the past to try and understand changes in Earth’s climate, may be a waste of time if astronomers are correct in their theory that relatively minor bodies like the asteroid Vesta can cause chaotic fluctuations in Earth’s orbit.” So it could be yet another example of how matters totally out of human control have infinitely more influence on climate than human-driven actions.

6) IPCC Struggling To Pinpoint Sea Level Rise – Axel Bojanowski, Spiegel Online 15 July 2011 — Later in the item is a squib about how one of the most out-of-control alarmists may have plunged off the deep end: “NASA climate researcher James Hansen, for example, warns in a paper published this month that sea levels could rise by five meters in the next 90 years — nine times higher than the maximum cited in the last IPCC report. He insists that he has found indications that sea levels in the future could rise by as much as five centimeters per year. … Three years ago, researchers found that a rise of over two meters per century is impossible because so much ice simply can’t melt in such a short time.”

7) Pat Michaels: Why Hasn’t The Earth Warmed In Nearly 15 Years? – Forbes, 15 July 2011 — “There is no statistically significant warming trend since November of 1996 in monthly surface temperature records compiled at the University of East Anglia.”

8) Ben Pile: Gaia’s Witnesses? – Climate Resistance, 16 July 2011 — “I was surprised to see that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ recruitment campaign is founded on such ecological precepts as ‘environmental destruction.’” That is an odd turn for the group to take, but not totally surprising.

9) Delingpole Takes On The Watermelons – –Charlie Cooke, National Review Online, 15 July 2011 — “When it comes to global warming, the issue is not about science, but about control.” Underlying items: Charlie Cooke at National Review, and UK writer James Delingpole’s latest book, “Watermelons: The Green Movement’s True Colors.” Those colors are green on the outside, and Communist/statist red on the inside.

GWPF is an incredibly rich resource, and definitely worth periodic visits.

More Fun With Ohio’s Improved Debt Rating (It Was Lowered In Jan. As Strickland Left Office; Also: 2012-13 All-Funds Spending Will Almost Definitely End Up Lower)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:30 am

OhioRealRecover0711On Saturday, I noted that Standard & Poors upgraded Ohio’s debt rating on Friday:

… the rating was revised from “negative” to “stable” after Gov. John Kasich signed a new budget the ratings agency says will essentially balance the state’s finances for the next two years. S&P also said Ohio is experiencing a modest economic recovery which has stabilized revenue.

In making the upgrade, the agency also assigned a “AA+” long-term rating to Ohio’s $416.75 million general obligation bonds.

That’s great to know, but as I teased on Saturday, there’s an even better part to all of this.

That’s because a related story reports an event which happened back in January which apparently didn’t get a lot of attention (or it got past me, which has been known to happen). This event, and the July news above which has followed it six month later, blows away every last conceivable shred of a claim by Ohio’s left and Democrats that Ted Strickland was really, really making things better in the final year of his term.

To hear them tell it, Ohio’s improving economy is merely a continuation of all the grrrrrrreat work T-Shirt and Turnaround Ted did in 2010. Why, one deluded BizzyBlog lefty commenter informed me that Ohio’s recovery last year was the best since 1983. Then Uncle Sam’s GDP growth by state report came out. “Never mind.”

Anyway, the super-fun, deal-sealing nugget is contained in the final paragraph of last week’s Wall Street Journal’s story on the S&P upgrade (bold is mine):

S&P had lowered its outlook on Ohio in January, citing the state’s depletion of its budget stabilization reserve. More recently, the state has made progress balancing its budget through the 2013 fiscal year, easing pressure on the rating.

Translation: After four years of Ted Strickland’s stewardship, on his way out the door, S&P told him, “Here’s the final bill for the damage you’ve done, Ted. You’ve left the state in a mess. Don’t let the screen door hit you.”

The cutoff couldn’t be any clearer. Before John Kasich took office, Ohio was rapidly turning into a problem child. A mere six months later (with the usual “don’t get too cocky” caution), Kasich has engineered an impressive enough turnaround to warrant an upgrade from S&P.

Seriously, folks, why would anyone want to go back to the pre-SB5, pre-New Way New Day Buckeye State of 2007-2010 (or for that matter, the essentially blue state governance of the past 15-plus years)?

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UPDATE: Addressing another promised follow-up point from Saturday, I followed up on a complaint in a comment at my Pajamas Media column a few weeks ago that the state was still increasing its annual spending under Kasich.

That is NOT true (make that “almost definitely not true” — See Update 2) on an “all-funds” basis, which as the name implies encompasses everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink, and is thus the most important measuring stick.

Let’s see what all-funds spending was expected to be for the past two fiscal years (very large PDF found here; go to page A-20):

AllFundsNumberFY2010and2011

The two-year all funds total is just shy of $120 billion. No, I don’t know that it was all actually appropriated, but I wouldn’t want to bet against it.

Though I suspect that the final number has changed, in mid-March Kasich’s all-funds number for the next two years was quite a bit lower than that (see Update 2; final all funds came in significantly higher, but it is still quite likely that final FY2012 and FY2013 spending will be lower than FY2011):

Calling it “the jobs budget,” Kasich stressed that his $112 billion, all-funds budget challenged the status quo with his privatization push for prisons, education reform wrinkles, overhaul of Ohio’s Medicaid program and erasing of walls between local governments.

So we’ve got a 7% reduction in the anticipated all-funds spending during the next two years vs. the previous two years. Although I intend to get firmer numbers (actuals for the past two and finalized for the next two) in the next few days, it looks like there’s enough of a margin, in the absence of contrary evidence, to declare that the 2012-2013 all-funds budget is lower than 2010-2011.

UPDATE 2, July 20: Based on what I’ve been able to learn, the state spent about 3% less than the amount indicated above on an all-funds basis in FY2011. The final all-funds budgets for FY2012 and FY2013 came in slightly less than the FY2011 budget listed above. If similar amounts or more go unspent in those two fiscal years — and I am told that this is what usually happens — each will come in lower than the FY2011 actual.

Positivity: Tennessee priest ‘presents himself to the Church’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Knoxville, Tennessee:

Jul 17, 2011 / 01:04 pm

Seven years after entering the Catholic Church, Father Doug Owens’s journey toward ordination was sealed with the single word present, as he responded to vocations director Father Michael Cummins’s invitation, “Let Douglas, who is to be ordained a priest, come forward.”

“That was easy enough, wasn’t it?” said Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee before ordaining Father Owens during a May 28 Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. “All those years you were in seminary all came down to that [word].”

“A lifetime has brought him to the moment when he said present. He presents himself to the Church, and after formation and spiritual growth and academic achievement, he stands before the people of God. He stands before Jesus and before the Father, praying that the Holy Spirit will continue to enlighten him and to be with him.”
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