October 3, 2011

Decent News: ISM Manufacturing, Car Sales

Filed under: Economy,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:57 pm

The Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index rose  a point to 51.6 in September (any reading above 50 means expansion). Production expanded, but the backlog of orders (reading of 41.5) dove downward from 46.0 the previous month. All things being equal, that would seem to foreshadow a possible production decrease. The employment component went up two points to 53.8.

Meanwhile, GM, Ford, and Chrysler sales increased by 20%, 9%, and 27%, respectively, in September vs. September 2010. Last September was not a particularly strong month.

Monday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (100311)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:45 am

Rules are here.

Once again, I have a number of items ripe for comment. Other topics are okay too.

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At Newsmax: “Biden: It’s Time to Blame Obama, Not Bush, for Economy.” Yeah, about 2-1/2 years.

This goes back 12 days, but shouldn’t be forgotten: “Solyndra employees: Company suffered from mismanagement, heavy spending.” The company suffered; management obviously didn’t, or at least hasn’t yet. Several weeks ago, a company contractor called into the Mark Levin show and told him that employees “knew that the plant wouldn’t work.” Here we go again: For the umpteenth time we’re left to decide whether the administration is the dumbest collection of people on earth, or consciously committed something wrong and/or illegal. Personally, I think we’re well past the point of believing they can be that dumb.

Larry Elder, last Thursday at Townhall: “Supreme Court Might Kill ObamaCare Before Election — If Obama’s Lucky.” If it upholds Obamacare, the electoral blowout (unless Mitt Romney is the nominee) will be immense.

Dick Cheney, as carried at Newsmax: “In the wake of the U.S. killing of terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, former Vice President Dick Cheney says President Obama should apologize to the Bush administration for criticizing their war on terrorism policies.” Yep, and it will never happen.

This item, which has gone nowhere, would be a press obsession for the next 13 months if a Republican incumbent was in the White House — A new book describes “President Obama as a man who, at best, allows his male staffers to create a hostile work environment for his female staffers and, at worst, participates in it himself.” Perhaps the “sweetie” incident was part of a pattern.

Megan McArdle at the Atlantic (“Poster Kids for New Health-Care Model Won’t Participate in Model Program”) — “The reporting requirements, and the financial penalties for ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) that didn’t achieve savings, were simply too onerous.”

Via columnist Laura Vanderkam at USA Today (“Obama youth have nowhere to go”) — “the decline in Obama’s approval rating among young people … has GOP strategists salivating.”

Erick Ericksen at RedState (“Herman Cain Runs For SomeTHING, Not Against SomeONE”) — “Herman Cain may or may not win the nomination, but right now he is the center of gravity within the Republican field and all the other candidates are, after last week, being pulled into his orbit.”

Finally, a special link for the benefit of friend and Herman Cain skeptic (actually, more than a skeptic) Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion“The Real Story Why Cain Won the FL Straw Poll, and What the Frontrunners Can Learn From It.” This is an open item from Friday’s TIB broadcast, and describes how this was not the usual “let’s stuff the ballot box with bused-in supporters” exercise that many straw polls are. It had its own quirks, as readers will see upon visiting the link, but the fact is that Cain won over activists who were not instinctively inclined to support him.

Lucid Links (100311, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:00 am

OstrichHeadInSandIt’s been a week since the explosive (pun intended) revelation (HT Bob Owens at Pajamas Media) that “Official ATF documents as well as sources in Arizona and Washington D.C. confirm that in at least two instances in 2010, an agent of the United States government purchased Kalashnikov-pattern semi-automatic pistols from licensed federal firearms dealers with taxpayer money and delivered those weapons directly into the hands of cartel smugglers.”

Friday’s White House document dump shows “extensive communications between then-ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell – who led Fast and Furious – and then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O’Reilly. Emails indicate the two also spoke on the phone.”

Supporting Owens’s contention that “MSM Sheep (Are) Ignoring the Scandal of the Century,” various mid-afternoon Sunday searches at the Associated Press’s national web site showed that the Essential Global News Network either doesn’t believe that any of this is news, or is choosing to ignore it precisely because it is. My guess is the latter.

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From Judicial Watch, on encouraging dependency (internal link in original) –

This week Oregon officials bragged that the USDA has given the state $5 million inperformance bonuses” for ensuring that people eligible for food benefits receive them and for its “swift processing of applications.” The money comes on the heels of a separate $1.5 million award from the feds for making “accurate payments of food stamp benefits to clients.”

USDA’s appropriations are obviously way too high.

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Michael Barone“Time to raise Cain to contender status.” Works for me.

Barone also astutely observes the following about the Obama v. Cain in a recent head-to-head poll: “Cain holds Obama to the lowest share of the vote, 39 percent, of any of the 10 Republicans. That may be because some black voters desert Obama when Cain is the opponent.”

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Regarding Cain and electability, this is as good a time as any to remind readers that 1976 presidential election loser Gerald Ford pronounced Ronald Reagan “unelectable” in March 1980 — and that the ever-hostile AP used “Reagan’s Loser, Ford Still Says” as its headline.

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Bust-a-meme, via Ann Marlowe at the Wall Street Journal — “(A Heritage Foundation) report showed that ‘low-income families are underrepresented in the military and high-income families are overrepresented.’”

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Good news, as noted at Laura Ingraham’s place (original item at the New York Times): “Federal Judge upholds most of Alabama’s immigration law.”

Evaluation: “Alabama now has by far the strictest such law of any state.” Personal prediction: Alabama’s economy relative to other states will prosper, as has been the case in Oklahoma, which in 2007 enacted strong immigration reform laws which took effect in 2008.

Oklahoma’s economy has been more resilient, resisting downward pressures more successfully during the recession and progressing towards recovery more quickly after it was officially over. Job growth in the Sooner State didn’t start crashing until the beginning of 2009, while the rest of the country started cratering at least six months before that. From June 2008 through August 2011, seasonally adjusted U.S. employment per the Establishment Survey fell by over 6.1 million, or almost 4.5%; Oklahoma’s decline during the same period was only 1.4%.

More recently and more positively, in the past 12 months (through August), Oklahoma has added jobs at a much faster rate (42,700, or 2.80% employment growth) than the rest of the country (1.259 million, or 0.97%).

Oh, I almost forgot: While the seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate in August was 9.1%, Oklahoma’s was 5.6%. Only four far smaller states had lower unemployment rates than the Sooner State.

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Make our day, Ted – The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is considering a 2014 rematch against John Kasich.

That ought to be a hoot: Ted stood by for four years as 400,000 jobs disappeared in Ohio and begged (and got) U.S. government bailouts in the form of “stimulus.” Under Kasich, Ohio has picked up 80,000 seasonally adjusted jobs in eight months and balanced the budget without tax increases.

Here’s a draft Strickland campaign slogan: “I’ll undo everything John did.”

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At Reuters (“U.S. CEOs’ View of Economy Deteriorating”) — “A quarterly survey by the Business Roundtable found that 24 percent of CEOs expected to cut jobs in the U.S. over the next six months, more than double the 11 percent who had forecasted that in the second quarter.”

The big boys tend not to hire much during recoveries anyway, but the percentage planning cuts is alarming. Combine that with small businesses confidence, which is in the tank, and things don’t look good at all.

Positivity: Saint Francis of Assisi, ‘giant of holiness,’ honored Oct. 4

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

Bylined out of Denver, via the Catholic News Agency:

Oct 2, 2011 / 08:02 am

On Oct. 4, Roman Catholics celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Italian deacon who brought renewal to the Church through his decision to follow Jesus’ words as literally as possible.

In a January 2010 general audience, Pope Benedict XVI recalled this “giant of holiness” as a “great saint and a joyful man,” who taught the Church that “the secret of true happiness” is “to become saints, close to God.”

The future Saint Francis was born on an uncertain date in the early 1180s, one of the several children born to the wealthy merchant Pietro Bernardone and his wife Pica. He originally received the name Giovanni (or John), but became known as Francesco (or Francis) by his father’s choice.

Unlike many medieval saints, St. Francis was neither studious nor pious in his youth. His father’s wealth gave him access to a lively social life among the upper classes, where he was known for his flashy clothes and his readiness to burst into song. Later a patron of peacemakers, he aspired to great military feats in his youth and fought in a war with a rival Italian city-state.

A period of imprisonment during that conflict turned his mind toward more serious thoughts, as did a recurring dream that suggested his true “army” was not of this world. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

AP’s Choi Fails to Identify the Law, the President, or the Political Party Responsible for New Debit-Card Fees

If you only read Thursday’s coverage of Bank of America’s decision to impose a $5 monthly debit card fee by Associated Press Personal Finance Writer Candice Choi, you would have no idea that last year’s “Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act” triggered BofA’s decision. The legislation gave the Federal Reserve the power to limit debit card interchange fees. The Fed’s limit — 21 cents plus 0.5% of each purchase transaction — basically cut the banks’ fees by about half from their pre-Dodd-Frank level. CardHub.com estimates that the cap will reduce banks’ fee income by $9.4 billion annually.

Ms. Choi only cited the existence of “a new rule” in her opening paragraph. She then waited until the ninth paragraph to vaguely cite the existence of “a regulation.” It hardly seems accidental that most news consumers who didn’t follow the fee fight a year ago will probably have the impression that banks are driving the fee increases, as the following excerpt will demonstrate (bolds are mine):

More bad news for bank customers: Debit card fees

Bank of America will start charging debit-card users $5 a month to pay for purchases. The move comes as the cards increasingly replace cash and as banks look for ways to offset the loss of revenue from a new rule that will limit how much they can collect from merchants.

Paying to use a debit card was unheard of before this year and is still a novel concept for many consumers. But several banks have recently introduced or started testing debit card fees. That’s in addition to the spate of other unwelcome changes checking account customers have seen in the past year. Bank of America will begin charging the fee early next year.

… Customers will only be charged the fee if they use their debit cards for purchases in any given month, said Anne Pace, a Bank of America spokeswoman. Those who only use their cards at ATMs won’t have to pay.

The debit card fee is just the latest twist in the rapidly evolving market for checking accounts.

A study by Bankrate.com this week found that just 45 percent of checking accounts are now free with no strings attached, down from 65 percent last year and 76 percent in 2009.

… The changes come ahead of a regulation that goes into effect next month.

Starting Oct. 1, the regulation will cap the fees that banks can collect from merchants whenever customers swipe their debit cards.

… There is no similar cap on the merchant fees that banks can collect when customers use their credit cards, however. That means many banks are increasingly encouraging customers to reach for their credit cards, in hopes of reversing a trend toward debit card usage in the past several years.

Ms. Choi never identified what law drove the need for the fee (Dodd-Frank), who championed it (President Barack Obama), who passed the law (the Democratic Congress led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), which Senator pushed for the fee cap (Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, who of course is claiming the new fees aren’t his fault), or who issued the rule (the Fed).

There’s room for discussion as to whether capping merchant fees for debit-card transactions has merit. But there’s no good excuse for Ms. Choi’s failure to report how the cap came about and who’s responsible. I suppose she may claim that she’s “only” a personal finance writer and not a political reporter, but that doesn’t cut it. As written, it could have been the American Bankers Association and not the federal government which imposed the rule. Choi’s writeup enables those who passed the legislation and issued the rule to partially avoid accountability for what they’ve done, and would seem to betray a belief on her part that readers would not be pleased with them if they knew.

Free checking is starting to disappear, and fee fever is growing. Why it’s happening — because of so-called “consumer” legislation — is news, Candice.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.