November 3, 2011

AP Critique of GOP Candidates’ Economic Proposals Cites ‘Mainstream’ Theory, Won’t Name It

JohnMaynardKeynesWhoIt’s truly delicious when the outfit which calls itself the Essential Global News Network essentially admits that a certain economic theory which begins with a “K” has become such an undesirable word — almost an epithet — that it avoids its mention.

That was the case with a pathetic critique of GOP candidates’ economic plans written up by the wire service’s Charles Babington on Sunday. When I saw its headline (“Studies challenge wisdom of GOP candidates’ plans”), I blew past the story because I expected the same-old, same-old. Then an emailer with a journalistic background informed me that it was even worse than usual. He’s so right that I can’t possibly pick it apart without writing a book; so I’ll just concentrate on the paragraph containing the theory with no name and the one which immediately follows it:

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WaPo Item on Fed’s Economic Downgrade Fails to Specify Tepid Projected Growth

WaPoBloombersNov11At the Washington Post’s “with Bloomberg” Business section, the self-described locale “Where Washington and Business Intersect,” a Wednesday item by Neil Irwin (“Fed downgrades growth forecasts, sees high unemployment for years ahead”) told us that “The Federal Reserve sharply downgraded its projections for the U.S. economy,” but never cited any projected growth numbers. Seriously.

Having learned what they are for 2011 and 2012 in the seventh and eighth paragraphs at an Associated Press item (well, at least they got to it, though it probably won’t make it into many broadcasts of AP’s content because of its placement), it’s understandable why staunch defenders of Team Obama would resist doing so. After the jump, I’ll take out the mystery by getting to the AP’s numbers first:

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Early Evidence That ‘The Cain Scrutiny’ Theory May Be Correct

Rasmussen: “Cain 26%, Romney 23%, Gingrich 14%”. And:

The latest survey was conducted Wednesday night, after three full days of press coverage about the sexual harassment allegations against Cain.

As seen at RCP (expanded), three weeks ago at Rasmussen it was Cain-Romney-Gingrich 29-29-10. Three weeks before that, it was Romney 24, Cain 7.

The only way this can be seen as a negative for Cain is that it’s his lowest lead in the past four polls from all companies, and that his percentage at Rasmussen dropped. Okay, but Romney’s dropped by more.

It’s too early to know if my “Cain Scrutiny” theory that “his enemies and the media may have made him stronger” will hold, but it’s off to a decent start.

The Cain Scrutiny

CainOnOReilly110111His enemies and the media may have made him stronger.

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It’s difficult to know how the story of sexual harassment and possibly other allegations against Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain will evolve, let alone turn out. That said, potential parallels to the 1992 Democratic Party primary campaign lead me to believe that whoever is behind this has failed to learn their history, and my come to regret their ignorance.

The hit piece at Politico involving four (!) reporters appears to have been released before it was fully developed and perhaps before the online publication would have preferred to let it go. On Monday, Stephen Engelberg at the leftist investigative journalism outfit ProPublica characterized the piece as nothing more than “a first-rate tip on a story.”

If it really was a case of premature e-publication, here’s a likely reason why: Those intent on stopping Cain believe that doing so has become a now-or-never proposition. That’s because in national polling, Cain is showing genuine signs of separating himself from the rest of the GOP field.

That’s right. While everyone has been focusing on what Cain may or may not have done which offended female employees and associates over a dozen years ago at the National Restaurant Association, new polls from Fox News and Quinnipiac have hit the streets showing Cain with four and seven-point leads, respectively, over Mitt Romney. No remaining contender besides Newt Gingrich gets past single-digits in both polls. What’s more, at Zogby, which for whatever reason is not taken seriously by and is not included in the compilation at Real Clear Politics, Cain has outpolled Romney three straight times by 20 or more points while averaging just over 40%. As I’ve said before, if Zogby’s only half-right, Cain has a double-digit lead. It remains to be seen what will happen in the polls as a result of this week’s developments.

Getting to the lesson of 1992 requires an answer to only one question: What was Bill Clinton’s biggest problem in early January of that year? Answer: Almost nobody knew or cared who he was. Gennifer Flowers changed all that. Even the establishment press at the time didn’t grasp her significance.
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Colorado’s Issue 2 Message to Ohio

Filed under: Economy,Ohio Economy,Ohio Politics,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:33 pm

On Tuesday, an attempt to increase the income and sales taxes in Colorado went down in flames by 30 points:

Even some who expected Colorado’s tax vote to fail seemed surprised by how badly it lost. The measure passed in just three of the state’s 64 counties; overall it lost by nearly 30 percentage points, an electoral blowout.

… The school tax on the ballot Tuesday would have raised individual and corporate tax rates from 4.63 percent to 5 percent and Colorado’s sales and use tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3 percent.

Since the Associated Press wouldn’t tell readers anything beyond the rough size of the margin — it went down 63.5% to 35.4% out of nearly 1 million votes cast (no, I don’t know where the other 0.1% went).

Colorado resident Michelle Malkin weighed in after Tuesday’s wipeout (links are in original; bolds are mine):

Voters were mercifully unswayed by the progressive human shield strategy of adorning the job-killing tax hikes with shiny apple images and elementary school kids. Analyst Ben DeGrow noted that contrary to hysterical ed lobby propaganda, total annual expenditures on K-12, adjusted for inflation, from 1999 to 2010 have actually “increased by $3.2 billion or 46 percent. Per pupil spending is up 24 percent.”

Fiscal sanity and the facts trumped teachers’ union demagoguery. Taxpayers in this battleground are not in the mood for more tax-and-spend sinkholes.

We badly need another dose of “Fiscal sanity and the facts trumped teachers’ union (and other union) demagoguery” in Ohio. Buckeye State residents are no more willing or even able to cough up the additional taxes which will inevitably be demanded if we continue with business as usual in the public sector. Instead, we’ll see layoffs in schools and other essential services — the very thing that that the No On Issue 2 crowd claims will happen if Issue 2 passes.

The lopsided nature of the Colorado result may mean that the Issue 2 “no” crowd’s doubts about the strength of their current electoral position revealed last week are quite valid. Why, I haven’t seen a wipeout like the one just seen in Colorado since, well, 2005 in Ohio.

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UPDATE: Polling in Colorado was apparently almost non-existent leading up to the election. A PPP poll done in August showed the ballot issue trailing only two points (47%-45%). Either PPP didn’t find where the opponents or there was a 25-point mood swing in about 50 days. I’d say it’s mostly the former.

ISM Non Manufacturing Holds Steady; Productivity Up; Friday Jobs Report Predictions

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:50 am

From the Institute for Supply Management:

Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in October for the 23rd consecutive month, say the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.

“The NMI registered 52.9 percent in October, 0.1 percentage point lower than the 53 percent registered in September, and indicating continued growth at a slightly slower rate in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased 3.3 percentage points to 53.8 percent, reflecting growth for the 27th consecutive month. The New Orders Index decreased by 4.1 percentage points to 52.4 percent. The Employment Index increased 4.6 percentage points to 53.3 percent, indicating growth in employment after one month of contraction. The Prices Index decreased 4.8 percentage points to 57.1 percent, indicating prices increased at a slower rate in October when compared to September. According to the NMI, eight non-manufacturing industries reported growth in October. Even though there is month-over-month growth in the Employment Index, respondents are still expressing concern over available labor resources and job growth. The continued strong push for inventory reduction by supply management professionals has resulted in contraction in the Inventories Index for the first time in eight months. Respondents’ comments are mixed and reflect concern about future business conditions.”

Eight industries showed expansion; eight showed contraction; the rest were neutral.

Meanwhile, over at the DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 3.1 percent annual rate during the third quarter of 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, with output and hours worked rising 3.8 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. (All quarterly percent changes in this release are seasonally adjusted annual rates.) From the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2011, output increased 2.5 percent as hours rose 1.4 percent, resulting in a 1.1 percent increase in productivity.

The positive productivity numbers are good news — for those who have jobs and the stamina to respond to the more intense demands of companies trying to stay in business. The third-quarter results especially appear to indicate that employers are squeezing as much output as they possibly can from their existing workforce; if hours aren’t going up much, that must mean they’re not hiring a lot of new people. The hiring avoidance compared to previous recoveries continues. The reasons (overbearing regulation, economic uncertainty, and impending Obamacare) remain the same.

Jobs report predictions (may be updated later today):

Initial Unemployment Claims: 397K SA, Down from Revised 406K; NSA 13% Below Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:54 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending October 29, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 397,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 406,000. The 4-week moving average was 404,500, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 406,500.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 366,923 in the week ending October 29, a decrease of 10,433 from the previous week. There were 421,097 initial claims in the comparable week in 2010.

If it holds, this will be the first week below 400,000 in the past five, and only the third in the past 30.

Based on the track record of the past 34 weeks, the likelihood that next week’s revision will push this week’s number to 400,000 or above is about 85%. 29 of the past 34 weeks have seen upward revisions of 3,000 or more.

Business Insider’s email predicted 400K, as did Reuters and Bloomberg, with the following reax: “signaling limited progress in the labor market.” Very limited.

‘No’ on Ohio’s Key Ballot Issues = ‘Yes’ to Obama’s Agenda

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

ObamaIssues2and2Item1.jpg ObamaIssues2and2Item2.jpg

Even his people say so.

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Note: This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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On Tuesday, November 8 — actually, during the weeks leading up to November 8, thanks to the travesty known as “early voting” – Ohioans have been and will be voting on two crucial ballot issues. One of the results will largely determine whether the Buckeye State continues to be governed like a heading towards broke blue state, as it was for over 15 years before current Governor John Kasich took office, or a recovering red one. Both could heavily influence the red or blue direction of the entire nation.

Ballot Issue 2 is about whether to keep Senate Bill 5 (SB5), a law the state’s legislature passed earlier this year, on the books. The law:

  • Requires public-sector employees to contribute 10 percent of their salaries towards their pensions, and to pay 15 percent of their healthcare costs.
  • Outlaws public employee strikes while banning binding arbitration.
  • Gives cities, counties and school districts badly needed flexibility to control their costs.
  • Institutes merit pay for teachers, and potentially protects excellent but less experienced teachers from seniority-based layoffs.

A “yes” vote means that SB5 stays; a “no” vote repeals it.

Issue 3, the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment, is a direct response to what has become known, even to the president himself, as “Obamacare.” If it passes, Issue 3 will ensure that no federal, state or local rule enacted after March 19, 2010 can:

  • Force any Ohioan “to participate in a health care system”;
  • “[P]rohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance”;
  • “[I]mpose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.”

A “yes” vote, subject to a likely federal constitutional challenge, will mean that the Amendment becomes part of Ohio’s constitution. A “no” vote will provide aid and comfort to statists who believe that they alone should be entrusted with micromanaging the delivery of health care and health insurance services in this country. While Issue 3 has drawn a bit of attention from the Obama administration, it appears to be ahead in the polls, and will probably pull in additional support for Issue 2.

What wasn’t expected was a move which I believe Issue 2′s opponents may come to regret. Late last week, despite his declining poll numbers in the state (from a net 4-point approval margin to an 8-point disapproval in the past five months, according to Quinnipiac on October 26) and his recent virtual blessing of Occupy Wall Streeters who have turned out in several instances to be nothing more than potty-mouthed, violent hooligans with an incoherent cause, Obama’s already ramped-up reelection machine came out swinging against Issue 2. Ohioans on the campaign’s email list were told:

On everyone’s ballot this fall is Issue 2 (formerly known as Senate Bill 5, or SB 5) — a law that forces many state employees, including teachers, firefighters, and police officers, to give up their right to bargain collectively for important benefits and working conditions. It’s a blatant attempt to balance the state’s budget on the backs of Ohio’s hard-working people.

In May, when Obama made a remark criticizing Wisconsin and Ohio for their attempts to rein in collective-bargaining excesses while balancing their budgets without tax increases, Kasich famously shot back: “… [W]hen he does his job and gets our (federal) budget balanced and starts to prepare a future for our children, then maybe he can have an opinion on what’s going on in Ohio.” By that appropriate measurement, Obama and his administration, in backing a spendthrift “jobs act” which is so pathetic that they couldn’t even get all Democrats in the Senate to buy in, are less entitled to an opinion now than they were five months ago.

Even by recent electoral non-standards of veracity, the lies and misinformation put forth by Issue 2′s free-spending, largely out-of-state opposition have been extraordinarily brazen. Among them are howlers about public safety being compromised, reduced staffing levels, inadequate training and, as alleged in the Obama campaign email above, unsafe working conditions. The fact is that Issue 2′s passage will affect none of these areas, which are either matters covered in existing laws and regulations or are already management prerogatives not subject to negotiation.

Another claim of Issue 2 opponents is that Ohio under Kasich “continues to lose jobs.” Wrong again. The state gained seasonally adjusted jobs in every month from January through August — 84,000 in total — before preliminarily (and, in my view, a bit suspiciously) losing over 21,000 in September.

Opponents’ most underhanded tactic occurred early this year as SB5 was under consideration. Union leaders at schools and other organized workplaces, taking great care not to leave any tracks, quietly told teachers and others that the law’s passage would reduce their pay by 40%-50%. Though there is no credible basis whatsoever for this claim, many public employees who might ordinarily be receptive to supporting Issue 2′s reforms believed the lie, and have become impervious to any attempt at rational discussion.

Issue 2 is so obviously superior to business as usual that most of Ohio’s newspapers, which on the whole lean decidedly left, have endorsed it. Some of those endorsements have raised possibly reasonable points that the law may in certain instances go too far. Kasich himself considered that possibility, and in August invited public-sector union leaders to discuss what might be done to adjust it. Union leaders wouldn’t meet without SB5 first being repealed. The meeting never happened. Labor’s intransigence has become so alarming that two prominent Democrats, Toledo’s current mayor and a now-former Cincinnati City Council member, are among Issue 2′s most ardent proponents.

The twisted definition of “negotiation” just described explains why other public-sector union-dominated states are in so much trouble. In Illinois, out-of-control state employee wages and perks are virtually untouchable, while vendors and Medicaid providers wait months to get paid. Decades of public-sector union dominance have taken Rhode Island to the point where “Ten cents of every state tax dollar now goes to retired public workers.” Connecticut’s state debt per capita of over $5,400 is the highest in the nation. All three states tried to solve their fiscal problems with tax increases, which have predictably solved nothing.

Obama’s stake in Issue 2′s failure is clear. Continuing the unsustainable status quo helps keep Democratic campaign coffers full. Additionally, states whose situations become incurable will run to Washington for bailouts, which will create opportunities for even stronger federal control.

Supposed friends in the Republican Party haven’t always been helpful. On October 25, GOP presidential candidate Mitt “Flip-Flop” Romney, visiting of all places a get out the vote phone bank, wouldn’t commit to supporting Issue 2. The next day, he flipped back to “110% support,” which of course won’t fully repair the damage. Naturally, Team Obama pounced.

Polls show Issue 2 trailing, which is not at all surprising or even necessarily troubling. Ohio’s issue-related polls have a history of serious inaccuracy favoring the leftist position. Six years ago, two George Soros-driven “reform” proposals were ahead in two statewide polls just before Election Day by an average of 28 points. They lost by an average of 31.

As usual, it will all come down to who gets their supporters to the polls. I would encourage readers, even those from outside the Buckeye State, to contact their center-right friends, relatives and acquaintances and ask them to be sure they vote. The financial viability and competitiveness of Ohio, and the ability of other states to address their own fiscal quagmires, both likely hang in the balance.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (110311)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:59 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow later. Other topics are also fair game.

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Positivity: St. Martin de Porres, first black saint of the Americas, celebrated Nov. 3

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:34 am

From Denver:

Oct 30, 2011 / 08:05 am

On Nov. 3 the Roman Catholic Church celebrates St. Martin de Porres, a Peruvian Dominican brother whose life of charity and devotion led to his canonization as the first black saint of the Americas.

Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru during 1579, the son of the Spanish nobleman Don Juan de Porres and the former Panamanian slave Ana Velazquez. His father at first refused to acknowledge the boy publicly as his own, because Martin, like his mother, was black. Though Martin’s father later helped to provide for his education, his son faced difficulties because of his family background.

But Don Juan’s son showed great gifts at a young age. Martin served as apprentice to a doctor, and before the age of 13 he had begun to learn the practice of medicine. The young man also spent hours in prayer, and practiced forms of physical mortification for the good of his soul and others.

During these years Martin had also become a member of the Dominican Third Order, which promoted the group’s spiritual practices among laypersons. He lived in their quarters, and did manual work to earn room and board. But a law preventing people of mixed race from joining religious orders kept him from entering the Dominican Order as a religious brother until 1603.

Before his full admission to the order, Martin had earned the nickname of “the saint of the broom” for his diligence in cleaning the Dominicans’ quarters. After becoming a religious brother, he worked in the order’s infirmary serving the sick, a job he would perform until his death.

He also had the task of begging for alms that the community would use to feed and clothe the poor. Meanwhile, he established an orphanage, and an orchard from which those in need could freely take a day’s supply of fruit.

Victims of medical misfortune began to suspect miracles behind some of the deeply prayerful physician’s cures. Others claimed he had appeared to them supernaturally behind locked doors or under otherwise impossible circumstances. Martin reportedly also had the gift of bilocation, and some of his contemporaries said they encountered him in places as far off as Japan even as he remained in Lima.

Others, meanwhile, marveled at his serenity and generosity. …

Go here for the rest of the story.