April 27, 2012

1Q12 Gross Domestic Product, First Pass: An Annualized 2.2%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:13 am

From Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2011, real GDP increased 3.0 percent.

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), exports, private inventory investment, and residential fixed investment that were partly offset by negative contributions from federal government spending, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The deceleration in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected a deceleration in private inventory investment and a downturn in nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by accelerations in PCE and in exports.

I think this is a bust compared to recent expectations, which were for a reading of 2.5% to 3.0%.

Yep:

  • Bloomberg — “Economy in U.S. Expands at 2.2% Annual Rate, Less Than Forecast”
  • Reuters (“Growth slows on inventories, weak business spending”) — “While that was below economists’ expectations for a 2.5 percent pace, a surge in consumer spending took some of the sting from the report. However, growth was still stronger than analysts’ predictions early in the quarter for an expansion below 1.5 percent.”
  • Associated Press, published before the release — “The consensus forecast is that gross domestic product – the output of all goods and services, from cars to electricity to manicures – grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate, according to a survey of economists by FactSet.” The headline: “Growth likely dipped in winter, but 2012 brightens.” On what planet, guys?
  • Business Insider’s email had a consensus expectation of 2.5%.

Zero Hedge reminds us that, if anything, the quarter should have been much more impressive because of the mild winter (paragraph breaks added by me):

Big GDP Miss: 2.2% Vs Expectations Of 2.5%, Composition Even Uglier

Instead of printing at the expected number of +2.5%, the first preliminary GDP data point (two more revisions pending) came out at 2.2%, a big disappointment for a quarter which had a substantial boost from the weather.

And while of the 2.2%, Personal Consumption came in strong – as expected, as it was precisely the factor most impacted by pulling in demand forward courtesy of “April in February”, 0.59% of the 2.2% was an increase in inventories, something which was not supposed to happen as it means that the quality of the economic growth in Q1 was far worse than expected.

Cementing the ugly composition of Q1 GDP was fixed investment which added just a paltry 0.18% – this is the number which is critical for ongoing cashflow generation and unfortunately, the very low print means that growth outlook for Q2 is now even worse than before and we expect economists will promptly trim their already bearish predictions for Q2 GDP.

Mediocre, non-job-generating growth (compared to what’s needed to make a significant dent), the hallmark of this, the worst recovery (and it’s barely that) since World War II, continues.

Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (042712)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:15 am

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

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April 26, 2012

EPA Regional Administrator’s Real Philosophy: ‘Crucify’ First, Intimidate Challengers Later

Yesterday, as apparently first reported at the Daily Caller, Oklahoma Republican Senator James Imhofe revealed that Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz had explained his enforcement philosophy towards companies within his jurisdiction as “[C]rucify them … Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there.” Remember that Antagonistic Al was referring to those who are “not compliant.” A YouTube video of Armendariz’s remarks in fuller context is here.

The Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, in what I would hope is only its first version of coverage (but don’t count on any follow-up), did its level best to minimize the significance of Armendariz’s remarks, with a headline designed to make people think he only said one bad word, and content which tried to emphasize that the administrator reserves his harsh treatment only for actual lawbreakers. At Forbes, Christopher Helman has made mincemeat of that pretense in one very prominent case. First, here’s the complete but brief AP report from Ramit Plushnick-Masti (posted in full for fair use and discussion purposes):

APonEPAcrucifyGuy042612at415pm

Note how Plushmick-Masti described Armendariz’s targets: “bad players in the oil and gas industry” who are “not complying with the law.”

Also note the AP writer’s claim that Armendariz’s Roman example related to “a troublesome town.” No it didn’t. Armendariz didn’t say or even imply that being “troublesome” was a factor as he drew the ancient portion of his analogy. He actually said the following:

The Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

Antagonistic Al was referring to towns which had already been conquered, and were therefore not presumptively “troublesome.” It’s clear that in finding “the first five guys they saw,” the Romans didn’t care whether the victims were criminals or completely innocent residents.

He may not have intended it, but as Helman at Forbes notes, that narrative — crucify first, dare anyone to challenge them later — pretty much describes how despicably Armendariz dealt with Range Resources (bolds are mine):

… not only has Armendariz talked about crucifying oil companies, he’s tried to do it. In 2010 his office targeted Range Resources, a Fort Worth-based driller that was among the first to discover the potential of the Marcellus Shale gas field of Pennsylvania — the biggest gas field in America and one of the biggest in the world. Armendariz’s office declared in an emergency order that Range’s drilling activity had contaminated groundwater in Parker County, Texas. Armendariz’s office insisted that Range’s hydraulic fracking activity had caused the pollution and ordered Range to remediate the water. The EPA’s case against Range was catnip for the environmental fracktivists who insist with religious zealotry that fracking is evil. Range insisted from the beginning that there was no substance to the allegations.

The Armendriz video was shot around the same time he was preparing the action against Range.

Never mind that he couldn’t prove jack against Range. For a year and a half EPA bickered over the issue, both with Range and with the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas drilling and did its own scientific study of Range’s wells and found no evidence that they polluted anything. In recent months a federal judge slapped the EPA, decreeing that the agency was required to actually do some scientific investigation of wells before penalizing the companies that drilled them.

There was no evidence that Range was breaking any law or even from all appearances violating any standard environmentally safe practices — yet Armendariz brought out the wood and the nails and began hammering away.

So much for Antagonistic Al’s video claim that he only goes after those who are “not compliant” — and so much for AP’s assertion that the “crucify” comment only refers to “bad players” who “are not complying with the law.” It doesn’t. Effective with Helman’s post, Ramit Plushnick-Masti and the Associated Press are actively promoting a blatant falsehood, and owe their news consumers and subscribing media outlets a retraction followed by an accurate and thorough update.

How many thousand other Antagonistic Als are in federal, state, and local environmental, occupational safety, and other potentially employer-harassing enforcement? Well, if you need a clue, consider that no one in Armendariz’s audience seemed to have had an audible problem with what he said (there is inaudible humor at the end of the video, but from what I can tell it does not refer to Armendariz’s remarks).

Where does Range go to get reimbursed for the legal and other fees spent and the executive time lost over what was such an obvious frivolous presumptive strike at an industry with the potential to turn the country’s energy situation completely around?

If this guy holds onto his job — forget the “apology,” which can’t possibly undo Armendariz’s outlook as practiced — we will know all we need to know about the Obama administration’s regulatory mindset. You’ll find it under “T” for “tyranny” –”arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Kasich: Going Back to Free-Spending Ways Is ‘Just Not Acceptable’ — For at Least 1,854 Reasons

John Kasich, asked by a reporter about when “we can start spending additional revenue,” laughed hard, and responded thusly:

Excerpt:

Listen, we just came out of an eight billion dollar hole. We were dying economically. And now that we begin to see some sunlight, people start thinking, “Well how can we go back to spending again? That’s just not acceptable.

… Any effort at runaway spending is unacceptable and will be dealt with.

Memo to the people who think there’s nothing which (or no one who) could possibly be cut: Visit this very large PDF file compiled by the Ohio Liberty Council based on data from the Buckeye Institute.

It’s a very large PDF file because it contains 1,854 names. The names are those of employees of the State of Ohio who were paid over $100,000 in 2011. I understand Kasich’s laughter at the silliness of the question. But I’m not laughing along with him, because the bloat isn’t funny, and he really needs to start going after it.

On top of that, there are surely hundreds more public school administrators, veteran teachers, along with local and county policemen and firemen, and other public officials earning more than $100K per year, which is far more than the average person in the private sector will ever earn annually.

Don’t tell me or anyone else that state and local government can’t be cut, and substantially.

Initial Unemployment Claims: 388K SA; 4-Week Average Over 380K; NSA Claims Down Less than 6% Year Over Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:06 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending April 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 388,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 389,000. The 4-week moving average was 381,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 375,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending April 14, unchanged from the prior week.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 366,743 in the week ending April 21, a decrease of 3,484 from the previous week. There were 387,867 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.

Not seasonally adjusted claims during the same week last year were 387,867. This year’s 366,743 is about 5.5% lower, which I believe is the narrowest year-over-year difference in quite a while. Last year’s comparable week was the one before Easter.

The past three weeks have marched in lockstep: 388K, 389K, 388K.

The evidence that we’re facing a third “Non-Recovery Summer” in a row continues to mount.

Latest PJ Media Column (‘The Election Should Be All About Barack Obama’s Record’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:25 am

It’s here.

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

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The column deals with three of Barack Obama’s records, which from an economic and fiscal perspective should be all that people should need to know about his record to send him packing:

  • Most trillion-dollar annual deficits rung up (as well as the only ones): 4.
  • Most consecutive months of seasonally adjusted unemployment above 8%: 38, and counting. The previous record in the early 1980s was 26. In the economy under Ronald Reagan unemployment fell in 14 months from a peak of 10.8% in December 1982 to below 8% in February 1984. Under Obama, peak unemployment of 10.0% occurred in October 2009.  28 months later — twice as long as it took unemployment to fall from a higher peak under Reagan — we’re still above 8%, and for the third year in a row, it’s starting to look like the rate might head back up again.
  • Number of post-recession quarters required for a post-World War II economy to return to its pre-recession size: 9. The previous record was three.

These records are mere the three most obvious. The litany of misery is a mile long, and it’s all on him and his party.

Imagine how bad it would be if we didn’t have governors like Rick Perry in Texas, John Kasich in Ohio, and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, to name just a few GOP stalwarts, doing everything they can despite substantial federal constraints to either turn their states around or keep them going. Worse, imagine how bad it would be if we instead had fifty governors like California’s Jerry Brown (March unemployment rate: 11%; or Illinois’s (yes, that’s the possessive form) Jim Quinn (unemployment rate: 8.8%; jobs added in past 12 months: a paltry 32,000).

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (042612)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:05 am

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

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Positivity: Chuck Colson remembered for public Christian witness

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:45 am

From New York:

Apr 23, 2012 / 05:26 pm

The death of Charles W. “Chuck” Colson drew remembrances from many national and Christian leaders who praised the former political operative’s work in prison ministry, Evangelical-Catholic dialogue and religious freedom advocacy.

“There can be little doubt that Chuck Colson was one of the most important public Christian figures in recent decades. He gave gravitas to the new emergent Christian Right,” R.R. Reno, editor of the interreligious journal “First Things,” told CNA April 23.

“Like Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Chuck recognized that our increasingly secular liberal elites posed a threat to the uniquely religious character of American culture,” Reno said.

“This did not mean he thought the differences between Protestants and Catholics are irrelevant, but he saw that the common challenge joins us together.”

Colson died at a Falls Church, Va. hospital on April 21 at the age of 80. The Naples, Fla. resident became ill March 30 while speaking at a Colson Center of Christian Worldview conference in Lansdowne, Va. He was treated for a brain hemorrhage earlier this month.

A former Marine, Colson served as a Republican political strategist and a self-described “hatchet man” who attacked the enemies of President Richard Nixon. He helped organize illegal actions to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, a former Pentagon official suspected of leaking a classified history of the Vietnam War to the media, The Washington Post reports.

In August 1973, during intense legal scrutiny amid the Watergate scandals, Colson converted to Christianity. In 1974, he pled guilty to charges of obstruction of justice related to the Ellsberg case and served seven months of a one to three-year sentence in a federal prison in Alabama.

He left prison convinced of the need to crusade for U.S. prison reform including an end to inhumane conditions and prison rape. In 1976 he founded Prison Fellowship, which at its peak attracted 50,000 prison ministry volunteers. It currently has a presence in 100 countries around the world.

Colson then became involved in inter-Christian dialogue and was a signatory to the 1994 document Evangelicals and Catholics Together. He was a key author of the 2009 Manhattan Declaration, which called on Christians to defend human life, traditional marriage and religious freedom. The declaration attracted half a million signatories.

Reno praised Colson for keeping religious faith “at the center of the public witness of Christians who felt called to engage in politics.”

According to the editor, Colson saw that when Protestants and Catholics are joined to “make common cause for the moral truths of the Gospel” they can “rediscover what we share as a common Christian faith.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

April 25, 2012

One of Punk President’s Punks at EPA: ‘Crucify Them’ Like the Romans

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:14 pm

Well, I guess this settles the question of whether there’s reason to fear federal bureaucrats and their virtually unrestrained power, as well as the question of whether the Obama administration’s mission is to govern through persuasion or rule by intimidation.

Otherwise, I cannot come up with words to appropriately react to the following, except with a combination of horror and anger:

CNSnewsEPAcrucifyThem042512

Well, I do have a question, but it’s for Mitt Romney: Do you still your “Obama’s a nice guy, but misguided” approach has any basis in reality?

Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (042512)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:15 am

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

Update, 1:15 p.m.: Other commitments will keep me from posting anything here at BizzyBlog until late this evening — if then.

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Positivity: Tennessee’s Summitt changed game

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

Meant to get to this much sooner — From Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN:

You can make the argument — without apology or hesitation — that Pat Summitt is the greatest college basketball coach of our time. At the very least, she’s in the starting five.

And it’s not because she won more games than any other Division I coach from A (Geno Auriemma) to K (Mike Krzyzewski) to W (John Wooden). Or that she has the same number of national championships as Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp combined. Or that in the 31 years there’s been an NCAA women’s basketball tournament, her team has been in it every year — and won eight times.

Greatness isn’t measured simply by victories. It is measured by the depth and width of a coach’s impact on the sport itself, on the players, on the university they represent. Find me another basketball coach who transformed and legitimized her sport more than Summitt. Find me another basketball coach whose legacy exceeds hers. I can wait.

After 38 seasons as Tennessee’s women’s head coach, Summitt relinquished her duties Wednesday to longtime assistant and former UT player Holly Warlick. She had little choice; the effects of early-onset dementia-Alzheimer’s type had begun to leave footprints on her ability to run the program on a day-to-day basis.

Alzheimer’s is such a cruel and selfish disease. It steals your memory. It steals away the likes of Summitt, who has spent more time on basketball courts than varnish.

Late Wednesday afternoon, I talked with associate athletic director Debby Jennings, who has spent the past 35 years in the UT athletic department. As an undergrad, Jennings had taken tennis and basketball classes taught by Summitt at Tennessee. Few at UT have known Summitt longer.

I asked Jennings to quantify Summitt’s impact on women’s college basketball. I should have known better. Asking that question is like asking someone to come up with a mathematical formula for love.

But Jennings tried, explaining how Summitt helped make women’s basketball credible, how she pushed for more TV exposure for the game, how she helped create a brand not only for UT women’s hoops, but for the sport. …

Go here for the rest of the column.

April 24, 2012

Follow-Up: Atlantic Revises John Edwards Trial Article, Names His Party, More Fully Discloses Writer’s Background

The Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor tipped me to a remarkable development this afternoon. Someone at the Atlantic, probably with the help of commenters there, took notice of the noise being made by Doug Ross, yours truly (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), and probably others, and took some action on a disgracefully written 1,800-word article about the upcoming trial of John Edwards by Hampton Dellinger (“Why the John Edwards Trial Is a Bigger Deal Than You Think”) — for the better.

Doug’s more than valid complaint was that Dellinger never tagged the former 2008 Democratic presidential contender who was also the party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2004 and (shudder) would have become Vice President if Bush v. Kerry in Ohio had gone the other way, as a Democrat. Yet Dellinger was somehow still able to mention the Republican Party or specific Republicans five times. I further noted that the author’s bio was totally inadequate, as it never mentioned his unsuccessful run — as a Democrat, of course — for Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 2008. These shortcomings have been fixed, as will be shown after the jump.

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Establishment Press Ignores Ind. Union’s Legal Claim: Right-to-Work Law Creates ‘Involuntary Servitude’

As of 1:30 p.m., what follows was a story only at Big Government, The Blaze, and the Daily Caller.

The news is that an Indiana union has expanded the scope of an already-filed lawsuit by claiming that the Hoosier State’s recently enacted right to work law violates the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibition against slavery because it forces unions to work beside and negotiate on behalf of workers who are no longer required to pay union dues to keep their jobs. Based on the related articles’ time stamps, it appears that the Daily Caller’s David Martosko was first with the story very early Sunday morning, so I will excerpt from its coverage (apologies if I am incorrect; bolds are mine):

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March New Home Sales Down 7% From February, Which Was Revised Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:25 am

From the Census Bureau:

Sales of new single-family houses in March 2012 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 328,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 7.1 percent (±20.7%)* below the revised February rate of 353,000, but is 7.5 percent (±19.6%)* above the March 2011 estimate of 305,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in March 2012 was $234,500; the average sales price was $291,200. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of March was 144,000. This represents a supply of 5.3 months at the current sales rate.

The raw number for March was 32,000.

Reuters reports that “sales in the prior three months were revised higher than initially thought.” The Associated Press says that March’s news “followed a 7.3 percent increase in sales in February … (which) was revised up from an initial estimate that February sales had fallen 1.6 percent.” I doubt that revisions to March made in next month’s report on April will be so significant.

The numbers for the previous four Marches: 2011 – 28K; 2010 – 36K; 2009 – 31K; 2008 – 49K.

First-quarter 2012 sales were 83,000. That compares to the past four years as possible: 2011 – 71K; 2010 – 87K; 2009 – 84K; 2008 – 141K.

Four years after the new home industry crashed, it’s still not coming back. If it does, finding qualified people to build the homes people want is going to be very challenging.

Joseph Kennedy Jr. at NYT: Crude Oil ‘Extraction’ Costs Average $11 a Barrel

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:57 am

It would appear that if you’re an op-ed columnist at the New York Times, you can make up just about any outrageous claim and not get called on it by anyone responsible (if there is such a thing) at the Old Gray Lady.

The column in question, Joseph P. Kennedy II’s “The High Cost of Gambling on Oil,” goes back two weeks to April 10, but deserves a closer look for two reasons. First Kennedy, who wants to see “pure” speculation by those who are not actual industry participants completely banned (confirmed in the item’s browser window title), claimed that oil “extraction” costs “average $11 a barrel worldwide.” Second, Kennedy’s concluding bio gives the impression that he is an energy industry mogul and not in fact the head of “a non-profit organization that primarily aids the poor in the United States and throughout the world …” First, here is Kennedy’s extraction cost claim (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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