May 31, 2013

La. Dem Chairwoman on ObamaCare Opponents: ‘It’s about race’

What is it with state Democratic Party chairpersons these days?

South Carolina Chairman Dick Harpootlian, whose term just recently ended, has hurled repeated tasteless insults at Palmetto State Governor Nikki Haley, who is of Indian heritage. His final parting shot: Haley needs to be sent “back to wherever the hell she came from.” Louisiana’s Democratic Party chairwoman joined in the “fun” earlier this week on the floor of the state’s Senate (HT Campaign Spot; bolds are mine):

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AP’s Meme on Job Growth Ignores Reduction in Total Hours Worked

One particular sentence has recently become a virtual meme at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press.

Its latest appearance is at Christopher Rugaber’s report this afternoon on April’s seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent drop in consumer spending. Rugaber, who infamously wrote “Gone are the fears that the economy could fall into another recession” in early April, perhaps betraying a bit of nervousness, called today’s news “a sign that economic growth may be slowing.” Deeper into his dispatch, he rolled out the meme:

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Imagine That: California Health Care Exchange’s Claimed Premium Cuts Are Really 64%-146% Hikes

When Covered California, the Golden States’ health insurance exchange being set up under ObamaCare, initially announced its rates beginning in 2014, it claimed that rates will go down. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones (“if these early results hold up, Obamacare’s structure seems to be doing a pretty good job at its core mission of controlling prices.”) and Rick Ungar at Forbes (“the reality is that the early report card on Obamacare—at least in those states willing to give the law a chance to succeed—is looking pretty darn good”) got suckered in.

It isn’t so, as Avik Roy explained yesterday at Forbes (bolds are mine):

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Not News: Obama Authors Emails Sent by (Formerly?) ‘Non-Partisan’ Organizing For Action

Add this to the seemingly endless list of things which would be considered news and denounced far and wide if a Republican or conservative were involved.

In early February, the Politico’s Tarini Parti and Kenneth P. Vogel noted the insistence on its “About” page by Organizing For Action, the non-profit 501(c)(4) successor to Organizing for America, President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, that it “be involved in any way in elections or partisan political activity.” That didn’t last long. In fact, the quoted language is no longer on OFA’s “About” page. Instead, OFA now exists, despite growing evidence that a mountain of information which could have swung the election to Obama’s opponent was deliberately kept from the public, “to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012.” Accordingly, OFA has no compunction over sending its members emails from Obama himself.

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Cincinnati’s ‘responsible bidder’ law is irresponsible

Filed under: Economy,Ohio Economy,Ohio Politics,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:59 pm

It shuts out open shop contractors, and imposes a new “slush fund” tax.

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This column was posted at Watchdog.org with minor revisions a short time ago.

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Cincinnati City Council is determined to make what the Cincinnati Enquirer has called “the biggest public works project ever undertaken in Hamilton County,” where Cincinnati is the county seat, a union-only, “slush fund”-generating enterprise.

The project is a federally mandated $3.2 billion, 20-year upgrade to sewer systems under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, encompassing all of Hamilton County and portions of two adjoining counties.

Hamilton County owns MSD. The City of Cincinnati merely operates it, but recent legislation passed by council attempts to dictate the project’s rules.

County leaders are justifiably furious. The Enquirer reported a week ago that its commissioners, two Republicans and one Democrat, “halted all sewer projects until Cincinnati City Council backs off two rules that govern who can bid on sewer project work.”

The first element of Council’s gambit involves weeding out potential MSD project bidders based on their track record of graduating building trades apprentices. As explained by the Enquirer’s Sharon Coolidge:

The “responsible bidder law” says that companies that bid on sewer projects that cost $400,000 or more must run apprenticeship programs that have graduated workers each of the last five years or partner with a group that has.

The law’s “each of the last five years” requirement would effectively shut most if not all non-union contractors out of the bidding process. Here’s why.

Apprentice programs are designed, through a combination of classroom and on the job training, to impart specific, targeted skills to trainees so that they can become journeymen in one of the building trades such as carpentry, masonry,  or plumbing.

Union contractors obtain their workers by contacting the union locals of the various building trades whose services they will need to complete their projects. These unions either run their own apprenticeship programs or do so in cooperation with other union locals, and graduate many members each year.

Larger non-union companies typically have their own apprenticeship programs, sometimes calling them “craft training.” Though they may have multiple graduates in any given year, they do not consistently generate graduates each and every year.

Chris Runyan, President of the Ohio Contractors Association, a statewide trade association which he said has mostly union but some open shop contractors among its members, told me on Wednesday that under the law as written, two of Greater Cincinnati’s largest non-union general contractors will be shut out of all MSD project bidding. That’s because even though each company has had several years with multiple graduates from their state-certified apprenticeship programs, they have also had at least one year in the past five with no graduates. Smaller open shop contractors, some of whose in-house programs aren’t certified (another one of the law’s requirements), or who utilize outside programs which aren’t, will also be frozen out.

The second element of the law to which the county has objected is its requirement, as described by the Enquirer, that contractors pay a new tax — of course, the law doesn’t call it a tax, but that’s what it is — of ”10 cents for every hour each worker clocks into a special fund Cincinnati City Council created.” The city will then supposedly direct the money collected, which is expected to amount to an estimated $3 million over 20 years based on an estimated 30 million labor hours needed to complete all phases of the work, into “pre-apprentice programs.”

But what is a “pre-apprenticeship program”? According to HBI, a non-profit corporation devoted to workforce development in the building trades, it is a “construction curriculum specifically designed to teach at-risk and underserved populations including academically-challenged individuals.” The Enquirer’s Sharon Coolidge describes it as “a way to train unskilled workers who lack basic tools – reading, math, punctuality – to be construction workers or tradesmen.”

Both attempted definitions oversell what pre-apprentice programs can and do accomplish. In layman’s terms, pre-apprentice programs are remedial education programs sprinkled with a dash of motivational and self-esteem training which have a spotty track record of success in getting their participants ready for a real-world job. Additionally, when managed by government-funded or government-selected entities, these programs have all too often seen more than their fair share of wasteful spending.

One recent such example occurred in southwestern Ohio. A November 2012 reportby Ohio’s Inspector General found that “over one quarter, or $255,000 of all expenditures” out of $1 million in federal stimulus money granted to the Constructing Futures jobs training initiative were questionable because they were impermissible under the grant’s terms or lacked adequate documentation. Even the unquestioned expenses seem largely to have helped organizations involved in administering the grant defray already existing overhead costs.

Runyan and other critics, including dissenting City Council members, have accurately described the pre-apprentice training fund as a “slush fund.”

If it seems like the law was specifically tailored to the unions’ wishes, it’s because it probably was. Coolidge has reported that “Rob Richardson Jr., who represents a labor-management fund called Laborers Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, has been at (Councilman and law sponsor Chris) Seelbach’s side throughout the responsible bidder process.”

One thing is certain: If the responsible bidder law stays, contractors won’t eat the 10 cents-per-hour tax. They will instead consider that additional cost in preparing their bids. MSD ratepayers, most of whom are outside Cincinnati’s city limits, will ultimately bear the tax’s burden.

Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (053113)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

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

Positivity: Adoration with Pope energizing Catholics worldwide

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Vatican City:

May 28, 2013 / 06:39 am

The Catholic world will be united with Pope Francis on the Feast of Corpus Christi as he leads a “historic” hour of simultaneous Eucharistic Adoration.

“Even some islands in the middle of the ocean … at two in the morning – they don’t have electricity – but even with that they will be in communion with us and Pope Francis for one hour,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella said as he explained the intense reaction he is seeing to the June 2 event.

“I am proud to say that this is a historical moment for the history of the Church because for one hour all the churches in the world will be united. … We are united because the Eucharist makes us all one body and one spirit, so we enter into the deepest meaning of the Eucharist,” the archbishop told CNA in a May 28 interview.

Archbishop Fisichella, who leads the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said that the strong response to the event did not surprise him because he has seen “an increasing number of people engaged in adoration” in recent years.

The gathering will be an hour of simultaneous adoration for the Feast of Corpus Christi, which Pope Francis will begin in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5:00 p.m. Rome time.

Archbishop Fisichella announced May 28 that there are two intentions for the Holy Hour.

The first is for the “Church throughout the world united today in Adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist,” that the Lord makes her ever obedient to his word so that she appears before the world as “beautiful, without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish.”

The second intention is dedicated to people around the world who are suffering from violence, drug or human trafficking, economic insecurity, and those who have been pushed to the margins of society. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

May 30, 2013

Dem Mouthpiece: If You Won’t Meet Holder Off the Record, You Forfeit ‘Your Right to Gripe’

This looks like a perfect exhibit of intimidation combined with insufferable arrogance.

Joel Gehrke at the Washington Examiner reports that Democratic Party spokesperson Brad Woodhouse, apparently temporarily assuming the role of White House Press Secretary, is really upset that the New York Times refused to meet yesterday for an off-the-record discussion about Attorney General Eric Holder about recent revelations and admissions that the Justice Departmet has been conducting secret sureillance of reporters for several years (bold is mine):

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1Q13 GDP, First Revision: An Annualized 2.4%, Down from 2.5%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:25 am

Predictions are for it to stay at an annualized increase of 2.5%.

The report will be here at 8:30 a.m.

HERE IT IS (full text and tables):

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 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2013 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter), according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 0.4 percent.

With the second estimate for the first quarter, increases in private inventory investment, in exports, and in imports were less than previously estimated, but the general picture of overall economic activity is not greatly changed.

… The acceleration in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected an upturn in private inventory investment, an acceleration in PCE, a smaller decrease in federal government spending, and an upturn in exports that were partly offset by an upturn in imports and a deceleration in nonresidential fixed investment.

A minor miss, but in the wrong direction.

Initial Unemployment Claims (053013): 354K, Up 10K from Last Week’s Revised 344K; NSA Claims Down 8% From Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:24 am

Predictions:
- Reuters — 340,000
- Business Insider — 340,000

Seasonal Factors:
- Week ended May 26, 2012 — 90.6
- Week ended May 25, 2013 — 89.7

Raw Claims:
- Week ended May 26, 2012 — 346,260
- Week ended May 18, 2013 (before revisions) — 301,056

So the question is whether raw claims will come in at roughly 3% or less above last week’s 301K. If so, seasonally adjusted claims will beat estimates.

The report will be here at 8:30 a.m. Reaction will be delayed by looking at the GDP report which will be issued at the same time first.

HERE IT IS (permanent link):

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending May 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 354,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 344,000. The 4-week moving average was 347,250, an increase of 6,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 340,500.

… UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 317,732 in the week ending May 25, an increase of 13,653 from the previous week. There were 346,260 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

The “trading range,” if you will, of 340K-360K seen this month probably isn’t enough to bring the unemployment rate down by much if at all.

Media Bistro Adds More Detail on MSNBC’s Ratings Freefall

Wednesday evening, Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters pointed to a Hollywood Reporter story on MSNBC’s ratings free-fall.

Media Bistro’s Merrill Knox had even more damning detail in a Wednesday afternoon post (links are in original; bolds are mine):
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Producing ‘Scandal Exhaustion’

That’s the Obama administration’s apparent strategy.

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

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In discussing the Obama administration’s most recent entries to its already exhaustive roster of scandals, we could start by trying to figure out which one is the most important.

The answer, unfortunately, is that each of the three most recent scandals Team Obama has inflicted on the nation is the most important in its own way.
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