January 31, 2014

Another Obamacare Horror Story Which Won’t Get Further Than Local News

I suspect that more than a few readers have noticed, with likely little surprise, that there hasn’t been a lot of national establishment press attention paid to how Obamacare has been working out in the real world since it officially went into effect on January 1.

Non-existent HealthCare.gov security? Who cares? Patients turned away from emergency rooms voluntarily (because they don’t want to risk huge uncovered costs they will have to pay out-of-pocket) or from medical providers involuntarily (because they don’t know whether a particular patient is or isn’t covered)? You might find coverage of that in the British wing of the Washington press corps, and that’s about it. Meanwhile, scenarios such as the one you will see play out in the local TV news report out of Pittsburgh after the jump are happening all over the country, and it’s not pretty (direct YouTube; HT Personal Liberty Digest):

(more…)

Press Nearly Mum as VW Displaces GM As World’s Number Two Automaker

In yet another negative milestone for the bailouts that supposedly saved the U.S. auto industry — already a hard-to-handle claim given that Chrysler, one of the two beneficiaries, is now 100% owned by an Italian company — Volkswagen has surpassed General Motors as the world’s number two automaker behind Toyota.

The reporting on this development has been quite sparse. It’s not news at the Associated Press’s national site, even though AP mentions VW in a report on Super Bowl ad and social media strategies. At USA Today, James R. Healey’s could easily have inserted the news into his story today on the 65th anniversary of the VW Beetle’s first arrival here, and didn’t. What follows is an excerpt from Expatica, one of the few publications to note the shakeup in the auto industry hierarchy:

(more…)

Business Press Notes Increased Consumption in Govt. Report, Ignores Serious Year-Over-Year Disposable Income Dive

The Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters all focused on the supposedly positive news of increased consumption reported in today’s “Personal Income and Outlays” release from the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the process, two of the three ignored a particulary dreadful statistic about disposable income, while the third (Bloomberg) misinterpreted its meaning.

The dire statistic is the year-over-year comparison of monthly disposable income, which took a deep dive in December, turning in the worst year-over year performance as seen here, in 40 years:

(more…)

If 4Q13′s First Reported GDP Growth (Annualized 3.2%) Holds Up …

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:19 pm

… Here’s why 1Q14 could stink to high heaven (HT Zero Hedge, which claims, with graphs, that the one-month year-over-year plunge in disposable income in December is the worst in 40 years; source: BEA’s “Personal Income and Outlays” released today at Table 10):

PersonalIncome1213

Also note shocking decay in the differential between income and spending, going from -0.1% in August to -1.8% in November to -5.2% in December. Over 5 cents of every dollar in spending came from savings or increased borrowing.

Clearly (because the savings rate is already low), the only reason Christmas shopping season surprised by coming in nearly acceptable is because people raided money they’ve saved and spent money they didn’t have.

That’s not sustainable.

As Obama Begs Private Sector to Hire Long-Term Jobless, AP Ignores the Problem’s Historic Severity During His Presidency

Today, President Obama is going to ask a group of private-sector companies to help him try to solve a problem his administration’s policies have seriously worsened, namely long-term unemployment.

Of course, that’s not how Josh Lederman at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, framed the situation. All he would concede is that “long-term joblessness in the U.S. remains a major problem.” After the jump, in two graphs from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, we’ll see the frightening level of long-term unemployment Obama’s economic policies have created – and how the horrid numbers have failed to come down significantly in the 4-1/2 years since the recession officially ended.

(more…)

Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (013114)

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

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: Opus Dei bishop showed ‘enormous faith,’ biographer says

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From New York City:

Jan 28, 2014 / 04:21 am

The upcoming beatification of Opus Dei lead prelate Bishop Alvaro del Portillo brings to prominence a man of deep faith and love of God, according to his biographer.

“He was someone who reached out to all kinds of people. He would befriend the doormen in the Vatican. They’d come over and say hello to him. He was interested in everybody,” Seton Hall University professor John Coverdale told CNA Jan. 24.

“There can’t be too many people who take up interest in the doorman.”

Bishop del Portillo, a native of Madrid, Spain, headed the personal prelature of Opus Dei from 1975 until his death in 1994. He will be beatified in Madrid on Sept. 27, with Cardinal Angelo Amato of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints presiding.

“He had confidence in God, confidence that Opus Dei was part of God’s plan for the Church, and that he was called to put his whole life at the service of seeing that actually happen,” Coverdale continued.

“That’s exactly what he did. He worked very hard, even in the final days of his life as an old man and much exhausted.”

Bishop del Portillo studied to be an engineer and received doctorates in philosophy, liberal arts and canon law.

He joined Opus Dei in 1935 and soon became a close collaborator of St. Josemaria Escriva, who founded the organization dedicated to spiritual growth and discipleship among the Catholic laity. The organization teaches its members to use their work and their ordinary activities as a way to encounter God.

Coverdale, a tax law professor and member of Opus Dei since 1957, is the author of a history of the prelature. He is now working on a biography of Bishop del Portillo.

The professor said Bishop del Portillo’s personality was “very different” from that of the “ebullient” and “high energy” St. Josemaria.

“Don Alvaro was a much quieter sort of person,” he explained.

However, his life showed his “complete availability” to the Church. He served in various Vatican congregations and commissions. During the Second Vatican Council, he served as a secretary and a “peritus,” or theological expert.

“He told one of his collaborators, who had been asked to take on a very onerous appointment in the Vatican, ‘just always say yes’,” Coverdale said.

The professor worked and studied in the Opus Dei headquarters for five to six years in the 1960s, alongside St. Josemaria Escriva and

At the time, the bishop was “very much a man in the background.”

“He made no effort to stand out or have people pay attention. He was there to second whatever the founder was doing, and help him in that.”

Coverdale was impressed that a man “of his enormous talent” would simply stand by to be there “in case he was needed.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

January 30, 2014

MSNBC Unapologetically Alters Report on Cheerios Ad, Removing ‘Conservative’ From ‘Conservative Backlash’

MSNBC isn’t anywhere near done apologizing for reflexively race-baiting conservatives.

The Cheerios biracial ad controversy ginned up by the far-left network did not begin with an isolated tweet. It began with the underlying report itself by Gabriela Resto-Montero. As originally seen by a poster at Free Republic, Ms. Resto-Montero described the reaction to the original appearance of the ad last June as a “conservative backlash.” The the original June article at MSNBC does not characterize the “backlash” as anything but, well, a “backlash.”

(more…)

In Rare Recognition, AP’s Peoples Chronicles Dissatisfaction With Obama on the ‘Far-Left’

At the Associated Press, labeling conservative politicians as “far-right” comes pretty easily. “Far-left”? Not so much.

That there was even one item in the “far-left” search just noted is unusual. It’s even more remarkable that the underlying report was written by Steve Peoples, a far-lefty disguised as a reporter if there ever was one. Excerpts from his Wednesday dispatch follow the jump.

(more…)

4Q13 Gross Domestic Product, Initial Reading (013014): An Annualized 3.2%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:14 am

Predictions:

  • The Associated Press yesterday afternoon had an annualized 3.2 percent or 3.3 percent.
  • Bloomberg has 3.2 percent.

Quick thoughts:

Readers here know that I’m skeptical that personal consumption kept a pace consistent with this level of growth. On the other hand, Mark Zandi at Moody’s claimed in the January ADP Payroll conference call that the inventory element of GDP would increase again, which would be a surprise to me given the third quarter’s steep increase (about 1.6 points of GDP) and increases the previous two quarters. So maybe the two factors will offset each other.

The report will be here at 8:30.

HERE IT IS (full HTML): Well, the advance release is in line with predictions —

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 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 4.1 percent.

The Bureau emphasized that the fourth-quarter advance estimate released today is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency (see the box on page 4 and “Comparisons of Revisions to GDP” on page 5). The “second” estimate for the fourth quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on February 28, 2014.

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

The deceleration in real GDP in the fourth quarter reflected a deceleration in private inventory investment, a larger decrease in federal government spending, a downturn in residential fixed investment, and decelerations in state and local government spending and in nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by accelerations in exports and in PCE and a deceleration in imports.

Components:

  • Personal consumption, +2.26 (1.10 points on Housing and Utilities alone).
  • Gross private investment, +0.56 (+0.42 inventories, +0.14 all other elements, including -0.32 in residential fixed investment).
  • Net exports, +1.33 (+1.48 exports, -0.15 imports), up from virtually zero the previous two quarters; biggest positive in several years.
  • Government (and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth), -0.93 (-0.68 points in national defense).

Assessment: I would be surprised if the consumption or net exports figures hold up in future revisions. Though there are obviously other elements in consumption, the overall number doesn’t track with much more subdued Christmas shopping season results.

The private investment number may go up a bit, because I don’t think the residential side slowed quite that badly. On the other hand, Zandi thought the inventory increase would be about $75 billion, and it came in at $157 billion in current dollars ($127 billion in 2009 dollars). So that figure could also come down in future revisions.

_________________________________

UPDATE: Zero Hedge — “enjoy the Q4 GDP surge – it won’t last into 2014.”

UPDATE 2, Feb. 1: I need to note that full-year-growth in 2013 was only 1.9 percent, down from 2.8 percent in 2012. Some “recovery.”

Initial Unemployment Claims (013014): 348K SA; Raw Claims Down Only 4% From Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:08 am

Note: Commentary here after the report’s release may be delayed because of the GDP report which is also to be released at 8:30.

Predictions: Business Insider has 330,000 seasonally adjusted claims.

Seasonal adjustment factors:

  • Week ended Jan. 25, 2014 — 101.8
  • Week ended Jan. 26, 2013 — 98.9

Raw claims:

  • Week ended Jan. 18, 2014 — 414,311 (up from initial 411,678 last week, which will increase last week’s original 328K to about 330K)
  • Week ended Jan. 26, 2013 — 369,480

For Business Insider’s prediction to hold, raw claims will have to be 336,000 or lower (336K divided by 1.018 is 330K, rounded).

That seems ambitious, but we’ll see here at 8:30.

HERE IT IS (permanent link):

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending January 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 348,000, an increase of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 329,000. The 4-week moving average was 333,000, an increase of 750 from the previous week’s revised average of 332,250.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 354,604 in the week ending January 25, a decrease of 59,707 from the previous week. There were 369,480 initial claims in the comparable week in 2013.

I didn’t think the prediction would hold up, and it didn’t.

Looking ahead based on already published seasonal factors, raw claims are going to have to start coming in below 300,000 by mid- to late-March to keep seasonally adjusted claims at 330K or below. That doesn’t seem likely.

The Economic State of the Union Is Weak

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:59 am

And getting weaker.

______________________________________

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

______________________________________

When President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, he will surely contend — as he did in 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 — that “our Union” is “stronger,” “getting stronger,” or at least “strong.”

It is no such thing.

The federal government is certainly weaker, and the situation continues to worsen. The five highest annual deficits the nation has ever incurred have been on Obama’s watch. Barring a significant improvement in the economy — unlikely, as will be seen — the sixth highest will occur when the current fiscal year ends on September 30. The national debt, at $17.27 trillion as of January 22, has increased by a jaw-dropping $6.6 trillion since he was first inaugurated. That this year’s deficit will be less than half of the official $1.4 trillion recorded in fiscal 2009 means, in his mind, that we can ramp up spending again. Outlays for the federal government’s operations plus interest are on track to remain above $3.5 trillion this year. That’s a ridiculous 30 percent above fiscal 2007, and virtually unchanged from fiscal 2009, when the so-called stimulus package was sold as a largely temporary spending ramp-up.

In his 2012 speech, Obama admitted that “the recovery is still fragile.” Two years later, in most of the U.S., it still hasn’t happened.

Yes, the overall economy finally got its real gross domestic product (GDP) back above where it was at the end of 2007 during the second quarter of 2011, the eighth quarter after the recession’s official June 2009 end. No other post-World War II recovery required more than three. It even met Warren Buffett’s benchmark for determining the recession’s end, namely ”when real per capita GDP gets back up to where it was before,” in the second quarter of last year. The problem is, it took 22 quarters for that to happen, twice as long as after any other post-World War II comeback.

Unfortunately, the economy’s GDP recovery is still very slight, very unevenly spread geographically, and far less important than its failure to regain pre-recession employment levels in the vast majority of the nation.

In its recently released 2013 County Tracker based on late 2013 data, the National Association of Counties (NACo) echoed Obama’s early 2012 statement, and described a still dismal situation:

… [T]he recovery is still fragile in some parts of the country.

About half of U.S. county economies had no recession or recovered their economic output (GDP) lost during the recession by 2013, most of them in the South. About 800 county economies, mostly in the South and Midwest, had no drops in employment over the last decade or were above their pre-recession levels in 2013.

The first statement in the second excerpted paragraph tells us that roughly half of all U.S. counties have failed to return to their previous GDP over four years after the recession officially ended. Clearly, far more than half have failed to get back to their previous levels of per capita GDP.

Given that the U.S. has 3,069 counties (Connecticut and Rhode Island, which are two of the country’s worst economic basket cases, don’t have county governments), that paragraph’s second statement is much more troubling. Only about 26 percent of them (800 divided by 3,069) have returned to or exceeded their previous employment levels. In other words, almost three-fourths haven’t.

The following NACo map shows us that 15 states have seen fewer than 20 percent of their counties achieve employment recovery, and that four of those have failed to get to even 10 percent:

CountyEmploymentRecoveryMap2013

Given this situation, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the former Census Bureau employees who now run Sentier Research reported last week that real median household income hasn’t budged in two years, and is stuck at over 7 percent below its early 2008 peak.

The situation would be even worse but for the fact that many states have improved their economies by doing the opposite of what the Obama administration has been doing and advocating. One example: States which have been right to work during all of the past seven years are far closer to recovering the jobs lost since peak employment (within 0.78 percent) than non-right to work states (1.71 percent shy). 650,000 more Americans would have jobs today if the rest of the nation had matched the performance of the right to work states.

So what will Obama suggest to get the country back on track? Nothing which has a realistic chance of accomplishing anything.

More spending and stimulus, which might as well be the only page in the left’s and the Fed’s (but I’m probably repeating myself) macroeconomic playbook, haven’t been the answers for the past five years. Why does any sane person believe they will somehow get us over the hump now?

An Obama-supported raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 will only throw more people, perhaps as many as 1 million, into unemployment lines while preventing new entries into the workforce – all at a time when labor force participation is at a 35-year low. Someone needs to tell Obama that retailers are already laying off employees in droves following a disappointing Christmas shopping season.

No one has to recite any of the statistics noted above to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its friends in Washington. They know, and they obviously don’t care. If they did, they wouldn’t be pushing mightily to make 2014 their make-or-break year to pass economically ruinous illegal-immigrant amnesty. But to their eternal shame, they are.

Throw the ongoing and deepening confusion and chaos of Obamacare and the administration’s apparent nonchalant attitude as it crumbles into the mix, and the one thing you don’t have is a recipe for the economy to have anything resembling a strong year.

It’s impossible to know, but it may be that the stock market has finally caught on to what should have been obvious all along, as it shed about 3 percent of its value in last week’s final two days. One thing we do know is what CNBC’s Rick Santelli stated Friday afternoon: Government and central bank strategies based on endless stimulus and artificial money creation “can’t go on forever.”

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (013014)

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

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: Chick-fil-A feeds stranded drivers

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Birmingham, Alabama (HT PJ Tatler):

Posted: Jan 29, 2014 12:28 PM EST
Updated: Jan 29, 2014 12:41 PM EST

A number of motorists who had to abandon their vehicles in the snow on Highway 280 outside of Birmingham, Ala. were able to find shelter in the storm thanks to the kindness and generosity of Chick-fil-A restaurant employees and the restaurant’s owner, Mark Meadows.

Once the snow started accumulating, Meadows closed the restaurant and sent his staff home. But a few hours later, many of them returned – unable to get to their homes.

“Our store is about a mile and a half from the interstate and it took me two hours to get there,” manager Audrey Pitt said. “It was a parking lot as far as I could see.”

So Pitt left her car on the side of the interstate and joined a flock of bundled up drivers trudging through the snow.

Some of the drivers had been stuck in their cars for nearly seven hours without any food or water. So the staff of the Chick-fil-A decided to lend a helping hand.

“We cooked several hundred sandwiches and stood out on both sides of 280 and handed out the sandwiches to anyone we could get to – as long as we had food to give out.”

The staffers braved the falling snow and ice and Chick-fil-A refused to take a single penny for their sandwiches.

The meal was a gift – no strings attached. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

There’s more here via Todd Starnes at Fox News.

January 29, 2014

Most Americans Don’t Know How Little Impact Obama’s Minimum Wage EO Will Have

In his Tuesday night State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama made the following pledge: “In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.”

One would have every reason to believe from Obama’s statement that the change will take effect quickly once the EO is issued — but it won’t. Additionally, one would have every reason to believe that when it does take effect, it will increase the pay of anyone currently employed on federal contract work at a pay rate of under $10.10 per hour — but it won’t do that either. Somehow, those “little” problems escaped “fact checkers” Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn at the Politico, who, while they did catch other problems with the President’s statement, swallowed a clearly false claim about its long-term impact:

(more…)