February 28, 2014

AP’s Kuhnhenn: Debt and Deficit Worries Are So 2010

Perhaps I’m being too kind in describing the Associated Press as “The Administration’s Press.” Based on Jim Kuhnhenn’s ridiculous “Don’t worry, be happy” Saturday report on how unimportant he says the still growing national debt and the still historically large federal budget deficits supposedly are, maybe I should start calling the wire service “The Administration’s Publicists” instead.

Kuhnhenn stopped just short of writing that the national debt ($17.41 trillion as of Wednesday, up from $10.63 trillion when Barack Obama took office 61 months ago, an average increase of $111 billion per month) and the annual federal budget deficit (on track to be over $500 billion for the sixth year in a row, four of which saw deficits of over $1 trillion) aren’t worthy of attention, but it’s clear that he believes we shouldn’t be concerned about them in making electoral choices (bolds are mine):

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Former Greenpeace Official: ‘No Scientific Proof’ of Human-Caused Global Warming; Press Ignores

Patrick Moore is one of the early members of Greenpeace, and was an important official in that organization from 1971 to 1986.

Moore is among the last people one might expect to be a “climate change denier,” as those who irritate us with the idea that human-caused global warming is “settled science” like to characterize people who disagree with them. But he is, as seen in Senate testimony earlier this week. The establishment press is ignoring Patrick; the few identified results at the link come from British newspapers and center-right outlets. An Investor’s Business Daily editorial yesterday highlighted what Moore had to say (bolds are mine):

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NewsBusted (022814)

Filed under: NewsBusted — Tom @ 9:34 am

Here we go:

Topics:
– Obama Voters
– I.R.S.
– MSNBC’s Ed Schultz
– Sun and Earth
– Starbucks
– Capital One
– Muslims on Mars?
– President Obama
– Miley Cyrus
– Kanye West
– Craigslist Killer

Best Lines:

  • “A new poll finds that one-quarter of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. However, 100% of self-described environmentalists believe the world revolves around them.”
  • “An Islamic cleric has issued a fatwa saying that Muslims are not allowed to live on Mars. Well, until decide to live on Mars. Then Muslims can claim Mars as their own.”

4Q13 Gross Domestic Product, First Revision (022814): An Annualized 2.4% (UPDATE: A Negative Growth ‘Obamacare Christmas’ Sighting?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:15 am

(This post originally appeared at 6:15 a.m. and has been carried to the top. It will be updated throughout much of this morning.)

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Predictions: Imagine that, they’re way down from the original annualized 3.2 percent a month ago —

  • Bloomberg — “Separate data may show the world’s largest economy expanded 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter, slower than a preliminary estimate of 3.2 percent, economists projected.”
  • Reuters — “Gross domestic product growth will probably be lowered to a 2.5 percent annual rate, according to a Reuters poll of economists. That would be down sharply from the 3.2 percent pace reported last month …”

I’ve followed business news reasonably closely this month, and though I have seen some allusions to 3.0% or slightly lower, I haven’t seen any mention of a reduction to 2.5% until now.

Update: The Associated Press also has a 2.5% prediction — an “expected trimming” of growth.

Though to be fair it was three weeks ago, Mark Zandi of Moody’s said in his ADP Employment Report conference call that he thought GDP would hold steady.

Last month after the original release, I wrote that “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.” Consumption is the area economists are citing as the primary reason why the growth rate is expected to come down in today’s report.

I think economists and analysts may still be underestimating the writedown we’ll see today. Though I think it probably will come in at 2.4% or 2.5%, I would not be at all surprised if the figure is 2.0% or below.

We’ll see if that’s what actually happens here at 8:30 a.m.

HERE IT IS (full HTML version):

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

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 3.2 percent. With this second estimate for the fourth quarter, an increase in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) was smaller than previously estimated.

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

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

Okay, let’s see what changed in contributions to GDP growth compared to the first report

  • Personal consumption: 1.73 points (was 2.26).
  • Gross private investment: 0.72 points consisting of 0.58 fixed and 0.14 in inventory increases (was 0.56, consisting of 0.14 and 0.42, respectively). Within the category, nonresidential fixed was 0.87 points, up from 0.46.
  • Net exports: 0.99 points, consisting of 1.22 exports and -0.24 imports (was 1.33, consisting of 1.48 and -0.15).
  • Government: -1.05 (was -0.93).

Based on what I see, I still think the consumption component is a wee bit high, but that the final number when published in March will be a tenth of a point or two lower at worst. But if there is to be another big move in the final report, I believe it will be downward (see the first Update as to why).

Today’s news is a big takedown from January’s initial report. I would also suggest that in terms of momentum, growth in October was probably much greater than November, which was in turn much greater than December, so the trend is not the economy’s friend.

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UPDATE: Macroeconomic Advisers seems to think that there will be (or should be) another big downward revision, and calculates that December was ugly —

Monthly GDP declined 0.6% in December, reversing about ¾ of a cumulative 0.8% increase over the prior two months. A majority of the December decline was accounted for by decreases in net exports and nonfarm inventory investment, but domestic final sales also posted a decline. The level of GDP in December was 1.1% below the fourth-quarter average at an annual rate. Implicit in our latest forecast of 1.7% annualized GDP growth in the first quarter are average increases in monthly GDP of 0.4% per month (not annualized).

That would imply a 0.2% increase during the whole quarter, which annualizes to 0.8%. Obviously, that’s wayyyy lower than the current 2.4%.

Addendum: Macro Advisers may really be confirming the existence of the Obamacare Christmas yours truly predicted in early November. If so, the Obamacare-affected 2014 doesn’t look very promising.

UPDATE 2: Zero Hedge — “And now, we await for the downward Q1 GDP revisions as sellside economists realize the US consumer was not nearly as strong as had been initially expected.”

Jonathan Who? Establishment Press Ignores Turley’s ‘Government Unto Himself’ Warning on President’s Executive Overreach

The volume of significant news going unreported in the establishment press has gone from astonishing to surreal. The best example of that, as intrepid NewsBusters posters have noted now for nine months, is the virtually complete blackout in the establishment press of developments in the IRS-conservative targeting scandal.

Separately, left-leaning law professor Jonathan Turley warned a Congressional committee on Wednesday that President Obama’s extensive use of executive orders, executive actions, and unilateral regulatory moves threatens to enable the President, as Turley phrased it in a Fox News interview on Thursday, to “effectively become a government unto himself.” If Turley had made his statement in 2006 or 2007 during the Iraq War, it would almost certainly have become a media obsession. Instead, as will be shown after the jump, Turley’s testimony is being completely ignored by everyone except center-right news outlets and bloggers.

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Destructive Missions, Partially Accomplished

Emboldened statists have already done serious damage.

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

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Those pursuing three authoritarian agenda items once considered unthinkable emanating from an administration which has become openly hostile to what once were our basic freedoms can already hang “Mission (Partially) Accomplished” banners on their walls.

First, there are the ongoing revelations about the government’s accumulation of digital mountains of personal information on citizens’ daily lives.

If there’s a positive result from this, it would be that many Americans have become a bit more careful about their data trail. But the good news ends there. Our emails, Facebook posts, text messages and other communications are subject to easy scrutiny by government minders and anyone else to whom those apparatchiks might feel like conveying information. The chilling effect on everyday speech, expression and interactions is a statist’s dream come true. Just wait until they integrate the Obamacare and Common Core data.

Places getting especially chilly include the human resource departments at and HR consulting firms serving employers with between 50-100 “employees,” which includes “full-time equivalents“ as defined by the Affordable Care Act. One of the more recent of the 27 mostly illegal or unconstitutional changes made by presidential or regulatory fiat to the Affordable Care directly affects them.

That change, which even the Associated Press briefly acknowledged was done for purely political reasons before eliminating that statement from subsequent revisions, exempts firms with 50-99 FTEs from the employer mandate — the requirement to offer health insurance coverage to all workers who average 30 or more hours per week or pay a $2,000 penalty for each, after an exemption for the first 30 — for yet another year.

But there’s a monumental catch. To squelch criticism of Obama’s alleged singular achievement, employers ”will be forced to certify to the federal government — under penalty of perjury — that jobs they cut between now and 2016 are not due to Obamacare” to preserve that one-year reprieve. Thus, an administration hell-bent on keeping state-controlled health care in place, even if it completely wrecks what once was the greatest healthcare system in the world, has already succeeded in silencing key people in the trenches who might otherwise tell the nation what a disaster it has been and will continue to be.

The pervasive changes to the law Congress originally passed, as well as the new regime of coercion, signify that there really isn’t an “Affordable Care Act” any more. There is only what must henceforth and for all time be called “Obamacare,” a mushy legal and regulatory maze which in many aspects barely resembles what Nancy Pelosi infamously said we could only read after passage before we could know what was in it. Unless someone has the legal standing, deep pockets, and exceptional bravery to successfully challenge them, healthcare law in America is whatever Barack Obama and Kathleen Sebelius say it is.

A recently revealed project at the Federal Communications Commission is by far the most brazen and disturbing of the three.

Under the thinnest imaginable pretense, allegedly the need to address the “problem” of sparse minority ownership of U.S. media outlets, the FCC wants ”to send government contractors into the nation’s newsrooms to determine whether journalists are producing articles, television reports, Internet content, and commentary that meets the public’s ‘critical information needs.’” One dissenting commissioner summed up the clear danger: “The implicit message to the newsroom is they need to start covering these eight categories in a certain way or otherwise the FCC will go after them.” If the monitoring effort were to completely succeed, state and national news reports would consist of word-for-word broadcasts of AP scripts and verbatim copies of AP content.

After howls of outrage at the obvious Orwellian impulse driving this supposedly “voluntary” effort, the FCC is pretending to back down. Don’t believe it until they officially cancel the study, which they haven’t. Even then, agency Chairman Tom Wheeler is the same slippery guy whose response to a recent court ruling nuking its “net neutrality” rules was, according to Information Week, to work on “a new version” of the same thing.

Newsrooms across America have been sent a message that they’d be better off sanitizing their content and keeping it in line with what Dear Leader would prefer to see, effective immediately. Don’t be surprised if Obamacare horror stories, of which there is no shortage, become rarely reported events.

Even if those pursuing the three measures just described never lift another finger, they’ll get a good deal of the fear-driven behavior change they wish to achieve, accompanied by side effects, including but certainly not limited to slower job growth, a continued lackluster economy, and civic malaise, about which they apparently care little.

The utter failure of a gun registration effort in Connecticut reveals that at least some hope exists for those who believe there might eventually be a way back from the accelerating despotic rush.

The Nutmeg State required that all so-called “assault weapons” be registered by December 31. Many freedom lovers who were distraught at seeing hundreds of gun owners waiting in line to comply at year-end have since been cheered by the knowledge that, in one of the bluest states in America, the vast majority of gun owners “flipped the bird at the government” by not registering anything.

This at least shows that there’s no shortage of passive resistance. We will likely soon learn that it’s not enough, but at least the well of courage isn’t, as some had feared, completely dry.

Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (022814)

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: Vatican theologians recognize miracle attributed to Paul VI

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Vatican City:

Feb 24, 2014 / 06:37 pm

The consulting theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Pope Paul VI, moving him closer to sainthood.

Vatican Insider’s Andrea Tornielli reported Feb. 21 that earlier that week, the congregation’s theological experts had unanimously recognized the healing of an unborn child through the intercession of the late Roman Pontiff.

In the mid-1990s in California, the then-unborn child was found to have a serious problem with a high risk of brain damage. Physicians advised that the child be aborted, but the mother entrusted her pregnancy to Paul VI.

The child was born without problems, and now that he is an adolescent and remains healthy, he is regarded as having been completely healed.

The healing had already been announced as medically inexplicable by the medical commission of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

A miracle must be approved by both the members of the congregation and Pope Francis in order for Pope Paul VI to be beatified – the last step in the canonization process prior to being named a saint. …

Go here for the rest of the story.