April 30, 2014

Press Whitewashes Bloomberg Anti-Gun Group’s Pathetic Presence at Indy NRA Convention

Last weekend in Indianapolis, a reported 80,000 people attended the 143rd NRA Annual Meeting.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Everytown For Gun Safety was also present — but barely. Media coverage of that group’s activities largely tiptoed around the tiny number of people, some allegedly paid, the group was able to gather. Let’s start with a Sunday morning report from NPR’s Bill Chappell (bolds are mine throughout this post):


Ho Hum: $6.2B in Improper Payments at USDA, Three Straight Years of Legal Noncompliance

When several members of Congress set out in the early 1990s to improve fiscal reporting and internal controls in the federal government, one thing they certainly had a right to expect is that the press would report on lapses as embarrassments, and that otherwise nonchalant or reluctant bureaucrats would figure out that it would be in their best interest to tighten their ships. It hasn’t happened, largely because the press quickly got bored, enabling the bureaucrats to thumb their noses at those who have called them out for weak reporting or control violations.

To name just one glaring example: Concerning the Internal Revenue Service, in August of last year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration happily reported “the downgrade of the information security material weakness to a significant deficiency during the Fiscal Year 2012 financial statement audit,” and that “the IRS removed it from the December 31, 2012, remediation plan” (that’s bureaucratese for “finally solved the problem”) — 19 years after it was first identified in 1993. In that context, it’s disappointing but obviously no surprise, even though the amounts of money involved are significant, that the Washington Free Beacon, via reporter Elizabeth Harrington, is from all appearances the only media outlet (with a shout-out from Fox News) interested in reporting chronic improper payment and legal compliance issues at the Department of Agriculture (bolds are mine):


Not News: Health Care Division at Jeffrey Immelt’s GE Hurt by Obamacare

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt has made nice with President Barack Obama on several occasions. Among other things, he chaired the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which met a grand total of four times in 2011 and 2012 before it was unceremoniously allowed to expire a year later. He fully expected that his company would benefit from its involvement in green energy and its membership in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. He also endeared himself to Team Obama by calling “other U.S. business leaders greedy and mean.”

In more than a minor comeuppance, as well as the latest evidence that business-related news reflecting badly on the Obama administration almost never escapes the business pages and center-right blogs and outlets, Inmelt’s company has seen its medical division hit hard by the onset of Obamacare. Portions of Bloomberg News’s original April 17 report follow the jump.


NewsBusted (042914)

Filed under: NewsBusted — Tom @ 11:49 am

Here we go:

– L.A. Clippers and Donald Sterling
– House Speaker John Boehner
– Harry Reid
– Koch Brothers
– U.S. Supreme Court
– Racial Preferences
– Obama in Japan
– Japanese Robot
– Michelle Obama
– George Clooney
– Steve Wynn

Best Lines:

  • “LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is under fire for making racist comments in the past. Not under fire for racist comments they made in the past: Al Sharpton, Joe Biden, and Harry Reid.”
  • “We’ve learned that Senator Harry Reid took money from a Koch Brothers lobbyist despite Reid’s non-stop criticism of the brothers. Reid is so angry he says he’ll now do whatever it takes to defeat himself for reelection in November.” (Unfortunately, Reid is not up for reelection in November. — Ed.)
  • “George Clooney walked out of a Las Vegas dinner after casino mogul Steve Wynn referred to President Obama with a profanity. Wow. If Wynn had been talking about President Bush, he would have been given his own show on HBO.”

Politico’s Hounshell: No One ‘Credible’ or ‘Authoritative’ Has Shown That ‘WH Knowingly Pushed a False (Benghazi) Narrative’

NewsBusters commenter “bkeyser” at my Benghazi-related post last night pointed to a tweet from Politico Magazine Deputy Editor Blake Hounshell that is at the same time breathtakingly ignorant and astonishingly insolent.

Reacting to the contents of Benghazi-related emails finally obtained and published by Judicial Watch, Hounshell asked, “Can you point me to a credible, authoritative story saying the WH knowingly pushed a false narrative?” Well Blake, on the off-chance that you’re really interested in the truth instead of serving as one of your organization’s lead Obama administration lapdogs, I give you the Tuesday night writeup from an investigative journalist who, per her “about” page, has won four national Emmy Awards and has been nominated for eight others.


1Q14 Gross Domestic Product (043014): +0.1% Annualized Growth (‘Saved’ by Obamacare?)

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:17 am


As noted yesterday, there is a chance of an Obamacare-related upside surprise (BEA’s lengthy explanation of Obamacare influences is here), basically because higher premiums will be treated as increases in personal consumption, while government tax subsidies designed to offset those increases will not be considered.

The guess here is that artificial juicing from Obamacare will enable the overall result to come in at about the predicted level.

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

My initial reactions to it will be delayed until after the end of the ADP April Employment Report conference call.

HERE IT IS (full HTML): This is NOT a typo … +0.1%.

Comments later.

9:00 a.m.: Okay here is key text from the report (bolds are mine) —

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 0.1 percent in the first quarter (that is, from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 2.6 percent.

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

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

Specific elements (Table 2 here) —
- Personal Consumption, Goods: +0.08 points, vs. +0.66 in Q4
- Personal Consumption, Services: +1.96 vs. +1.57 in Q4
- Fixed Investment (w/o Inventories): -0.44 vs. +0.43
- Inventories: -0.57 vs. -0.02
- Exports: -1.07 vs. +1.23
- Imports: +0.24 vs. -0.24
- Fed. Govt.: +0.05 vs. -1.00
- State/Local Govt.: -0.14 vs. +0.00

Zero Hedge, on the PCE services number:

Spending on Services, however, surged by the most since 2000 – heralded as great news by some talking heads – but is merely a reflection of the surge in healthcare and heating costs (imagine if it had not been cold and if Obamacare hadn’t saved us).

I should note that PCE Services never contributed more than 1.20 points to GDP in the previous 14 quarters until shooting up to +1.57 points in Q413 and 1.96 points in today’s release. Within that category, health care never contributed more than 0.44 points to GDP in the previous 14 quarters until shooting up to +0.62 point in Q413 and 1.10 points in today’s release.

Here’s my take:

  • The fourth quarter rise in the health care category occurred largely because many of the millions of people who had their health insurance cancelled because their policies didn’t meet Obamacare’s requirements either decided to go without insurance this year or saw the huge deductibles they would face in 2014 under their Obamacare policies, and rushed to get medical procedures completed before the end of the year.
  • The first quarter rise in the category occurred largely because many of the newly insured — both through Medicaid and Obamacare — heavily utilized medical services.

Thus, Obamacare appears to have made 4Q13 stronger than it would have been, and to have “saved” 1Q14 from going negative (so far, pending future revisions) without adding substantive long-term value to the economy.

As to future quarters, both impacts just noted would appear to be fleeting. If so, that does not augur well for future quarters.


UPDATE: Fixed investment sans inventories, the GDP factor which really drives long-term substantive economic growth, turned in the worst negative GDP impact in at least 16 quarters. This is not what happens in a genuinely prospering economy.

UPDATE 2: Zero Hedge elaborates on the Obamacare effect — “if it wasn’t for the (government-mandated) spending surge resulting from Obamacare … (growth in) real Q1 GDP (in chained 2009 dollars), which rose only $4.3 billion sequentially to $15,947 billion, would have been a negative (annualized) 1.0%!”

Again, I should note that premiums paid are considered part of GDP, but the government subsidies aren’t. This in my view improper treatment of the subsidies artificially inflates GDP, especially when you consider that many people wouldn’t have purchased Obamacare policies without the subsidies’ existence.

April National ADP Jobs Report and Conference Call (043014): 220K Private-Sector Jobs Added (See Conference Call Notes)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 8:07 am


The report will be here at 8:15 a.m. I will live-blog and perhaps participate in the 8:30 a.m. conference call.

HERE IT IS: “U.S. Economy Added 220,000 Private-Sector Jobs in April, According to ADP National Employment Report.”

From the April cover page:

  • Small businesses (1-49 employees) +82,000
  • Medium businesses (50-499 employees) +81,000
  • Large businesses (500 or more employees) +57,000

From the press release:

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “The job market is gaining strength. After a tough winter employers are expanding payrolls across nearly all industries and company sizes. The recent pickup in job growth at mid-sized companies may signal better business confidence. Job market prospects are steadily improving.”


Mark Zandi: Underlying job growth is 200-225K per month. Nearly every sector added jobs, except mfg., which is due to productivity improvements.

Unemp will drop but there is still slack in the economy. About 2-1/2 points worth, taking 2.5-3 years to absorb.

Some labor shortages already in different industries. Middle of country is tight (North Dakota down to Texas). Energy, tech – highly skilled in big demand.

Small bizzes are adding consistently to payrolls. Early in recovery, it largely went to big companies. Midsize (500-1000) are also adding strongly. Basically gains are across all sectors and sizes.

Job market is on firmer ground and picking up. Quite encouraging.

Q (from me) re GDP, weather -1 point, unemp ins expiration -0.5 pts., and inventories. Wouldn’t be surprised if revised higher. Inv. declines might augur well for next quarters.

Q (from me re low-wages) “early in recovery” (!) not unusual, mix should improve going forward. Pay scales will head up.

Q (Rugaber, AP, re wage growth data and avg earnings) Wage growth is still very modest, and it feels like it’s picking up.

Q (Rugaber, AP, on GDP) Zandi expects housing to add to growth during the rest of the year and to add significantly during the next three years. Will be an undersupplied market with shortages in 2015 and 2016. But the big factor for growth will be business investment (rattled off five reasons, including “fading” of regulatory impacts, i.e., Dodd-Frank). Tax increases are over. Job market will provide more income. Consumers will also do their part and add to growth.

Q (Tim Mullaney, MarketWatch, re BLS v ADP) average miss is 40K in either direction which nets out to zero over time. Improved from 60K when Moody’s took over 18 months ago. Biggest misses were this winter. ADP is based on active employees and BLS is based on PAID employees (upward bias with ADP). Predicts 220K for BLS report on Friday, with “risk” to the upside. We’re due for an upside BLS surprise. (!)

Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (043014)

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: Kudos to the Houston Rockets’ Jeremy Lin …

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

… for maintaining his perspective after a tough NBA playoff loss (HT Twitchy):