June 4, 2014

Dems: Not Giving GOP a ‘Rhetorical Weapon’ More Important Than Dealing With Huge Medicaid Enrollment Problems

In the midst of the VA scandal and the Bergdahl saga, two unfavorable Wednesday stories about Obamacare are garnering relatively little attention.

One appeared at the Associated Press (“NOW APPLICATION ‘INCONSISTENCIES’ VEX HEALTH LAW”), and reprised something the Washington Post brought out 2-1/2 weeks ago (covered here at NewsBusters) about how “at least 2 million” Obamacare enrollment applications have “data discrepancies” holding up their full processing. The other far more troubling story appeared at Roll Call. It dealt with a separate mountain of unprocessed paperwork in Medicaid. In her reporting, the DC publication’s Rebecca Adams revealed how twisted and potentially dangerous the Obamacare-related political motivations are on the left, where pretending that everything is fine is clearly more important than acknowledging and quickly fixing serious – perhaps even deadly serious — problems (bolds are mine):

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Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (060414)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:45 pm

(CARRIED TO THE TOP Wednesday evening: All items went up at 6:45 p.m.)

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.

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Fib of the Day 1: “Organizers called off a welcome-home celebration for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, released after nearly five years of captivity in Afghanistan, saying Wednesday that expected crowds threatened to overwhelm his small hometown of Hailey, Idaho.”

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Fib of the Day 2 (“We really, really meant to tell you, but well, y’know …”) — “White House Apologizes to Feinstein for Skipping Congress in Bergdahl Swap”

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Fib of the Day 3: “MSNBC Blames Republicans for ‘Swiftboating’ Bergdahl.” So does the White House.

They missed what the definition of “Swiftboating” is. It’s “telling the truth about presidential candidate John Kerry.”

In that sense, Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers, party affiliations unknown, are doing to him what the truth did to John Kerry, namely show him to be a craven, antiwar betrayer of his country. (The fact that Kerry is now Secretary of State changes nothing.)

In the current instance, this suggestion was fortunately ignored: “Fmr. Soldier: Military Told Unit to ‘Not Tell the Truth’ About Bergdahl”

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Fib of the Day 4: “‘Sleazebag Sen. (Chris) Murphy’ (of Connecticut) attacks Bergdahl critics as ‘Obama haters’” We have no idea what Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers thought of Obama before he arranged for Bergdahl’s release — nor should we care.

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7:00 p.m.: Truth of the day“Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger … calls this a “dangerous precedent that puts all Americans at risk throughout the world.”

Just another unhinged Republican … Oh wait — Ruppersberger is “the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.”

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7:05 p.m.: Truth of the Day 2, from liberal law professor Jonathan Turley — “Barack Obama is really the president Richard Nixon always wanted to be. You know, he’s been allowed to act unilaterally in a way that we’ve fought for decades.”

Politico’s Hounshell: Are These ‘Five Taliban Guys’ ‘Ninjas With Superpowers’?

Politico Magazine Deputy Editor Blake Hounshell has made a fool of himself yet again. Three months ago, Hounshell grudgingly and bitterly had to acknowledge that former Alaska Governor and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was right — and he was wrong — when she predicted in 2008 that Barack Obama’s weakness might cause Russia’s Vladimir Putin to calculate that he could invade Ukraine without suffering meaningful consequences. That’s what happened in Crimea. Hounshell characterized Palin’s contention at the time as “an extremely far-fetched scenario.”

In late April, he tried to claim that no one “credible” or “authoritative” had shown that the White House had knowingly pushed a false Benghazi narrative — just as award-winning reporter Sharyl Attkisson was proving otherwise. Then in a tweet Monday evening, he petulantly questioned why everyone’s so concerned about the five hardened Taliban terrorists freed from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl (HT Twitchy):

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Bloomberg Reporters Stuck in ‘Republicans Attack’ Mode As NYDN Blasts Obama’s ‘Surrender Without Honor’

Far too many journalists in the Washington-Gotham axis believe that any criticism of President Barack Obama must have its roots in cynical right-wing political opportunism and nothing else. At Bloomberg News, in a dispatch time-stamped June 4 at midnight, reporters David Lerman and Kathleen Hunter regaled readers with how the “Taliban Release Gives Republicans Fuel Beyond Benghazi.” Some Democrats’ concerns about Obama’s actions in the freeing of Bowe Bergdahl were already known, including problems centering around substantive issues of national security. But the Bloomberg pair limited the scope of Obama’s problem with Dems to notification, while contending that “the demands for more information have come mostly from Republicans, some of whom already have declared their opposition to a deal whose details have yet to be fully disclosed.” Seriously, guys, exchanging five hardened terrorists who promise to be good little boys for one model soldier would be hugely problematic. What we have is already known to be far worse than that.

The left-leaning New York Daily News also didn’t get the memo that any criticism of Obama can only come from the right.

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May ISM Non-Manufacturing (060414): 56.3%, up from 55.2% in April

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 9:55 am

Predictions:

Comment: Institute for Supply Management has egg on its face, and then some, for publishing an erroneous Manufacturing Index on Monday and then needing two bites at the apple to fix it.

Though the derision directed their way is well-deserved, the practical effect should be that today’s Non-Manufacturing report will be scrubbed from top to bottom when it’s released here at 10 a.m.

HERE IT IS (permanent link; paragraph breaks added by me):

The NMI® registered 56.3 percent in May, 1.1 percentage points higher than April are reading of 55.2 percent. This represents continued growth at a faster rate in the Non-Manufacturing sector and is the highest reading for the index since August 2013, when the index registered 57.9 percent.

The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 62.1 percent, which is 1.2 percentage points higher than the April reading of 60.9 percent, reflecting growth for the 58th consecutive month at a faster rate.

The New Orders Index registered 60.5 percent, 2.3 percentage points higher than the reading of 58.2 percent registered in April.

The Employment Index increased 1.1 percentage points to 52.4 percent from the April reading of 51.3 percent and indicates growth for the third consecutive month and at a faster rate. The Prices Index increased 0.6 percentage point from the April reading of 60.8 percent to 61.4 percent, indicating prices increased at a faster rate in May when compared to April.

According to the NMI®, 17 non-manufacturing industries (out of 18 — Ed.) reported growth in May.

All three GDP drivers (production, orders, and backlog) were expansionary. Backlog was slightly in contraction in April, but went from that month’s 49.0% to 54.0% in May.

This is good news, but probably doesn’t do anything to alter the second-quarter GDP estimate write-downs noted here.

Trifecta: 1Q Productivity Decline Worsens in Revision, April Trade Deficit Expands, ADP Disappoints (Update: The 2Q GDP Estimate Writedowns Begin)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:15 am

Zero Hedge: “Q1 Productivity Misses; Plunges By Most In 6 Years” (government’s report is here) —

Nonfarm productivity in the frost-bitten US in Q1 plunged at its fastest pace since Q1 2008, with a 3.2% drop … Unit labor costs soared 5.7% – the most since Q4 2012.

Also at Zero Hedge: “Trade Deficit Soars To 2 Year High, To Slam Lofty Q2 GDP Expectations”

The Census Bureau’s language:

The U.S. monthly international trade deficit increased in April 2014 according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. The deficit increased from $44.2 billion in March (revised) to $47.2 billion in April as exports decreased and imports increased. The previously published March deficit was $40.4 billion. The goods deficit increased $3.3 billion from March to $65.8 billion in April; the services surplus increased $0.2 billion from March to $18.6 billion in April.

The 10 percent worsening of March from $40.2 billion to $44.2 billion would seem to indicate that any final revision to first-quarter GDP will go further into contraction.

ADP’s private-sector payroll increase in April of 179,000 is worse than both terrible-weather February (198K) and pretty bad-weather March (215K).

And all of this this is supposed to lead to a 4% reading for 2nd quarter GDP?

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UPDATE, 10:00 a.m.: At Zero Hedge, a quick answer to my question — “Goldman, BofA, Credit Suisse All Cut Q2 GDP Forecasts By 0.5% On Average.”:

Bank of America … cut its Q2 GDP forecast by 0.5% to 3.6% … Credit Suisse … by 1 whopping percentage point to 3.0%, and now heeeeere’s Goldman, which cuts not only its Q2 GDP forecast to 3.4% from 3.8%, but also the already abysmal Q1 GDP to worse than -1%.

ADP May Private-Sector Jobs Report and Conference Call (060414): 179,000 Jobs Added

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 8:10 am

Predictions:

I’ll be participating in the conference call following the report’s issuance.

The report will be here at 8:15 a.m.

HERE IT IS: Ruh-roh, the number is 179,000. ADP’s release isn’t loading in two different browsers, so I can’t get to any other detail. …

Ah, finally …

Highlights:

  • Small businesses (1-49 employees) +82,000
  • Medium businesses (50-499 employees) +61,000
  • Large businesses (500 or more employees) +37,000

The three previous months were revised down by a relatively insignificant combined 16,000.

From the press release:

Goods-producing employment rose by 29,000 jobs in May, up from 21,000 jobs gained in April. The construction industry added 14,000 jobs over the month, down slightly from 16,000 in April. Meanwhile, manufacturing added 10,000 jobs in May, up from April’s 2,000 and the largest number since December last year.

Service-providing employment rose by 150,000 jobs in May, down from 194,000 in April. The ADP National Employment Report indicates that professional/ business services contributed the most to the lower overall number in May – adding 46,000 jobs, down from 75,000 in April. Expansion in trade/transportation/utilities grew by 35,000, the same number of jobs added in April. The 6,000 new jobs added in financial activities was down slightly from 8,000 last month.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “Job growth moderated in May. The slowing in growth was concentrated in Professional/Business Services and companies with 50-999 employees. The job market has yet to break out from the pace of growth that has prevailed over the last three years.”

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CONFERENCE CALL NOTES:

Mark Zandi: “Job Growth on a monthly basis is just below 200,000,” about where we’ve been during the past 3 years, so nothing has changed.

Most of the slowing was in professional business services. Hard to know what caused the slowdown, but suspects that temp hiring may have slowed. But hard to know.

His sense is still that job growth will be 200K+ going forward over the next several months.

Even at current pace of job growth, it feels bad in the context of unemployed and under-employed, but the current pace is really pretty good. It’s the pace that’s well above what’s needed to drive unemployment lower (!?).

Re: Debate over labor force slack really present in the market. 2 percent slack in the labor force. About one-third (0.75%) is straight-up enemployment (he thinks “full employment” is 5.5%). Another one-third are people who have withdrawn from the workforce (0.65%). The rest is PT for economic reasons, i.e., part-timers who would prefer to work full-time.

At this job growth pace, it’s going to take about 3.5 or 4 years to absorb all of that slack.

Repeats that it will be 200K+ and that it will increase to 250-300 next year and slack will get absorbed by the end of 2016.

Wage growth and inflationary pressure will remain subdued for quite a while and that Fed will remain accommodating for some time.

Housing and construction are critical. Expects to see steady pick-up. Typical econ should be producing 1.7 million housing units per year, but we’re only at 1 million.

Expects under-supplied housing market next year to drive a lot of construction in the next 2-3 years, generating econ activity and jobs. Critical element to getting to full employment.

QUESTIONS:

Me (re GDP): 4% for Q2; underlying trend is 3%.

Q1 inv. causes more optimism for Q2. 3% consistent with 225K/mo. job growth.

Rugaber-AP re slack employment: expects participation rate to come up by about one point. Slack will get absorbed in the order presented earlier.

Rugaber follow-up on job quality: Quality of job creation throughout most of recovery has been poor (that’s “typical”). More recently in last 12-18 mos. it has improved. Going forward expects a much better distribution. Key to middle-income jobs is housing. Starting to see job growth in government.

Richard (couldn’t get last name) of Reuters re productivity and inflation: Productivity declined in 1Q with no effect on job creation. Feels like underlying growth is 1.25%-1.5% per annum, which is historically slow.

This is due to recession’s surge in productivity during and just after recession, stealing away from productivity growth after that. Also, business investment has been weak.

Thinks after benchmark GDP revisions will revise growth upward in the past couple of previous quarters.

Expects productivity growth to improve a bit but not much, implying 2.25%-2.5% GDP growth long-term.

Reuters follow-up re employment slack clearing up: back to 5.5% in 18-24 months, and then people coming back into work force will take another year.

Remembering Tiananmen (‘Tell the world, they said to us’)

Filed under: Activism,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:10 am

This post originally appeared at BizzyBlog on on June 4, 2009. Some additional material has been excerpted from Claudia Rosset’s June 4, 2009 Wall Street Journal column.

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Claudia Rossett’s column on the 20th (now 25th) anniversary of the massacre at the Wall Street Journal is a must-read.

Go there for her eyewitness account. What I have excerpted here relates to her historical perspective and modern lessons:

What I Saw at Tiananmen
China will be a modern country when it no longer fears the memory of June 4.
June 4, 2009

It’s now 20 years since I ran through a cross-fire of tracer bullets, heading into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in the early hours of June 4 to witness the end of the uprising in which millions of Chinese, in the spring of 1989, peacefully seized control of their own capital and demanded democracy.

… Tiananmen was — and is — important because that spring of 1989 was the only time in the despotic, 60-year history of the People’s Republic of China that the people themselves enjoyed the chance to speak, debate and assemble freely. What they did with that freedom, by the millions, was call peacefully for China’s government to institutionalize those rights. They called for democracy and marched under banners bearing exactly that word. They asked for the right to choose their leaders and hold them to account.

…. Since the Tiananmen uprising of 1989, China’s rulers have loosened the economic strictures enough to allow remarkable growth — testament to the vibrancy of the Chinese people given even half a chance. Out of this, China’s rulers have devoted enormous resources to projects meant to suggest they run a modern nation — sending astronauts into space, convening conferences on the climate, and hosting the 2008 Olympics.

Count me unimpressed. The real sign of modernity will come when China opens up its political system enough so that the country’s leaders no longer fear June 4 but treat the Tiananmen uprising with the honor it deserves.

During the protests, on one of those warm spring evenings just before the crackdown, I was wandering around Tiananmen, notebook in hand, and came across a young man sitting in a beach chair on the monument where the demonstrators were soon to make their last stand. He had a question about what happens when you get your dream of democracy: What then? As he put it: “I know what China is dreaming. What is America dreaming?”

The answer of free societies, the old American dream, is that you may choose for yourself. Freedom, in the framework of a true democracy, allows individuals to weigh their own talents, skills and ambitions, choose their own trade-offs, and chart their own dreams. That gives rise to innovation, exuberance and prosperity of a kind that no government can plan or centrally command into existence.

China today supplies the world with a wealth of such stuff as gym shoes, extremely young gymnasts, loans to the U.S. Treasury, aid to North Korea, and investments in Iran and Sudan. But riches of the spirit are in short supply.

Someone tell Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, who, incredibly, believes that “we Chinese need to be controlled” (HT Yellow Menace). Such nonchalance is sadly not uncommon.

China still fears June 4. China is NOT a modern country.

Freedom isn’t just another word, folks.

Thousands died for it on June 4, 1989:

Someday, God willing, China will be free.

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2014 Addendum: The iconic raw footage of a man refusing to yield to a tank —

11 excerpted minutes of the PBS Frontline story on “Tankman,” whose identity has never been determined and the film of which had to be hidden from the authorities, are here. The full program is here.

Positivity: Archdiocese files suit against HHS mandate

Filed under: Activism,Health Care,Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Philadelphia:

Jun 3, 2014 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its affiliated entities filed a lawsuit June 2 challenging federal mandates that require employers to provide or to help provide contraceptive services through their health insurance.

The federal rules force the entities “to violate their religious convictions by either directly supplying, or cooperating in the process to supply, contraceptive services that gravely conflict with Catholic belief,” the archdiocese said Tuesday.

“The court filing disputes the Government’s power to order Catholic entities to offer or cooperate in such services.”

The archdiocese and its charitable agencies have filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, and their secretaries.

The lawsuit seeks to block enforcement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s mandatory contraceptive coverage for employers. The lawsuit says the mandates violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires most U.S. employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions. Many Catholic organizations do not qualify for the narrow exemption from the mandate, despite their religious and moral objections to providing the coverage. …

Go here for the rest of the story.