January 27, 2015

Al Gore, Felipe Calderon Want to Spend $90 Trillion to Save the Earth

Ever since the publication “Earth in the Balance” in 1992, we’ve seen the press minimize the public’s exposure to the more outrageous ideas and quotes emanating from former Vice President Al Gore.

Concerning that original book, Gore’s statement that “The internal combustion engine is the greatest enemy of mankind” and his contention that it could and be eliminated in 25 years are hardly known by anyone besides his fevered supporters and attentive opponents. Apparently wishing to rush his timetable for taking everyone out of their cars, Gore, in an idea barely noticed even in the business press, proposed spending $90 trillion — that’s right, trillion — for such an enterprise. After the jump, readers will see how he wants to do it.
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Virtually Unreported: Unionized Percentage of Workforce Is at an Over 100-Year Low

On Friday, Melissa Quinn at the Daily Signal, after the release of the government’s “Union Members — 2014″ report, uniquely observed that the unionized percentage of the public- and private sector nonagricultural wage and salary U.S. workforce had reached “its lowest rate in 100 years.” From what I can tell in web and news searches, despite the fact that virtually any 100-year record is ordinarily considered newsworthy, no major establishment press outlet has reported what Quinn found.

The report from Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Labor Statisics claims that 1983 is “the first year for which comparable union data are available.” Perhaps, but there is data available going back much further, and it has been used occasionally in previous media reports. That data also indicates that private-sector union membership is at its lowest point since the turn of the century — from the 19th to the 20th century, that is.

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January 26, 2015

Politico Mag Uses Undisclosed Dem Donor to ‘Hit’ Obama For Middle-Class Suffering

It would seem that the conversation at Politico went something like this: “Hey, we need to hit the Obama administration for the havoc its policies have wreaked on the middle class. But we can’t go after them too hard, because that might burn some bridges, and we’ll lose our stenographer — er, journalistic — access. So we need to use someone sympathetic to Democrats who will know how not to go over the line.”

They chose contributing editor Zachary Karabell, who during most of his writeup did a presentable job of being not too critical while posing as an objective observer — that is, until his final four paragraphs.

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January 23, 2015

Pass the Smelling Salts: AP Uses the Term ‘Radical Left’

In a report on the upcoming Greek elections, an unbylined Friday afternoon Associated Press report dusted off words seldom seen in their dispatches, using the term “radical left” twice and the word “radical” separately once for good measure.

The almost never seen terms — virtually invisible in decades of descriptions of longtime radical leftists like Fidel Castro, the late Hugo Chavez or lefty legends like the late Che Guevera — appeared in describing the party and policies of Greece’s Syriza party and its leader, Alexis Tsipras. Syriza and Tsipras appear to have winning momentum going into Sunday’s balloting. Excerpts follow the jump:

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DOL, AP Spin Today’s Glum (For Organized Labor) Union Membership Report

Someone looking at the annual “Union Members” report released this morning by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics would logically conclude that 2014 was a year organized labor would rather forget.

While average nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased by over 2.32 million from 2013 to 2014, union membership only went up by 48,000, or about 2 percent of the nationwide increase. Additionally, the private sector’s 41,000-person pickup in union membership was only 1.6 percent of its total 2.55 million increase. Yes, that means that public-sector union membership increased a bit while public-sector employment declined by 226,000. Of course, no such decidedly negative nuggets made their way into Labor Secretary Tom Perez’s press release or Tom Raum’s Associated Press report, excerpts of which follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

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January 22, 2015

A Badly Needed Economics Lesson

Henry Hazlitt’s vital lessons explained on PJTV.

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

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How serendipitous it is that PJTV has begun 2015 with a series of videos covering Henry Hazlitt’s marvelous book, “Economics in One Lesson.”

Its arrival comes just as Obama administration apologists celebrate the alleged wonders of our current economy. Later, I will provide one example showing how suspect those claims likely are.

PJTV’s effort includes an installment on each of Hazlitt’s original 24 chapters. Short of reading and absorbing the content of the book itself, its series may be the best 90 or so minutes one will ever spend learning how societies genuinely advance their living standards, and how governments almost invariably work to slow or stop that onward march. It’s perfectly suited for otherwise very busy people who only can carve out a few minutes a day from their daily pursuits, including the millions who are working multiple part-time and temporary jobs in this allegedly marvelous economy just to makes end meet.

Keynesian naysayers will immediately try to pounce on PJTV’s supposedly misplaced priorities. After all, a skeptic’s book originally published almost 70 years ago can’t possibly have any current relevance. We’re all so much smarter now, right? Wrong.

Since the advent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, Keynesian thought has held sway with rare exceptions in economics courses throughout the land. As has been the case in so many other areas dominated by leftist dogma, real-world failures to achieve predicted outcomes have only caused its adherents to double down on their nonsense, mount ever more absurd arguments, and turn up the shrillness of their attacks on opponents.

Keynesians desperately in search of good news after the awful recovery from the nation’s most recent recession — a recovery publicly and explicitly directed by their disciples — want the public to believe that the U.S. economy’s recent performance, at long last, vindicates their precepts.

We’re supposed to forget that their recipe gave us a four-year post-downturn performance that was arguably worse — that’s right, worse — than the four years following the Great Depression’s 1993 crater. We’re not allowed to notice that the 20 percent ramp-up in federal spending supposedly required to enact their precious stimulus plan in 2009, originally sold as a “temporary” two-year maneuver, has instead morphed into what they hope is a permanent floor in the size and scope of the federal government upon which they build an even bigger leviathan.

We’re supposed to discount as unimportant the $6 trillion in deficits and the $7.5 trillion increase in the national debt seen during Barack Obama’s presidency. We’re supposed to believe that the $4.5 trillion in Federal Reserve electronic money creation known as “quantitative easing,” without which an otherwise broke government could never have financed its profligacy, won’t badly hurt us down the road.

Through the first quarter of 2014, during the first 4-3/4 years after the recession’s official end, this unprecedented spending and borrowing binge got us real average annualized economic growth of … wait for it … 2.1 percent. By contrast, during the 1980s recovery, the government under President Ronald Reagan faced far more challenging conditions, including sky-high inflation and interest rates, than Team Obama did in early 2009. Despite that, and while mostly making economic policy choices directly opposed to what Keynesians would have recommended, annualized growth averaged a stunning 4.8 percent.

But now, all is supposedly well. The government estimates that the economy grew by an annualized 4.8 percent during last year’s second and third quarters, finally accomplishing for two quarters what Reagan’s economy did for almost five years. The U.S. economy added a seasonally adjusted 2.95 million payroll jobs in 2014, the largest pickup since 1999. The unemployment rate is “only” 5.6 percent, which, thanks to convenient bar-lowering and likely statistical manipulation, is what the economic elites now believe is “full employment.”

It would be nice to think that what has finally happened is that the private sector has finally figured out how to maneuver its way around the latest round of government encroachment. Sadly, business birth and death statistics shatter that illusion.

Last week, Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, noted that the number of new business startups has trailed the number of failures for the past four reported years. That has never happened since such measurements began in the 1970s. The margin is not narrow: “Four hundred thousand new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying.”

Such conditions would lead one to question how the economy can be growing so robustly. Hazlitt has at least part of the tragic answer in his book’s Chapter 8: “Spread-the-Work Schemes.”

Though the chapter focuses on labor union make-work and featherbedding practices, which “always raises production costs,” and end up resulting “in less work done and in fewer goods produced,” the principles involved have direct application to how the Obama administration has imposed its will on the nation’s economy. It has done so by creating make-work schemes, at the very least within Obamacare and the government’s regulatory apparatus.

Obamacare’s onerous electronic recordkeeping and reporting requirements on doctors and medical providers have quietly created an entire new industry of “medical scribes.” According to Politico, “About 100,000 of these glorified typists are expected to be working for doctors by 2020.” Though there’s no reason to question the work ethic of the individuals involved, the fact is that these people clearly add little or no value to the healthcare delivery system.

In early December, Labor Secretary Tom Perez bragged: ”At the beginning of this administration, there were 730 investigators in the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. Today, we’re over a thousand.” The idea that the there are thousands and thousands of employers out there brazenly violating minimum-wage laws is patently absurd. These new workers will at best add no value to anything. At worst, over time, as a friend of mine who has fought the government has long pointed out, they will dream up new ways to harass law-abiding businesses.

In each instance and likely dozens of others, the new make-work hires are of course counted as employed, and are naturally getting paid and spending most of their take-home pay. Their consumption is treated as part of gross domestic product. So the real question isn’t whether GDP is being artificially inflated by make-work hiring; it’s only how much artificial GDP inflation is occurring with no accompanying genuine increase in standards of living.

This is just one real-life application of Hazlitt’s clearly explained economic principles. Surely dozens of others await those who subscribe to PJTV’s important series.

January 20, 2015

Latest PJ Media Column (‘A Badly Needed Economics Lesson’) Is Up

It’s here.

It will go up at BizzyBlog.com Thursday afternoon (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

The column promotes PJTV’s new series on Henry Hazlitt’s Timeless classic, “Economics in One Lesson.”

January 19, 2015

‘American Sniper’ Brings Out Leftist Bile; Michael Moore Calls Snipers ‘Cowards’

Originally posted at 1 a.m. and brought forward for greater visibility.

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The popularity of “American Sniper,” the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, has “shocked” Hollywood. Estimates are that by the time the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend ends, the Clint Eastwood-directed film will gross over $100 million and smash records in several R-rated film categories.

That such a movie has been so well received, causing long waiting lines in both red and blue America, has already caused certain leftists to come unglued (examples here, here [warning: profane language] and here). Perhaps the most appalling reaction on the loony left has come from Michael Moore, who, without naming the film itself, described snipers as “cowards” in the following tweet:

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January 12, 2015

Obama Pulls Weiss’s Treasury Nomination, and Names Him a ‘Counselor’

Well, they’re nothing if not consistent.

When the Obama administration lost a court ruling against its ban on Gulf of Mexico drilling after the BP oil spill, it simply issued another ban. When it lost at the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case, it just issued a new rule that was effectively the same as the one the Court nullified. Now, when it becomes clear that the administration won’t get the nominee it wants, the strategy is to hire him or her anyway as a “counselor.” Ben White at the Politico didn’t address substantive objections to this latest tactic until the final four paragraphs of his 22-paragraph report (bolds are mine):

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January 10, 2015

Barely News: Dire Venezuelan Shortages Bring Military Into Grocery Stores

Three results returned in a search at the Associated Press’s national site on “Venezuela” tell us almost nothing about that country’s deepening economic crisis.

An unbylined January 10 item reports on the visit of Nicolas Maduro, the country’s de facto dictator, to Iran in hopes of “stabilizing” (i.e., raising) oil prices. A second unbylined report on January 9 tells readers that there’s really nothing to worry (oh sure) about in China’s growing Latin American influence. Only the faintest hint of the horrors everyday Venezuelans are now experiencing appeared on January 7. The following two paragraphs appeared at the very end of a report describing Maduro’s visit to China:

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January 7, 2015

Vanity Fair Failed to Report Solid Evidence of Jeffrey Epstein’s Underage Sexcapades 12 Years Ago

At the Daily Beast on Tuesday, Vicky Ward, who profiled Jeffrey Epstein for Vanity Fair Magazine in early 2003, revealed that she and Graydon Carter, the publication’s editor, were aware of and had specific details about the convicted ultrarich creep’s sexual episodes with underage girls. They also apparently had proof that Epstein had forged denial documents from two of his victims. Epstein had recently become publicly visible as a result of his 2002 African travels with former President Bill Clinton.

At the last minute, Carter almost completely spiked the sexual elements of Ward’s story, leaving only vague references to Victoria’s Secret models, a party “filled … with young Russian models” and to ”beautiful women … whisked off to Little St. James (in the Virgin Islands).” The published product focused almost entirely on the mystery of Epstein’s career as a broker, including his admission to securities law violations, his subsequent business dealings, and his quirky but often lavish purchases and lifestyle.

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December 31, 2014

LAT Laments How Mega-donor Steyer Was Not Decisive in 2014 Midterms

Chris Megerian at the Los Angeles Times, in a report first published online on Tuesday, had a difficult time trying to downplay the fact that Democrat and leftist mega-donors outspent their Republican and conservative counterparts by an overwhelming margin during the past election cycle.

But Megerian made the best of it, giving readers the impression that David Koch, of the supposedly evil Koch brothers, was the fourth-largest such donor. Times editors did their part to keep the news as quiet as possible by publishing the obviously national story in the California secion of its Wednesday print edition.

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December 30, 2014

Press Barely Notices Obama Admin’s Computerized Health Records Fiasco

The old saying — “To err is human, but to really screw things up, you need a computer” — needs an update. In this case, it’s “To err is human, but to wreck an entire industry, you need to have the federal government try to force it to computerize.”

I’m referring to the government’s attempt to coerce doctors into using its mandated, “clunky, time-sucking” electronic health records system. Somehow, it’s barely news, with a story by Politico Magazine’s Arthur Allen constituting a rare exception, that over a quarter-million doctors, i.e., half of all who are eligible, face fines next year for “failing to use the systems in the way the government required.”

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December 26, 2014

Gruber at October Harvard Panel, Before Vermont’s Fail: Single-Payer Won’t Happen Unless It Succeeds in Some States

Earlier this morning, I posted on Vermont’s abandonment of its attempt to impose and implement a “single-payer” (i.e., government-controlled) healthcare system, and how muted the press coverage has been.

It’s difficult to overstate how devastating the Green Mountain State’s blowup is to the left’s oft-stated long-term goal of imposing single-payer, occasionally referred to a “Medicare for all,” on the entire nation. This goes a long way towards explaining the light press coverage. President Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi are among those who are on record asserting that they want — and expect — that nationwide single-payer will happen. Another such person is the now familiar and infamous Jonathan Gruber, an admitted architect (when it was convenient) of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

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Vermont Abandons Single-Payer Health Care; Press Coverage Muted

President Barack Obama, soon to be former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, former Congressman Barney Frank, and many other prominent Democrats and leftists have over the past several years declared that their ultimate goal is turn the U.S. healthcare system into a “single-payer,” i.e., completely government-controlled, enterprise.

That likely explains why the reaction to Vermont’s abandonment of its attempt to set up single-payer has been quite muted in the establishment press, as any of its members have ardently supported the idea for decades.

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