October 22, 2014

Rolling Stone Goes to the Barricades

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

One-percenters Jann Wenner and Paul Krugman team up to motivate the “Progressive” base for November.

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

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On October 8, Rolling Stone, the pathetically pretentious magazine overseen by one-percenter Jann Wenner, delivered a double-barreled dose of far-left Kool-Aid.

Its mission: Motivate its largely apathetic and mostly Dear Leader-worshipping readers into defending Barack Obama and his party in the midterm elections.

Good luck with that, guys. Rasmussen, in announcing its latest “Right Direction or Wrong Track” poll results, reported that “Roughly two-thirds of voters of all ages agree the country is on the wrong track.” That would seem to indicate that quite a few rockers, rappers, and middle-aged stoners are among those who believe that all is far from well.

One of the magazine’s pathetic pair of propaganda pieces came courtesy of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

The Princeton economist and former Enron adviser may have decided that he couldn’t make his absurd case anywhere else without destroying what little remains of his credibility. If so, “In Defense of Obama” delivers a ringing confirmation of that assessment.

Krugman writes that “Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.” Looking at just three of his justifications will give readers an idea of how unhinged the man has become:

  • Even as the Obama administration has deliberately postponed 2015 enrollment until November 15 for purely political reasons, he writes that “Obamacare means a huge improvement in the quality of life for tens of millions of Americans.” Even the most generous estimates of the newly insured only go to a single 10 million, and there’s ample reason to doubt those estimates.
  • He also claims that Obamacare is “doing more to reduce overall health costs than even its supporters predicted.” Oops: Even beyond the known double-digit premium increases, the Congressional Budget Office now estimates that Obamacare “will increase deficit spending by $131 billion from 2015-24.” This recent news should not, and I believe does not, surprise Krugman. In February 2013, the Government Accountability Office projected that “Obamacare will increase the long-term federal deficit by $6.2 trillion.” But it’s apparently more important to defend Obama’s long-broken promise — that his “signature achievementwould not add “one dime to our deficits, either now or in the future. Period” — than it is to demonstrate any allegiance to the truth.
  • He claims that “the Obama stimulus plan helped mitigate the worst of the slump.”

Here are the facts concerning that final claim:

  • Obama’s actions during the 2008 campaign and during the presidential transition period contributed greatly to making the “slump” (somehow, Krugman never used the word “recession” at all) as bad as it was.
  • Thanks to Obama’s stimulus plan and other policies, job losses continued until February 2010, a full eight months after the recession officially ended. By contrast, in the early 1980s under Ronald Reagan, despite implementing what Keynesians would claim were all the wrong policies, employment began to recover very quickly after the recession’s end.
  • The unemployment rate, even artificially rigged as it likely is, has never come down to the 5 percent level Obama’s own collection of Keynesians promised in promoting the stimulus.
  • The recovery itself bears far more resemblance to the miserable, Depression-era 1930s than any recovery seen since. That’s because the false “stimulus” of unsustainably high deficits has continued, and is on track to get progressively (pun intended) worse.

Unfortunately, Krugman is right in contending that Obama’s presidency has been consequential. The nation will be living with his negative legacy for generations to come.

As to its success, Obama himself told the nation just days before he was first elected president that he was on the verge of “fundamentally transforming” the nation. In some respects, he has. To the extent he has, that transformation has been decidedly negative.

Rolling Stone’s other contribution to reader disinformation came in the form of “The Obama Hope and Change Index: 6 Years of Progress, By the Numbers.” It is not an index at all, but a list of 55 statistics which are supposed to “prove President Obama has accomplished more than you may realize.”

The list is a tacit admission that the pickings among Obama’s “accomplishments” are really slim. What follows are three of the worst examples.

It celebrates “Troops in Iraq today: 1,600,” as ISIS nears Baghdad. In 2009, I wrote, given that the war was won under Bush 43, Iraq had become Obama’s to lose. He’s very close to doing that.

It gleefully points out that there are now 149 detainees at Gitmo, compared to 242 five years ago. Of course, there’s not a word about how many of those who were released have returned to either the battlefield or terrorism.

Finally, it trumpets, “Immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children now shielded from deportation: 800,000.” Wow. Even some Rolling Stone readers might understand how utterly damning that statistic is.

If Krugman’s crud and that pitiful collection are all a dedicated leftist rag can drum up in support of The One, who early this month declared that the midterms elections really are all about his policies, maybe they really are destined to be intensely miserable on November 5. But that will only be the case if those who oppose his policies turn out in numbers greater than currently projected.

October 21, 2014

Peter Schiff: QE4 Is Coming, or We’ll Get a Severe Recession

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:55 am

Watch (HT Zero Hedge):

Key points, all from Schiff, interviewed by CNBC’s Rick Santelli:

  • “You cannot end quantitative easing without plunging the economy into a severe recession.”
  • “The U.S. economy is more screwed-up now than it’s ever been in history, and we cannot unravel all of these economic imbalances without a severe recession.”
  • “They (the Federal Reserve) have QE4 cued up and ready to launch right now.”
  • “All the things that we really needed to do have not been done, because QE has prevented real structural reform from taking place. … all we did is reflate a bubble which is about to pop.”
October 20, 2014

Why ‘It Matters’ (102014)

Politico (HT Breitbart):

POLITICO poll: Alarm, anxiety as election looms

An overwhelming majority of voters in the most competitive 2014 elections say it feels as if events in the United States are “out of control” and expressed mounting alarm about terrorism, anxiety about Ebola and harsh skepticism of both political parties only three weeks before the Nov. 4 midterms.

In a POLITICO poll testing the hardest-fought states and congressional districts of the year, two-thirds of likely voters said they feel that the United States has lost control of its major challenges. Only 36 percent said the country is “in a good position to meet its economic and national security” hurdles.

If no individual issue has come to define this election — like health care in the 2010 campaign or the Iraq War in 2006 — the accumulation of disparate fears has created a sense of pessimism and frustration across the midterm landscape.

None of this will get any better if the vast majority of the American people sit this election out as usual.

That’s why “It Matters.”

Latest PJ Media Column (‘Rolling Stone Goes to the Barricades’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:56 am

It’s here.

It will go up here a BizzyBlog on Wednesday morning (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

October 19, 2014

AP Relays WH Howler: $483 Billion Deficit Is ‘Return to Fiscal Normalcy’

The White House is apparently feeling pretty full of itself over the fiscal 2014 federal budget result it has just reported.

Reacting to the news that this year’s deficit was “only” $483.4 billion, White House budget director Shaun Donovan crowed that “This is a return to fiscal normalcy.” The press, of course including Andrew Taylor at the Associated Press, has accepted all of this with little challenge, including the administration’s misleading “percentage of GDP” assertions, which completely ignore how much more the national debt has grown than the reported budget deficits. Taylor went one step further, blatanty deceiving readers as to how much money the federal government borrows for every dollar it spends.

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October 18, 2014

In Oct. 2008, AP Said Obama Would Inherit A Deficit of $700 Billion

On October 8, Andrew Taylor at the Associated Press wrote that “(President Barack) Obama inherited a trillion-dollar-plus deficit after the 2008 financial crisis.” In a NewsBusters post later that day, I pegged Obama’s true inheritance at roughly $245 billion as of when he was first sworn into office, and at about $600 billion if projected over the full fiscal year. The actual deficit for fiscal 2009 came in at just over $1.4 trillion due to deficit-increasing statements and actions taken by Obama and Congress.

I guess we’re supposed to forget about Taylor’s egregious falsehood, because AP’s national site has since replaced his story, perhaps more than one time. That’s not happening.
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Ohio Casinos’ Parent Is on the Rocks; Ohio Press is AWOL

This one appears to be heading for the “Be careful what you wish for” file.

Ohio has staked a significant portion of its future economic well-being on the gambling industry, and, with voter approval, removed legal barriers previously in place which prevented its growth.

Setting aside the moral hazard issues (which are of course quite relevant), gambling casinos have been sold as economic panaceas throughout the nation, and it’s simply not working out. They certainly didn’t save Detroit, and Atlantic City is dealing with extraordinarily hard times. Many other dominos may soon fall.

A major player in that industry is in deep trouble, and its apparently imminent implosion would almost certainly have Buckeye State impact:

AS DEBT MOUNTS, CAESARS IN TALKS WITH LENDERS

Caesars Entertainment said Friday it is prepared to start formal discussions with some of its bank lenders as it works to reduce its debt and stave off what some see as near certain bankruptcy.

In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the casino company announced that it has reached out to some of its creditors – namely bank lenders – to find ways to ease pressure on its $24.2 billion debt.

That came a day after the company promised its creditors who are first in line a claim on cash held by its debt-strapped subsidiary Caesars Entertainment Operating Co. in case it defaulted. It’s been in formal talks with that group of creditors, too, for about a month.

…  The tricky part … is the creditors who are second-in-line.

… the company owes more than the company is worth to those who are first-in-line to be paid back. That leaves little for those second in line.

Those in the latter position have declared Caesars already in default of its agreements. The company dismissed the contentions in recent securities filings.

“It’s just hard to see everybody agreeing to a deal without a pretty long bankruptcy proceeding,” (Fitch Ratings financial analyst Alex) Bumazhny said.

The company has 52 casinos in the United States and abroad with most bearing the Caesars, Harrah’s and Horseshoe brand. About 68,000 people worked for the company at the end of 2013.

The company’s related press release is here.

Properties of immediate Buckeye State interest include Horseshoe Cincinnati and Horseshoe Cleveland.

The parent company lost $853 million on $4.2 billion in revenues during the first six months of this year. It had interest expense of $1.25 billion during that period.

None of this is news at the Cincinnati Enquirer, at least based on a vain search for the word “Horseshoe” on its home page, and the results (i.e., none relevant) of a search on “Horseshoe.”

Cleveland.com appears to be similarly devoid of news.

6-1/2 years of a miserable national economy, dating back to the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy’s inception, have left most Americans with little discretionary income. Ohio has over that period been harder hit and has recovered more slowly and unevenly than most other states. People with little discretionary income and a modicum of sense aren’t inclined to gamble away what little they have.

This doesn’t appear to be destined to end well. If it doesn’t, it will apparently come as a big surprise. It shouldn’t.

October 16, 2014

Initial Unemployment Claims Hit 14-Year Low; Raw Claims UP 5% From Previous Week

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:34 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending October 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 264,000, a decrease of 23,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 287,000. This is the lowest level for initial claims since April 15, 2000 when it was 259,000. The 4-week moving average was 283,500, a decrease of 4,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 287,750. This is the lowest level for this average since June 10, 2000 when it was 283,500.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 271,590 in the week ending October 11, an increase of 14,031 (or 5.4 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 37,615 (or 14.6 percent) from the previous week. There were 360,957 initial claims in the comparable week in 2013.

The seasonal factors didn’t change much from year to year, but this week’s factor of 102.8 is way higher than last week (89.7) and next week (90.2) for no apparent reason (Columbus Day?). Using either of the other two factors would have generated seasonally adjusted claims of about 300,000. That’s actually a bit higher than we’ve seen in recent weeks.

So today’s news is nowhere near as good as it initially appears.

October 11, 2014

Expect the Press to Ignore the Large Difference Between Deficits and Growth of National Debt

The federal government’s latest fiscal year ended on September 30. The final Monthly Treasury Statement for the fiscal year, will likely be published during the coming week or possibly a few days later.

From time to time, commenters at NewsBusters have pointed that Uncle Sam’s reported deficits don’t represent the whole story. They are certainly right, and the press routinely ignores the rest of the story. While the press is all excited over this week’s Monthly Budget Review released by the Congressional Budget Office, which contain an unofficial but probably accurate estimate that the fiscal 2014 budget deficit was “only” $486 billion, the national debt has grown by far more than that.

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At Politico, 126,000 Jobs Added Is ‘A Little Over 100,000′ — Because It’s Scott Walker

In covering the latest debate between incumbent Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, the Politico’s James Hohmann significantly understated the number of jobs added in the Badger State during Walker’s tenure.

Hohmann wrote that “Burke attacked Walker for his ‘broken promise’ to create 250,000 private sector jobs during his first term. He’s now at a little over 100,000.” That’s only true if you think that 126,000 is only “a little over” 100,000:

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The Not-Credible Shrinking Unemployment Rate (Oct. 9 PJ Media Column)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:25 am

Is the government deliberately misclassifying job seekers?

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This column went up at PJ Media on Thursday morning.

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Republicans and conservatives frustrated with the GOP’s failure to nationalize this year’s midterm elections received a gift last week from, of all people, President Barack Obama. Going completely unappreciated is how his Department of Labor, particularly its Bureau of Labor Statistics, has from all appearances been conducting a de facto midterm election campaign with cooked unemployment figures for quite some time.

On October 2, Obama did the job elected Republican leaders up to that point had failed to do. Speaking at Northwestern University, he told his audience“I am not on the ballot this fall … But make no mistake: These policies (of my administration) are on the ballot — every single one of them.”

Now that Obama has laid down the gauntlet, we can all better focus on national issues like the economy, which, even as serious international troubles mushroom, remains firmly in first place in importance in voters’ minds.

It isn’t there because they think it’s in great shape, but Obama does. He told a Labor Day audience that “By almost every measure, the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office.” On Friday, his wife Michelle, pressed into campaign duty because the list of Democratic politicians who want to be seen with her husband is almost as short as the number of World Series triumphs by baseball’s Chicago Cubs in the past 106 years, repeated that claim.

The list of “measures” which are worse than they were in January 2009 is exhaustive — and, to those negatively affected by what all too many pundits insist is to be the malaise-filled “new normal” from now on, exhausting. Obama’s claim is so laughably false that the establishment press’s supposedly vigilant but actually protective fact-checkers have mostly pretended not to have heard or seen it.

The highest-profile metric to which the President can point as representing a degree of economic progress is the official unemployment rate. It dropped to 5.9 percent in the BLS’s Friday report, its last such pre-midterm missive.

A confidential source who is in a position to know has told me that almost everyone tasked with gathering and submitting the raw data the bureau uses in preparing the Household Survey, the underlying report which forms the basis for BLS’s calculation of the unemployment rate, believes that it should be significantly higher.

That this consensus in the trenches appears to have recently grown should not be surprising.

In January 2013, after a nearly one-year delay, the Senate waved through Obama’s nomination of Erica Groshen to head BLS, succeeding a 34-year veteran who had been acting director during the previous 12 months.

Though there is no record of active Senate opposition to Groshen’s February 2012 nomination, it appears that her demonstrated “ties to a left-wing organization with communist roots and her radical views against small businesses” kept it in limbo. Team Obama appears not to have pushed hard for her confirmation until their guy was safely reelected.

Groshen’s minions have subtly changed the narrative which accompanies the bureau’s monthly employment situation report into one designed to minimize any potential damage a professionally balanced presentation of the facts might cause. To cite just one example, in June’s report, as temporary help agencies added 10,500 employees on a seasonally adjusted basis, BLS told us that “employment continued to trend up” in that industry. The continued explosive growth in the all-time record number of Americans working as temps — now within striking distance of 3 million — directly defies the administration’s “healthy economy” narrative. In September, as temp employment grew by almost 20,000, the bureau’s dispatch said nothing about their increased numbers.

Of all the key figures BLS presents, the unemployment rate is probably the one which can be most easily manipulated without leaving telltale tracks. The key lies in determining whether a person is considered to be looking for work.

Translating what my informant has told me into layman’s terms — while emphasizing that this person cannot specifically describe how the perceived rigging is occurring after surveyors electronically submit their data — it appears that taking what many people would see as an acceptable level of unsuccessful action to find work is no longer enough to place one into the ranks of the unemployed. The surveyed person apparently must have taken multiple specific steps during a given week to try to get a job. Surveyors believe that the bar to be considered actively looking for work has been artificially raised, and that many people who are somewhat diligently but not constantly seeking employment are not being classified as unemployed, and are therefore not even considered members of the civilian workforce.

From here, it seems that this manipulation could be perpetrated with relatively minor computer programming changes. The IT people involved in implementing these changes would likely not grasp their significance unless they happened to be very well versed in the bureau’s detailed survey compilation procedures and rules.

Even with minor changes, the unemployment rate can change significantly. If only two million of the record 92.6 million Americans classified as not in the labor force really should be considered workforce members and therefore unemployed under consistently applied rules, the official unemployment rate would be more than a full percentage point higher:

September2014AdjustedUnemploymentRate

Based on history, a more gradual fall in the unemployment rate than the 1.3-point dip reported in the past 12 months makes sense. Job growth on a percentage basis was far more robust under Ronald Reagan than what we’ve seen during the past 4-1/2 years since recession- and policy-driven employment declines finally ended under Obama. Yet in March 1987, 4-1/2 years into the Reagan recovery and ultimately its “Seven Fat Years,” the unemployment rate was still a stubbornly high 6.6 percent, and had fallen by only 0.6 points in the previous 12 months.

There is some reason to believe that the alleged gamesmanship may go back more than two years — though to pull it off, I believe the administration would have had to go around BLS’s then-acting director. The sudden September 2012 unemployment rate drop from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent was also highly suspect — and, coming just as early voting in that year’s presidential election began, quite convenient.

Back to the here and now: Does anyone really believe that a hardened leftist in the “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” administration would be incapable of directing or perhaps perpetuating and enhancing such subterfuge?

October 9, 2014

Initial Unemployment Claims: 287K SA; Raw Claims Down 23% From Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:44 am

From the Department of Labor (permanent link):

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending October 4, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 287,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 287,000 to 288,000. The 4-week moving average was 287,750, a decrease of 7,250 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since February 4, 2006 when it was 286,500. The previous week’s average was revised up by 250 from 294,750 to 295,000.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 257,736 in the week ending October 4, an increase of 30,056 (or 13.2 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 30,838 (or 13.5 percent) from the previous week. There were 335,937 initial claims in the comparable week in 2013.

Seasonally adjusted claims would have been 10,000 lower (rounded) if last year’s seasonal factor of 92.9 had been used instead of this year’s 89.7. So this is a good news report.

I believe this will be the last week the third quarter’s covered emloyment figure of 132.14 million will be used. It will be interesting to see with the employment gains in the past several months how much closer that numbers gets to the late-2008 peak of 133.90 million. The fact that we haven’t seen full recovery in this figure means that many of those who are employed are in situations where they aren’t covered by unemployment insurance (e.g., seasonal, temporary or contract work).

October 8, 2014

AP’s Andrew Taylor: Obama ‘Inherited a $1 Trillion-Plus Deficit’

In a sign that the historical revisionists and Barack Obama legacy builders at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, may have shifted their operation into high gear for the final weeks of the midterm election campaign, Andrew Taylor has written that “Obama inherited a trillion-dollar-plus deficit after the 2008 financial crisis.”

The occasion for Taylor’s tripe is the Congressional Budget Office’s release of its final Monthly Budget Review for fiscal year 2014. In the report, which the AP has almost always ignored in every other month in favor of waiting for the official Monthly Treasury Statement issued shortly thereafter, the CBO estimates that the year’s budget deficit will come in at “only” $486 billion. A grab of Taylor’s original full five-paragraph blurb, which has since been revised while still containing the “inherited” claim, follows the jump:

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October 7, 2014

AP’s ‘Fact Check’ of Obama’s ‘Stronger Economy’ Claims Limited to ‘A Few’ Items: Two

The dictionary tells us that “a few” is “a small number of persons or things.” Though there is some ambiguity in the guidance I have reviewed, it’s fair to say that “Generally a few is more than 2.”

Not at the Associated Press, where “a few” can apparently be two, at least when it comes to “fact-checking” President Obama’s grandiose claims in his Thursday speech at Northwestern University. Thanks to Obama’s primary contention that “it is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than when I took office,” any economy-related statistic was fair game for the AP’s Christopher Rugaber. But the AP reporter chose only to address two nitty-gritty items, while avoiding any attempt to evaluate Obama’s core assertion.

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Just … Wow

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:46 am

“Top (Alison) Grimes Donor: ‘She’s going to f**k ‘em when she gets elected’”

Go here. As would be expected, strong language warning — but the language used is by no means the video’s most obscene element.