Saturday, July 31, 2010

Unintended consequences, you betcha! - Jeff Jacoby explains how the National Popular Vote compact aims to circumvent 200+ years of American democracy with a Constitutional end-run in "Massachusetts for Palin?"

Here's my guess: when the time comes for the Massachusetts electors to cast their vote for Sarah Palin, Beacon Hill will engineer a deus ex machina "emergency" legislation to reverse a law that goes against their political interests.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The exploits of Paulie "Dot Com" and Jimmy the Geek - Christian Science Monitor: "Are mobsters planting hackers in big companies?" Like credit card companies....yikes.
Dude, I'm totally good for it - Somehow I think the Boston Globe is poking fun with this headline: "Kerry says he always intended to pay tax."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

You better bail out, kids

Via Hot Air, here's a campaign video by the guy who's (probably) going to lose to Pat Leahy in the Vermont Senate race. Check out the production value of this baby:

Classic. It reminds me of that commercial of a father telling his kid that he's broke and he'd have to enter the work force. The kid protests that he's "only eight" (or something) and the father remonstrates: "I wouldn't let that slip out during a job interview!" Dang, I can't find the video.

Anyway: get to work you lazy urchins! We need tax revenues!
Too big to fail? - Real Clear World: "Sun could set suddenly on superpower as debt bites."

In related news, the Moody's rating service has warned that the U.S. needs a debt-reduction plan to ensure its triple-A credit rating.
Probably. There's not much else left to tax. - WashPost: "Is an Internet sales tax coming?" Save us, Jeff Bezos!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Grecian tipping point

Here's Megan McArdle in this month's Atlantic magazine: "Deficits matter"

Unfortunately, we’re now running annual deficits at a level where deficits very much do matter - as the ongoing crisis in Greece so vividly illustrates. The Congressional Budget Office says that after borrowing nearly 10 percent of GDP in 2009, we will borrow even more in 2010, and just a little less in 2011. Thereafter, we’re expected to cut our deficits - but they’ll still be 4 to 5 percent, which is bigger than anything we saw under George W. Bush and bigger than all but two of the deficits tallied under Reagan. The bills for Medicare and Social Security are finally coming due as the obligations exceed payroll-tax receipts. And this administration, like every administration before it, is unwilling to either make the necessary cuts or raise the necessary taxes. Deficits are starting to matter. A lot. Both politically and
Policy makers are acting as if we have plenty of time to figure things out, but as the Greek experience illustrates, debt crises do not always unfold slowly, with plenty of warning.
And now the CBO has officially decided that Megan is right. Here's a summary via Reason: "Mounting U.S. debt makes fiscal crisis more likely." And then there's the CBO Director's blog giving us a dark glimpse into the future:

Options for responding to a fiscal crisis would be limited and unattractive. The government would need to undertake some combination of three actions. One action could be changing the terms of its existing debt. This would make it difficult and costly to borrow in the future. A second action could be adopting an inflationary monetary policy by increasing the supply of money. However, this approach would have negative consequences for both the economy and future budget deficits. A third action could be implementing an austerity program of spending cuts and tax increases. Such budgetary adjustments, in the face of a fiscal crisis, would be more drastic and painful than those that would have been necessary had the adjustments come sooner.
Hey, we're broke, let's go on The View!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tilling the earth since 1632 - This is a remarkable story in today's Boston Globe: the oldest-running family farm in America - the 134-acre Tuttle Farm - is shutting down. Well, they had a good run: "End of a 378-year era." I blame Tom Vilsack.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The a-maize-ing ethanol boondoggle – Reason "Biofuels mandate: Greenhouse gas abatement costs $750 per ton": "Translation: The biofuel mandate is a stupid, very expensive, and largely ineffective way to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
You better sit down kids senior citizens

Wall Street Journal: "Health Law Augurs Transfer of Funds From Old to Young"

Since the creation of Social Security and Medicare, younger workers have funded programs for the elderly. It's a compact in which workers paid for retirees with the understanding that they'd be looked after by the generation behind them.
The health overhaul diverges by tapping a program for the elderly to help provide insurance to 32 million Americans of younger generations. Nearly half the funding for the law is supposed to come from paying lower fees to hospitals, insurers and other health-care providers that participate in Medicare, the federal insurance program for Americans age 65 and older, as well as younger disabled people.
Then there's this from the Christian Science Monitor: "Deficit cutting axe may fall on Social Security." Dagnabbit.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The smartest guys in the room - Writing in the Boston Globe, Neal Gabler discusses the intellectual superiority and hubris of the Obama White House in "The best and the brightest redux." I've used that title before in a book review on Enron.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Headline of the day - LA Times: "Colorado man delivers pizza and saves heart attack victim."
Shameless attempt to generate web traffic - US Magazine: "Justin Bieber escorted away in prison jumpsuit." Did I say Justin Bieber? Yes, Justin Bieber...who was filming a scene for the season premiere of CSI. Good luck, tween heartthrob Justin Bieber!
Is Obamacare Constitutional?

A very good review from Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett. First he acknowledges that the "individual mandate" in which everybody needs to purchase health insurance is uncharted territory:

Such a mandate is unprecedented: "This is the first time in American history that Congress has claimed to use its power over interstate commerce to mandate, or require, that every person enter into a commercial relationship with a private company," Mr. Barnett notes. "As a judicial matter, it's also unprecedented. There's never been a court case which said Congress can do this." That doesn't establish that Congress can't do it, but the high court could reach that conclusion without undoing existing law.
In addition to the expanded view of the Commerce Clause, Barnett also doubts the new "tax that wasn't a tax before" argument stands legal muster. Now the bad news: Barnett writes that the courts have deferred to Congress on matters like this, presumably because subsequent Congresses can fix legislative defects:

"If I want to bet actual money, I'll always bet the court upholds anything Congress does," Mr. Barnett says.
Constitutional issues aside, Barnett also sums up my less-than-legal opinion on Obamacare: it just feels wrong.

"What is the individual mandate?" Mr. Barnett says. "I'll tell you what the individual mandate, in reality, is. It is a commandeering of the people. . . . Now, is there a rule of law preventing that? No. Why isn't there a rule of law preventing that? Because it's never been done before. What's bothering people about the mandate? This fact. It's intuitive to them. People don't even know how to explain it, but there's something different about this, because it's a commandeering of the people as a whole. . . . We commandeer people to serve in the military, to serve on juries, and to file a return and pay their taxes. That's all we commandeer the people to do. This is a new kind of commandeering, and it's offensive to a lot of people."
No kidding. I have a bad feeling that the Supreme Court will not overturn this shoddy legislation because they'll argue that any redress can occur at the ballot box. What I think much more likely to happen is that, just like in Massachusetts, Americans will not purchase health insurance and opt to pay for the excise penalty (which is not a tax, remember). Then, when the uninsured get sick, they'll just purchase insurance because the new law requires the insurance companies to sell it. Just like in the Bay State, it's the gaming of the system, nationwide, with predictable results.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

That was then, this is election season - CBS News: "Obama changes tune on paying for unemployment benefits extension."
GM seeks cheap credit to sell crummy cars - Megan McArdle: "General Motors to purchase auto finance company."

Extra - More on the AmeriCredit deal from The Truth About Cars. Subprime loans? What could go wrong?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Big trouble in Obamacare Land - I don't quite understand the legal verbiage here but I'll take the word of law professor Glenn Reynolds: since the new health care individual mandate is now being characterized by the Obama Administration as a "tax" it's no longer Constitutional because it represents a "capitation" tax. Interesting.
On the edge of the Laffer curve - How high would taxes need to go to pay off this year's $1.5 trillion deficit? According to the Tax Foundation, one option is to raise the top three tax brackets to 100% - and this still wouldn't be enough.
Bernanke to Krugman: drop dead

NY Times: "Fed sees no quick end to high jobless rate"

The chairman of the Federal Reserve, in saying that it had no immediate plans to provide additional support to the economy, dashed the hopes of some economists and executives who have been pushing for action to add momentum to the sluggish recovery.
The Fed has already pushed the accelerator to the floor and dropped interest rates to historically low levels. At this point, the only move left is to start paying banks to take money, preferably in those cartoon sacks with the dollar signs on the side.
Official Viking Pundit retraction - Well, it looks like I jumped the gun on the Shirley Sherrod story, although I'm not the only one. Her resignation came so swiftly, I thought there must have been something more to the whole thing. My bad.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

The mystery of the missing jobs - Opinion Journal "Stimulating unemployment": "The one possibility the President and Congressional Democrats won't entertain is that their own spending and taxing and regulating and labor union favoritism have become the main hindrance to job creation." Jennifer Rubin expands on that strange notion here.
NAACP condemns imagined racism, stays silent on the real thing - In a single day, Big Government has unseated an Agriculture official who made clearly racist remarks at an NAACP event. As of this writing, the organization - so eager to make charges against the Tea Party on the most oblique evidence - has not issued a statement. Classic.
Park it - Popular Mechanics: "The world's 18 strangest parking garages."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Prepare to be shocked, the continuing series

Is there no way to measure the height, depth, or breadth of MassCare's awesomeness? Here's the latest good news from the Boston Globe: "Firms cancel health coverage With cost rising, small companies turning to the state":

The relentlessly rising cost of health insurance is prompting some small Massachusetts companies to drop coverage for their workers and encourage them to sign up for state-subsidized care instead, a trend that, some analysts say, could eventually weigh heavily on the state’s already-stressed budget.
Those small businesses are the machine shops, restaurants, and retail stores all around the community. And now:

In Sandwich, business consultant Bill Fields said he has been hired by small businesses to enroll about 400 workers in state-subsidized care since April, because the company owners said they could no longer afford to provide coverage. Fields said that is by far the largest number he has handled in such a short time.
"They are giving up out of frustration," Fields said of the employers. "Most of them are very compassionate but they simply can’t afford health insurance any more."
Every day that goes by, I'm getting the historical vibe that ObamaCare (based on MassCare) will be looked back as a well-meaning experiment that eventually caused much more harm than good. As George Will pointed out, prohibition gave rise to the income tax, organized crime and NASCAR. What unintended consequences can we expect from the federal intervention into one-sixth of the U.S. economy?

Watch Massachusetts, America, and fear the future.

Extra – Ace: "MassCare, coming soon to an America near you."

More - Legal Insurrection: "Did we say it wasn't a tax? Yeah, it's a tax." Also this from Weasel Zippers.

Flashback - ABC: Who said anything about a tax? Put that dictionary away, George.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bravo! - Just got back from the Hampshire Shakespeare Company's presentation of Hamlet. Great show and the weather was beautiful (for once) although lightning was visible over the mountain.
That well is dry

Over at Reason, in a post titled "It's the spending, stupid" it's shown that - no matter what the government does - tax revenues as a share of the economy is stuck around 18% GDP. By 2020, the CBO estimates that federal spending will reach 25.2% of GDP, which is higher than any time in our history except for World War II.

With huge and endless deficits on the horizon, it's worth considering the current battle over extending unemployment benefits. The Democrats want to bypass their own PAYGO rules and spend $34 billion to help the unemployed; the Republicans want the benefits to be paid for out of unspent stimulus money instead of adding to the deficit.

Is it possible that Congress cannot find $34 billion dollars? That's a pimple on the behind of the stimulus legislation and an atom in the entire federal budget which already on pace to overspend by $1 trillion in just the first nine months of the fiscal year. If Congress can't carve out this small-change from the enormous bloat that already exists, there is literally no hope of ever addressing our long-term deficits once the entitlement tsunami hits.
If it's Saturday, it's time for another OK Go video

This is "End Love." Watch for the goose following the band after they "wake up":

Friday, July 16, 2010

This headline is misleading - WSJ: "Congress gets ready to bolster Social Security." Not really: there's no "there" there. Instead, the tentative proposals are designed to (surprise!) kick the issue down the road.
Recovery summer - catch the fever!

My kid's been using my home computer so I'll just do a quick lineup of links:

Hot Air: "Mortgage applications hit 13-year low, foreclosures spiking"
Yahoo Finance: "Retail sales drop 0.5% in June."
CBS: "Poll: Support for health care reform drops"
Fox News: "Mass foreclosures this year expected to eclipse '09 levels."
Kimberly Strassel: "About that financial reform 'victory'"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

They'll never take our freedom! - Reason: "Toy Story 3 and the Tea Party Movement."
The hockey stick scam - Green believers rally 'round in "Climategate and the Big Green Lie": "The Penn State inquiry exonerating Michael Mann - the paleoclimatologist who came up with "the hockey stick" - would be difficult to parody."
So it was either the Heat, or the SuperSonics, Mavericks, Spurs, or Rockets - Jeff Jacoby makes the case that LeBron James moved away from high-tax Cleveland to no-state-tax Florida to give himself an instant pay raise in "Fouled by the taxman."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What's the insolvency, Kenneth?

Here's a tidbit I had not heard: by law, the Social Security Trustees Report must be published by April 1st. It's still not out. From Forbes: "The (still) missing Social Security Annual Report."

The Social Security's trustees' annual report is, by law, supposed to be published by April 1. This year, however, the trustees have postponed its release indefinitely. The program's financial condition continues to remain hidden from public view--and by many accounts will continue to be so until the end of the fiscal year.
Could it be that the most transparent Administration ever is holding back the report because it's bleeding red ink? Adjust your tin hats, everyone:

Given the lead times necessary to prepare the trustees' report, it is highly likely that a final draft report was readied by early March to meet the April 1 legal deadline. But the trustees' decision to table that report was clearly unopposed because Social Security currently has no confirmed public trustees. All of its current trustees are ex officio members of the Obama administration, leaving no one to register concern that delay would prevent the public from knowing how rapidly Social Security's finances are deteriorating.
Somebody is breaking the law:

Another important reason to be concerned about the delay is that it flouts laws set by Congress about Social Security's reporting requirements. Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, private pension plan managers must also file many reports--with the federal government, employees and beneficiaries--under strict reporting deadlines.
The Obama administration insists the delay is due to adjustments that need to be made factoring in new policies such as the health care reform bill. But they don't want to publish a report based on pre-legislation assumptions because it will make it too easy to compare the effects of Obamacare on the fiscal health of entitlements.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"This debt is a cancer" - WashPost: "Obama's debt commission warns of fiscal 'cancer'" "The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenues are fully consumed by just three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid." Everything else is going on the credit card - sorry kids!
Protecting the northern border

This guy is like a chess master looking five moves ahead. While everybody's worried about the southern border - bam! - he's playing on a whole other level.
The psychic octopus is right! - CNN: Spain wins World Cup

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Agree with #1 but "Community" should have made the list - CNN/Entertainment Weekly: "Best TV of 2010: A mid-year top 10 list."

Friday, July 09, 2010

The psychic octopus picks Spain to win World Cup - Yes, I typed that. In other news, the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
Uncertainty freezes the economy

Reason Online links to a study by a bunch of economists about the impact of Massachusetts' health care legislation which everybody (except Mitt Romney) knows is the blueprint for ObamaCare. It's about what you'd expect:

In particular, family premiums for employers with less than 50 employees grew 9.4 percent more from 2006-08 in Massachusetts than the United States. By comparison, Massachusetts had 5 percent lower premium growth in the small-group market from 2004-06. Thus, the differential Massachusetts/US growth in small-group premiums from 2006-08, over and above the growth from 2004-06, was 14.4 percent. At least by this measure, health reform in Massachusetts imposed a very large burden on small businesses and their employees.
Over at Hot Air, we find that small businesses – usually the driver of employment gains – are "losing their steam." With the uncertainty of health care expenditures, new business taxes, and sketchy consumers, who can blame them for thinking twice before hiring?

Extra - Daily Caller: "Lack of jobs increasingly blamed on uncertainty." Didn't I just say that?
Welcome to Nevada - The directness of this Las Vegas Review Journal editorial is hilarious: "Welcome back, Mr. President. Your economic policies suck."

Thursday, July 08, 2010

So it's come to this - WashPost: "White House contest asks federal workers for money-saving ideas."

Last week, the federal deficit jumped by $166 billion in a single day. So, you know, just in time! But if the suggestion box doesn't help, we can always look forward to this: "Democrats mean to raise middle-class taxes in 2011."

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The state of debate on Social Security reform

The predictable Left is getting their nuts in a bunch over this story "Republicans and Democrats endorse major changes to Social Security":
Several of the most powerful members of the House -- Republicans and Democrats -- have recently voiced real support for the idea of raising the retirement age for people middle-aged and younger as part of a larger plan to reduce long-term deficits, inching closer to what not too long ago was the third rail of American politics.
As somebody who has always been on board for raising the retirement age, obviously I think this is a good first step towards reform. Life expectancies are so much longer here in the 21st century and jobs are much less stressful; working to 70 is not the same burden it posed when blacksmiths were still throwing horseshoes. The federal government needs to address the burden of entitlement spending before the baby boomers overwhelm the treasury.

So what kind of response can we expect from reasonable people? WashPost columnist Ruth Marcus demonstrates in her interview with AFL-CIO head-honcho Rich Trumka:
Take, for example, what Trumka calls "the current deficit hysteria" and its cousin, entitlement spending. "We don't have an entitlement problem," Trumka says. "We have a revenue problem." In the world according to Trumka, no benefits need be cut, no retirement ages adjusted. Simply requiring the rich to pay a fairer share would bridge the gap.
I'm all for a more progressive tax code. But consider: The Tax Policy Center examined what it would take to avoid raising taxes on families earning less than $250,000 a year while reducing the deficit to 3 percent of the economy by decade's end. The top two rates would have to rise to 72.4 and 76.8 percent, more than double the current level. You don't have to be anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist to think this would be insane.
Or ask Trumka about whether the eligibility age for Social Security, now 62 for partial benefits, should be raised. This former coal miner -- and son and grandson of coal miners -- erupts. His father worked 44 years in the mines, suffering from black lung, "and if you had said to my dad, 'You have to work until you're 63,' that would have been a death sentence." Fair enough. Some people may need special protection.
But, an editor asks, gesturing around the gleaming conference table at the middle-aged assembly, what about those who do not work in such punishing occupations and for whom the current system would provide two, maybe three, decades of benefits? "What's wrong with that?" Trumka asks indignantly. "The rest of the world does that!" Yes, and how are things going in Greece?
Just step away from the crazy man, Ruth. In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush looked like Nostradamus:
We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending, or entitlements. This year, the first of about 78 million baby boomers turn 60, including two of my Dad's favorite people -- me and President Clinton. (Laughter.) This milestone is more than a personal crisis -- (laughter) -- it is a national challenge. The retirement of the baby boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the federal government. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices -- staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of spending.
Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security -- (applause) -- yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away. (Applause.) And every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse.
Here are the Democrats applauding how they blocked reform when they could score some political points:

So, as I've written before, just as only Nixon can go to China, only a Democrat can propose Social Security reform. I, for one, would rather that the federal government is honest and tells me truthfully that I'll only receive a portion of my promised benefits if I retire at 65 (76% of benefits after 2037) so I can plan accordingly. We can't keep holding on to this fiscal impossibility and insist on decades of government checks for retirees, paid for by a legion of pressed-upon young Americans.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Battle at the border - The immigration lawsuit filed by the Justice Department today is literally called: "The United States vs. The State of Arizona." It's like having your father sue your little brother to clean up his room. From what little I understand about the lawsuit, it's based on a federal provision of "pre-emption" which Ed Morrissey calls the "weakest argument possible." I guess, I'm not sure.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Dow 10,000? Get ready for Dow 1,000

Prepared to be scared senseless by analyst Robert Prechter who believes we could be seeing the start of an epic downturn:

Mr. Prechter is convinced that we have entered a market decline of staggering proportions - perhaps the biggest of the last 300 years.
The prediction is based on something called the Elliott Wave principle and the multiplying effect of investor psychology. I'm not entirely sure if the economies of today compare with panics of the 18th century but maybe I'm in denial like the guy who says that, if Prechter is right, it's time to head for the mountains with "a gun and some soup cans, because it's all over."


Sunday, July 04, 2010

I'm suffering from sportus interruptus

This past weekend, I traveled down to Virginia to visit my wife's family and, after an All-American lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, we went to see the Washington Nationals play the New York Mets. We left in the eighth inning because the Nats were down 5-2 and my father-in-law wanted to beat the rush on the Metro. Therefore, I missed a thrilling comeback as the Nationals loaded the bases in the ninth, drove in two runs on a non-grand-slam, then got another hit to win.

We got the text message with the final score as we headed back to Fairfax Station. Dang it.

Then, I was so exhausted from the baseball game, I couldn't keep my eyes open to watch Kevin Harvick with the Coca-Cola 400 at Daytona. Sigh.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Junior wins a race - Kind of a big deal, if you're a NASCAR fan. Driving his father's #3 car, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Nationwide race at Daytona tonight. It's been a long time since Jr. has seen Victory Lane.
Navy warns sailors about security risks from hot red-heads

Good to know! - Considering I just got my Master's degree a couple months ago, this report is welcome news: "For many, a grad-school stint doesn't pay off in job market." Whoops.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

You can't keep lettin' it get you down

Aspirations vs. reality - Reason: "Is the CBO skeptical that Obamacare will restrain the growth of health care spending?"

Extra - WashPost: "CBO tells Obama deficit panel that forecast remains bleak." "President Obama's overhaul of the health-care system has done little to improve the nation's fiscal outlook, and his pledge to extend an array of tax cuts for the middle class would only make things worse, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday."

More - Speaking of the deficit panel, here's a graph indicating that revenue will never be able to catch up with spending, which is going to be (surprise!) Medicare and Social Security costs.
Makes perfect sense - Fox News: "Pelosi: Unemployment checks fastest way to create jobs." More census jobs!