Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Supercommittee watch

After two months of negotiations, how are things going?
With less than a month remaining to reach an agreement, both sides dismissed the other's offer as a nonstarter. A Democratic aide called the GOP plan "a joke." Republicans said Democrats' insistence on new taxes was "not a serious proposal." Talks could continue over the weekend.
So there's some agreement.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Debt supercommittee starts gearing up for recriminations

You know there was a brief moment when the supercommittee was meeting in secret that I thought maybe they'd come out with a workable plan to reduce our enormous national debt.  I figured that maybe by segregating itself from the glare of the media and the influence of Congressional leaders, they'd reach a bargain to stem the tide of red ink, hopefully with spending cuts which are more effective in reducing debt.

But now time is nearly up leaving virtually no time for the CBO to score any proposal:
The Congressional Budget Office has previously said it would need to receive the outline of a plan by the end of October if it is to be scored before the committee’s November deadline. That would suggest that Hensarling’s remarks Tuesday morning may have been a tad optimistic.
 Soon comes the finger-pointing, grandstanding, inaction, and downgrade.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Workin' for a livin'

Good to know that Obama couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone while discussions on troop levels in Iraq faltered.  But then he's a very busy man.  Here's his schedule for today:

Fly to L.A.
Interview with Jay Leno
Fly to San Francisco
Fly to Denver
The silence of the economists

Weekly Standard: "Where's the Administration's report on how Obama's first stimulus performed through June?"
As President Obama travels around the country at taxpayer expense to peddle his newest stimulus proposal, his Council of Economic Advisors has yet to release its 8th Quarterly Report on Obama’s first stimulus - you know, the one that cost a cool $787,000,000,000.00. Perhaps this is just a coincidence.
We don't want to upset the narrative.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rhode Island and America's pending insolvency

I liked this paragraph so much from Walter Russell Mead's "Athens of America?" about Rhode Island's coming bankruptcy that I had to copy it here:
Let’s be crystal clear about this.  To tell a 50 year old pretty lies about the soundness of a pension plan is one of the most wicked and irresponsible things you can do without actually shedding blood; people who believe these phony promises will not make the extra savings, work the extra years or otherwise take steps to protect themselves until it is too late.  Telling those pretty lies is exactly what Rhode Island’s establishment has been doing for some time; it is what Ostrich Party legislators, trade unionists, journalists and governors are still doing across much of the country.
Emphasis mine.  This is institutionalized mendacity and millions of Americans have made plans for the future built on false promises.  The green-eyeshade types can sense the magnitude of our unfunded promises and are making the necessary adjustments.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The kids need their self-esteem - Maggie's Farm has a great post about OWS, mass movements, and the philosophy of Eric Hoffer: "Adolescents at home and abroad, with Eric Hoffer."
Athens on the Narragansett

Guess which state is too small to fail?  The smallest, Rhode Island, has a huge public pension problem.  NY Times: "The little state with a big mess."
After decades of drift, denial and inaction, Rhode Island’s $14.8 billion pension system is in crisis. Ten cents of every state tax dollar now goes to retired public workers. Before long, Ms. Raimondo has been cautioning in whistle-stops here and across the state, that figure will climb perilously toward 20 cents. But the scary thing is that no one really knows. The Providence Journal recently tried to count all the municipal pension plans outside the state system and stopped at 155, conceding that it might have missed some. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission is asking questions, including the big one: Are these numbers for real?
“We’re in the fight of our lives for the future of this state,” Ms. Raimondo said in a recent interview. And if the fight is lost? “Either the pension fund runs out of money or cities go bankrupt.”
This is part of the same theme I rail about when it comes to runaway entitlement spending: state and federal governments have made a long line of promises that cannot be kept but nobody wants to do anything to fix the problem.  Does anybody sense a bold move that will restore Standard & Poor's AAA assessment of America's long-term credit?  The Congressional supercommittee?  Oh, please.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Keep talkin' chump, the aftermath - After all that jawboning, Gallup has the news: "Obama job approval average slides to new low."  I fear this may lead to more speeches, possibly involving Slurpees.
Leaving Iraq - I think this is probably a good thing since it's long past time for the Maliki government to stand on its own.  There will still be troops in the region if Iran starts acting up - which they may not, considering the state of their nuclear program.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Obama rule - Victor Davis Hanson: "Anytime the president sermonizes about civility and the need to curb partisan rhetoric, this is a telltale sign that in a few days a savage partisan attack will surely follow."
Fun with charts - From Zero Hedge: Misery index at 28-year high and debt-per-capita to exceed GDP per capita this year.
All children left behind

Here's Robert Samuelson with "Our children's future doesn't look so bright":
The squeeze will continue. In 1990, there were 32 million Americans 65 and over; by 2040, that's reckoned at 80 million. Rising costs for Social Security and Medicare have created a new political dynamic: If benefits for the elderly aren't cut, burdens on the young will go up. Decaying infrastructure poses similar choices. Either pay for repairs or tolerate substandard roads and dilapidated schools.
Our children's futures have been heavily mortgaged. That's true even if the economy returns in a few years to "full employment" (say, 5 percent unemployment) and past productivity gains (about 1.7 percent annually since 1966) continue. If today's weak recovery persists, the outlook darkens. Unemployment will remain high, say 7 percent to 9 percent. Wage increases will remain depressed. Young workers will have trouble finding jobs to develop the skills and contacts that lead to better jobs. Productivity growth might falter.
President Spend-a-Lot repeats incessantly about how Republicans will have to look a teacher or construction worker in the eye when they block his jobs bill.  But nobody - certainly not the media - asks Obama to look a kid in the eye and tell that kid to bear the burden of trillions of dollars of deficit spending.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Graymail - Christian Science Monitor: "AARP's offensive new ad campaign."
We're still friends, right? - One of my favorite movie lines, for reasons I can't explain, is from "Three Days of the Condor": "What's the matter, Higgins?  Ain't we pals anymore?"  It's a moment in the movie when the protagonist realizes his putative ally is actually his mortal enemy.  In other news, Wall Street is less than thrilled with the Democrats trying to raise campaign cash by demonizing Wall Street; contributions may be less forthcoming.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cut to the bone - Hit & Run: "The austerity myth": "Data released by the Treasury Department on Friday show that, so far, there hasn't been any spending cuts at all."
Keep talkin', chump - CNN "Record high say Obama's policies will fail": "President Barack Obama's job approval rating is holding steady, but a record high six out of ten Americans think his policies will fail, according to a new national survey."  Even so, Obama is back on the taxpayer-supported campaign trail to implore Americans to pass legislation they think won't work.  Like it didn't work before.  After Obama's incessant calls to "write, phone, and tweet" Congress, few are listening anymore.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Movie review: "Moneyball"

I saw "Moneyball" tonight and I don't exaggerate to say that this is one of the best movies I've ever seen.  Brad Pitt plays Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane who finds that necessity is the mother of invention when he has to fill out his player's list with one of the smallest budgets in baseball.  Beane is the protagonist of the story but he's not a one-dimensional hero as he cuts players without much compunction.  Great storyline, actors, characters, cinematography, everything - it should win Best Picture.
Warren Buffett: "I should pay more taxes."
GOP: "Yeah, what's stopping you?"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Man, you're like school in summer

Power Line: "No Class": "Today HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted that what we wrote here is true: the CLASS Act, a long-term care program that was part of Obamacare, cannot be implemented in a manner that is actuarially sound. Therefore, the administration is killing the program."  It's almost like somebody should have read the bill before Congress passed it.
Oh, there's our Friday night bad news dump - The Hill: "Treasury announces 2011 deficit is second-highest in history."
Friday afternoon document non-dump - Breaking with recent precedent, the White House is not releasing a bunch of papers before the weekend.  Ace: "White House refuses to turn over Solyndra documents."'s not like there was suspicious Solyndra news this week.

Extra - Reason: "Obama's Solyndra talking cure fails."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Get Richie Rich - Charles Krauthammer: "The scapegoat strategy."
You won't have Obama to kick around anymore - Contentions: "Watching Obama morph into Nixon"  "The answer, I think, goes back to what my dinner companions said: Obama is exceedingly thin-skinned. Beyond that, he expects to be coddled by, if not worshiped by, the press."

Extra - From Legal Insurrection.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Good news!  Change is coming.

And, for once, it's change you can believe in:
Relying on a series of proprietary indexes, the institute correctly predicted the beginning and the end of the last recession. Over the last 15 years, it has gotten all of its recession calls right, while issuing no false alarms.
That’s why it’s worth paying attention to its current forecast. It’s chilling: as bad as the economy has been, it’s about to get worse.
And then there's this long post over at Zero Hedge: "Big Trouble Brewing."
The thrill is gone - Victor Davis Hanson: "When the zealots are no longer zealous."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jobs bill does not get a majority in the Senate - Yes, the cloture vote which requires 60 'ayes' to advance the bill was 51-48 but three Democrat Senators made it very clear they would not vote for Obama's jobs bill in it's current form.  Lieberman, Manchin and Webb voted for cloture essentially to spare Obama the embarrassment of failing to marshal his own party behind Stimulus Jr.
Soon there will be plenty of time for golf - James Taranto: "The Left's nervous breakdown"  "Not only does Obama's re-election look to be in serious jeopardy, but his presidency has been an almost unmitigated disaster for progressive liberalism, nearly every tenet of which has been revealed to be untenable either practically, politically or both."

When it comes to economic policy, Patterico has it right: either the Obama administration stinks at making predictions or its policies are making things worse.  So it's no surprise "Stimulus Jr." is going nowhere.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lagging news cycle - The Associated Press acknowledges what most bloggers have been stating for weeks: Obama's "jobs bill" is just a campaign marker and he's making no genuine attempt to get the legislation passed. Hot Air: "AP: Obama disconnected from reality on jobs bill."
Eat the rich

Here's Robert Samuelson with "The backlash against the rich."  In the first part he notes that income inequality is real and widespread, and there are several reasons why inequality has accelerated, but then questions what can and should be done about it:
The trouble is that the wealthy don’t fit the stereotypes: They aren’t all pampered CEOs, hotshot investment bankers, pop stars and athletes. Many own small and medium-sized companies. Half the wealth of the richest 1 percent consists of stakes in these firms. That’s double their holdings of stocks, bonds and mutual funds, according to figures compiled by economist Edward Wolff of New York University. Reid would pay for Obama’s jobs plan by taxing the people who are supposed to create jobs. Does that make sense?
I would love to join the chorus of Americans who have decided: hey do you know who should pay for the government?  Somebody else.  Isn't that easy?  And then it's a short leap to justify it (because it has to be justified) by convincing yourself it's fair that they pay more.  Did they work harder or sacrifice more or take big risks to build up a company from their parent's garage?  Well, tough - hand it over.

I wish we had a flatter tax structure and maybe the rich should pay more in taxes.  But I also believe that when nearly half of Americans have no stake in the cost of government, there's no incentive to limit the size of that government.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Now the fallout - The U.S. Senate normally operates on "unanimous consent" in that 100 Senators will generally agree to dispense with procedural matters like reading bills on the floor.  According to Hot Air, that brittle comity has been shattered because of Harry Reid's "nuclear option" suppression of minority rights.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Nobel Peace Prize winner - NY Times: "Secret U.S. memo made legal case to kill a citizen."
Math is hard, part whatever - Zero Hedge: "Obama's 'millionaires tax' collected over the next ten years will plug four months worth of deficit."  Just so we're clear, this is four months worth of borrowing, not spending.  You would think the mainstream media would call out the Obama Administration on this fiscal reality, but, well he's a Democrat and all.
Hippies vs. tourists - Do you know the best way to generate public support for your cause?  This is not it: "Air and Space Museum closes after guards clash with protesters."
I wish this movie had gone to the bottom of the Atlantic - My kids are watching "Titanic" right now and - I have to ask - is there a worse movie to win "Best Picture"?  The characters are so one-dimensional they wouldn't leave a shadow.  And, sweet Jebus, the hackneyed ending with the necklace.  Any one of the movies it was up against was better, especially "The Full Monty" and "LA Confidential."

All I can say by way of consolation is that the Academy saw their error and denied James Cameron a second Oscar for the equally-awful "Avatar."

For the record: "Goodfellas" was ripped off in favor of "Dances with Wolves" but that movie made "Titanic" look like "Citizen Kane."  There, I said it.

King of the world!

Friday, October 07, 2011

It's (fill in the blank) fault - Arab Spring? Tsunami? Europe?  Whatever.  Chicago Sun-Times: "Obama's excuses are wearing thin."

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Obama talks again

I think I heard on the news that Obama had a press conference today.  Peter Wehner reviews the imperious one in "Obama's empty threats"
It’s all very odd. Obama is acting as if his approval ratings are in the mid-60s instead of the low 40s. He’s acting as if Republicans fear him instead of Democrats like Senator Claire McCaskill, who no longer want to be seen with him. The president is acting like his agenda is popular rather than radioactive. He’s acting as if the public still cares what he thinks rather than having tuned him out long ago. And he’s acting as if Republicans will feel compelled to justify their opposition to this singularly inept chief executive and his failing presidency.
Obama is once again trying to weave a narrative that is utterly detached from the real world. From time to time my son does the same thing.
He’s seven years old.
Obama seemed annoyed that the Republicans refuse to mix it up with a guy they've written off as irrelevant to the legislative process.  But if he demands a response, this one will do:
The riposte is simple: “We do not believe this will work. It will be $447 billion down the drain, which will follow the $863 billion in stimulus spending down the drain. Enough is enough.” You decide which is the better argument. Seems obvious to me.
The White House seems stuck on this idea that we need to do something.  But we tried something, it was a flop, and the new-old plan is estimated to cost over $300,000 per job created.  Stop the insanity.
Thanks for changing the rules, Harry

It looks like Senate majority leader Harry Reid brought a bazooka to a slap fight because the minority Republicans want to hold unpleasant votes on Obama's job bill.  From the Hill: "Reid's nuclear option changes rules, ends repeat filibusters"
In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.
Well, it sucks to be the minority party:
Though it's been the standing practice of the Senate to allow such motions by the minority, tonight Reid broke with precedent and ruled McConnell's motion out of order, and was ultimately backed up by Democrats.
So, the end result is that by a simple majority vote, Reid was able to effectively rewrite Senate rules making it even harder than it already is for the minority party to force votes on any amendments. Should Republicans retake the Senate next year, it's something that could come back to haunt Democrats in a major way.
"Should" the GOP retake the Senate?  Ha-ha!  Remember Dems: no complaining in 2013.

Extra - Legal Insurrection: "Mark this day in the annals of Senate nuclear warfare."
That's not suspicious at all - Fox News: "Energy department official in charge of Solyndra loan program to step down."

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Math is hard, Harry Reid version - Powerline crunches the numbers and finds that the Senate Democrats' new millionaires surtax will carve a whopping 3% off the annual deficit.
Steve Jobs passes at 56 - Geez, that's young.  If you want to catch a great documentary about the early days of Apple, check out the PBS show "Triumph of the Nerds."

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Occupy Wall Street hates money in politics

Here's an excerpt of an interview on NPR with a member from the Boston branch of Occupy Wall Street explaining why he's protesting:
BLOCK: And Jason, give me some examples, if you could, of the ways that the economic imbalance that you're talking about, you think are dangerous to the country or undermining the country in some way.
POTTEGER: Well, I think a great example is the fact that, you know, a corporation doesn't really even have to give either candidate any money to start undermining the process these days. What's to stop a lobbyist from going up to a congressman or a senator and saying, if you don't vote the way we want you to, we're going to spend $10 million in your district running ads against you.
The Washington Post gives the same line in "What Occupy DC wants: Less corporate money in politics."  But here's the thing: I'm going to guess that these protesters have no problem with unions or left-leaning political interests spending as much as they please on political campaigns.  And which groups are pushing the boundaries of free speech in political campaigns?  Here's Open Secrets' list of "Heavy Hitters" which they characterize as: "In boxing, big punchers seek knockouts. In government, the same principle applies: The wealthiest corporations and special interest groups usually pepper politicians with overwhelming amounts of money in hope of influencing the political process."

Here are your Top 10 "Heavy Hitters":

Top 10 Heavy Hitters:
ActBlue $55,093,735
American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees $45,820,853
AT&T Inc $41,660,404
National Assn of Realtors $40,020,510
Service Employees International Union $37,151,289
National Education Assn $36,433,925
American Assn for Justice $34,328,421
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $33,824,355
Laborers Union $31,640,067
American Federation of Teachers $31,342,403

I'd be willing to give up AT&T and those people in the funny jackets for all the rest, except I believe in the First Amendment.

"Spinal Tap" reference alert! - From yesterday's Best of the Web: "Obama has lost Middle America. He just thinks his appeal is becoming more selective."

Monday, October 03, 2011

And don't even ask about Vallejo

Michael Lewis has a great article in Vanity Fair about the slow-motion meltdown in the Golden State: "California and Bust" (h/t Ace):
The relationship between the people and their money in California is such that you can pluck almost any city at random and enter a crisis. San Jose has the highest per capita income of any city in the United States, after New York. It has the highest credit rating of any city in California with a population over 250,000. It is one of the few cities in America with a triple-A rating from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, but only because its bondholders have the power to compel the city to levy a tax on property owners to pay off the bonds. The city itself is not all that far from being bankrupt.
Lewis bikes around town with ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and gives a somewhat sympathetic account of his tenure.  Californians supported Arnold when he said he was going to get the state's finances under control but then turned down every one of his initiatives.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Man, you Americans are lazy - Byron York: "Soft America: what Obama really meant."  "Shape up and get to work.  For me."

In related laziness news: "Just a reminder: Obama's jobs bill still has no co-sponsors."
Napoleon Dynamite - I'm in Long Island this weekend and last night I saw Elvis Costello and his gigantic spinning wheel.  It's a fun concept where audience members spin a wheel of songs and then the band complies. Oooh....the wheel missed "New Lace Sleeves" by one slot - that would have been great.  Good show.