Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Accentuate the positive

Fox News: "Last surviving Andrews Sisters member Patty Andrews dies at 94."  I have to say that years ago I found a second-hand copy of "Stage Door Canteen" in a record store and it has songs from the 40s including the Andrews Sisters singing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Rum & Coca-Cola."  This was a favorite:

Dog bites man x100 - The Hill: "White House: GOP responsible for contracting economy."

In related "news", here's Tom Blumer at PJ Media: "Obama's economy: the excuses begin."  Begin?  When did they stop?

Extra - Powerline: "Is the worst recovery in history coming to an end?"  And how would you know?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

There will be kicks to the groin - Cracked: "The only 4 Super Bowl ads companies know how to make."

The New Republic fell for a spoof picture of President Obama "shooting skeet" at Camp David.  This was revealing on several levels:

1.) As usual, the mainstream media wanted to rush to the defense of their One.
2.) Whoever posted the picture failed to recognize a picture that is regularly Photoshopped and ridiculed across the Internet.
3.) Safe in their Washington offices, separated from the icky gun culture, nobody questioned why Obama would be allowed to fire a shotgun without ear, eye, and clothing protection.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tomorrow, tomorrow, reform ya, tomorrow

Politico has a long article titled "The quiet liberal plans for entitlement reform" where they float a bunch of ideas that - just you wait! - the left-wing are going to propose to save Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.

Only they won't because, as I wrote a while ago, demagoguing entitlements is like crack to the Democrats and every call for reform ends with nothing.  Oh there are always "quiet" and "secret" plans in the works which exist as a placeholder to show the liberals are "serious" about the entitlement programs which are about collapse upon their insolvent trust funds.  But - just like Godot - they never arrive.

I'm so jaded on this issue that I'd love to see Congress pass a resolution stating that it will follow the current law on entitlement trust funds: when they run out, benefits will be automatically cut.  It's sad to think we have to compel Washington to follow their own laws, but without a doubt the political pressure to maintain benefits through more borrowing or spending from the general budget will be overwhelming.  So we'll continue to build our house of cards of debt and push the problem off to another generation.  Sigh.

Last year, I saw the movie "Looper" and there's a line where a character from the future urges the protagonist to "learn Mandarin" because China is going to run the show.  Given that our mounting debt is dependent (or obscured) by the Fed's policy of quantitative easing along with China's investment in U.S. bonds, I wonder how much of our economic future lies in our own hands and how much lies overseas.
You don't "need" that business - Zero Hedge: "Why employment is dead in the water."
To each according to their needs, determined by the State

Playwright David Mamet has a long piece about gun rights in Newsweek, but this part stuck out for me:
President Obama, in his reelection campaign, referred frequently to the “needs” of himself and his opponent, alleging that each has more money than he “needs.”
But where in the Constitution is it written that the Government is in charge of determining “needs”? And note that the president did not say “I have more money than I need,” but “You and I have more than we need.” Who elected him to speak for another citizen?
It is not the constitutional prerogative of the Government to determine needs. 
And yet there was the President, only a couple years ago, declaring that "at a certain point, you've made enough money."  This is all part-and-parcel of his populist war for "fairness" where - gosh darn it - those rich jerks are eating all the pizza and we have to eat the box.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook - Wow, I just saw this movie tonight and all I can say is "Wow."  Jennifer Lawrence is going to win the Best Actress Oscar and Robert De Niro is going to win Best Supporting Actor.  I'm not so sure about Bradley Cooper (up against Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln") although he was great.  Also it will win Best Director and Best Picture.  Top notch.
Illinois is the worst

Breitbart/AP: "Downgrade: Illinois worst credit rating in the U.S."
Illinois' already disastrous financial situation worsened Friday as another credit rating agency downgraded its rating to the worst of any state in the country, blaming lawmakers' ongoing failure to resolve a multibillion-dollar pension crisis.
So here's the story: the government made promises it couldn't keep and then underfunded the pension fund to the tune of almost $100 billion.  Nobody wanted to commit political suicide so they kept kicking the can down the road.  Now the borrowing costs for Illinois are going to go way up and the fiscal situation will just continue to deteriorate until corrective actions are taken.
The overture - Look into the future of entitlements.  Fox News: "Social Security's disability trust fund could fail to cover all benefits early as 2016."
Dogs like socks

Yes they do.

Is it time to panic yet? - Ominous signs.  Zero Hedge: "Scam complete: the U.S. government takes a page from Diocletian's book"  "This is an important lesson from history, and a trend that has been repeated numerous times. When nations are in terminal economic decline, governments will stop at nothing to keep the party going just a little bit longer."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sauce for the goose - Weekly Standard: "Obama's 'recess' appointments declared unconstitutional."

You gotta hand it to this guy: when he was a Senator, he had no problems with the Senate's pro forma sessions, designed to prevent President Bush from making recess appointments.  When the Republicans turn the tables then, quite suddenly, the Executive branch has the power to declare recesses "not really recesses." This guy was a law professor.

Stay tuned for the charge that the judges were acting in "bad faith" or out of an insufficient love of country or just good ole racism.

Extra - Commentary: "Obama's power grab slapped down."
The time for hard choices is...later

Here's Robert Samuelson with "President Make-Believe":
In 2000, there were 45 million Social Security recipients; by 2025, the Social Security Administration projects the number at 79 million. Already, paying for retirees is the largest source of federal spending. In 2012, Social Security ($762 billion) exceeded defense ($651 billion) by 17 percent; Medicare and Medicaid together ($720 billion) also topped defense. (Two-thirds of Medicaid goes to the elderly and disabled.)
Excluding these programs from even modest budget cuts -- as Obama seems inclined to do -- imposes huge costs on the young. Their taxes will rise, big deficits will persist or spending cuts will be concentrated on other programs more important to the working population (for starters, grants to state and local governments). There's no honest way around these conflicts, but Obama pretended they don't exist.
I tried to warn you kids that a vote for Obama is a vote against your own future.  As I've said before, there's not a scintilla of evidence that Obama will address entitlements which are already swallowing every cent of revenue that flows into Washington:
Now, here’s the problem. Pretend we didn’t even have the federal government. In other words, pretend we had no military, no Department of Justice, no Department of Health and Human Services, etc. You eliminate the entire federal government, and just pay nondiscretionary programs and interest. (There would be no employees to issue the checks, but it’s a thought experiment.) You would have to pay $2.5 trillion. But our total revenues are less than that, at $2.47 trillion.
So you use up all our tax revenue, and you still haven’t quite paid entitlements. After you deal with entitlements, every cent of discretionary spending is now borrowed.
Obama says "relax" - it's all gonna work out....hey, what are these repo men doing here?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, we need cash

Governor Deval Patrick is looking to boost revenues by over a billion dollars in part to pay for Romneycare, starting with a 1% increase in the state income tax.  But not to worry: he wants to lower the sales tax.
To help this bad medicine go down, Mr. Patrick would lower the state sales tax to 4.5% from 6.25%. He says the sales levy "is widely regarded to be the most regressive tax that states impose," which is funny given that Mr. Patrick is the same guy who raised the rate to 6.25% from 5% in 2009. Then he said raising the rate was essential to pay state bills and wouldn't hurt the economy. Now he says it's regressive and must be cut.
I can't find sales tax revenue figures online but I'm going to wager that the higher rate did not produce more revenues as Bay Staters stocked up in tax-free New Hampshire or shopped online.  This latter point explains why Massachusetts badgered Amazon into collecting sales tax on Bay Staters starting November 1, 2013.

Hey, do you know who has two thumbs and will be doing all his Christmas shopping on Halloween?  This guy.
Here come price controls - Forbes: "Health insurance brokers prepare clients for Obamacare sticker shock."  "The prices Washington pays for medical services will gradually fall below the rates where things will be readily supplied. That’s the legacy of Medicaid, and increasingly Medicare as well. Don’t worry, though. The medical services that you’ll have a hard time accessing are mostly the stuff you’ll only need if you get really sick."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The cult of Obama and the media - But I repeat myself.  Neo-Neocon: "Beauty in the ear of the behearer".

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Inigo Montoya award for most misunderstood word

Fox News: "Premiums set to rise this year in run-up to Obamacare tax on insurance industry"
That tax doesn't take effect until next year, when other major provisions like the so-called "individual mandate" and insurance subsidies also kick in. But that hasn't stopped insurance companies from charging higher premiums this year to cover the hike, as well as the cost of ObamaCare benefits such as free birth control and preventive care.
I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Confessions of a spendaholic

Here's the Washington Post editorial a day before Obama's re-inauguration:
Mr. Obama’s answer is for the government to invest more in the foundation stones of economic dynamism and opportunity: education, research and infrastructure. That was the message of his reelection campaign, and we think it is correct. But it can’t be the whole story. On its current path, the government won’t be able to sustain the kind of investment the president favors because in just a few years its entire budget will be swallowed by entitlement spending, much of it on the well-off elderly, and interest payments on the ballooning debt.
Gosh, that sounds familiar.  Bad news, WashPost: Obama's not going to do any of that "hard choices" junk:
Translation: he isn't going to do anything to seriously reform Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, and wants more economic stimulus spending, too. So, within a breath of calling for hard choices, he rejected the need for them.
So we'll keep on borrowing 40 cents for every dollar spent and it will be four years of blaming everybody else.  Fun.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dance like a Peanut

OMG, I laughed so hard at this:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The entitlement elephant in the room

I love Veronique de Rugy:
Ultimately, the government will need to raise the debt ceiling. In fact, if we don’t reform entitlement spending growth we will need to raise it again many times. There is no other option. Without changes, spending as a share of GDP is projected to almost double over the next 30 years (from 23 percent today to 40 percent in 2045). The gap between revenue and spending will grow considerably, causing the public debt to grow from 70 percent of GDP today to about 250 percent by 2045. So in a sense this fight over raising the debt ceiling is merely symbolic if Republicans’ greatest demand is nickel-and-dime discretionary spending cuts.
As a reminder how deeply unserious Washington is about taking difficult but necessary steps to avoid a debt spiral, consider that we just endured a drag-out fight to raise taxes and it's already been spent.  Zero Hedge: "One year of tax hikes on the rich is promptly spent as $60 billion Sandy relief bill passes."  Some of that money actually went to Sandy relief, too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We don't believe in your devil "Celsius"

Brutally honest - Ace of Spades: "It's not the GOP's fault it is useless but it is useless."
The softballers

Here's Deb Saunders: "White House press corps going through the motions"
The pack is out of gas. When reporters ask follow-up questions, you can see they do not expect real answers.
They rarely ask short questions, which are harder to evade. They rarely ask unexpected questions, for which autopilot sound bites cannot hide a non-response. They don't talk out of turn.
It's: Ask a long-winded question. Get a long-winded non-answer.
In an era of record food stamps, high unemployment, and sky-high debt, the media made sure to trivialize the election so it became about soundbites and silliness.  With their guy safely ensconced in the White House, the MSM can resume their four-year love affair.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No more hope and change

Here's Michael Gerson in the WashPost: "Politics as usual"
There is one main downside to this approach. It delays any serious action on long-term debt for at least another two (and probably four) years. It is the path of a government that moves from fiscal crisis to crisis, gradually undermining global confidence that it can manage its own affairs. An economy in which uncertainty, slow growth and high unemployment become norms. A federal budget increasingly devoted to entitlements at the expense of other purposes, including defense — eventually undercutting our international influence in the same way that Europe has become depleted, insular and toothless.
Obama’s short-term political calculations are understandable. It is the cost to posterity that is unreasonable.
I understand that "politics ain't beanbag" but I've yet to see any evidence that this President is remotely serious about addressing our debt problem.  Does he even think of it as a problem?  Because Fitch thinks differently:
A major credit-rating firm warned it could downgrade the U.S. if lawmakers prioritize debt payments over other government obligations such as Social Security, or fail to tackle the nation's growing debt burden in the ongoing budget negotiations.
There's the tax increases which will pay for a couple days of government spending, the mystery spending cuts, and repeated, insistent claims that he's willing to tackle entitlement spending which never materialize into actual proposals.

And since I'm in mid-rant, I'm so sick of the White House press corps which insists on asking the same stale questions so that Obama can filibuster his way through the answer.  How about pinning him down on just one of these entitlement reform ideas, which he bravely frames as "going against his own party"?  What about the moral component of piling trillions of new debt onto unborn generations?  Major Garrett was the only correspondent who had the temerity to remind Obama that the then-Senator voted against raising the debt ceiling, calling it a failure of leadership and "a sad state of affairs."  But that was then and there can be no failure of leadership when Obama is the leader.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The sky's the limit - The Economist (UK): "The debt ceiling in America serves no useful purpose and should be abolished."  This editorial makes good points about the havoc that would occur with default, delay or indiscriminate cuts but glosses over the fact that we're in this perpetual state of crisis because Congress (that is, the Senate) refuses to pass annual budgets.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday night news dump - It's that time of the week.  Legal Insurrection: "David Gregory will not be prosecuted."  He'll learn his lesson through a sternly-worded letter, so there's that.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baseline budgeting boondoggle - Coyote Blog: "Bizarre alternate reality."  All these "budget cuts" we've allegedly made to tame the deficit are only reductions in growth from an already-high baselines to be made by future Congresses that are unbound by these promises.
Money for nothin'

Megan McArdle reviews the platinum coin silliness and notes that the bills are coming due for decades of imbalance between revenues and expenses:
But confronting our spending problem, and our tax problem, is going to be extraordinarily painful.  An aging population and a lackluster economy mean that there is no money for exciting new legislative initiatives—or even for easing the pain of putting our finances on a sound footing.  Everyone wants to preserve entitlements, but no one wants the taxes needed to pay for them.  Everyone wants tax cuts, but no one wants to trim spending to match.  Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.
And so we are getting minute-to-minute strategy at exactly the time that we most need creative long-range planning to address the pressures we face from an aging population.  Legislators are no longer thinking ahead even as far as the next election; all their focus is on the next Pyrrhic victory.     The very worst thing about this stupid platinum coin idea is that it's the most practical, results-oriented solution that has so far been suggested for our current problems.
I used to have a 386/25MHz Gateway computer with an 80MB hard drive and, as programs got fatter, there was simply no more space to be had.  At first I backed up pictures and audio files on 3.5" disks (wow, really dating myself here) but eventually I had to make deep cuts.  It was either Windows 2.0 to write term papers or "The Ancient Art of War."  Choices needed to be made before the whole system crashed.
We're on the train to nowhere - Hit & Run: "The biofuels train to nowhere: No government schemes that cannot be scammed."

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Slow news day - Hey, how about that "Downton Abbey" last night?  It seems that the head of this huge, anachronistic establishment blew through all his money so a plan was hatched to get some more cash from the Americans.  Saving this traditional establishment became the driving force behind the very people who would gain a life of luxury.  But the American said "no" - this establishment had been supported long enough and it wasn't equitable to the other Americans to pour so much cash into this old place, no matter how noble its heritage.  At the end, the American asked "why do we need this old place anyway?" and urged its inhabitants to consider a smaller alternative more suited to the times.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Big Brother at the Magic Kingdom - NPR: "Disney creates the happiest data mine on earth."  Starting in the spring, Disney parks will be introducing "Magic Bands" which will act as your admission pass, credit card, and resort key.  Oh, and Disney will be collecting a ton of data about every T-shirt you buy, every ride you take, and every snack you eat.

As a Disney-phile, there's a running joke in our family about the borderline-creepiness of Disney solicitations.  "Hey Eric, remember when you enjoyed that creme brulee for dessert at Le Cellier?  You should come back again!"  This takes TMI to the next level.  What would Tink think?
The legend of Speedo Guy

I don't use the word "hero" very often, but this is the greatest hero in the history of America.  Plus he snagged a wife in the bargain.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Back to "regular order" in Congress - Opinion Journal has an interesting interview/article with Speaker John Boehner about the recent fiscal cliff unpleasantness and the future direction of Congress.  The part I like is that Boehner will no longer engage in these "secret clubhouse" meeting with Obama that leads to cram-down legislation.  Instead it will be Schoolhouse Rock democracy with committees, votes, and the unblinking eye of C-Span.
Carry the one and...uh-oh - Minuteman: "Social Security crisis arrives at the NY Times."
Obama to Bowles-Simpson: drop dead - Debt commission chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson will be on "Meet the Press" this morning.  As Professor Mankiw notes, the fiscal cliff agreement is almost the exact opposite of their recommendations: "After all the public discussion over the past couple years of what a good fiscal reform would look like, it is hard to imagine a deal that would be less responsive to the ideas of bipartisan policy wonks."

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Lord Stark of HomeGoods says: "Winter is coming."
I was told there would be no math - The Hayride: "Reality comes to low-information voters."  Virtually everybody at work yesterday was asking: "Why is my paycheck less?"
This is what happens when you don't have a budget for three years - Rich Lowry: "On to the next crisis."  It's a continuous resolution to be continuously irresolute.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

For the last one, she should have said "Gollum's ring"

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Mr. Hard Decisions - Guess the speaker: "The government has effectively kicked the can so far down the road that they've run out of road."
Four dollars a month is the now the benchmark for starving Grandma

It's depressing to think but the fiscal cliff agreement confirms my belief that we're past the point of no return when it comes to entitlement reform.  There are simply too many elderly voters who will cow Congress to resist any changes to Social Security and Medicare.  One of the ideas shot down was to increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.  In 1965, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 70.2 - now it is 78.8 years.  Yet modernizing a half-century-old program to reflect this change is near-impossible.

Another idea to very slowly reduce the amount of spending on Social Security was switching to the "chained CPI" method of calculating inflation.  As I noted before, this would shave $4/month of the cost-of-living adjustment to a typical Social Security benefit.  In the WashPost, Robert Samuelson sounds the same note of incredulity:
Consider the highly technical proposal to shift from the standard consumer price index (CPI) to a "chained" CPI to adjust Social Security benefits. From 2013 to 2022, this change is estimated to reduce Social Security spending by $100 billion. Over that decade, total Social Security benefits are estimated at $10.588 trillion; the cut would be less than 1 percent. Yet, many Democrats reacted in horror, as if hordes of elderly would be impoverished.
Really?  Not even a 1% cut?  The  trajectory of Social Security (and Medicare) is that by current law those entitlement programs can only pay out what they take in from taxes once their respective trust funds are exhausted.  Our "leaders" in Washington have made the calculation that those are problems for future Congresses.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Wolverine kept running away from Gladiator.  Borat was there too. - Well, I just got back from seeing Les Miserables and it was fantastic.  However, the theater must have been full of cat dander affecting my allergies because my eyes occasionally teared up.  That's the only manly way I can explain what happened, particularly during the finale.
Keep scrolling - Zero Hedge: "Putting America's tax hike in perspective."
Congress kicks the sequester can down the road

As is always the case: tax hikes now and spending cuts later...if ever.  Candy for everyone except that guy:
“The president wanted tax increases, but thanks to this imperfect agreement, 99 percent of my constituents won’t be hit by those hikes,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said.
Seriously.  That other 1%?  Screw 'em.  He won't share his money with us.  This will teach him to be productive.

Extra - Breitbart: "$1 in spending cuts for every $41 in taxes."  Way to go, guys.

More - Veronique de Rugy: "The U.S. just completed its fourth consecutive year of running an annual deficit over $1 trillion. Its gross debt-to-GDP ratio is already over 100 percent, and it’s going to get worse. Without changes, spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will soon consume half of the federal budget, squeezing much else out in the process. Not cutting spending shouldn’t be an option, and yet it looks like that’s exactly where we are heading."
Love the dangling "IT'S" on the end

Just kidding, California.  We're fine.