Friday, November 30, 2012

Blindsided by the debt

Mark Steyn: "Kindly note the impending bankruptcy - You can't have American-sized taxes and European-sized government"
Sequestration sounds like castration, only more so: It would chop off everything in sight. It would be so savage in its dismemberment of poor helpless America that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the course of a decade the sequestration cuts would reduce the federal debt by $153 billion. Sorry, I meant to put on my Dr. Evil voice for that: ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE BILLION DOLLARS!!! Which is about what the United States government currently borrows every month. No sane person could willingly countenance brutally saving a month’s worth of debt over the course of a decade.
There's been an Ed Koch quote of the mayor after losing re-election where he says: "The people have they must be punished."  Obama spent the last campaign proclaiming that, gosh darn it, if we only returned to the tax rates under Bill Clinton everything would be great.  Well, if America wants record peacetime government spending, then let's go back to those tax rates and pay for it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This Obama fellow doesn't seem too interested in compromise - Ace: "Laugh: Washington Post issues CYA editorial calling on Obama to stop campaigning and start finding solutions."
Stop the madness of indiscriminate budget cuts!

Hit & Run: "Why the sequestration cuts shouldn't be part of any larger fiscal cliff deal-making"
There should be absolutely no room for negotiating away the pathetically small amount of spending reduction the government imposed on itself to raise the debt-ceiling by $2 trillion. For god's sake, we're talking about trims of around $110 billion annually. The 2013 budget alone will spend about $3.8 trillion and using constant dollars, federal spending has increased 50 percent over the last decade...
If such tiny, wafer-thin cuts cannot in fact be enforced, then we should simply give up now and really max out the credit cards and party like there's no tomorrow. Seriously, go ahead and just finish the whole tub of ice cream already.
We're slashing to the bone here:

I hope we can get by with such Spartan spending levels.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Somebody get a tuke for that guy's head - I think James Carville has hypothermia on the brain.  Hot Air: "Carville: Yeah, we're obviously going to see entitlement cuts in this deal."  Now I think he's just trying to be counter-intuitive here and get some airtime on TV but an entitlement agreement is not going to happen in the fiscal cliff negotiations.  The Obama entitlement reforms pre-election were already laughably inadequate in addressing the wide unfunded liabilities of these programs.  Now that he's re-elected there's no chance of addressing them now.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The not-so-great Warren Buffett - Greg Mankiw: "A master of tax avoidance."  "Warren Buffett has an op-ed in today's NY Times on one of his most popular themes: The rich should pay more in taxes.  At first blush, his position seems noble: A rich guy says that people like him should pay more to support the commonweal.  But on closer examination, one realizes that Mr Buffett never mentions doing anything to eliminate the tax-avoidance strategies that he uses most aggressively."

Extra - Corner: "The Buffett Tax Twists".

Sunday, November 25, 2012

About those entitlements - In "None Dare Call It Default." Holman Jenkins notes that they're going to be cut or otherwise diminished by inflationary policies.  And there's nothing you can do about it: "Don't go running to a judge when this doesn't pan out. The courts do not overrule changes in government policy just because citizens find their promised free lunch isn't forthcoming."  On this point, n.b. "Flemming v. Nestor": you have no contractual right to Social Security benefits.
The doctor needs to know if you're wearing your seat belt - A physician discusses what he can and cannot talk about under Obamacare: "A Physician's new reality: Patients ask me to break the law."
Do you hear what I hear?

I drove my wife's car (Subaru Forester) yesterday at highway speed and there's a slight whine in the engine during acceleration. It's not there during idling or at steady speeds and you wouldn't even notice it if the radio is on.  There's no noticeable drop in power and/or fuel mileage.  The only other clue I have is that there's a slight hesitation during starting.  I checked the battery voltage and it's OK (12.8V).

I typed in "whine during acceleration" into Google and one of the results was "Whine during acceleration (wife not in car)."  Heh.

Some of the auto forums online say it might be the alternator and others say check the power steering fluid.  I'm hoping it's not a leak in the manifold although I think I would hear that during idling.  I'll have to check everything hooked up to a belt.  Anybody else have a similar problem?  Thanks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

On a personal level, I have much to be thankful for: everybody in the family is healthy, my kids are doing great, things are going fine at work, and I just celebrated my twentieth anniversary with my beautiful wife.

And although I'm worried about the direction of the country, I'm comforted by the fact that we live in a free, democratic, and capitalist society with built-in safeguards to keep us moving forward.  In the words of Sir John James Cowperthwaite, former Financial Secretary of Hong Kong:
" the long run the aggregate decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgement in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralized decisions of a government; and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster."
(Lifted from P.J. O'Rourke's "Eat the Rich.").  Appropriately, this lesson of individual initiative over collectivism was the history of the Plymouth Plantation and our first Thanksgiving.

So let's give thanks for a hundred TV channels, American football, and the magic of supply chain management which brings frozen turkeys and gelatinous cranberry sauce to our homes.

Have a good day, everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When Black Friday comes

Speaking of pranks, I've had this recurring wish to buy a storage unit in California and stock it full of empty boxes marked "China" and "Vintage Playboys" and "Antiques."  Then I'll abandon the locker and let the dopes at "Storage Wars" bid on it.  Yuuuuuuup!
Not the slightest bit unexpected - Politico: "Rough start for fiscal cliff talks."  Neither side is serious.  I say let the sequestration axe fall and we'll be one-tenth of the way there.

Extra - John Stossel: "About that fiscal cliff."
Usually, I find myself fading fast after Turkey's influence - Commentary: "Why Turkey's influence is fading fast."

A little Thanksgiving humor to start your day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012


But not the deal we're going to get

Robert Samuelson discusses the fiscal cliff in "The deal we need":
The American economy resembles a sick patient who's been put on a powerful drug: budget deficits. If the drug is withdrawn too abruptly, the patient relapses. That's the fiscal cliff. But if the drug is never withdrawn, the patient may face highly toxic side effects. That's a future financial crisis that occurs if lenders refuse to lend at low interest rates. It seems confusing, because it is confusing.
Curb those deficits -- but not too fast. No one has adequately explained the messy choices to Americans. Not the president. Not major economists. Not congressional leaders.
The other day on NPR, Senator Patty Murray was asked why negotiations would succeed now when the deficit supercommittee - which she chaired - couldn't reach an agreement.  Her answer was that we're much closer to the cliff so action is urgent.  I found this to be so depressing.  It means that every critical issue is going to be a model of brinkmanship.  We're going over the cliff not only because the parties can't agree but because there's no getting around the math anyway.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My mind is officially blown - I'll post a link when available but "60 Minutes" had a story tonight about a cognitive study at Yale where babies as young as three months were shown to have an innate understanding of fairness, justice, and - yes - bigotry.  Wow.

Update - Link here.
We are all in debtor's prison - Zero Hedge: "Europe's depression, Japan's disaster, and the world's debt prison."  "A great bet is underway, a poker game with stakes in the trillions, between those who are buying time with central bank money and believe that they can continue as before, and the others, who are afraid of the biggest credit bubble in history and are searching for ways out of capitalism based on borrowed money."
That ended abruptly - The last race to decide the NASCAR championship was this afternoon and because of the way points are allocated it was a two-man race between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.  But then Johnson had a dropped lugnut that put him way behind then his drive train broke.  In other words, Keselowski will be the 2012 champion.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bond franchise shaken, not stirred - I just got back from seeing "Skyfall" and the movie is a delight for 007-fans with some great throwbacks to the golden era from tuxedos to Bond's gray Aston-Martin.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers but there's one scene where Bond asks M something like "Are you going to complain the whole way?" and then he flips open the top of the stick-shift to reveal a red button.  And then near the end, Bond enters a room with a hat rack - yes, that hat rack - and all I could think about was Sean Connery tossing his hat from across the room.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Now we're just haggling about the speed over the edge

Zero Hedge has an excellent review on how this debate about the fiscal cliff is just prattle because there are no serious proposals to address "mandatory" spending:
Given that the entire problem is with mandatory spending, slashing the discretionary budget is pointless. It's as if the US economy is a speeding train heading towards a ravine at 200 mph, and the conductors are arguing about whether they should slow down to 150 or 175.
Read the whole thing, as they say.  We're just fooling ourselves.
Hostess bankrupt - Tallahassee hardest hit

My wife said she stopped by the supermarket tonight and the Twinkies were wiped out.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Generation X: Punk'd

Here's the conclusion to an otherwise good editorial in the WashPost: "Entitlement reform must be on the table".
At his news conference Wednesday, President Obama called for “a serious look at how we reform our entitlements,” advocated “compromise” and pronounced himself “ready and willing to make big commitments” on debt reduction. Sounds like a man who understands what is needed.
Sweet Fancy Moses.  Really, WashPost?  Did he also say "we must protect our sacred promise" or "the time for action is now" or "we must overcome our differences"?  Because if empty platitudes are the hallmark of understanding, then Obama's got a surplus.  Also, dear editors, name a single entitlement reform that Obama has offered in four years at the helm.  Just one.  Oh, but the "understanding".  That wisdom will be of great comfort for the baby busters when the Trust Funds dry up and benefits are automatically cut.

Extra - Ace: "Media distressed to learn that Democrats are quite serious about their shameful pandering on entitlements."  Funny how that works.  Pre-election: insouciance.  Post-election: concern-trolling.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Impervious to reason and/or basic math

Remember, America, that it's the Republicans who are supposed to be unbending and incapable of compromise.  Hot Air: "Reid: Social Security really isn't part of the problem, you know."
Social Security is not part of the problem.” Er, actually, these gigantic and growing entitlement programs are the main drivers of our ever-increasing $16 trillion national debt, and Social Security is not a crisis waiting to happen. It’s a crisis that is happening, right now, everyday — and it’s not like ‘nobody could have seen this coming’ or anything.
In fact the Congressional Budget Office has charted the long-term spending on entitlements and by "long term" I mean we'll be totally broke in fifteen years:

As this graph indicates, in an uncomfortably short period of time federal spending will rise above 20% of GDP and never goes down.  This is the tipping point because Hauser's law tells us that revenues from taxes rarely rise above 20% of GDP.  In other words, if you've enjoyed five years of trillion-dollar deficits, you're going to love the next forty.  Well, that is, until the merry-go-round breaks down.

In his effort (such as it is) to avoid the fiscal cliff, Obama has proposed $1.6 trillion dollars in revenues by taxing the "rich."  Keep in mind that this is spread out over a decade - so $160 billion/year - and in October alone federal overspending added $120 billion to the national debt.  In other words, even if we soaked Uncle Moneybags, we'd still have to borrow from China to pay for the other 10-1/2 months of the year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

That was fun - My wireless printer suddenly stopped taking commands and turned into an expensive paperweight.  The HP "troubleshooting" software said "You're good to go!" but then the test page to print.  Eventually it came down to the ol' turn-off-then-on and that worked.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Let's make a deal - Hit & Run: "John Boehner's draft memo to Obama on avoiding the fiscal cliff."  Disclaimer: this is not really a letter from the Speaker.
You tolerate me!  You really tolerate me!

OK, fans, in the words of Dave Grohl, "I'll stick around."

Let me ease back into blogging with this non-political headline I saw in the Boston Globe yesterday.  The story was about former NHL star Adam Oates who is about to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame:
"On way to Hall, Oates scored big with mates"
Nice!  Very clever.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Motivation: low

I have to be honest: I'm thinking about quitting this blog.

It's never been a high-traffic source, so I know that it will be barely missed.  Oh, sure, I've gotten the occasional Instapundit link and I'd like to think I've added something to the conversation over ten years.  But I'm not in the mood to spend four more years griping about how Washington refuses to face up to fiscal reality.

Mark Steyn framed the fiscal problem today in "The Edge of the Abyss":
In the course of his first term, Obama increased the federal debt by just shy of $6 trillion and in return grew the economy by $905 billion. So, as Lance Roberts at Street Talk Live pointed out, in order to generate every dollar of economic growth the United States had to borrow about five dollars and 60 cents. There’s no one out there on the planet — whether it’s “the rich” or the Chinese — who can afford to carry on bankrolling that rate of return.
And he also framed the political problem:
So Washington cannot be saved from itself. For the moment, tend to your state, and county, town and school district, and demonstrate the virtues of responsible self-government at the local level. Americans as a whole have joined the rest of the Western world in voting themselves a lifestyle they are not willing to earn. The longer any course correction is postponed the more convulsive it will be. Alas, on Tuesday, the electorate opted to defer it for another four years. I doubt they’ll get that long.
There's a joke in one episode of "Futurama" where Bender tells a baldly obvious lie and another character responds: "I'd like to believe that were true.  So I do!"  The American people have been sold on the fiction that our unsustainable fiscal problems can be solved without a wrenching correction.

As Jake says in "The Sun Also Rises": "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Good post-election advice

Gonna watch some NASCAR and football this weekend.  Yay.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Quote of the day

Alexander Fraser Tyler from "Cycle of Democracy":
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over lousy fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world's great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.
Link.  This is most likely the quote that John over at Power Line is referring to.
Damn, wasn't that first debate great?

I don't have much to say here.  I thought Romney ran a competent campaign but the Obama campaign did an effective job of painting him as a "rich guy" and loathing those guys is all the rage these days.  When the Gallup poll started opening up +5% for Mitt and he was packing Red Rocks and one poll showed a slim lead in Ohio, I thought I sensed a tide swelling.  But no.

If you haven't noticed, this blog's author is preoccupied with the national debt in general and entitlement reform (as a way to control debt) specifically.  I firmly believe that we are marching down the same path well-worn by Japan and Greece and every other overextended empire.  I'm not saying that Mitt Romney would have made great strides against turning back the tide of red ink but I'd like to believe that Paul Ryan would steer America towards much-needed reform.

But I guess guys like me and Paul Ryan and just the schoolmarms at the prom who insist on six inches of space between you and your dance partner.  Geez, what a drag.  Just put it on the credit card and let the next generation worry about the bill.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Well, I said Ohio was key - I was right and I was wrong.
My firewall is crumbling - Wisconsin is gone and now there's a very, very narrow pathway for Romney.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Official Viking Pundit prediction: Romney 285 - Obama 253

I'm absolutely exhausted today but I figured I owed it to my readers (both of them) to put it on the line before the polls open tomorrow.  In addition to the 191 votes allocated by the RCP electoral map, I believe Romney/Ryan will get Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Colorado.  Ohio is key.  I don't see a pathway for Romney without Ohio but I think it's very doable in what has traditionally been a Republican state.  Popular vote will be, let's say, 51%-48%.

I wanted to write so much more about predictive models, "Shy Tory", crowd sizes, early voting and such but I'll focus on this one fact: the party affiliation of this race will look nothing like 2008.  In that election, Obama enjoyed a D+8 advantage at the polls.  Rasmussen, which has had a good track record of predicting the electorate, says that the voting electorate will be R+5.8.  This seems like a huge swing but it's based on a very large sample of 15,000 likely voters.  Gallup found a partisan split of R+1 (R+3 with leaners) which would swing 300+ electoral votes to Romney with a landslide in the popular vote.

As an additional note, the WashPost noted that 13% of Americans who voted for Obama in 2008 said they will vote for Romney.  In 2008, Obama got 53% of the popular vote so: 53%*87% = 46% of the popular vote for Obama in 2012.  This is curiously on line with the estimates based on the party affiliation models.  If Republicans and Democrats cancel each other out, Romney's persistent and significant lead among Independent voters will push him over the top.

We'll see tomorrow.

Extra - More predictions for Romney from Michael Barone, Fred Barnes, and Josh Jordan.

GMTA update - Karl Rove also says 285-253 but he gives Iowa and New Hampshire (6+4) instead of Wisconsin (10).

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Redskins lose - Romney wins

National Journal: "The last Redskins pre-election home game might determine the election"
It's likely no one noticed at the time, but the squad's performance in its last home game before Election Day soon became arguably the best indicator of who would win the presidential race. A Redskins win meant the incumbent party would stay put. A Redskins loss meant the White House would change parties. With only one exception — 2004 — this trend has held in every election cycle.
Going into the game today, the Redskins were 3.5 point favorites over the Carolina Panthers.  Final score: Panthers 21 - Redskins 13.  CBS News: "Redskins lose to Panthers, Redskins rule says Mitt Romney will be President."
Buckeye state update - Washington Secrets: "Ohio shocker: GOP closes voting gap, boosting Romney."

Extra - From Moe Lane.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

Somebody from ABC News shouted a question - And Obama smiled and walked on.  That's part of Jim Treacher's "Benghazi news round-up."  "The Obama administration knew an attack on Benghazi was imminent. They knew Islamic terrorists love anniversaries, and 9/11 was coming up. They did nothing to stop the attack, and even hindered efforts to stop it. Then Obama and his surrogates told ridiculous lies to cover up their ineptitude. Then they lied about the lies. Then they lied about the lies about the lies. And so on."

And here's the conclusion of the WashPost editorial: "A security breakdown in Benghazi" "While the agencies separately defend themselves — or not — the White House appears determined to put off any serious discussion of Benghazi until after the election. Sooner or later, however, the administration must answer questions about what increasingly looks like a major security failure — and about the policies that led to it."
The great uniter - Breitbart: "Obama: Voting is 'best revenge' against Romney."  Another off-teleprompter moment for Mr. "No red or blue states."

Grandpa has your job - Zero Hedge: "Chart of the day: America's geriatric work f(a)rce."
Benefit for victims of Sandy - Well I've been tricked again: TV Guide said "Community" was going to be on but it looks like another one of those telethons.  Can we go a solid hour without a politicized statement from one of these celebrities?  Probably not.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Just another $6 billion/day - Zero Hedge: "Starting off with a bang: In first month of 2013 of fiscal 2013, U.S. adds $195 billion in debt."  That's a lot of Halloween candy.
Confirmed: Obama did nothing

As the White House tries to run out the clock on the Benghazi investigation, they keep pushing this line:
Neither the President nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi during the attack,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Hill via e-mail.
That's technically correct because, as I've speculated, they gave no response at all.  Now CBS News is reporting tonight that the White House did not convene the very agency designed to respond to terrorism: "Key task force not convened during Benghazi consulate attack"
CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).
"The CSG is the one group that's supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies," a high-ranking government official told CBS News. "They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon."
The White House is now pushing this "ongoing investigation" nonsense as if it takes weeks to collect a bunch of emails and tell the American people what happened in the Oval Office that night.

Extra - Instapundit and Hot Air.

More - Foreign Policy: "Troubling surveillance before Benghazi attack."

And - Brietbart: "Of course, no investigation is really necessary as far as the decisions made on the night of the murders of our ambassador, two former Navy SEALs, and a fourth American. The administration knows precisely what happened – who gave the stand-down order, and who refused to authorize military intervention. They just don’t want to release that."  Yeah, and don't hold your breath for a press conference.