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3651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Christmas Music: St. Olaf Christmas Festival on: December 26, 2013, 10:27:55 AM
Audio link, 6 minute intro, 2 hour broadcast, beautiful music with a little narration, PBS national broadcast:

http://americanpublicmedia.publicradio.org/www_publicradio/tools/media_player/popup.php?name=minnesota/classical/features/2012/12/17/st_olaf_christmas_festival_20121217_128

101 year music tradition at my daughter's college, this was my first time attending.   Full symphony with 5 choirs, 600 students performing on a campus of less than 3200.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/11/12/st-olaf-christmas-festival
3652  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Merry Christmas! on: December 24, 2013, 11:01:33 AM
Yes, it was once a religious celebration more than a retail event.  Merry Christmas everyone.  I hope that Christmas offers a moment of family time, good tidings and cheer for those here of all faiths!
3653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times: Obamacare takes the marginal tax rate above 100% for some Americans on: December 24, 2013, 10:35:42 AM
Doug and Ginger Chapman with their son Charlie Galanes, 11. They are looking for new coverage after their plan was canceled.
The cheapest insurance plan they can find through the new federal marketplace in New Hampshire will cost their family of four about $1,000 a month, 12 percent of their annual income of around $100,000 and more than they have ever paid before.

Even more striking, for the Chapmans, is this fact: If they made just a few thousand dollars less a year — below $94,200 — their costs would be cut in half, because a family like theirs could qualify for federal subsidies.
...
 Christian Johnsen, a bakery owner who lives with his wife and two children in Big Sky, Mont., and has an income of about $88,000, will probably be eligible for subsidies next year. As a result, the family could buy a midlevel insurance plan for about $697 a month.

But if the bakery does better next year, the family could be asked to pay a lot more. Without any subsidy, the same plan would cost $822.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/21/business/new-health-law-frustrates-many-in-middle-class.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0
3654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A tapestry of coercions mitigated by random acts of presidential mercy on: December 24, 2013, 10:05:26 AM
George will, back in form:

Obamacare now is a tapestry of coercions mitigated by random acts of presidential mercy

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/12/23/george_will_obama_is_a_tapestry_of_coercions_mitigated_by_random_acts_of_presidential_mercy.html

SHANNON BREAM: So we have another delay in signing up for Obamacare. Today was the drop dead deadline. It was December 15th. That got changed to today. Then quietly there's what they’re calling a grace period, George. How do you think this is going to go over?

GEORGE WILL: You used the word quietly and that's exactly it. This is a -- Obamacare now is a tapestry of coercions mitigated by random acts of presidential mercy announced in the most bizarre ways. Months ago, when they announced the suspension of the employer mandate, it was an assistant secretary of the Treasury, of whom there are twelve, posted it on the Treasury website.

Then, when they a few days ago suspended the individual mandate for certain preferred people, that was announced in a letter from Secretary Sebelius to six Democratic senators, as though this law of the United States was their private property.

This change today wasn't even announced. It was sort of discovered by the Washington Post and it was made on the pretext that they're gearing up for an expected surge of traffic. Which is kind of interesting because the one person we know who signed up today, the president, doesn't even get his health care from anything associated with Obamacare.
3655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obamacare-the-sequel is a nationwide high-risk pool for the middle class on: December 24, 2013, 09:55:21 AM
"Obamacare-the-sequel is  nothing more that “a nationwide high-risk pool for the middle class"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2013/12/23/obama-has-begun-repealing-obamacare/?hpid=z2

For the billions we are spending on a million, at most, people in the exchanges, we could give them their own doctors and unlimited taxi rides to free appointments.

the goal in 2014 for Republicans, namely to deal with the middle class hard- to-insure while working on the “affordable” part of the equation for others who have or had insurance (before Obamacare took it away)

 - Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
3656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Congress: Sen. Jeff Sessions speaks out on the nuclear, Harry Reid Senate on: December 23, 2013, 12:08:50 PM
If you would like to hear a conservative Senator speak out on what has happened in the Senate, please listen to this interview.  Go to about 28:50 for the introduction and interview conducted by John Hinderacker of Powerline Blog.  They cover the Murray-Ryan budget, amendments blocking, supporting illegal aliens over veterans and the rule changes.  Go to 44:50 for the part on Senate rules.

http://media.ricochet.com/hinderaker-ward-experience-episode-61.mp3  (Commercial-free radio program)

It takes a 3/5ths majority to cut off debate.  Rule 22.  It takes 2/3rds majority to change the rules of the Senate.  The Senate changed the rules with a simple majority.  The Parliamentarian ruled against them and then by simple majority they reversed the ruling of the parliamentarian.

Sen. Carl Levin D-Mich:If the rules can be changed by simple majority, there are no rules - simply majority rule.  Cloture and filibuster used to slow down that process and give some power to the minority.

What will R's do if they take back the majority?  I would hope they reverse some policy damage before restoring traditional rules.
3657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cognitive Dissonance of... conservatives, on: December 23, 2013, 10:14:02 AM
I call him an independent,  but he is most often conservative - and brilliant.  A rare instance of George Will getting it wrong:  

Scott Johnson, writing at Powerline:

"I don’t think George Will has ever written a more infuriating column than the one he wrote commending Obama’s Geneva deal with Iran. Why infuriating? Will saves himself the trouble of arguing the premise of his column — that Iran can be “contained” (or deterred) like the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Will saves himself the trouble of arguing it by simply assuming it."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-f-will-better-a-contained-iran-than-an-all-out-war/2013/12/04/e4dcb1aa-5c4b-11e3-95c2-13623eb2b0e1_story.html

Norman Pohoretz doesn't name names but writes:

"Adherents of the new consensus would have us believe that only two choices remain: a war to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or containment of a nuclear Iran—with containment the only responsible option. Yet as an unregenerate upholder of the old consensus, I remain convinced that containment is impossible, from which it follows that the two choices before us are not war vs. containment but a conventional war now or a nuclear war later."
3658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, stock market: Margin Debt Hits Yet Another New High on: December 23, 2013, 10:00:46 AM
Margin Debt Hits Yet Another New High
http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2013/12/23/margin-debt-hits-yet-another-new-high/?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LatestHeadlines,

Last month, investors borrowed $423.7 billion against their portfolios, exceeding October’s record of $412.4 billion

Margin-debt levels rose 2.7% from the prior month. The gain coincided with the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 3.5%.

Rising levels of margin debt are generally seen as a measure of investor confidence
-------------------------------

I wonder what would be considered synonyms for confidence in something you don't really know or have any control over...
idiocy, foolhardiness?

Interesting also that this falls into the category of unintended consequences for artificially and absurdly low interest rates.  What could possibly go wrong?
3659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Economics: Obama's Misguided Obsession With Inequality on: December 23, 2013, 09:51:28 AM
Good to see the WSJ pick up on our discussion here.   Presidential sidenote, the author writingi with impressive economic clarity  is a Chris Christie adviser.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303773704579269990020773098?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

Obama's Misguided Obsession With Inequality
He uses statistics that ignore taxes and transfer payments. Faster growth is what the poor really need.

By Robert E. Grady
Dec. 22, 2013 6:07 p.m. ET

In his widely noted speech, President Obama said that "a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility" is "the defining challenge of our time." This belief makes Mr. Obama unique: Unlike the other presidents since World War II, he places inequality above economic growth as the organizing principle of U.S. economic policy. The president's Dec. 4 speech, at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress, also stressed that increasing inequality is a "decades-long trend"—which carries with it the strong implication that the country needs to reverse the direction it has taken for the last three decades. But like so many of his other pronouncements, the assumptions behind his defining challenge are misleading.
Enlarge Image

President Obama at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress, Dec. 4. Reuters

Virtually all of the data cited by the left to decry the supposed explosion of income inequality, as Lee Ohanian and Kip Hagopian point out in their seminal paper, "The Mismeasure of Inequality" (Policy Review, 2011), use a Census Bureau definition of "money income" that excludes taxes, transfer payments like Medicaid, Medicare, nutrition assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and even costly employee benefits such as health insurance.

Thus the data that is conventionally used to calculate the so-called Gini coefficient—the most commonly used measure of income inequality—ignore America's highly progressive income tax system and the panoply of benefits and transfer payments. According to Messrs. Ohanian and Hagopian, once the effect of taxes and transfer payments is taken into account, "inequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009, when the Gini coefficient dropped from .395 to .388."

In his speech, Mr. Obama cited a recent study from economists at Columbia University that found that already enacted benefits and tax programs have reduced America's effective poverty rate by 40% since 1967—to 16% from 26%. But he ignores all this when he claims that inequality is increasing.

The Columbia study shows that Messrs. Ohanian and Hagopian's research is hardly an outlier. The Congressional Budget Office released a study that came to a similar conclusion in October 2011. The CBO study picked an artificial starting point of 1979, amid a crushing period of stagflation. Yet it still showed that family income, including benefits, on average experienced a 62% gain above inflation from 1979 to 2007. It also showed that all five quintiles of the income distribution spectrum experienced real gains in family income.

The CBO study contradicts Mr. Obama's claims in the 2008 presidential campaign and early in his first term that the middle class was "falling behind." The real concern is that some people were getting too far ahead.

With respect to upward mobility, longitudinal studies conducted by the U.S. Treasury have found that there was "considerable income mobility" in the decades 1987-1996 and 1996-2005. For example, roughly half of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 had moved to a higher quintile by 2005. The "median incomes of those initially in the lowest income groups increased more in percentage terms than the median incomes of those in the higher income groups" in that decade, while the real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers experienced an increase.

Here is the bottom line: In periods of high economic growth, such as the 1980s and 1990s, the vast majority of Americans gain, and have the opportunity to gain. In periods of slow growth, such as the past four and a half years since the recession officially ended, poor people and the middle class are hurt the most, and opportunity is curbed.

Consider the Census Bureau data, which measure only money income. The data show that median family income adjusted for inflation has not been on a steady or stagnating path since the 1970s. It fell, in real terms, by 5.7% from 1974-1982, when slow growth and high inflation ravaged the average family. Tellingly, in this period, real income fell for the bottom four quintiles, but held steady for the top 20%.

From 1983 to 2007, however, median family income grew substantially—by 21.6% above inflation—and real income grew for all five quintiles. Then, beginning in 2008, real income plunged again, both for the median family and for all quintiles.

The point is this: If the goal is to deliver higher incomes and a better standard of living for the majority of Americans, then generating economic growth—not income inequality or the redistribution of wealth—is the defining challenge of our time.

Regarding growth, Mr. Obama claimed in his speech that we should use some money "to create good jobs rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports, and all the infrastructure our businesses need." Yet a recent analysis by BCA Research shows a sharp drop in real spending by the government on nondefense infrastructure since the president took office. When a Democratic Congress passed the president's massive $800 billion stimulus bill, seven-eighths of the total went to transfer payments like Medicaid, food stamps and sending a check to millions of Americans who do not pay income taxes.

The president claims to be concerned about spurring private investment. But investors at home and abroad can readily see that his steadfast refusal to reform the country's entitlement programs threatens spending on physical infrastructure, education, university research and other items that will contribute to the future productivity of the United States. That same unrestrained entitlement growth, and the debt that comes with it, will ultimately compromise the value of dollar-denominated assets. Public companies have trillions of dollars of cash to invest sitting on their balance sheets, but the Obama economy's growth record is weak, and insufficient to attract capital investment.

Straining credulity, Mr. Obama also pointed in his income inequality speech to the Affordable Care Act as one of his initiatives to improve the economy, despite clear evidence that the law's employer mandate is discouraging full-time employment. For most of this year, the overwhelming majority of jobs added to the U.S. economy have been part-time, not full-time. Gallup's payroll-to-population ratio, the proportion of the American population working full time, has dropped almost two full percentage points in the last year, to 43.8%.

Mr. Obama said in his speech that "making sure our economy works for every working American" is what "drives everything I do in this office." Accomplishing this worthy goal requires growth, not redistribution.

Mr. Grady, a managing director at the private-equity firm Cheyenne Capital Fund, is the chief economic adviser to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council.
3660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Winston Churchill's famous distinction between the Left and Right on: December 22, 2013, 03:53:11 PM
Winston Churchill's famous distinction between the Left and Right —

"The left favors the line of dependency while the right favors the ladder of opportunity."

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/06/27/the_end_of_the_american_dream_119003.html
http://www.americanexperiment.org/publications/newsletters/thinking-minnesota-fall-2013
3661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Scott Grannis and friends: on: December 21, 2013, 02:58:57 PM
Scott's answer:  ... "Housing starts absolutely collapsed beginning in 2006, and home prices fell by 35-40%. How much more devastation would you have expected from a supposedly free market?"

It was not a free market or neutral Fed that led to the over-supply of housing in 2006.  It was a government distorted market and a Fed flood of 'liquidity' that set the table for the disaster that ensued.  It is not devastation to have assets consistently valued at undistorted market value.

SG: "Wall Street is playing with its own and investors' money these days. That's a free market. Whether they are right or not is anybody's guess. If they have manipulated the housing market too high, they will get crushed, because it's not easy to sell sell thousands and thousands of houses quickly or cheaply. Nobody is subsidizing this foray into institutional ownership of the housing stock."

1) The Fed is distorting the free market choice between equities and interest bearing investments, which is bidding up the share price of existing companies at the detriment of other choices, including moving people from safety to risk. 

2) The Fed is enabling and subsiding the irresponsible fiscal policies and the big government scale in Washington.  The Fed issues bonds to cover excess spending without having to find willing, free market buyers for all the bonds.  Without monetary cover from the Federal Reserve, the excesses of Washington spending on this scale would not be happening!  6 of the 10 'richest counties in America are in the DC area.  What is the industry driving that and who is underwriting it? 

3) The large players operate in an environment where both the institutions and the individuals running them receive the benefits on the upside but have faced little or no consequence for their failures.  (cf. Citigroup, AIG, Goldman Sachs, General Motors, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Morgan Stanley, US Bank... http://projects.propublica.org/bailout/list)  Hardly a free market.  They will not be bailed out again?  Why would they think that??

"It will be very interesting to see how it plays out."

Or tragic. 
3662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues, Huffington Post on: December 21, 2013, 01:50:02 PM
From Privacy thread:
I know that it is a mistake to link to the HuffPo, but I think might interest some of you. It is a talk given in March:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-murrie/what-if-technology-has-killed_b_3679320.html

I know you were chided for posting from Huffington Post.  I want to say I disagree.  I enjoy the freedom to post from right wing sources and hope to not have content dismissed just for that reason.  I want to know opposing perspectives and Huffington Post is more than a left wing source.  BD's posts are always well marked for source.  I appreciate that he reads and posts very interesting material from places that others like me would otherwise miss. 

This format makes it easy to rip back on the bias, accuracy or validity of any story and I plan to keep doing that, but hopefully not dismiss without considering the merits.
3663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security, Border Protection, and American Freedom on: December 21, 2013, 12:53:55 PM
"He has recurring theme that boils down to this: why has NASA funding been cut? There are enough meteors that come close to Earth, including some that serve to be wicked surprises that diminishing space travel and related themes could spell the demise of mankind."

I have been skeptical of NASA and space spending, but this point is a good answer as to why public investment of this kind may be well-justified.  If true, it is one more reason why we should not settle for economic policies that leave us broke, stagnant and mostly unemployed.  These programs and capabilities are expensive!
3664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar: Deflation continued on: December 21, 2013, 12:45:17 PM
A couple of follow up points on deflation:

Even if the fear of deflation is unfounded, that fear is the stated reason the the Fed's inflation target is 2% instead of zero.  The Fed knows how to move the policy levers up or down a little bit at 2% inflation, but not when inflation hits zero or goes negative.  Where do you go with interest rates after you hit zero?  Negative interest rates?  You can pay people to hold free money but they don't have to invest it in the economy to make money.

Because we have permanent inflation with a long term CPI trend line at 2.4%, not zero, and an inflation target going forward of 2%, not zero, a dollar in the future is worth less than a dollar today.  The only possible exception is a worse outcome: a deep, prolonged economic depression.

Coincidentally we are a massive debtor nation with the power to devalue our debt by devaluing our currency.  We use devalued future dollars to pay today's unpaid bills.  (BLS inflation calculator: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl)  If we really had to borrow all of our revenue shortfall, rather than print most of it (issue "excess reserves"), lenders would charge for that loss and the cost of our debt would be prohibitive.

Stated more directly, the current fiscal and monetary path is unsustainable and everyone knows it.
3665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Money: Why low inflation? on: December 20, 2013, 10:06:34 AM
"a) We here have vociferously predicted inflation.  Why have we been so wrong?"

Scott Grannis: "Why then has U.S. inflation remained low and slowed of late if the Fed is doing all it can to keep interest rates low? I fleshed out the answer to this question in a post earlier this month: it's because we have been experiencing the most risk-averse recovery ever. Risk aversion and a general lack of confidence have translated into very strong demand for money and bank reserves." From that previous post: "The recovery from the recent Great Recession has been the weakest ever, and that may have a lot to do with the fact that this has also been the most risk-averse recovery ever. Households have deleveraged like never before; the world has stocked up on cash and cash equivalents like never before; banks have accumulated massive amounts of excess reserves; and business investment has been weak"

And demand for money and bank reserves, is the opposite of new investment and demand for goods and services. 

Stagnation with inflation is possible, see Jimmy Carter, but generally a slow moving, stagnant economy (with money on the sidelines) does not bid up prices. 

Risk aversion means an investment stall.  Bidding up the price of existing companies is not investment IMO, building new plants and starting real new companies is.  This economy lacks energy, velocity, investment and demand, along with lacking employment and economic growth.

Today banks hold a whopping $2.5 trillion in excess reserves, according to former Fed Governor Alan Binder, WSJ, which means that money is on the sidelines, not chasing goods and services.

It seems that the trillions in quantitative expansion are neither stimulating the economy nor driving up current price levels because that money is on the sidelines. 

Grannis introduces his first with this: "Let's begin by taking a look at inflation in the U.S. as measured by the Consumer Price Index."  and that chart shows a trend line of 2.4% annual price increases, actually a little lower of late.  But CPI does not directly measure inflation IMHO, it is an indicator or symptom of inflation which is strictly a monetary phenomenon.  In this case, CPI measures the effect of the money in circulation, but not the future effect of trillions accumulating in reserve that could enter circulation.

The problem with our economy today is not a lack of liquidity (money) and so the solution was not an injection of money.  The problems are overly-burdensome taxes, regulations and uncertainty, along with many other screwed up disincentives to produce, none of which are addressed by the Feds flailing attempt the second of its two mandates - stimulating employment.  (Meanwhile we are implementing the largest anti-employment act in our nation's history.)

The question (in my mind) is not why haven't price levels gone through the roof in a stagnant economy, but what will price levels do if things ever get rolling again, and multiples of those multiples of trillions come into circulation via the banking system.

Luckily nothing on the horizon looks like a robust economy headed our way and none of our underlying problems are even beginning to be addressed.
3666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: December 19, 2013, 11:36:19 PM
Crafty, 12/18/13:
...
b) What the hell is wrong with deflation?
c) How did this piece wind up on the front page of the WSJ?
[low inflation is a problem??]

1.  See your post in Economics, (Wesbury then making Scott Grannis' point now): 7/1/13:http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1023.msg73491#msg73491

2. Deflation tends to be self sustaining: hard to snap out of, limited policy options available to address it.  From the WSJ article:  "Central bankers worry about inflation falling too low because it raises the risk of deflation, or generally falling prices, a phenomenon that is difficult to combat through monetary policy. Some economists believe weak or falling prices can lead consumers to delay major purchases, exacerbating an economic slowdown. Even without deflation, very low inflation can be a sign of weak demand that weighs on wages, corporate profits and growth."

3. Deflation is associated with lack of velocity (MV=PQ) see link in point 1) and is associated with economic depression.  It is feared by central bankers; easier to avoid in the first place than to get out of once in it.
--------------
From the San Francisco Fed, quoting MIT and economic textbooks:
http://www.frbsf.org/education/publications/doctor-econ/1999/september/deflation-disinflation-causes

What is deflation and how is it different from disinflation?

September 1999

The MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics defines deflation as “A sustained fall in the general price level.”1 Deflation represents the opposite of inflation, which is defined as an increase in the overall price level over a period of time. In contrast, disinflation, represents a period when the inflation rate is positive, but declining over time.

Deflation, inflation, and disinflation represent different behavior of the price level. The price level is commonly measured using either a Gross Domestic Product Deflator (GDP Deflator) or a Consumer Price Index (CPI) indicator. The GDP Deflator is a broad index of inflation in the economy; the CPI Index measures changes in the price level of a broad basket of consumer products. The Chart shows the monthly percentage change in the CPI (all urban consumers, all items) over the prior 12-month period, and includes periods of deflation, inflation, and disinflation in consumer prices.

 

Two brief periods, the first from approximately mid-1949 to mid-1950, and the second, approximately from the fall of 1954 to the summer of 1955, shown in Chart, indicate brief periods of deflation in the consumer price index. Other than these two brief periods, the CPI Index shows inflation in consumer prices over nearly the entire 1947 to 1999 period. The period from mid-1980 to mid-1983 indicates a period of disinflation, a period when the rate of inflation was declining from month to month.

Periods of deflation typically are associated with downturns in the economy. The two temporary periods of deflation corresponded to recessions in the U.S. economy. However, periods of deflation need not be as short as these two brief episodes in the 1950s. During the Great Depression of the 1930s the nation experienced a long period of deflation. As noted by Samuelson and Nordhaus (1998), “Sustained deflations, in which prices fall steadily over a period of several years, are associated with depressions, such as occurred in the 1930s or the 1890s.”2

References

1. Pearce, David W., editor. The MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics. 1992. MIT University Press.

2. Samuelson, Paul A., and William D. Nordhaus. Economics. 1998. The McGraw-Hill Companies.



3667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics, Incomes are stagnated? Depends on how we measure! on: December 18, 2013, 09:17:10 AM
Did incomes go up 3% or 37%?  Depends on how you measure - or fail to measure.

From Greg Mankiw's blog, Chariman of the Economics Dept at Harvard

Monday, December 16, 2013
On Measuring Changes in Income
To divert attention from the disastrous rollout of his health reform, President Obama has decided to change the national conversation to discuss increasing inequality.  This phenomenon is not new--the trend started about four decades ago--but it is real and important.  In case you are a new reader of this blog, you can find my personal views on the matter in this paper.

This national conversation has generated renewed attention to the highly influential Piketty-Saez data.  It is worth pointing out, therefore, some limitations of these data, which have been stressed by Cornell economist Richard Burkhauser: The data are on tax units rather than households, they do not include many government transfer payments, they are pre-tax rather than post-tax, they do not adjust for changes in household size, and they do not include nontaxable compensation such as employer-provided health insurance.

Does this matter?  Yes!  Here are some numbers from the Burkhauser paper:

1. From 1979 to 2007, median real income as measured by pre-tax, pre-transfer cash income of tax units rose by only 3.2 percent.  That is a paltry amount for such a long period.  You might conclude that middle class incomes have been stagnant. But wait.

2. Households are more important than tax units.  Two married people are one tax unit, whereas a couple shacked up are two tax units.  We would not want to treat the movement from marriage to shacking up as a drop in income.  If we look at households rather than tax units, that meager 3.2 percent rises to a bit more respectable 12.5 percent.

3. Now consider government transfer payments. If we add those in, that 12.5 percent number becomes an even better 15.2 percent.

4. What about taxes? The middle class received some tax cuts during that period.  Factoring taxes in, the 15.2 percent figure rises to 20.2 percent.

5. But not all households are the same size, and the size of households has fallen over time. Adjusting for household size increases that 20.2 percent to 29.3 percent.

6. There is still one thing left: employer-provided health insurance, an important fringe benefit that has grown in importance. Adding an estimate of that into income raises the 29.3 percent figure to 36.7 percent.

So, during this period, has the middle class experienced stagnant real income (a mere 3.2 percent increase) or significant gains (a 36.7 percent increase)?  It depends on which measure of income you look at.  It seems clear to me that the latter measure is more relevant, but the former measure of income often gets more attention than it deserves.

Take this as a cautionary tale.  When people talk about changes in income over time, make sure you know what measure of income they are citing.

http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2013/12/on-measuring-changes-in-income.html
3668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics, Income inquality, Kevin Williamson on: December 18, 2013, 09:12:53 AM
"Incomes among the bottom half of earners are not stagnating because of increasing inequality; inequality is increasing because incomes among the bottom half of earners is stagnating. "

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/366599/inequality-does-not-matter-kevin-d-williamson
(read it all)
3669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ten Biggest Lies of 2013 on: December 18, 2013, 09:00:27 AM

Pretty amazing that even the WashPost confirms Pres Obama is the Liar of the Year.  Mis-speaks by a few lowly Republicans hardly compare.  Michele Bachmann, leaving office, with her facts wrong is hardly news and there was no accompanying bill to slash food stamps by 70%.  We are closing the Vatican embassy, but the out of office Jeb Bush implied false blame.  Lamar Alexander connected two 'unrelated' spending items.  That one could go under 'opinion' check.  NRA said armed guards at Obama's children's school.  If wrong, they are protected by armed guards every other minute of the day.  Hardly a big deal or the basis of a public policy decision.  Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) charged that then- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in April of 2012 “signed” a cable directing a drawdown for security assets for the U.S. Embassy in Libya.  In fact the cable had her signature but the Post says they all do...

Kerry's statement that “I opposed the invasion of Iraq” would be as meaningless as a Michele Bachmann statement - even we had not chosen people like Biden and Kerry for the highest positions in the administration!

The 'keep your policy' doozy was an obvious one, but good for the Post to publish this one by the President:

“The day after Benghazi happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism.”

Hard to believe a journalist wasn't fired over that one.

The day after Benghazi the President gave a speech in Las Vegas ripping Republicans.  He was on-time and looked well-rested!
3670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Congressional Races: former Sen. Scott Brown moving to New Hampshire on: December 17, 2013, 08:55:51 PM
Scott Brown reportedly has a buyer for his house in Mass.  He already owns one in NH.  Brown will likely continue to work in Boston (unless running for Senate becomes a full time job).  He does not have a license to practice law in NH.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-16/brown-s-move-to-new-hampshire-fuels-talk-of-senate-race.html
3671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / life of Julia - entering ObamaCare on: December 17, 2013, 08:39:29 PM
http://reallifeofjulia.tumblr.com/
3672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: December 17, 2013, 06:52:09 PM
(GM is so much more succinct! )

If the term marriage has no specific meaning, what is polygamy? 

It wasn't the people of North Dakota who changed the meaning of marriage or changed any laws, and it looks to me like their AG applied the laws properly.  DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act signed by Democrat President Clinton) makes it so that individual states do not legally have to acknowledge the relationships of gay and lesbian couples who were married in another state. Only the section of DOMA that dealt with federal recognition was ruled unconstitutional.  What a tangled web the leftists and enabling jurists weave.

I agree with ccp, "To me the left has simply made a mockery out of marriage". 

The Left adopted LGBT instead of just gay as the oppressed group with the intention of going after acceptance and public endorsement for thems too, with their various, multiple partner arrangements. 

BD, others, are you not sympathetic to the discrimination suffered by mulitple-partner-Americans and their right, just like single partner heteros, to marry whomever they choose?  Have they not suffered in the dark shadows of this country long enough.

Or does what the smartest and most widely traveled Secretary of State in history once shouted regarding Benghazi apply now to marriage:
"AT THIS POINT...WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE??"
3673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: polygamy on: December 16, 2013, 09:40:27 AM
BTW, what IS the argument against polygamy?

I would argue that children have an unfair circumstance by design under polygamy.  The adults may have consented, but the kids did not.  Society is better off and stronger when we choose a spouse to form a family instead of just keep adding spouses and forming 'families'.  (The NBA is not aware of this rule.)

In this day where anything goes, who are we to judge.   Gay marriage ended of the meaning of marriage (and family) - one man and one woman become one married couple, husband and wife, sometimes becoming a family with one mom, one dad and children.  If we cannot restrict on gender, why limit the numbers.  If it has no meaning, why even keep track or acknowledge marriages.

State references or preferences to marriage are all discriminatory by design - against all unmarrieds, not just against gays and polygamists.  The point of laws allowing the states to sanction marriage of the old type was that this particular discrimination and preference was good for society.  Each person in a free society also had the freedom to not enter a single spouse, opposite gender union with all its recognized advantages.
3674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Only 14% of enrollees not subsidized on: December 16, 2013, 08:57:03 AM

Yes, why would anyone want a government-written health plan except to see if someone else will pay for it.

Everyone I've encountered seemed negative on Obamacare until last week when a friend said his cost went down from 1800/mo to 900.  He is mid-50s with an early history of serious heart trouble.  I would argue that in his business, selling homes, he is still better off with a healthy economy and paying fair market for his coverage than with the subsidy and the ill economic effects that come with it.  If O'Care is not repealed, I will report back when his subsidized premium goes above what is was unsubsidized.

But that was the trick of implementation.  Even if only a few million middle earners sign up, if you cleanly repeal it you will be taking away their meds, doubling their costs, killing them.
3675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unemployment benefits for 'working men and women' on: December 14, 2013, 03:33:07 PM
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee calls for unemployment benefits for 'working men and women'

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Jackson-Lee-calls-for-unemployment-benefits-for-5062013.php?cmpid=htx

The Houston Democrat called upon her fellow Congress members to extend jobless benefits for people with jobs.

"Let us vote to provide for unemployment insurance for working men and women so that faces across America will not have the tear of desperation on their faces,"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jer5VNkMKOU
3676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / If 1 man 1 woman marriage limit is discriminatory, Polygamy is unconstitutional on: December 14, 2013, 03:28:09 PM
http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/12/14/Federal-Judge-Rules-Laws-Against-Polygamy-Unconstitutional

http://jonathanturley.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/brown-summary-judgment-decision.pdf

Who made that argument previously?
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1073.msg68328#msg68328

3677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: December 14, 2013, 01:44:24 PM
"Doug, The plan is to get to single payer..."

Very true.  Liberals are not startled by the failure of this complex public-private fiasco, even though it is their own.  Tthey will argue for simplicity and point to the way it 'works' for everyone else.

Republicans should have united by now on a solution and alternative to take away the false claim of Dems that R's want to take us back to the way it was, which was the old Dem plan of only 60% government control and runaway costs.

It is frustrating to lack both leadership and a message.
3678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama's 1983 answer to the Soviet challenge? Unilateral disarmament on: December 14, 2013, 11:36:08 AM
See the NY Times pdf of the original article. He could see the "goodness in humanity" by the turnout and enthusiasm at SAM, Students Against Militarism Thursday night.  SAM had 15 members, none of which controlled the arsenal of the Soviet Union then or Iran today.   I am curious if Bill Ayers wrote this too.

(Now he refuses to stop nuclear proliferation to dictators and terrorists.)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/nytint/docs/obama-s-1983-college-magazine-article/original.pdf

ARA sponsored events---(Arms Race Alternatives)
BREAKINGTHE WAR MENTALITY    Sundial. March 10, 1983
                                                                                       
           By Harack Obama                       our hearts. and taking continual, tangi-    on the nuclear threat-reveals a deep
     Most students at Columbia do not       ble ~teps to prevent war, becomes a di-     resevoir ofconcern. "I think students on
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tary violence has been a vicarious ex-           Two groups on campus, Anns Race        as sophisticated, and don't appreciate
perience, channeled into our minds          Alternatives (ARA) and Students             small vision, So they tend to come out
through television, film, and print.           Ag-ainst Militarism (SAM), work within      more for the events; they do not want to
     The more sensitive ~lmong us           these mental limits to foster awareness     just fold leaflets."
struggle to extrapolate experiences of      and practical action neces::-ary to coun-         Mark Bigelow, a graduate intern
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cussing the latest mortality statistics         the emphasis of the two p:roups differ.      works with Don to keep ARA running
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ality as depicted by a Mailer or a Cop-     g-rasping the-tendencies of distorted na-   ing frustration. We try to talk to that
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and far removed. We know that wars          dead-end track.                              which will give people a rational handle
have OlX.'WTed, will occur, are occWTing,        "Most people my age remember           on this controversial subject. this inc-
but bringing such experience down into      well the air-raid drills in school, under   ludes bringing speakers like Daniel

3679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Welfare State Con Game on: December 14, 2013, 11:12:04 AM
“The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First you take people’s money away quietly, and then you give some of it back to them flamboyantly.”  - Thomas Sowell
3680  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness: You can keep your _____. on: December 14, 2013, 11:04:46 AM
3681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics - Minimum Wage, George Will on: December 14, 2013, 10:43:12 AM
i was pleased to see George Will pick up on yeserday's minimum wage discussion.  He tries so eloquently to not say you have to be a complete idiot to think you can raise the cost of something and get more of it.  If we really want to help the downtrodden, why wouldn't we wouldn't we raise the minimum wage to $50?  Why wouldn't we "require anyone who gives money to panhandlers to give a minimum of $10"?  Won't that bring in more money than smaller donations?  Panhandlers don't think so.

"raising the price of low-productivity workers will somewhat reduce demand for them.  If you reject that last sentence, name other goods or services for which you think demand is inelastic when their prices increase."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-f-will-raise-the-minimum-wage-its-iffy/2013/12/13/f9a8d81a-6363-11e3-a373-0f9f2d1c2b61_story.html

Raise minimum wage? It’s iffy

By George F. Will, Published: December 13

“It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another — it’s one damn thing over and over.”
— Edna St. Vincent Millay

Liberals’ love of recycling extends to their ideas, one of which illustrates the miniaturization of Barack Obama’s presidency. He fervently favors a minor measure that would have mostly small, mostly injurious effects on a small number of people. Nevertheless, raising the minimum hourly wage for the 23rd time since 1938, from today’s $7.25 to $10.10, is a nifty idea, if:

If government is good at setting prices. Government — subsidizer of Solyndra, operator of the ethanol program, creator of HealthCare.gov — uses minimum-wage laws to set the price for the labor of workers who are apt to add only small value to the economy.

If you think government should prevent two consenting parties — an employer and a worker — from agreeing to an hourly wage that government disapproves.

If you think today’s 7 percent unemployment rate is too low. (It would be 10.9 percent if the workforce participation rate were as high as it was when Obama was first inaugurated; since then, millions of discouraged workers have stopped searching for jobs.) Because less than 3 percent of the workforce earns the minimum wage, increasing that wage will not greatly increase unemployment. Still, raising the price of low-productivity workers will somewhat reduce demand for them.

If you reject that last sentence. If you do, name other goods or services for which you think demand is inelastic when their prices increase.

If you think teenage (16-19) unemployment (20.8 percent), and especially African American teenage unemployment (35.8 percent), is too low. Approximately 24 percent of minimum-wage workers are teenagers.

If you think government policy should encourage automation of the ordering and preparation of food to replace workers in the restaurant industry, which employs 43.8 percent of minimum-wage workers.

If you think it is irrelevant that most minimum-wage earners are not poor. Most minimum-wage workers are not heads of households. More than half are students or other young people, usually part-time workers in families whose average income is $53,000 a year, which is $2,000 more than the average household income.

If you do not care that there are more poor people whose poverty derives from being unemployed than from low wages. True, some of the working poor earn so little they are eligible for welfare. But an increase in the minimum wage will cause some of these people to become unemployed and rely on welfare.

If you do not mind a minimum-wage increase having a regressive cost-benefit distribution. It would jeopardize marginal workers to benefit organized labor, which supports a higher minimum in the hope that this will raise the general wage floor, thereby strengthening unions’ negotiating positions.

If you think it is irrelevant that nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers get a raise in their first year.

If you think a higher minimum wage, rather than a strengthened Earned Income Tax Credit, is the most efficient way to give money to the working poor.

If you think tweaking the minimum wage is a serious promotion of equality by an administration during which 95 percent of real income growth has accrued to the top 1 percent.

If you think forcing employers to spend X dollars more than necessary to employ labor for entry-level jobs will stimulate the economy. If you believe this, you must think the workers receiving the extra dollars will put the money to more stimulative uses than their employers would have. If so, why not a minimum wage of $50.50 rather than the $10.10? Because this might discourage hiring? What makes you sure you know the threshold where job destruction begins?

If you think the high school dropout rate is too low. In 1994, Congress decreed that by 2000 the graduation rate would be “at least” 90 percent. In 2010 it was 78.2 percent. Increasing the minimum wage would increase the incentive to leave school early. One scholarly study concluded that, in states where students may leave school before 18, increases in the minimum wage caused teenage school enrollment to decline.

If the milk of human kindness flows by the quart in your veins, so you should also want to raise the minimum street charity: Take moral grandstanding oblivious of consequences to a new level by requiring anyone who gives money to panhandlers to give a minimum of $10. Beggars may not benefit, but you will admire yourself.
3682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PolitFact is co-conspirator of Lie of the Year on: December 13, 2013, 11:16:35 PM
PolitiFact, the Candy Crowley of online fact checking, called its own Lie of the Year "true".

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303932504579256300070093302?mod=WSJ_Opinion_MIDDLETopOpinion

PolitiFact's Forked Tongue
The site once vouched for its "lie of the year."
By James Taranto
December 13, 2013

PolitiFact.com, the Tampa Bay Times's "fact checking" operation, is out with its "Lie of the Year," and it's a doozy of dishonesty: "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.' "

Just to show how fast the news can move, back in September this columnist tweeted: "If 'I didn't set a red line' isn't named 'Lie of the Year,' @PolitiFact is a state propaganda agency." "I didn't set a red line"--the reference was to Syria's use of chemical weapons, in case you've forgotten--didn't even make the top 10. Yet our September tweet proved to be mistaken: We cannot fault PolitiFact for the lie it chose instead.

Which isn't to say PolitiFact doesn't function as a state propaganda agency. For in the past--when it actually mattered, which is to say before ObamaCare became first a law and then a practical reality--PolitiFact vouched for Barack Obama's Big Lie.

In her lie-of-the-year write-up, PolitiFact's Angie Holan includes the following acknowledgment:

    In 2009 and again in 2012, PolitiFact rated Obama's statement Half True, which means the statement is partially correct and partially wrong. We noted that while the law took pains to leave some parts of the insurance market alone, people were not guaranteed to keep insurance through thick and thin. It was likely that some private insurers would continue to force people to switch plans, and that trend might even accelerate.

Her "half true" acknowledgment is itself a half-truth. As the Washington Examiner's Sean Higgins noted last month, in October 2008 PolitiFact rated the same statement, from then-candidate Obama, as flatly "true," on the ground that "Obama is accurately describing his health care plan here."

We're not making this up. PolitiFact actually rated Obama's promise as "true" on the ground that in making the promise, he was making the promise.

To be sure, there are some epistemological complexities here. The cancellation letters from insurance companies provide concrete proof that Obama's claim was false, evidence that was necessarily lacking in 2008, 2009 and 2012. Likewise, the reporting of our colleagues on the news side of The Wall Street Journal established with a previously lacking specificity that Obama told the lie with full knowledge and intent to deceive.

One might have reasonably suspected, in 2008 and certainly in 2009 and 2012, that Obama was lying. But one could not prove it, because it was not yet a factual assertion. In 2008 it was but a promise, which Obama might or might not have intended and might or might not have been able to keep. By 2012, we now know, it was a full-fledged fraud, but exposing it conclusively as such would have required a degree of expertise few journalists have.

In other words, it's not that PolitiFact was wrong to withhold its jejune "pants on fire" designation from the Obama statement in 2008, 2009 and 2012. It was wrong even to make a pretense of "fact checking" a statement that was, at the time, not a factual claim. Its past evaluations of the statement were not "fact checks" at all, merely opinion pieces endorsing ObamaCare.

Lots of people wrote opinion pieces endorsing ObamaCare, and some are still at it. Apart from the substance of the arguments, there's nothing wrong with that. But selling opinion pieces by labeling them "fact checks" is fundamentally dishonest. In this case, it was in the service of the most massive consumer fraud in American history.
3683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: December 13, 2013, 12:00:34 PM
"military spending is like turning a big ocean going tanker-- it takes a LONG time to turn, start, or stop."  - True.

I'm REALLY not liking what I am reading about what the sequester cuts are doing and am glad to see them being lessened.
   - Point taken.

OTOH, defense spending 2013 was $821B, cut back to 2010 levels but more than years 2003-2009 with two wars going.  http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/federal_budget_estimate_vs_actual_2013_XXbs1n#usgs302
If it is being spent unwisely, increasing the total won't necessarily address that.

One might also say:  Domestic spending is like turning a big ocean going tanker-- it takes a LONG time to turn, start, or stop.
---------------

The (other) good news in the budget deal (give Paul Ryan credit for this) is that so-called tax loopholes were left untouched, leaving the closing of loopholes, exclusions and tax system gimmicks on the table for real tax reform that could lower the rates across the board and help grow the economy - if we ever become interested in that.
3684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pathological Science, Middle East Snow on: December 13, 2013, 10:45:18 AM
Just 13 years ago, Dr. David Viner, senior scientist at Britain’s University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit, confidently predicted that, within a few years, winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event.”  “Children [in Britain] just aren’t going to know what snow is.”

Nothing was said about Israel and Egypt...

http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-snow-israel-egypt-20131213,0,1691393.story#axzz2nMzV6vMp
snow blankets Middle East
A bruising winter storm brought severe weather to the Middle East, forcing the closure of roads and schools
http://www.latimes.com/la-wn-snow-middle-east-pictures,0,4657856.photogallery#ixzz2nNFfAFFD
CAIRO -- Snow coated domes and minarets Friday as a record Mideast storm compounded the suffering of Syrian refugees, sent the Israeli army scrambling to dig out stranded motorists and gave Egyptians a rare glimpse of snow in their capital.

Nearly three feet of snow closed roads in and out of Jerusalem, which is set in high hills, and thousands in and around the city were left without power. Israeli soldiers and police rescued  hundreds trapped in their cars by snow and ice. In the West Bank, the branches of olive trees groaned under the weight of snow.

In Cairo, where local news reports said the last recorded snowfall was more than 100 years ago, children in outlying districts capered in white-covered streets, and adults marveled at the sight, tweeting pictures of snow-dusted parks and squares

Photos: Rare snow blankets Middle East
http://www.latimes.com/la-wn-snow-middle-east-pictures,0,4657856.photogallery#ixzz2nNEMXRdq
Associated Press / December 13, 2013


Jerusalem, 12/12/2013
http://news.yahoo.com/photos/snowstorms-in-syria-slideshow/



3685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy: Interest rates WILL go up on: December 13, 2013, 10:17:36 AM
A good read on excess reserves (of $2.5 trillion!) and what the Fed will eventually have to do to control their use:

Friday, December 13, 2013
Why Interest Rates Will Eventually Explode to the Ups

http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2013/12/why-interest-rates-will-eventually.html

...now you are being warned about the incredible boom in interest rates that is coming because the Fed is going to have to attempt, at some point, to manage these excess reserves once they start leaving the Fed.
3686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics, Minimum Wage Laws, Neumarkm, Wascher, Murphy on: December 13, 2013, 09:49:24 AM
My perspective on minimum wage is not what wages should be but who should set them.  Wages should be set by consenting the parties of employer and potential employee for both efficiency and moral reasons, not controlled by the state or the federal government.

Paul Krugman, dishonest and unworthy of quoting, says “there just isn’t any evidence that raising the minimum wage near current levels would reduce employment”.

But there is.

Start here, at the MIT press with a Jan 2013 book, Minimum Wages, By David Neumark and William L. Wascher
https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/minimum-wages

David Neumark is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Irvine, Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Senior Fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor.  William L. Wascher is Senior Associate Director in the Division of Research and Statistics at the Federal Reserve Board.

"Neumark and Wascher demonstrate the overwhelming weight of careful U.S. evidence and other evidence showing the detrimental effects of minimum wages on low-skilled workers."

 Synthesizing nearly two decades of their own research and reviewing other research that touches on the same questions...
Neumark and Wascher argue that minimum wages do not achieve the main goals set forth by their supporters. They reduce employment opportunities for less-skilled workers and tend to reduce their earnings; they are not an effective means of reducing poverty; and they appear to have adverse longer-term effects on wages and earnings, in part by reducing the acquisition of human capital.

The evidence still shows that minimum wages pose a tradeoff of higher wages for some against job losses for others, and that policymakers need to bear this tradeoff in mind when making decisions about increasing the minimum wage.
-------------

Of the 19 states with higher-than-federal minimum wages, six are among the top-ten for teen unemployment, while only one is among the bottom ten.  The probability this could have happened by chance is under 1%.
http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/02/i-get-empirical-on-minimum-wage.html


3687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: December 13, 2013, 09:24:22 AM
That is the thinking, end the stalemate blame game until we have new election and new congress.  And after the next election we will again have divided government - with a higher spending baseline.

It would be nice if we never again had to hear about fictitious cost savings in the out years of ten year budgets that are in place for less than two.

I am for a strong military but less money is required when the Commander in Chief is against weapons, defense systems and interventions. 
3688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Ryan-Murray deal on: December 12, 2013, 06:59:22 PM
What do we make of the Ryan-Murray budget deal?

What do we think of paying $8 trillion in ransom with no promise or expectation that we will get our country back alive or unharmed, knowing they will come back for more and more, and knowing that they know we fear them and will pay whatever any and all demands?

It's pretty good, I think.  Better than the Iran deal in that he has indicated he is willing to give up his nuclear arsenal.

What ever happened to 'the power of the purse' and having all spending bills originate in the House?  This will 'originate' in the House only after it has been approved by the powers of the Senate and White House.

3689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Economics, jobless claims up, joining the load pulled by the Plowhorse on: December 12, 2013, 01:53:36 PM
Initial Jobless Claims Rise | 12/12/13

Seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims increased 68,000 to 368,000 for the week ended Dec. 7, 22% higher than a revised figure released a week earlier.
http://www.thestreet.com/story/12153114/1/initial-jobless-claims-rise-bucking-latest-trends.html

Monday morning Wesbury will explain this.
3690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No Grounds for Claim that Obamacare Lowers Healthcare Costs on: December 12, 2013, 01:15:30 PM
A persuasive article on the healthcare cost trends:

http://www.economics21.org/commentary/no-grounds-claim-obamacare-lowers-healthcare-costs
No Grounds for Claim that Obamacare Lowers Healthcare Costs

"the public is being told that the ACA is responsible for government actuaries’ improved health spending projections, when an examination of those projections clearly shows that not to be so. "

Charles Blahous is a senior research fellow for the Mercatus Center, a research fellow for the Hoover Institution, and a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare.
3691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics at State & Municipal level: MN Estate, gift, income taxes on: December 12, 2013, 01:06:49 PM
“Every day we get calls from people about changing residency,”  And they tend to be employers!

This could go under Tax policy.  Also under Calif as the problems, post-Pawlenty here, are nearly the same with Dems controlling the state house, senate and Governor office.

http://www.startribune.com/business/234843991.html

Alarming excerpt buried in a positive, economic piece:

"This is the largest upward move in tax progressivity … since we started our tax-incidence reports in 1990.”

Many liberals and moderates like this trend. But some high-earners predict an exodus of affluent Minnesotans to Florida and other low-tax states. Especially troubling, they say, is the state’s failure to increase the amount excluded from inheritance taxes closer to the higher federal estate tax exclusion. Federal law exempts the first $5.25 million, Minnesota only the first $1 million.

Hunt Greene, a veteran Minneapolis investment banker, said: “I’m a Democrat. I can afford and tolerate paying higher income taxes. This is different. The Minnesota gift-and-estate taxes kick in at $1 million. The federal level is $5.25 million. And Minnesota is one of only a few states that have a gift tax.

“The result is that, as I talk to the big law firms about their business … their estate practices are swamped with people figuring out how to change their residences,’’ Greene said.

He’s not alone. Others predict that more wealthy Minnesotans will leave rather than subject their estates of over $1 million, or gifts made to heirs, to what can be up to a 40 percent tax that doesn’t exist in states such as Florida or Arizona.

“Every day we get calls from people about changing residency,” said Bob Abdo, a political moderate and 40-year Minneapolis business lawyer. “This pains me. I grew up and was educated here. Essentially, what we have got now is a disincentive for longtime Minnesota residents to stay in Minnesota.

“This means mom and dad … who are loyal to Minnesota because they earned a lot of money here, may now be worth more than $1 million. So, dad dies. No estate tax consequence to mom. But mom is worth $1 million, and it doesn’t take much if you add a house, your retirement accounts and a life insurance policy. Mom dies. It’s supposed to go to the kids. Any amount that goes to the kids in excess of $1 million, whether one kid or 12, will be taxed at about 40 percent for the first $250,000. The tax goes down from there.
3692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races on: December 12, 2013, 12:57:55 PM
"The Republicans are on target to win by default.  Not win with an agenda as far as I can see."

"The same was said here by some of us with regard to the 2012 presidential election."
---------------

That's right.  Thomas Sowell made a point that I took a rare disagreement with, that politics is zero-sum.  When R's screw up, Dems gain. That makes sense.  But when Dems screw up, it only opens an opportunity, and is not an automatic vote for Republicans nor does their failure alone create any new conservatives, libertarians or Republicans.  On this, Crafty has been right on the money in asking, what is our answer, what is our message, what is our policy that would replace theirs and why, how do we explain this better.  Here on the forum, we are constantly agonizing over how to do that.  In Washington it seems they are not.

In 2012, Romney spent the final stretch on defense, I'm not as bad of a guy as you think I am and that they told you that I am, he told us.  Meanwhile, unspoken and un-promoted was the fact that his economic plan would have led us out of this economic misery and that his Supreme Court appointments might have at least attempted to uphold the constitution.

In elections, you need personalities and sound bites, but during these periods in between elections it seems to me that we can take on the longer arguments as to why these philosophies and policies of theirs are misguided - and what kinds of policies will work. 

So far we are divided, confused and playing defense.


3693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics - Charles Blow on: December 12, 2013, 12:27:00 PM
"The case made here is not without eloquence:  How do we respond?"

In messaging, the more compassionate voice wins, hence Obama elected twice, a Dem Senate, etc.  in practice, the Charles Blow view loses; it makes things worse for the people they purport to help.  Easily proven in the data, see yesterday's posts.

So Rand Paul is right on policy and wrong on messaging.  Unemployment compensation prolongs unemployment.  It is a provable fact.  Food stamps create dependence.  Minimum wage hurts low end employment.  SSI requires a contract with poverty for people on the edge of the workforce.  Pointing out any of these truths inspires columns by well-publicized, liberal Blow-hards.

No one here, especially not me, has messaging figured out.  But the answer has something to do with focusing our time and message on positively painting the picture of a prosperous, opportunity society, how we can do that, and not arguing against the details of social spending programs with leftists.  When you suggest cutting food stamps, unemployment, disability you are losing votes.  Instead, move prosperity forward and move these programs down in importance.
3694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Martin Feldstein: Obamacare’s Fatal Flaw on: December 12, 2013, 12:05:10 PM
Obamacare’s Fatal Flaw
by Martin Feldstein,  Professor of Economics at Harvard University and President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research, chaired President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984.

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/martin-feldstein-on-how-america-s-health-care-reform-could-unravel#12WRmL5SgZI0xvYd.99

The potentially fatal flaw in Obamacare is the very same feature that appeals most to its supporters: the ability of even those with a serious preexisting health condition to buy insurance at the standard premium.

That feature will encourage those who are not ill to become or remain uninsured until they have a potentially costly medical diagnosis. The resulting shift in enrollment away from low-cost healthy patients to those with predictably high costs will raise insurance companies’ cost per insured person, driving up the premiums that they must charge. As premiums rise, even more relatively healthy individuals will be encouraged to forego insurance until illness strikes, causing average costs and premiums to rise further.
...
The “wait-to-insure” option could cause the number of insured individuals to decline rapidly as premiums rise for those who remain insured.

"...a better plan: eliminate the current enormously expensive tax subsidy for employer-financed insurance and use the revenue savings to subsidize everyone to buy comprehensive private insurance policies with income-related copayments. That restructuring of insurance would simultaneously protect individuals, increase labor mobility, and help to control health-care costs."
3695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Greenspan's book on: December 12, 2013, 11:54:19 AM
Alan Greenspan, who couldn't speak intelligibly, can't write either.

He was chief economist to Gerald Ford from 1974 to 1977, perhaps our most economically illiterate Republican President.  Reagan chose him to head the Fed for the independent reputation he earned being a skeptic of Reaganomics.  (Most Dems believe Reagan was senile by 1987.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/books/review/alan-greenspans-map-and-the-territory.html?smid=pl-share

"It [Greenspan's new book] suffers in trying to appeal to two audiences.  One audience is the professional economists. The book contains dozens of graphs and tables of regression analysis, together with t-statistics calculated with the appropriate Newey-West heteroskedasticity and autocorrelation consistent standard errors. (Don’t ask.)  But Greenspan is also writing for lay readers who want to hear from this famous man about how the economy works. For their sake, most of those graphs and tables are put in an appendix, where they can be safely ignored.  In trying to reach two audiences, the book does not quite reach either. Economists can learn a lot from it, but they will recognize that many of the arguments would have trouble passing scrutiny in peer-reviewed journals. "
3696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: New York state of mind for some Supreme Court justices on: December 12, 2013, 11:36:15 AM
Peoria, Iowa.   It is one thing to not know where a famous American city of 115,000 is.  But he didn't not know; he knew wrongly.  Makes one wonder what else Justice Breyer falsely believes is true. 
3697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Senate Seats That Could Flip Parties in 2014, Sean Trende, RCP on: December 12, 2013, 11:06:32 AM
The good news, if this is a real sweep year, R's could pick up 9 or 10 seats.  The bad news, in order to hold onto the Senate in 2016, R's will HAVE to pick up 9 or 10 seats this year.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/12/12/senate_seats_that_could_flip_parties_in_2014.html
Read it all, if interested.  I'll post one chart.  R's have some shot at winning up to about  'D+2' and maybe Michigan, D+4.


---------------

Robert Gibbs (former Obama spokesman) said "if these numbers hold up, it's going to be very, very tough to get around that and see somehow that Democrats retain the Senate or have a reasonable chance of winning the House"
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/12/12/gibbs_if_numbers_hold_up_its_tough_to_see_how_dems_keep_senate.html
3698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 12, 2013, 10:43:12 AM
Yes, isn't it odd that Obama's policies actually cause income inequality to get worse - as we stagnant.  It only proves that, as he tries to teach uswhat he knows, he really knows nothing about the subject. 
-------------------------

Tax rate progressivity for the last 34 years - below.  (That the executive ever paid less in taxes than his secretary in any real sense is bullsh*t.)


3699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Humor, Are they married? on: December 12, 2013, 10:34:32 AM
    How can a stranger tell if two people are married?

    You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.  - Derrick, age 8

http://dailynewsdig.com/how-do-you-decide-who-to-marry-written-by-kids/
3700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Benghazi and related matters on: December 12, 2013, 10:25:50 AM
Yes, absent an American government account, we'll go with the photo.  GM has been right on this, where is the autopsy report - it's been 15 months!  Is it secret, do we need a Warren commission?

Who ordered the stand-down? How? When? Why?

Who came up with the youtube video story?  Who said run with it? Why?

There was no protest.  A blatant lie.  There was no report at the time or in post-attack interviews of a protest.  The lies about the protest and the video were put forward at least dozens different times by the highest officials intending only to obfuscate the truth.  So what is the truth, start to finish?!  We know where George Bush was when he learned of the 9/11/2001 attacks.  They made a full length movie on it.  Where was Pres. Obama?  Where was Sec. Clinton?  We paid for the cameras that filmed the attacks.  Did they watch in real time.  Did they have second thoughts on ordering the stand down.   Two of the dead were defying stand down orders.  Did they consider court-martial when they learned this?  Was the Pres. working on his Vegas speech during the attack?  Did he go to bed while Americans were under attack?  Did he sleep well?
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