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4051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Issues American Creed (Constitutional Law): Windsor, gay marriage, DOMA on: March 12, 2013, 10:47:47 AM
The Reuters story that follows introduces the facts and issues for the current Supreme Court case on gay marriage.  This will be an interesting case to follow, perhaps a landmark decision, IMO.  Gay marriage advocates picked a perfect case to try because Ms. Windsor is missing out on a couple million of tax sheltered money because of not the preference of a heterosexual-marriage.  (When did marriage start needing a hyphen?)

It is easy for me to sympathize with both sides of this argument.  Conservatives should probably want gays to be monogamous, paired and settled for life for many of the same reasons other than procreation that we wish that for heteros.

On the other hand, what right was Ms. Windsor denied that is not also denied to a heterosexual single person?  A single heterosexual person does not have a right to either marriage (that requires consent of another person) nor a right to the estate-sheltering, tax deduction in question.

There are two logical, constitutional end-points I can see in this case (the two least likely outcomes of this Court): 1) Uphold current law by ruling that the legislative branch by definition has already set tax law and DOMA law in the way that we-the-people have determined best advances the 'general welfare' of the people.  2)  Or they could strike down all tax code preferences encouraging marriage and all other social preferences if the Court believes a government committed to equal protection can not be in the business of setting preferences or treating different people and different groups differently.  In that view, equal protection would come to mean that all income from all people and all sources must be taxed evenly.

The least logical decision (most likely) is to strike down thousands of years of language, common law and natural law that define a marriage to be when a man and a woman make a choice and a commitment to become a husband and wife often leading to also becoming a father and a mother, with gender terms intentionally specific.  Instead, carve out the politically expedient exception that two same-sex adults can become legally recognized as husband(?) and wife(?), spouse 1 and spouse 2(?), but leave in place all other discrimination in the law against all other persons and groups.

Analysis: Death, taxes and Supreme Court's gay marriage case
By Kim Dixon | Reuters

By Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, the lesbian couple at the center of a major gay rights case set to go before the Supreme Court this month, were in many ways a typical New York power couple.

Spyer was a psychologist; Windsor, a consultant at IBM. They met in a Greenwich Village restaurant in the 1960s and lived together for decades, summering at a Long Island beach house.

They waited until they were in their mid-70s to marry in Canada in 2007. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor inherited her spouse's estate, worth about $4.1 million, according to lawyers.

But because she is gay, Windsor missed out on one of the most lucrative tax breaks enjoyed by affluent Americans - the exemption from federal estate tax on wealth passed from one spouse to another.

"The biggest benefit of marriage, financially, is when you die," said Fred Slater, a New York tax accountant.

The spousal exemption to the estate tax is denied to same-sex couples because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law passed by Congress and signed by the president in 1996 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Windsor is challenging DOMA in a case the nine-member high court will hear on March 27. At its core, Windsor's fight is with the Internal Revenue Service over how much federal tax she owes on Spyer's estate.

She seeks the return of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes she would not have had to pay if she and Spyer had been of opposite sexes. Her challenge asks whether married gays should be able to claim the same exemption as married heterosexuals do.

The Supreme Court ruling is likely to affect estate taxes paid by only the most affluent of gays. But at stake is a bigger question: Are married gay couples entitled to the same federal tax and other benefits as married heterosexuals?

A ruling is expected by the end of June.

More broadly, however, if the court strikes down DOMA, married gay couples would likely be able to file their income tax returns jointly in states that allow gay marriage - a prospect with ramifications as complex as the tax code itself.


In bringing her case to the Supreme Court, Windsor argues that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. DOMA backers say the law is valid.

Of the 50 states, 31 have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. It is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C.

The remaining states' policies vary, with some recognizing marriage from other states, some providing some of the legal benefits of marriage and others denying marriage by state laws, but not constitutional amendments.

The Obama administration said in 2011 that it viewed DOMA as a violation of the U.S. Constitution and said it would no longer defend it in court. A group appointed by the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has asked the justices to uphold DOMA.

When Spyer died, the general estate tax exemption was $3.5 million. So Windsor inherited that amount from Spyer tax-free, including gifts received during Spyer's lifetime.

But because they were a lesbian couple, under the DOMA law Windsor could not take advantage of the spousal exemption, which says that a spouse may inherit any amount tax-free from a deceased spouse.

So Windsor was charged $363,000 in estate tax by the federal tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service. She paid her IRS bill but then sued, seeking a refund. She won in district court and in a federal appeals courts, but her case gradually took on increased prominence and eventually made its way to the Supreme Court.

The Williams Institute, a University of California-Los Angeles think tank that studies sexual orientation, estimates that if DOMA is overturned, only about 50 same-sex couples would qualify for the spousal exemption each year.

The institute based its estimate on figures from the U.S. Census and the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a think tank.


But if Windsor wins her case, there would also be changes ahead in income tax filing and other benefits for some 130,000 same-sex married couples, as estimated by the Census Bureau.

A post-DOMA landscape would expose married gays to some of the same problems faced by married opposite-sex couples.

For instance, tax bracket and tax credit variations for singles versus married couples might mean wealthier couples and the working poor could face a "marriage penalty," while middle-income couples with one breadwinner could get a tax break.

"Equality is not always a net fiscal positive" for couples, said Brian Moulton, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for gay rights.

The maximum amount free of tax, whether for a spouse or not, has risen since Spyer died in 2009, and is now $5.25 million. As a result, most estates are passed on tax-free.

Only 3,600 estates were subject to estate tax in 2012, according to government figures, while the richest 10 percent of Americans paid almost all of the estate tax collected, said the Tax Policy Center.
4052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Budget process, Paul Ryan: Republican budget assumes repeal of Obamacare on: March 11, 2013, 03:11:56 PM

Paul Ryan: Republican budget assumes repeal of Obamacare

Chris Wallace: Well, that's not going to happen.

Doug: Who originates appropriations bills for fiscal year 2014, the Pelosi-Reid congress of 2009?

4053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rice as NSA? on: March 11, 2013, 03:00:55 PM
National Security Adviser does not require senate confirmation.  Who knew that advise and consent was such a bad thing in some cases, could expose character flaws - like lying.  We need nothing but honest people in these positions - like Sandy 'boxers' Berger.  He described the episode as "an honest mistake." Oops, "It was not inadvertent."  Lies and smear, said Media Matters, prior to Berger's confession and plea bargain.

Susan Rice (in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack) will fit in fine with the likes of James Clapper (Muslim Brotherhood is largely secular), Jack Lew (can’t pass a budget without 60 votes) and John (cut-off-their-ears) Kerry to work with the President who promised unemployment would be down to 5% by 2013 if we pass his stimulus. 

Unless the world ends now, we don't know who has the last laugh.
4054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics: More Are Quitting the Workforce Than Getting Jobs on: March 11, 2013, 12:27:55 PM
Investors Business Daily / Bureau of Labor Statistics:

More Are Quitting the Workforce Than Getting Jobs

While the country gained 236,000 jobs, the ranks of those not in the labor force — people who don't have a job and stopped looking — swelled by 296,000.

Looked at another way, just 58.6% of Americans work today, down from 60.6% when Obama took office. The average over the previous two decades was 63%.

4055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, Worst recovery since 1948 on: March 11, 2013, 12:19:38 PM
This recovery compares poorly with all previous ones since 1948.  Why?

More detailed graph with lines labeled:
4056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Dow on Gold and Silver terms on: March 11, 2013, 12:15:08 PM
What part of the DOW's rise is just the dollar devaluing, all of it and then some?   Wesbury at First Trust and other securities companies like to look back at rising periods of the DOW.  Let's look back further and compare blue chip stocks with gold and silver instead of money:

The Dow on Gold's terms:    (

    During January 2000 gold traded at an average price of $284.32
    January 2000 the Dow was 10,900
    10,900/$284.32 per ounce = 38.33 gold ounces to buy the Dow

Today [Mar 09, 2013] gold is trading at $1570.90 while the Dow Jones (DJIA) continues to break records, up another 30 points as I write to 14,284.

14,284/1570.90 = 9.09 ozs of gold to buy the Dow today.

38.33/9.09 = 4.2
(Doug) If you bought gold instead of Dow Jones stocks at the start of year 2000, you could keep 3/4 of your gold and buy the same quantity of the same stocks today with just 1/4 of your gold.
The Dow on Silver's terms:

    During January 2000 silver averaged $4.95 oz
    January 2000 the Dow was 10,900
    10,900/$4.95 per ounce = 2202 silver ounces to buy the Dow

Today silver is trading at $28.62, the Dow is 14,284.

14,284/28.62 = 499 ozs silver to buy the Dow.

2202/499 = 4.4
(Doug) If you bought silver instead of the Dow at the start of year 2000, you could keep 3/4 of your silver and buy the same stocks today with just 1/4 of your silver.

One moral of the story is that hindsight conclusions are highly dependent on the timeframe and measuring stick selected.
4057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: March 11, 2013, 11:40:34 AM
Looks like Capriles is off to good start.  No pressure, but what Venezuela does in the next 30 days may determine their future for the rest of our lifetimes.
4058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Detroit mayor found guilty on: March 11, 2013, 11:37:44 AM
Shocking.  Detroit ex-Mayor found guilty of corruption.

Wonder if the Pravda's will fit party affiliation into the headline.  
4059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of the left - Bill Clinton on gay marriage on: March 09, 2013, 06:11:20 PM
Bill Clinton now argues that DOMA, the defense of marriage act, that he signed is unconstitutional.

Like minimum wage laws killing off jobs, what is good and bad policy, what is right and wrong, and what is constitutional and unconstitutional if you are a lefty is largely determined by the latest public opinion poll.

Was he sworn to uphold the constitution?  Did gays change, did the constitution change?  Is it too late to impeach him?

4060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Libertarian Issues - Is THIS what we had in mind with drug legalization? on: March 09, 2013, 06:06:27 PM
(Is THIS what we had in mind with drug legalization?)

Drug Testing Company Sees Spike In Children Using Marijuana
March 6, 2013 11:53 PM
Share on email 488
(credit: CBS)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – A drug testing company says it’s seeing a big spike in children using marijuana following the passage of Amendment 64.

...It’s not just more students, but it appears they’re using pot more often. ... “In high school it has kind of gotten out of hand,” student Alaina Tanenbaum said.

Experts say the test results show that children are getting higher than ever with alarming levels of THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, in their bodies.  “A typical kid (is) between 50 and 100 nanograms. Now were seeing these up in the over 500, 700, 800, climbing,”  (More at link)
4061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Allan Savory - How to green the world's deserts, reverse desertification on: March 09, 2013, 05:54:16 PM
This 22 minute talk comes touted by Anthony Watts this week as "one of the most important posts ever" on Watts up with that, one of the top environmental sites on the internet.

Ecologist Allan Savory shows how to solve with low technology and relatively low cost the climate change problem that is perhaps worse than all fossil fuel use, the turning of the world's grasslands into deserts.
4062  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN review on: March 09, 2013, 12:29:07 PM
If true, I also find the post helpful.  I did not know one ACORN office had already called the police. It would be nice if they added to the report the timing of that and the actual police report if it is public information.  There were many ACORN offices approached in that film, did they all call the police?

That film was beyond bizarre. Entertaining perhaps, but not among the original allegations levied against ACORN.

If Fox misses this update after playing up the original story then shame on them.  Mark it against them on their career scorecard.  The other main conduits are missing much bigger stories every day IMHO.  I resent having to go to right wing sources for basic facts and I appreciate when Bigdog or anyone else helps set the record straight.  It does not advance a partisan political agenda to be repeating a falsehood, (unless you are liberal).

Going back a step on ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now was founded in 1970.

1) My first allegation against ACORN is strictly political.  They are highly funded, highly organized, EXTREMELY left wing and highly effective at getting their message out in urban areas to people vulnerable to that message.  They were so highly targeted that they operated under the radar of nearly everyone not running in those circles.  I was shocked to discover them in my inner city operations and how far off of mainstream they really were.  So far so good, there is nothing wrong with being left wing, extreme, political, organized and effective.  As a matter of politics I think people who favor economic freedom ought to be aware of the operations of these extreme groups in order to expose their extreme views and counter them politically with a more hopeful message than shaking down others for money.  Jump forward to the Obama reelection campaign of 2012 and remove the tarnished name ACORN, these organizations perhaps delivered the political victory more than almost any other factor.

One of their their main political and legal causes was to cause more housing resources to go to people who could not afford them, a big factor leading to the collapse in housing, banking, employment and the economic prospects for the people they purport to help.  Here is a video, not of ACORN, but of their view represented at the highest levels, then Sec. of Housing (HUD) a youthful Andrew Cuomo in 1998 admitting these federally backed housing loans would not be made on creditworthiness criteria and yes "there will be a higher risk and I'm sure there will be a higher default rate...":

2) ACORN merged its extreme left wing political activities with community do-gooding.  Nothing wrong in concept with that.  A non-profit operating to help a community in need ought to be able to have a political voice too, like businesses and unions should.  IRS questions come up because they are subsidized by the taxpayers in the form of tax deductible donations for different purposes.  Are they political, are they charity, does it matter?

3) ACORN mixing political activism with charitable work receives direct taxpayer support - big time.  To this, I object.  We shouldn't have taxpayer money supporting a political message.  They were funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, almost unmeasurable, and they were funded in different names after congress voted to revoke their funding.  Because they know their political operations shouldn't be taxpayer funded, they built the FIREWALL.

4) A FIREWALL that separates all charitable work from all political activities, if you believe that!  I watched the head of ACORN tell us on the PBS News Hour, posted somewhere in this thread, that taxpayer money cannot bleed over into political operations because of the FIREWALL.  I will offer a reward for an authentic photograph of the firewall or information that would lead to the discovery of its exact location.  I believe it may sit right next to the social security lockbox - or in the safety deposit box area of Gringotts.

5) And then we have the criminal, electoral corruption of ACORN, enough to have put this operation in the category of an organized crime ring IMO, also documented in this thread.

October 14, 2008    ACORN Voter Fraud Guide

...a national community organizing group is being investigated in at least 14 states and several swing states for massive irregularities. This news would make headlines anyway, but what made it worse was that Barack Obama was a key player in this organization, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, in the past. Obama trained its local leaders, represented the organization in court, and worked to funnel funds to the organization. The Obama campaign also donated $800,000 this year to an ACORN affiliate.

What is ACORN?

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is a community-based organization that advocates for low and moderate income families founded in 1970 by Wade Rathke and Gary Delgado. Rathke, one of the most powerful hard-Left activists in America, is a former member of a radical 1960s group, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The Weathermen terrorist group split off from the SDS in 1969. ACORN says its priorities include better housing and wages for the poor, more community development investment from banks and governments, and better public schools.

ACORN is also known for its voter registration efforts.  This year alone (2008) ACORN has registered 1,315,037 voters.

Although the organization prides itself for its registration efforts, it also has a long history of scandal. In the state of Missouri in 1986, 12 ACORN members were convicted of voter fraud. But that case was not an isolated incident in the state. In December 2004, in St. Louis, six volunteers pleaded guilty of dozens of election law violations for filling out registration cards with names of dead people and other bogus information. Authorities launched an earlier investigation after noticing that among the new voters was longtime St. Louis alderman Albert “Red” Villa, who died in 1990. The volunteers worked for “Operation Big Vote” — a branch of ACORN — in St. Louis.

On February 10, 2005, Nonaresa Montgomery, a paid worker who ran Operation Big Vote during the run-up to the 2001 mayoral primary, was found guilty of vote fraud. Montgomery hired about 30 workers to do fraudulent voter-registration canvassing. Instead of knocking on doors, the volunteers sat at a St. Louis fast food restaurant and wrote out names and information from an outdated voter list. About 1,500 fraudulent voter registration cards were turned in.

In October 2006, St. Louis election officials discovered at least 1,492 “potentially fraudulent” voter registration cards. They were all turned in by ACORN volunteers.

In November 2006, 20,000 to 35,000 questionable voter registration forms were turned in by ACORN officials in Missouri. Most all of these were from St. Louis and Kansas City areas, where ACORN purportedly sought to help empower the “disenfranchised” minorities living there. But the ACORN workers weren’t just told to register new voters. The workers admitted on camera that they were coached to tell registrants to vote for Democrat Claire McCaskill.

In 2007, in Kansas City, Missouri, four ACORN employees were indicted for fraud. In April of this year eight ACORN employees in St. Louis city and county pleaded guilty to federal election fraud for submitting bogus voter registrations.

And, that was just Missouri.

This year there have been several accusations of fraud against ACORN. Over a dozen states are investigating the organization already. Here is a complete list of the ongoing investigations:

North Carolina — State Board of Elections officials have found at least 100 voter registration forms with the same names over and over again. The forms were turned in by ACORN. Officials sent about 30 applications to the state Board of Elections for possible fraud investigation.

Ohio — The New York Post reported that a Cleveland man said he was given cash and cigarettes by aggressive ACORN activists in exchange for registering an astonishing 72 times. The complaints have sparked an investigation by election officials into the organization, whose political wing has supported Barack Obama. Witnesses have already been subpoenaed to testify against the organization.

Nevada — Authorities raided the headquarters of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now on Tuesday October 7, 2008, after a month-long investigation. The fraudulent voter registrations included the Dallas Cowboys starting line-up.

Indiana — More than 2,000 voter registration forms filed in northern Indiana’s Lake County filled out by ACORN employees turned out to be bogus. Officials also stopped processing a stack of about 5,000 applications delivered just before the October 6 registration deadline after the first 2,100 turned out to be phony.

Connecticut — Officials are looking into a complaint alleging ACORN submitted fraudulent voter registration cards in Bridgeport. In one instance, an official said a card was filled out for a 7-year-old girl, whose age was listed as 27. 8,000 cards were submitted in Bridgeport.

Missouri — The Kansas City election board is reporting 100 duplicate applications and 280 with fake information. Acorn officials agreed that at least 4% of their registrations were bogus. Governor Matt Blunt condemned the attempts by ACORN to commit voter fraud.

Pennsylvania — Officials are investigating suspicious or incomplete registration forms submitted by ACORN. 252,595 voter registrations were submitted in Philadelphia. Remarkably, 57,435 were rejected — most of them submitted by ACORN.

Wisconsin — In Milwaukee ACORN improperly used felons as registration workers. Additionally, its workers are among 49 cases of bad registrations sent to authorities for possible charges, as first reported by the Journal Sentinel.

Florida — The Pinellas County Elections supervisor says his office has received around 35 voter registrations that appear to be bogus. There is also a question of 30,000 felons who are registered illegally to vote. Their connections with ACORN are not yet clear.

Texas — Of the 30,000 registration cards ACORN turned in, Harris County tax assessor Paul Bettencourt says just more than 20,000 are valid. And just look at some of the places ACORN was finding those voters. A church just next door is the address for around 150 people. More than 250 people claim a homeless outreach center as their home address. Some listed a county mental health facility as their home and one person even wrote down the Harris County jail at the sheriff’s office.

Michigan — ACORN in Detroit is being investigated after several municipal clerks reported fraudulent and duplicate voter registration applications coming through. The clerk interviewed said the fraud appears to be widespread.

New Mexico – The Bernalillo County clerk has notified prosecutors that some 1,100 fraudulent voter registration cards were turned in by ACORN.

Other links:

Give CNN credit for this excellent piece:
4063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newsweek - Woodward wasn't that great of a journalist in the first place on: March 08, 2013, 02:13:04 PM
Who could have seen this coming?!

Would Woodward's entire career be under critical scrutiny if not for his perceived attack on the administration?

From Newsweek
The Myth of Bob Woodward: Why Is This Man an American Icon?

“Some of their writing is not true,” ... “They’re wrong often on detail”
"If there was any doubt that Bob Woodward’s ego is out of control, inviting the president to his house should put those doubts to rest.".

4 internet pages about problems with Woodward's previous work.  He was really a hack, one might take from this.
4064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Economics - Dr. Thomas Sowell on Income Mobility on: March 08, 2013, 01:51:52 PM
Economists, media and politicians often dwell on quintiles and percentiles of earners without noting that the people who make up these groups changes everyday, every year and every decade.  We hear that the rich this... and the top 1% that... but bogus stats lead to wrong conclusions because they do not adjust or account for the movement of the people between the groups.  If you follow the people, the conclusion is the opposite of just following the brackets. 

Economic Mobility

By Thomas Sowell - March 5, 2013


"Most working Americans who were initially in the bottom 20 percent of income-earners, rise out of that bottom 20 percent. More of them end up in the top 20 percent than remain in the bottom 20 percent.

People who were initially in the bottom 20 percent in income have had the highest rate of increase in their incomes, while those who were initially in the top 20 percent have had the lowest. This is the direct opposite of the pattern found when following income brackets over time, rather than following individual people.

Most of the media publicize what is happening to the statistical brackets -- especially that "top one percent" -- rather than what is happening to individual people.

Read more:

4065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 08, 2013, 01:36:41 PM
Going back in the thread:

"Let the president have the authority."  - CK

Said in regard to the president being able to pass money from one government entity to another, basically overriding any congressional oversight that existed in regards to budgets that had been passed, all in an effort to grant Obama the ability to funnel funds to keep whatever agencies that Obama deems "important," up and operating.


I think, in that proposal, the idea is that the administration can move money within a department to its greatest need, not say move defense money to food stamps etc.  It wouldn't end oversight; they would haul in the cabinet secretaries to testify as to where money is being spent and why.  It would weaken the argument that the appropriating branch was starving the elderly, when it turns out the administration was spending the money on bureaucrats. 

Allotting money and then holding people accountable sounds like private sector management.  I share the concern that they should not be giving up their constitutional responsibility. 
4066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Rants & interesting thought pieces: Jack Kemp - The Wagon on: March 08, 2013, 12:28:03 PM
Jack Kemp in 1979:  "You need both groups, both parties. The Democrats are the party of redistribution. The Republicans must be the part of growth."

In 1979, all of Washington was run by Democrats.

Correcting and sourcing a great analogy that I botched in recent posts.

"Think about a wagon. It is a simple but forceful way of visualizing an important aspect of government. The wagon is loaded here. It's unloaded over there. The folks who are loading it are Republicans. The folks who are unloading it are Democrats. You need both groups, both parties. The Democrats are the party of redistribution. The Republicans must be the part of growth. It is useless to argue, as some libertarians do, that we do not need redistribution at all. The people, as a people, rightly insist that the whole look after the weakest of its members."

Jack Kemp's 1979 book, “An American Renaissance.”

I told this story at a gathering in a friend's living room after listening to a young woman, daughter of Kieth Ellison's predecessor and a Lt. Governor candidate in her own right, tell us that the difference between the parties was that Democrats care about others while Republicans care only about themselves.  She heard that we need both parties and gasped, "I've never heard that before!"
4067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Arthur Brooks: The Road to Freedom on: March 08, 2013, 12:00:34 PM
Democrat policies doubled minority unemployment, collapsed wealth and did nothing to alleviate our heavily-demagogued income inequality. 

"Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular."

Yet Republicans haven't yet put a convincing answer on why prosperity-based policies are better for everyone.  Minorities keep choosing failure based policies in the face of these facts.  Brooks is Pres. of AEI.  I think he identifies a key messaging problem.  I'm not sure if he spells out the solution.  Maybe you have to buy the book for that...

Republicans and Their Faulty Moral Arithmetic
Conservative values and money issues are worth less than concern for the poor.


In the waning days of the 1992 presidential campaign, President George H.W. Bush trailed Bill Clinton in the polls. The conventional wisdom was that Mr. Bush seemed too aloof from voters struggling economically. At a rally in New Hampshire, the exhausted president started what was probably the fourth campaign speech of the day by reading aloud what may have been handed to him as a stage direction: "Message: I care."

How little things have changed for Republicans in 20 years. There is only one statistic needed to explain the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. An April poll—which mirrored every other poll on the subject—found that only 33% of Americans said that Mitt Romney "cares about people like me." Only 38% said he cared about the poor.

Conservatives rightly complain that this perception was inflamed by President Obama's class-warfare campaign theme. But perception is political reality, and over the decades many Americans have become convinced that conservatives care only about the rich and powerful.

Perhaps it doesn't matter. If Republicans and conservatives double down on the promotion of economic growth, job creation and traditional values, Americans might turn away from softheaded concerns about "caring." Right?

Wrong. As New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has shown in his research on 132,000 Americans, care for the vulnerable is a universal moral concern in the U.S. In his best-selling 2012 book "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion," Mr. Haidt demonstrated that citizens across the political spectrum place a great importance on taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak. By contrast, moral values such as sexual purity and respect for authority—to which conservative politicians often give greater emphasis—resonate deeply with only a minority of the population. Raw money arguments, e.g., about the dire effects of the country's growing entitlement spending, don't register morally at all.

Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.

The irony is maddening. America's poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.

Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.

The left talks a big game about helping the bottom half, but its policies are gradually ruining the economy, which will have catastrophic results once the safety net is no longer affordable. Labyrinthine regulations, punitive taxation and wage distortions destroy the ability to create private-sector jobs. Opportunities for Americans on the bottom to better their station in life are being erased.

Some say the solution for conservatives is either to redouble the attacks on big government per se, or give up and try to build a better welfare state. Neither path is correct. Raging against government debt and tax rates that most Americans don't pay gets conservatives nowhere, and it will always be an exercise in futility to compete with liberals on government spending and transfers.

Instead, the answer is to make improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative policies. For example, the core problem with out-of-control entitlements is not that they are costly—it is that the impending insolvency of Social Security and Medicare imperils the social safety net for the neediest citizens. Education innovation and school choice are not needed to fight rapacious unions and bureaucrats—too often the most prominent focus of conservative education concerns—but because poor children and their parents deserve better schools.

Defending a healthy culture of family, community and work does not mean imposing an alien "bourgeois" morality on others. It is to recognize what people need to be happy and successful—and what is most missing today in the lives of too many poor people.

By making the vulnerable a primary focus, conservatives will be better able to confront some common blind spots. Corporate cronyism should be decried as every bit as noxious as statism, because it unfairly rewards the powerful and well-connected at the expense of ordinary citizens. Entrepreneurship should not to be extolled as a path to accumulating wealth but as a celebration of everyday men and women who want to build their own lives, whether they start a business and make a lot of money or not. And conservatives should instinctively welcome the immigrants who want to earn their success in America.

With this moral touchstone, conservative leaders will be able to stand before Americans who are struggling and feel marginalized and say, "We will fight for you and your family, whether you vote for us or not"—and truly mean it. In the end that approach will win. But more important, it is the right thing to do.

Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of "The Road to Freedom" (2012).
4068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Senate Budget coming due to Committee changes? on: March 08, 2013, 11:46:57 AM
Interesting observation by Stephen Moore that the reason the Senate has not passed a budget in 4 years in violation of their own law is because the Senate Budget committee was run by Kent Conrad, a moderate Dem from a liberty state (we don't use re-blue designations) who was spending hawk more than a tax raiser.

With Patty Murray in charge now, expect a budget and expect trillions in tax increases coming out of the Dem Senate.  Only 51 votes is required to pass a Senate budget, contrary to what Jack Liar Lew recently said.
4069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Former Dem Senator citicizes current Dem policies on: March 08, 2013, 11:32:27 AM
Famous people reading the forum, we already touched on this:

Former Dem Senator criticizing current Dem policies and threats!

Natural Gas Exports and the Mythical 'Sweet Spot'
Congressional meddling so warped the market in 1977 that an emergency law was needed to undo the harm.
By J. BENNETT JOHNSTON (former Democratic senator from Louisiana, was chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources from 1986-94.)

"Which brings us back to today's calls for top-down control of the LNG market. Does anyone really think that Congress or the Department of Energy, years in advance, can predict supply and demand or determine which of the 16 applicants can procure the billions of dollars and decades-long contracts necessary to build an LNG export facility?"

"The free market might not always lead to everyone's definition of the sweet spot, but experience has shown that it is a better allocator and regulator than bureaucrats and politicians. We should heed the admonition of Adam Smith that demand begets supply: Allow the free market to allocate the nation's newfound energy bounty."
Which party would he join now?
4070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Government regulations: "New NYC regulations change what we can serve you" on: March 08, 2013, 11:20:53 AM
I don't dine at Dunkin Donuts nor care what they choose to serve.  What I care about is their freedom to make those decisions.  Actual sign explaining new regs:
(image too large to post)

Because of new laws, you will have to add your own sugar and you will have to add your own flavor with different rules for different sizes depending on whether your beverage is hot or cold.  Understand?  No one does.

Artificial sweeteners just found to be dangerous in the latest research are not regulated.  Yet.

Good f-ing grief.  Do they think health nuts go into these places?  After cigarettes, we joked about what is next.  The old joke of ordering 6 glazed doughnuts and Diet Coke has become the law.

They can prohibit from buying a toilet large enough to flush but allow you to have a 500 gallon hot tub.  Prohibit sugar in drinks but not in donuts.  Ban Mercury emissions from coal, then require it in light bulbs.  Ban 100w incandescent bulbs but allow unlimited use of specialty bulbs.  Stop the hitting in Football while subsidizing the stadiums where people love that.   Eliminate headers in soccer but allow martial arts. 

Don't joke about what they will regulate next.
4071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Defense spending on: March 08, 2013, 10:50:55 AM
The wars and national defense did not cause our trillion dollar deficits or the 16.5 trillion dollar debt, but measured in tenths of trillions, cutbacks and wars winding down are at least a little help in curbing spending growth:

Government defense expenditures dropped by a staggering 22.2 percent annual pace between October and December. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Pentagon spent significantly less on just about everything except military pay.

4072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the Republicans on: March 08, 2013, 10:35:02 AM
Mitch McConnell joined in with Rand.  Reince Preibus (sp?) head of RNC says he started the stand with rand tweating.  All the big shows, Beck, Rush, Hannity had Rand on.  Karl Rove on the defensive has celebrated the tea party victories, just not the losses.  McCain and Graham are not party establishment - they made careers out of bucking the party, not joining it.  I'm not sure there is a 'pub' establishment anymore.  If there is it is run by Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and now Ted Cruz.  Very fluid situation. More accurately it is run from the ground up represented by some these people and others.
4073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 08, 2013, 10:07:27 AM
"GDP would have to have grown even more massively, right?"

Not so much.

"real median household incomes declined 1.5% in 2011"

Here is Wesbury predicting 4% GDP growth in July 2009.  (I wonder what G M predicted...)

16 Jul 2009 09:10 AM
Investors can expect to see a 4 percent growth in gross domestic product, say Brian Wesbury and Robert Stein."When we tell people this forecast, we often get looks as if we are out of our minds, and those are just the polite responses," they told Forbes Magazine...  "Adding up all these factors leaves us with an average expected real GDP growth rate of 4.2 percent. We get there with what we think are very conservative estimates on consumption and business investment,’’ they say.

Here is Investor's Business Daily reporting actual growth for that period, 4 years later, at 0.8%:

"0.8% growth over his entire first term."  "Worst in modern history."  "It was barely a quarter of the tally achieved under President Carter."

The equities market went up because:
1) QE dollar injection
2) Zero interest rates due to Fed interventions and injections removed all other investment choices, savings, bonds, etc.
3) economic growth elsewhere
4) and yes, the US economy trudged forward, did not collapse

What would 'the market' be at today had the Fed not bought 70% of our debt, had interest rates been at market levels, rising until enough capital went to buy Treasury bonds to pay for our massively deficit spending?

Wesbury was called out by PP for some housing numbers but generally he is as accurate a source as is available for these commonly quoted measures.  The measures themselves have many inaccuracies but that is another matter.

Actual numbers, best that I can find:

Federal Spending in Trillions
 2.7         3.0       3.5        3.5       3.6       3.5
FY2007 FY2008  FY2009  FY2010  FY2011  FY 2012

GDP in Trillions:
14.0       14.3      14.0      14.5      15.1      15.7

Spending % of GDP:
19.3%   21.0%   25.0%   24.1%   23.8%   22.3%

The big jump in spending was at the end of 2008, mostly in fiscal year 2009, partly under Bush in the transition and partly under Obama, all under a Dem congress. The big growth of spending from the Pelosi-Reid congress beyond the alleged stimuli was mostly Obamacare beginning in 2014, not shown in these numbers. Spending growth stopped in the Boehner-McConnell budget fights with Obama.  (Did Crafty know that? smiley ) The growth in GDP is at slow plowhorse speed, artificially propped up by QE at the Fed, authorized by the 'dual mission' legislation of Humphrey-Hawkins of 1978.

The real point I see in these numbers is this - do we realize how quickly we could have grown out of this mess with pro-growth policies?  As Wesbury recognized in 2009 real growth in GDP of 4% was certainly possible.  Run these percentages with those GDP growth numbers!

It is a strange political irony that pro-growth Republican policies will finance far more goodies and freebies for the dependent class constituencies than the economically stagnant, class warfare policies of the Dems.
Numbers above from different sources below.  Fiscal years and calendar years don't match up.  Use with caution.
4074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cyberwar and American Freedom on: March 07, 2013, 10:05:47 AM
Philosophical question:  Which is a greater danger-- thousands of independent hackers or the government tracking everything you read, write, and say?

4075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress- Ted Cruz questioning Eric Holder in committee on: March 07, 2013, 09:55:28 AM
Cruz is killing this.  cool

Watch this to the end.  The last question is on Fast and Furious and Executive Privilege.
4076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: March 06, 2013, 04:21:48 PM
"Every lefty I talk to rejects the 100.00 an hour minimum, but can't explain why or give me what a "living wage" should be."

That's right.  If they tell you why 100/hr is absurd to pay for unskilled labor of limited value then they would also be telling you why $9 is also absurd to pay someone producing less than that.

Minimum wage, to belabor the point, is what you pay someone before they develop significant productive skills of value to the organization.  Should a person with no experience, knowledge or skills be paid on the first day enough to support a family of four comfortably?  Not in the real world.

Livable wage today in America is near zero.  People almost do not have to work to support a family of four and still risk obesity with the excesses.

What livable wage implies is the level of income would you need to earn in order to require no assistance from the government and live acceptably.  In America today, that might be reaching the 51st percentile of income or more, roughly 50,000 per household, not per person. 

Should we require all people to be paid above average income??  Only in Lake Wobegon are all the people above average.

The government should focus on getting government sector pay and benefits up or down to market levels.
4077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs: Minimum Wage on: March 06, 2013, 01:18:13 PM
"Whether support for minimum wages is motivated by good or by evil, its effect is to cut off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder for the most disadvantaged worker and lower the cost of discrimination."

Walter Williams and Obj have this right.  The media judges our minimum wage argument by how it polls, not how it cuts off employment.

GM: "I think we need to raise the minimum wage to 100.00 an hour, so everyone can be rich!"

It would be interesting to see a big government liberal try to explain why a 100/hr minimum would not be a good idea.  'Well if you set it too high no one would hire the less skilled workers...'  Yes, that's right.

It comes down to who owns the discussion.  If the question is minimum wage at 6 or 7 versus 9 or 10, why not choose higher?  If the question was to let people work versus leaving 20 or 25 million black or minority youth out of the workforce, maybe fewer locked out of the productive workforce would be better.  The question isn't how much pay but how should we value work.  Should we value it in a free and open marketplace or have Soviet style central planners take care of it? 

The real way wages and prosperity rise is to allow more businesses with more money compete to make the very most productive use of a limited supply of labor.  Instead we discourage that. We are blocking out with all means available the formation of new businesses and the expansions of existing ones that would otherwise drive up the demand for labor.
4078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 06, 2013, 12:45:17 PM
Crafty makes great points and poses tough questions.

For starters one might ask before getting irrationally exuberant, what part of GDP growth at 1%/yr is propped up by $4T? of dollar expansion that cannot continue indefinitely?

On allegedly absent inflation, I would warn there is an important distinction between inflation, the dilution of our dollar, and the price increases that tend to follow.  The delay of spiraling price increases is due in my view to the continuing weakness of demand, the sputtering velocity of money.  That continues to work only as long as policies and circumstances keep the economy relatively stagnant.  So far, so good.  (

GM wrote: "As far as those number Wesbury cites, what's the source? I can't imagine how they could be true with record levels of federal spending going on."

Look back to fiscal year 2007 when the budget was most recently closest to balanced (deficit=160B).  Spending was below 20% of GDP while tax receipts had just grown 44% in 4 years following the tax rate cuts being fully implemented in 2003.  Enter the election the Dem majorities of Pelosi-Reid-Obama-Biden-Hillary-Ellison et al promising to move us off that path.  Employment growth ended.   Investors and employers got scared.  Overpriced, overvalued homes started to become unaffordable.  Failingmortgages failing brought down financial markets.

Spending went from 2.7T in FY2007 to 3.8T in FY2012 and 2013, a 40% increase in 5 years.  

Now we have effectively a zero increase in spending, but only after making all that temporary-emergency spending permanent while retreating from two wars and having budget restraint fights every few months.  With spending at a plateau and perhaps 1% consistent real growth in GDP, spending as a % of GDP ticks down a point at a time to still above 22% of the economy just before the BIG new programs kick in.  

Crafty wrote:  "What happens if this trend continues for another two years or so and we are down to the promised land of fed spending 20% of GDP and the deficit and rather reasonable 3% and armageddon has not hit yet?   IMHO we need to reflect upon this."

How can this trend continue?  Repeal Obamacare or believe it won't cost much?  Expect GDP growth to shoot up in the face of new taxes and regulations?

Last time the budget was balanced, spending was at 18.2% of GDP, not 23.3% where we are right now (according to the tables) or the 20% historical average that includes all the big deficit years.  Revenues are still only coming in at 17.8%.   That tells me spending is still 30% higher we can afford just before the world's largest entitlement takes effect.  

These facts may make others optimistic, but not me.
4079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cog. Diss. of His Glibness, Wash Post: Four Pinocchios for WH Janitors' pay cut on: March 06, 2013, 10:49:58 AM
We originally thought this was maybe a Two Pinocchio rating, but in light of the AOC memo and the confirmation that security guards will not face a pay cut, nothing in Obama’s statement came close to being correct.

4080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big Brother(State and Corporate): Web-connected cars bring privacy concerns on: March 06, 2013, 10:31:25 AM
Web-connected cars bring privacy concerns
More than 60 percent of vehicles worldwide will be connected directly to the Internet by 2017, up from 11 percent last year, predicts ABI Research. In North America and Europe, that percentage is likely to reach 80 percent.

Many cars already record their speed, direction and gear setting, as well as when brakes activate and for how long. Newer systems also can track whether road surfaces are slick or whether the driver is wearing a seat belt — information potentially valuable to police and insurance companies investigating crashes. (Some car insurance companies already monitor driving behavior in exchange for discounted rates.)
One of the prototype vehicles on display here, a dark blue Cadillac ATS sedan, was outfitted with OnStar, streaming video, music apps and cameras aimed at both the interior and exterior of the car. In demonstrations, one of the car’s interior cameras took short video clips of occupants that were incorporated in animated sequences broadcast on the dashboard video screen.

Stefan Cross, an executive with public relations firm Weber Shandwick, which was assisting in GM’s announcement of the new technology, said one possible feature would alert owners by text message if their car is bumped or hit. Owners might then be able to activate the exterior cameras remotely for immediate visual reconnaissance.

“It allows somebody to stay connected to your car even if you’re not in it,” he said.

Cross said GM would protect the privacy of its customers, even as the volume of data increases. “We have that data. We’re just not prepared to release it to third parties.”

Yet experts say that in the absence of strong national privacy laws, valuable data often leaks out. Any information produced by a vehicle and transmitted over the Internet ends up on servers, making it a potential target for authorities, lawyers engaged in court cases or hackers.
4081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 06, 2013, 10:15:58 AM
Health care merging with cognitive dissonance of the left:  Who knew that the big advances in health care would be coming from the IRS.  Rest assured their life-saving work will continue uninterrupted by the sequester.
4082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science - Snow postpones global warming hearing on: March 06, 2013, 09:52:20 AM
Snow postpones global warming hearing

3/6/13 6:13 AM EST

A House Science Committee hearing on global warming won't go on after all — the committee's environmental subpanel has just announced that it's postponing this morning's session on climate change "due to weather."
4083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: March 05, 2013, 10:54:49 AM
"An increase of 1.0 to 1.5 is a 50% increase yet the same .5 increase from 3.0 to 3.5 is a 16.67% increase."

I believe the left side of the graph is spending in trillions, since close to zero in 1913.  Adjusted for inflation, but otherwise I think it is not manipulated.  Please take a look again.  You are correct on the way percentages can be used in different ways, like when Wesbury says something is up 1% three years in a row from a horribly depressed level instead of saying it is still down 30% from 5 years ago.

"The Fed thinks short rates will eventually go to a 4% average while long-term rates
rise to 4.5%."

Wesbury here is accepting what the Fed is saying to make his point.  Looks like rosy scenario to me.  If our worst fear after multi-trillions of quantitative easing and when real economic growth returns is that interest rates might hit 4%, I wouldn't be worried either.  I don't buy it.  Interest rates could be twice that and have been far worse not that long ago, after much less 'quantitative easing' than now.

"does not Wesbury also make a number of fair points in that he is discussing the consequences to interest payments on the $16.6T?  There are no interest payments to be made on unfunded liabilities."

True.  He makes a good point that paying interest to ourselves isn't much of a cost, but the quantitative easing and future devaluations of our currency have other hidden costs yet to reveal themselves.  

Unfunded liabilities mean future deficits, future debt, future interest, future impossibilities of balancing budgets or lowering tax burdens.  I said interest costs could go to a trillion, but I mean at debt levels that will inevitably be higher than today (and interest rate FAR above 4.5%) before we get a handle on all this, if we ever do.

"both spending as a percent of GDP and annual budget deficits are
declining. After peaking at more than $1.4 trillion in 2009 our forecast for this
year is a deficit of about $830 billion, or 5.1% of GDP. At the same time spending
has fallen from over 25% of GDP at its peak to near 22%."

That $1.4T was about 11% of GDP and now we are at less than half that?
Is that not a BFD?

Is not a 3% drop in federal spending as a % of GDP a BFD as well?

Who amongst us knew this?  I'm guessing not a one."

I think we knew that, we can check the threads.  On the first point, a deficit of 1.4T is mind-boggling.  As that shrunk, it still was 4 deficits in a row all over a trillion.  (Then we measure it as a percentage of the entire economy to make it look smaller!?) The damage of that is cumulative and that has been the focus.  From the disastrous lows, the economy has been growing slowly.  We know that mostly from the Wesbury posts you bring to the board, against all ridicule.  The truth is good to know no matter what it is and you deserve credit.  

I, for one, believe we could survive 16 trillion in debt and 4 trillion in quantitative easing - if we would get our act together today but we aren't.

Don't forget that the control in the increases in spending happened under these horrible PR disasters for the Republican House.  Boehner with his cigarette and his tan who none of us think puts a good face or words on our message surrendered to spending a trillion above where it should be has won the argument from there in the sense that the slope of the spending curve is no longer straight up.  Obama didn't do that, but he 'succeeded' in making a trillion more in temporary, emergency spending permanent.

Federal Spending at 22% of GDP when most people pay zero is still abominable.  At 25% we were at amazingly depressed levels of GDP so the 22% is with no cut in spending.  Yes 22% is better than ratios during utter collapse when we were losing tens of trillions in wealth but if we compare this to 'normal' we are still way off track.  18% of GDP is where spending should have been capped in the Balanced Budget Amendment, maybe 19% in compromise with big government liberals, with super majorities required to ever anything above that level (IMHO).  

Misleading in those numbers (the 22%) is that it takes the measurement after the world's largest entitlement ever (?) Obamacare has been passed but has no spending, speaking of unfunded liabilities!  Also it is the last year of tax receipts before a multitude of new GDP killing tax rate increases, federal and state, apply.  We can't really follow that trend line forward when we know we have already changed the rules.  

We make healthcare more affordable by levying a new tax on medical devices and strive to reach full employment by nailing every company that hits 50 full time employees.  Cause spending to go up and relative GDP growth to go down.  Nothing but cognitive dissonance if getting a handle on spending was anyone's objective.

A simpler way than dollars of changing value is look at the ratio of people who will be pulling the wagon versus how many will ride in it.  We are gaining in population while we are losing people from our workforce.  We are making more and more rules to worsen that and reelecting the people who are causing it.  We are offering to pay for far more of people's basic living expenses to not work, not work full time or to not maximize their income while we increase the penalties on the dwindling numbers who do.  We are chasing existing businesses overseas while putting concrete barriers in front of our would-be startups, the big employers of tomorrow.  Take all current trend lines forward and the budget problem doesn't get solved; it only gets worse.  
4084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: March 05, 2013, 07:49:09 AM
Thomas Sowell:

"Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency's budget were cut, what would it do?

The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place."
4085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: March 04, 2013, 06:20:11 PM
That is a great graph GM!  It tells so much more context than the 2 1/2 french fries out of Big Mac meal analogy which is the calorie cutback from the baseline up from the extreme, make temporary spending permanent, peak.

How about spending at Bill Clinton levels if that was the last great, Democratic, fiscal President who cared and truily felt our pain.  We would have a trillion dollar surplus right now.
4086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Walter Russell Mead: The World and its Leaders on: March 04, 2013, 10:51:00 AM
Walter Russell Mead writing on Friday, March 1, online for the American Interest:

Financial markets around the world reeled when the Italians rejected the European status quo and their own political establishment in the last election. This should not have come as such a surprise; few political establishments anywhere in the democratic world are as spectacularly rotten as Italy's, and the European status quo is the biggest man-made policy disaster since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Italian voters don't have a lot of use for their leaders, and it's hard to say they are wrong. The left wants to preserve the unsustainable, the right doesn't have what it takes, and the center is dominated by short term, self centered careerists whizzing through the well oiled revolving doors that connect business with government. But how different are politics elsewhere? Voters ultimately weary of repeat policy failure by the well connected and well educated, and whether you look at Europe, the United States or Japan, the failures of national leadership keep piling up.

Americans often like to believe that our problems are as exceptional as our strengths, but our stale and ineffective political establishment looks a lot like its peers around the world. The American elite is not alone in its inconsequential futility and its lack of strategic vision; world leaders everywhere are falling down on the job.

The assumption that the people guiding the destinies of the world's major powers know what they are doing is a comforting one, but there's not a lot of evidence to support it. The "pass it to find out what's in it" health care 'reform' in the United States, the vast stinking policy corpse that is European monetary union, the failure of establishments everywhere to figure out the simple arithmetical problems that our welfare states are encountering because of the demographic transition, the metastasizing tumor of corruption also known as the Chinese Communist Party: none of these suggest that the world is being governed with unusual wisdom.
4087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: California - people leaving, not only the rich on: March 04, 2013, 10:43:06 AM
"Over the past two decades, a net 3.4 million people have moved out of California for other states."  (The non-rich far outnumber the rich also leaving Calif.)

"Roughly 40% of the people leaving are Hispanic."

My guess looking at these figures and circumstances, generalizing, is that the people wanting to work are the most likely to leave and the people comfortably on programs are the most likely to stay.

What could possibly go wrong?

4088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Govt spending, deficit, debt, Shouldn't the Treasury be borrowing at 30 years? on: March 04, 2013, 10:32:34 AM
A home owner would not want one year mortgage, yet the Treasury keeps doing that even though we know interest rate will return to normal adding interest costs of perhaps a trillion a year to our spending.

WSJ today:

...the maturity structure of U.S. debt is quite short. I estimate that our government rolls over 40% of its debt every year, and 65% within three years, accounting for Federal Reserve holdings, coupon payments and use market values.

Short term at near zero interest is GREAT if you plan to pay it off soon.  Bernancke, Geithner, Obama and Lew are doing more damage to our country right now that what we can immediately measure.

4089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax bills for rich families approach 30-year high on: March 04, 2013, 08:36:46 AM
That is pretty good reporting by the AP and pretty good analysis by the not always non-partisan TPC.  Still the problem is understated:

"Last week, Senate Democrats were unable to advance their proposal to raise taxes on some wealthy families for the second time this year as part of a package to avoid automatic spending cuts."

No.  They were trying to raise taxes on the rich for the 3rd, 4th or 5th time this year.  More Obamacare taxes just went into effect, plus one might include state taxes like in Calif and Minn if one is really trying to measure the combined effects of failed policies.

"For example, the Internal Revenue Service tracks tax returns for the 400 highest-paid filers each year. Those taxpayers made an average of $202 million in 2009, the latest year available. Their average federal income tax rate: 19.9 percent."

My apologies to civility on the board but it is such a God damned lie for informed people to write so inaccurately.  In order for a top income return to pay at the 15% rate, now 20% rate, they are including long term capital gains which by definition over our entire lifetimes includes an inflation component which is not income in any sense at all.  Also much of those gains were corporate and therefore quadruple taxed while they point out how 'small' one component out of four can be.

Then for the middle and lower income taxpayers they include FICA to make comparisons which I did not think was part of the federal income tax.  But lower income workers get a nice return an social security and medicare payments while higher income people do not.

Other than that, good news that someone is pointing out that we are heading back to the Jimmy Carter days as the alarmists among us have warned.
4090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science and Military Issues on: March 04, 2013, 08:19:47 AM
Before we close the argument...

a) Suppose we substitute the imprecise term 'third world military' with just a US military unable to address the threats we face.

b) The political movement of unilateral disarmament currently led by Pres. Barack Obama is not a 4 year proposition.  The LBJ programs for poverty, for example, lived on far beyond his Presidency.  The Carter disarmament lasted beyond his years and could have lasted permanently. 

The Obama approach of apologizing and bowing has not had the success that peace through strength and deterrence once had.  The time to oppose all bad policies is early and often.
4091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues - Woodward regret? on: March 03, 2013, 05:26:26 PM
I did not know until after the “I think you will regret staking out this claim” email that Bob Woodward isn't such a perfect journalist:

Looks like John Cassidy at the New Yorker had a well researched article about Woodward's alleged misses ready to go to print by Feb 28.

I didn't know about this Woodward scandal:

"In 1988, he published “Veil: The Secret Wars of the C.I.A., 1981-1987,” which contained his famous account of a deathbed conversation with William Casey, the former C.I.A. director. Casey, according to Woodward’s telling, admitted that he knew about the illegal diversion of monies from Iranian arms sales to the Nicaraguan Contras. “His head jerked up hard,” Woodward wrote. “He stared, and finally nodded yes.” “Why?” Woodward asked. Casey whispered, “I believed.” Did it happen like that? Even today, it’s a matter of dispute. In 2010, a former C.I.A. employee, who was part of Casey’s security detail, claimed Woodward “fabricated” the story after being turned away from Casey’s room at Georgetown University Hospital. Woodward dismissed the agent’s statement, saying agency guards were not present around the clock. Whatever the truth of this particular detail, there is no doubt that Woodward had a great deal of access to Casey. According to C.I.A. records, the director spoke with Woodward forty-three times while he was working on the book. Whether or not Casey coughed up the deathbed admission, “Veil” contains a wealth of previously undisclosed details about C.I.A. operations."

I didn't know about this criticism of Woodward:

The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning. In a 1996 essay for the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion wrote that “measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent” from Woodward’s post-Watergate books, which are notable mainly for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.”

How many knew that Woodward's book about praising Greenspan as "Maestro" was so ill-timed:

"Woodward’s 2000 book on Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” which was clearly based on extensive access to the Fed chairman, is a good example of what Didion was talking about. As an inside account of what Greenspan said and did and thought, it was a useful primer, and, as with all of Woodward’s books, it included some arresting, if largely irrelevant, narrative details, such as one in which the great man, disturbed by his wife, Andrea Mitchell’s, desire for a canine companion, asks one of his colleagues, the chairman of the Philadelphia Fed, “Well, how do you tell your wife you don’t want a dog?” But as a guide to the impact of Greenspan’s policies, or the real significance of his rise to a godlike status, “Maestro” wasn’t much help at all. Less than a year after it was published, the stock-market bubble that Greenspan had helped to inflate burst, and the country was plunged into a recession."

Now the narrative on Woodward is becoming that he was a Watergate-era, one-hit wonder.  

“I think [Woodward] will regret staking out this claim” about Obama moving the goal posts.

Some younger journalists were allegedly treated worse than Woodward by the Obama administration:

4092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: March 03, 2013, 01:56:26 PM
Maybe the calling out of Obama by Woodward on the origin of the sequester means the honeymoon is finally over, 8 1/2 years after Obama's 2004 convention speech.  It opens the door for pretend journalists to do real journalism and also for pretend comedians to do real comedy.  They can start coming out and at least consider taking occasional shots at the administration if or when they seem warranted.  Jon Stewart started to dabble in it. 

I don't think you would see any of that at this point in the first term.

The 'threat' as CCP suggests does not mean break you knees regret.  To Woodward they can't even take away all his access but they can throw up small roadblocks and hurdles.   For a newer, younger reporter it means you go further in this town if you play ball with the right team.  Criticism is fine, just keep it all over at Fox and Weekly Standard, etc.

Today I watched David Gregory follow tough questioning of Speaker of the House John Boehner with some far tougher than usual questions for his administration guest which happened to be Gene  You-will-live-to-regret-this  Sperling.  Then gave him the opportunity to tell what a great, long relationship he has with Woodward.  Still, I never heard him give good explanation to the "regret it" comment, nor back off of it.

Some stories are coming out about how Woodward isn't the greatest journalist...
4093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Scott Grannis on marginal tax rates on the poor on: February 27, 2013, 08:49:26 AM

Excellent work by Scott  G on a very important topic.
4094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Dollar: Quantitative easing simplified on: February 24, 2013, 11:09:58 AM
Quantitative easing simplified:

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4095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: February 24, 2013, 11:05:54 AM
"It is highly important that the workmen should be assigned the noble status of citizenship in all our legislation."

Winston Churchill in a 1911 debate on British immigration reform.
4096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: February 24, 2013, 11:02:30 AM
Just bought gas in the heart of the ND oil boom.  Prices same as at home.  Still need refineries, cars don't run on heavy crude. 

Someone please remind again why Dick Cheney should not have had industry experts advise him on how to meet future energy needs and what the his opponents are using in their tanks.  Harry Potter broom fuel?
4097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs ,budget process: HAMSTER!! George Will on: February 24, 2013, 10:48:46 AM
George Will hits Obama's slow hanging curve ball out of the park:

George F. Will
    Opinion Writer, Washington Post

The manufactured crisis of sequester

The sequester has forced liberals to clarify their conviction that whatever the government’s size is at any moment, it is the bare minimum necessary to forestall intolerable suffering. At his unintentionally hilarious hysteria session Tuesday, Obama said: The sequester’s “meat-cleaver approach” of “severe,” “arbitrary” and “brutal” cuts will “eviscerate” education, energy and medical research spending. “And already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf.”

“Forced”? The Navy did indeed cite the sequester when delaying deployment of the USS Truman. In the high-stakes pressure campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, U.S. policy has been to have two carriers in nearby waters. Yet the Navy is saying it cannot find cuts to programs or deployments less essential than the Truman deployment. The Navy’s participation in the political campaign to pressure Congress into unraveling the sequester is crude, obvious and shameful, and it should earn the Navy’s budget especially skeptical scrutiny by Congress.

The Defense Department’s civilian employment has grown 17 percent since 2002. In 2012, defense spending on civilian personnel was 21 percent higher than in 2002. And the Truman must stay in Norfolk? This is, strictly speaking, unbelievable.

The sequester’s critics correctly say it is not the most intelligent way to prune government; priorities among programs should be set. But such critics are utopians if they are waiting for the arrival of intelligent government. The real choice today is between bigger or smaller unintelligent government.

Obama, who believes government spends money more constructively than do those who earn it, warns that the sequester’s budgetary nicks, amounting to one-half of 1 percent of gross domestic product, will derail the economy. A similar jeremiad was heard in 1943 when economist Paul Samuelson, whose Keynesian assumptions have trickled down to Obama, said postwar cuts in government would mean “the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced.”

Federal spending did indeed shrink an enormous 40 percent in one year. And the economy boomed.

Because crises are government’s excuse for growing, liberalism’s motto is: Never let a crisis go unfabricated. But its promiscuous production of crises has made them boring.

Remember when, in the 1980s, thousands died from cancers caused by insufficient regulation of the chemical Alar sprayed on apples? No, you don’t because this alarming prediction fizzled. Alar was not, after all, a risk.

Remember when “a major cooling of the climate” was “widely considered inevitable” (New York Times, May 21, 1975) with “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation” (Science magazine, Dec. 10, 1976) which must “stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery” (International Wildlife, July 1975)? Remember reports that “the world’s climatologists are agreed” that we must “prepare for the next ice age” (Science Digest, February 1973)? Armadillos were leaving Nebraska, heading south, and heat-loving snails were scampering southward from European forests (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 27, 1974). Newsweek (April 28, 1975) said meteorologists were “almost unanimous” that cooling would “reduce agricultural productivity.”

Today, while Obama prepares a governmental power grab to combat global warming, sensible Americans, tuckered out with apocalypse fatigue, are yawning through the catastrophe du jour, the sequester. They say: Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the hamsters of sequestration.
4098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics - ObamaCare and the '29ers' on: February 23, 2013, 03:40:07 PM
I have referenced the phenomenon in France several times:  Why France has so many 49 person companies.  Of course it is because so many regulations kick in when you hit 50 that new or further employment is thwarted.  Now it is the trend in America brought on by Obama and the Dems who preceded him and supported his policies ending exactly what they were trying to cause more of, companies paying full time benefits to more employees:

ObamaCare and the '29ers'
How the new mandates are already reducing full-time employment.

Here's a trend you'll be reading more about: part-time "job sharing," not only within firms but across different businesses.

It's already happening across the country at fast-food restaurants, as employers try to avoid being punished by the Affordable Care Act. In some cases we've heard about, a local McDonalds has hired employees to operate the cash register or flip burgers for 20 hours a week and then the workers head to the nearby Burger King BKW +2.39% or Wendy's to log another 20 hours. Other employees take the opposite shifts.

Welcome to the strange new world of small-business hiring under ObamaCare. The law requires firms with 50 or more "full-time equivalent workers" to offer health plans to employees who work more than 30 hours a week. (The law says "equivalent" because two 15 hour a week workers equal one full-time worker.) Employers that pass the 50-employee threshold and don't offer insurance face a $2,000 penalty for each uncovered worker beyond 30 employees. So by hiring the 50th worker, the firm pays a penalty on the previous 20 as well.

These employment cliffs are especially perverse economic incentives. Thousands of employers will face a $40,000 penalty if they dare expand and hire a 50th worker. The law is effectively a $2,000 tax on each additional hire after that, so to move to 60 workers costs $60,000. ...  ( more at the link)
What could possibly go wrong with these kinds of policies?
4099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science, Winter is still on - 2013 on: February 23, 2013, 03:33:58 PM
Previously on the thread we see record cold temps in China and Siberia when it was warmer in other places.  The phrase global warming seems to be dead now because the warming isn't consistent or necessarily global.  The climate is always changing so the term climate change is safer to use, can apply to everything and can't be disproven.

The last 5 winters in Germany were colder than 'normal'.  This chart show the cooling trend since 1988:

I keep running into evidence that winter continues at least so far despite humans and their bad behaviors.  Yesterday I took a long drive along the mighty Mississippi only to find it completely frozen over.  Not up north where it is small but in southern Minnesota where it is a mile wide.  A truck parked at at an ice fishing house prompted me to take a picture.  Apologies for the quality of the shot not showing just how beautiful this is, but this is the Mighty Mississippi fully frozen over and blanketed with snow for as far as the eye can see:

Next is an ice road on the world's largest freshwater lake:

Maybe next year warming will spiral out of control or maybe from where you are it looks like it already has.  Not so here.

4100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / America's Inner City; Half of Detroit property owners don't pay taxes on: February 22, 2013, 01:51:00 PM
An estimated 47 percent of Detroit’s property owners pay no taxes, according to recent report from The Detroit News.
(Abortion rights taking a toll?)

“Nearly half of the owners of Detroit’s 305,000 properties failed to pay their tax bills last year, exacerbating a punishing cycle of declining revenues and diminished services for a city in a financial crisis,” the report notes, citing more than 200,000 pages of tax documents.

“Some $246.5 million in taxes and fees went uncollected, about half of which was due Detroit and the rest to other entities, including Wayne County, Detroit Public Schools and the library,” the report adds.

In fact, according to The News, delinquency in the shattered city is so bad that that 77 blocks had only one owner who paid taxes in 2012.

Yes, one person paid taxes in an area covering 77 blocks.
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