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Watch It and Weep….For Our Country

   Posted by: Pat    in Budget/Economy, Congress   Print Print

I would like to recommend that you watch this fascinating and poignant interview with Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. Mr. Langone discusses the debt ceiling debate, President Obama’s damaging class welfare rhetoric, and America’s poor job market. Mr. Langone’s words and advice should be heeded in Washington. Enjoy

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Top Articles of the Week

   Posted by: Pat    in Budget/Economy, entitlements, health care, Top Articles   Print Print

1. ‘Why the Jobs Situation is Worse Than It Looks‘ – Mort Zuckerman, US News and World Report

Zuckerman details how our economy and job situation is worse than even an unemployment rate of 9.1% make it appear. Plain and simple, America’s job market has been faltering for three years and is not currently showing signs of significant improvement that one would expect during a recovery. Zuckerman, an Obama supporter in 2008, believes this administration’s fiscal and economic policies have failed greatly:

The Great Recession has now earned the dubious right of being compared to the Great Depression. In the face of the most stimulative fiscal and monetary policies in our history, we have experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000. From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs. This is contrary to all previous recessions. Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment.

Click here to find out more!

The real job losses are greater than the estimate of 7.5 million. They are closer to 10.5 million, as 3 million people have stopped looking for work. Equally troublesome is the lower labor participation rate; some 5 million jobs have vanished from manufacturing, long America’s greatest strength. Just think: Total payrolls today amount to 131 million, but this figure is lower than it was at the beginning of the year 2000, even though our population has grown by nearly 30 million.

2. ‘Obama’s focus on visiting clean-tech companies raises questions‘ – Carol D. Leonnig, Joe Stephens and Alice Crites, Washington Post

A thorough report on some of the winners and losers of the Obama administration’s green job promotion. The stimulus package was full of giveaways to companies doing green projects and when the government gives away money or tax breaks there are inevitable winners and losers. This report details how many of the ‘winning’ companies had connections to Obama’s campaign and many of the losers did not. When one company making electric car batteries gets federal money and another one doing the same thing doesn’t it’s called crony capitalism:

There was intense competition for clean-tech stimulus dollars. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said his agency reviewed 50,000 applicants and chose 5,000, a 90 percent rejection rate.

For the winners, there was an added bonus when Obama or his Cabinet secretaries dropped by to tout progress. “You couldn’t get that kind of publicity if you devoted all your advertising budget to it,” said Brendan Doherty, an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who has studied and written about presidential travel.

Obama began his clean-tech travel in March 2009. At a number of companies the president visited, there were connections — not all of them close, to be sure — to his 2008 campaign. Over the months, Obama touted a Florida’s utility’s electric grid project (a company in an Obama fundraiser’s portfolio was doing extensive business with the project) and a Nevada company that generates emission-free power from waste heat, the warmth radiated by machines or industrial processes (an Obama fundraiser is a partner in a venture fund that has a small stake in the company).

3. ‘The McKinsey Health Insurance Survey Was Rigorous, After All‘ – Avik Roy, Forbes

FMFP recommended this article which details the methodology behind the McKinsey Health Insurance Survey which concluded that tens of millions of working Americans would be dropped from their current employer’s insurance and forced onto Obamacare rolls. Commentator S O brought to our attention that McKinsey did not release how they came to their numbers, but hopefully this will clear things up:

Because McKinsey had refused to release details of the methodology used in their work, Democrats and left-of-center writers accused the company of having something to hide. A “keyed-in source says McKinsey is unlikely to release the survey materials because ‘it would be damaging to them,’” asserted Brian Beutler in Talking Points Memo. Senator Max Baucus (D., Mont.) wrote a letter to McKinsey demanding they release the survey’s methodology, with three House committees intending to follow suit.

Well, lo and behold, McKinsey decided to release the details: the full questionnaire used in their survey, along with a 206-page report detailing the survey’s complete results. Accompanying these details was a thoughtful discussion of the survey’s methodology, one that pops the balloon of those who tried to tar McKinsey as some sort of careless, partisan outfit. Despite reporting which implied that McKinsey wanted to distance itself from its own work, the company declared, “We stand by the integrity and methodology of the survey.”

4. ‘The U.S. and E.U.: Have They Ever Been in Such Terrible Shape? – Josef Joffe, The New Republic

Joffe sheds light onto how the Greek crisis is hurting both the EU, Germany and France, and the United States and that the situation is likely to get worse. Europe and the United States have been the saviors for so many facing tough or critical fiscal crisis, but as Joffe asks ‘who will save them?’:

Europe will inevitably buy time by handing over a few more slices of bail-out money to Greece, even though, one day, the country will default. With 50 cents of the euro, it will halve its debt as well as its repayments and thus buy more time. The E.U., meanwhile, still won’t have any idea where it’s going or how to handle the crisis long-term. But what else is new? Twenty-seven governments do not a “more perfect union” make. Certainly not when the natural leader, which is Germany by dint of wealth and weight, sounds such an uncertain trumpet as it has under Chancellor Merkel. Yet what, exactly, is she supposed to do when the chickens of an ill-designed monetary union have finally come home to roost? Neither she nor Sarkozy can undo the mismanagement of the PIIGS in one fell swoop.

Meanwhile, back to the United States—to its still-sinking dollar and rising unemployment. It is hard to think of a time when both the U.S. and the E.U., the two biggest players in the international economy, were in such miserable shape. We are talking about two giants with a total of 50 percent of global GDP. Who will save them?

5.’The Local Government Pension Squeeze – Steve Malanga, Wall Street Journal

We all know that the US federal government and numerous state governments (Illinois, California, Wisconsin a few months ago) are facing rising fiscal crisis. Basically, these entities are spending far more than they are bringing in and they have structural issues (entitlements for the federal government, pensions for the states) that are the wolf at the door. Well, our nation’s city governments are also facing fiscal crises that are already coming to a head. You can’t have libraries, police, and no pot holes when half your budget is going toward retired city workers:

While the national media has focused on state budget face-offs between government unions and governors such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, municipal officials like Mr. DeStefano are engaged in their own budget warfare. Wages and benefits account for 30% of state general fund expenditures, according to data from the National Governors Association. But U.S. Census surveys show that in the typical town or school district, employee pay and benefits can consume from 70% to 80% of the budget.

Pensions are an enormous part of the problem. While pension payments now consume about 4% of state budgets, many municipalities are already spending 15% to 20% of their finances on pension costs. Earlier this year, California’s Little Hoover Commission, a government oversight agency, observed: “Barring a miraculous market advance and sustained economic expansion, no government entity—especially at the local level—will be able to absorb the blow [from rising pensions] without severe cuts to services.”

Costa Mesa, Calif. (population 110,000) made news earlier this year when it sent layoff notices to 43% of its employees. In 10 years, the city’s annual pension bill increased to $15 million from $5 million and now consumes 16% of the city’s $93 million budget. In nearby Anaheim, pensions already account for 22% of its $252 million budget. San Jose’s pension costs for police and firefighters have quadrupled in a past decade. Without reform, the city estimates that its yearly pension costs, $63 million in 2000, will swell to $650 million in 2015.

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The mainstream media have finally started to catch on the President Obama may bear some responsibility for the sad present state of the United States economy. With the unemployment rate spiking back up to 9.1% after another disappointing jobs report and the 2012 election season kicking off, we have seen news or blog article titles like these below (H/T James Taranto, WSJ):

  • “Obama’s Toughest Re-Election Challenge May Come From Economy”–headline, Bloomberg, June 4
  • “Economy Will Force Shift in Barack Obama’s 2012 Strategy”–headline,, June 4
  • “What Can Barack Obama Do to Fix the Economy? Not Much”–headline,, June 3
  • “Bad economic numbers and a justified perception that Obama’s leadership is precipitating a decline of America’s fortunes may doom his chances of reelection. But they also may not.”–Jonathan Tobin, Commentary website, June 5

The US economy and American worker have an unparalleled track record of resiliency and I’m still confident that we will get out of this rut eventually, but as of right now, the numbers, trends, and personal outlook (that is how individual Americans view the economy and America’s future) are dismal. It’s hard to believe that the country would probably be thankful for an unemployment rate in 7%, but we are hundreds of thousands of jobs away from that right now. Americans are more pessimistic than ever it seems and this feeling is palpable in daily transactions. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll, 55% of Americans still rate the national economy as poor, with only 47% believing their kids will have a higher standard of living than they enjoy, down from 62% in 2009. I used the term rut above and it definitely seems apt.

Jay Cost details in a short paragraph some of the other economic factors that are dragging us down:

Have you noticed that the economy is slowing down once again? The data of late has been pretty unequivocal on that front. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen monthly reports from Fed regional banks that show local economic growth stalling. Industrial production for April was flat. The housing market is in a double dip, despite the fact that mortgage rates are at bargain basement levels. Weekly jobless claims have bounced back up. And while the top-line number of April’s unemployment report showed somewhat good news, though it also revealed clear signs that wages are not keeping pace with inflation, which is bad news, considering how dependent the economy of today is on consumer spending. Looking ahead, the major firms are already starting to cut their growth forecasts for Q2. Japan’s economy slowed more than expected last quarter, and the sovereign debt crisis of Europe is back with a vengeance. Belarus just devalued its currency, Greece remains in very real danger, and China’s now thinking of bailing out Portugal.

Cost sees a ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and who can blame him. Speaking of blame: How much should be laid at the Obama administration’s feet for our current economic malaise? This is an important question and will go along why in determining who will be America’s president in 2013. It is true that presidents are in many ways stuck with an economy, good or bad, that is largely out of their control. Barack Obama himself can largely thank the fiscal crisis of 2008 for the position he currently holds. Senator Obama absolutely went to town bashing Bush/McCain’s handling of the economy and fiscal crisis, riding this into the White House. The problem now is Obama’s now been in charge for three years with an economy that is not only still in the diaper bin, but doesn’t appear to coming up for air anytime soon.

Though it is true that macroeconomic sides of the US economy are mostly out of the executive branch’s hands, they still play can play a major role. For instance, President Obama said it was an absolute necessity for the federal government to pass and implement a massive stimulus plan to get the economy growing and people back to work. Here is the President in 2009:

“I hope that we can continue to strengthen this plan before it gets to my desk. But what we can’t do is drag our feet or allow the same partisan differences to get in our way. We must move swiftly and boldly to put Americans back to work, and that is exactly what this plan begins to do.

Well, not exactly. The administration also released a chart showing how the Stimulus package (totally nearly $800 million dollars) would lower the unemployment rate. Here is that chart with something extra added on; the actual employment rate (H/T Cato Institute’s Daniel J. Mitchell):

There is no doubt that the Obama administration’s single greatest attempt to revive the economy was a huge failure. We’ve all heard the counterfactual’s (‘unemployment would be 12-13% without the Stimulus’), but we have the administration’s own statistics to judge it by. The administration needs to be held accountable for its policies and their outcomes. According to just released poll by Washington Post-ABC, they are starting to be:

Overall, about six in 10 of those surveyed give Obama negative marks on the economy and the deficit. Significantly, nearly half strongly disapprove of his performance in these two crucial areas. Nearly two-thirds of political independents disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy, including — for the first time — a slim majority who do so strongly.


One more point: I came across this statement from President Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney on twitter:

“There is no issue that matters more to this president than the economic health of this country.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Carney, and more importantly for President Obama, is that I and most Americans have memories. Reading this quote, I immediately recalled another key legislative ‘victory’ for the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Before the Stimulus bill even had time to cool, let alone be implemented, Obama and the Democrats spent the next year attempting to pass one of the most controversial, ideological, and most importantly, economic damaging bills in American history. It was like they said; ‘Stimulus done, economy okay now, onto our liberal dream of government run health care’.

History now tells a different story: ‘Economy not okay, health reform still very unpopular, 2012 election up in the air’.

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Top 5 Articles of the Week

   Posted by: Pat    in Budget/Economy, health care, Middle East, Top Articles   Print Print

1. ‘California Prison Academy: Better Than a Harvard Degree, Allysia Finley, Wall Street Journal

This excellent article is number one are on our list for a reason. It clearly lays out just how out of whack California’s public prison system has become with disastrous effects on the state’s budget and other priorities, such as libraries, highways, and lower taxes.

Roughly 2,000 students have to decide by Sunday whether to accept a spot at Harvard. Here’s some advice: Forget Harvard. If you want to earn big bucks and retire young, you’re better off becoming a California prison guard.

The job might not sound glamorous, but a brochure from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations boasts that it “has been called ‘the greatest entry-level job in California’—and for good reason. Our officers earn a great salary, and a retirement package you just can’t find in private industry. We even pay you to attend our academy.” That’s right—instead of paying more than $200,000 to attend Harvard, you could earn $3,050 a month at cadet academy.

It gets better.

Training only takes four months, and upon graduating you can look forward to a job with great health, dental and vision benefits and a starting base salary between $45,288 and $65,364. By comparison, Harvard grads can expect to earn $49,897 fresh out of college and $124,759 after 20 years.

2. ‘Has the Media Totally Forgotten About the Unemployed?, Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Is 9% unemployment the new normal? I sure hope not. Thompson’s article highlights this growing feeling in our country and features numerous charts that portray how poor our nation’s current job market has become.

Articles mentioning unemployment have plummeted nearly 70 percent since last summer, while articles mentioning the deficit have doubled over the same time, according to a National Journal report…

Unemployment duration ain’t what it used to be. In 1982, the last time unemployment tipped double digits, joblessness was more of a short-term affair. Across these four categories, the plurality of folks were unemployed for fewer than five weeks. In 2011, by contrast, about half the jobless have been out of work for at least 27 weeks. Just as striking, the number of people unemployed for less than five weeks remained under its historical average even during the worst months of the recession. In 1982, unemployment was a terrible cold, measured in weeks and maybe months. Today it’s pneumonia .

3. ‘Nearly 20 percent of new Obamacare waivers are gourmet restaurants, nightclubs, fancy hotels in Nancy Pelosi’s district, Matthew Boyle, The Daily Caller

This is the article that broke the Pelosi-waiver story (Pelosi-gate??). Exemplifies some of the extreme corruption, hypocrisy, and devastating policy impact of Obamacare.

Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama’s administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Northern California district.

Pelosi’s district secured almost 20 percent of the latest issuance of waivers nationwide, and the companies that won them didn’t have much in common with companies throughout the rest of the country that have received Obamacare waivers.

Other common waiver recipients were labor union chapters, large corporations, financial firms and local governments. But Pelosi’s district’s waivers are the first major examples of luxurious, gourmet restaurants and hotels getting a year-long pass from Obamacare.

For instance, Boboquivari’s restaurant in Pelosi’s district in San Francisco got a waiver from Obamacare. Boboquivari’s advertises $59 porterhouse steaks, $39 filet mignons and $35 crab dinners.

4. ‘Why Not Honesty?, Greg Scoblete, Real Clear World: The Compass

Scoblete is a realist’s realist when it comes to American foreign policy and in dissecting President Obama’s Middle East speech, and a conservative reaction to it, he finds many central questions that are being ignored:

Here’s my question: why even “endorse the vision” that our interests and values align in the Middle East? Why not treat the American people – and, indeed, the world – like adults and try to explain the basis for U.S. policies in the region? The president made a passing attempt at framing U.S. strategic interests in the region – terrorism, oil, Israel – in the beginning of the speech, only to drown it out in a lot of Wilsonian sanctimony. But a speech discussing the convergence of American values and interests in the Middle East that did not have a single word – not one – about Saudi Arabia, and only passing mention of the Gulf states, is self-evidently dishonest.

American “values” are clearly, and frequently, subordinate to strategic interests in the Middle East. No one can seriously deny this – nor is it something to necessarily be ashamed of! Rather than trying to dress this up in a lot of flim-flam, why not tackle it head-on? Why not explain to the U.S. and the world that in some places the U.S. cannot simply support “democracy” when it does not know what will spring forth from that democracy or that the U.S. has much more urgent needs to attend to – such as protecting Israel and ensuring the stability of the Saudi monarchy?

5. ‘Obama’s $250,000 Question’, William McGurn, Wall Street Journal

When the budget you lay out has government spending growing at such a high rate, as the Obama administration’s budget for the next 10 years has, there is only a matter of time before taxes are raised, not just on the ‘rich’, but on the rest of us:

In the New Republic, the Brookings Institution’s William Galston zeroes in on the fuzzy math. “Unless Obama is prepared to tolerate huge deficits indefinitely,” he writes, “or to emulate arch-conservatives and curb the budget deficit with spending cuts only, he will have to break his unsustainable tax pledge at some point. The only question is when.”

More remarkable still, Mr. Galston was jumping off from an article in National Review by Reihan Salam, who made the same point about the mathematical impossibilities of Mr. Obama’s present tax pledge. Mr. Salam, a policy adviser at the pro-market think tank Economics 21, observes that the revenues Mr. Obama needs to pay for his agenda fall in the rung just below the super-rich—that is, Americans earning between $100,000 and $200,000

Bring your comments and own recommendations to us in the comments.

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