Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Network employees favor Democrats

First of all, my position on campaign contributions is that too much big money is involved. I support taxpayer funded campaigns, which would -- I hope -- put most lobbyists and special interests out of business. Politicians would be beholden to us.

However, all the gnashing of teeth over News Corp giving $1 million to Republican coffers should be put into some context.

According to the Washington Examiner:
The Democratic total of $1,020,816 was given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks, with an average contribution of $880.
By contrast, only 193 of the employees contributed to Republican candidates and campaign committees, for a total of $142,863. The average Republican contribution was $744.

Disclosure of the heavily Democratic contributions by influential employees of the three major broadcast networks follows on the heels of controversy last week when it was learned that media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.
So do ABC, NBC, or CBS lean left? I think so. We can't fix our problems by fine-tuning. We need a complete overhaul.

Taxes on health care costs? Not so fast

There has been e-mails flying around the Internet, and some blog posts, about a tax imposed by Obamacare on the cost of health care.

One of them says:
"You really need to read this. Starting in 2011 (next year folks) your W2 tax form sent by your employer will be increased to show the value of whatever health insurance you are given by the company. It does not matter if that's a private concern or governmental body of some sort. If you're retired? So what; your gross will go up by the amount of insurance you get. You will be required to pay taxes on a large sum of money that you have never seen.
"Take your tax form you just finished and see what $15,000 or $20,000 additional gross does to your tax debt. That's what you'll pay next year. For many it also puts you into a new higher bracket so it's even worse. This is how the government is going to buy insurance for 15% that don't have insurance and it's only part of the tax increases."
Well, according to snopes.com and politifact.com, this is simply not true. What is true is that you will see for the tax year 2011 the employer cost of health care on your W-2, but this is not taxable income.
Since the health care law actually continues the tax exemption on employer-sponsored insurance, why include a requirement that employers report the value of health insurance on the W-2? There are several reasons.
The new health insurance law will eventually penalize people who are not insured with a tax penalty. The W-2 reporting requirement will help the Internal Revenue Service verify that people have coverage, both for themselves and their dependents.
It's bad enough that Obamacare will probably make health care less accessible to the average Joe, but let's stick to facts people

Monday, August 30, 2010

More on taxes, and Paul Krugman

Last week I posted a chart showing how taxes would change if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. One reader commented that I had "conveniently" left out the top 1 percent. Which, of course, I hadn't. The average income of the top 1 percent is about $1.3 million, and my chart went to $5 million.

I got to thinking that maybe he was talking about the top 1/10 of 1 percent, as Paul Krugman mentioned in his editorial in the New York Times. Here's a paragraph or two:
But these same politicians are eager to cut checks averaging $3 million each to the richest 120,000 people in the country.
What — you haven’t heard about this proposal? Actually, you have: I’m talking about demands that we make all of the Bush tax cuts, not just those for the middle class, permanent.
Well, whether you agree with making all of the rate reductions permanent, or just some, the problem I have with Krugman, Nobel prize or not, is the above statement is hyperbole. He doesn't mention until later in the article that the $3 million dollar check would actually be 10 checks over 10 years, averaging about $300,000 per year.

Also, the figures I saw from the Tax Foundation (using IRS data), the number of people in the top 1/10 of 1 percent is 141,000 not 120,000, so I'm not sure what source he's using.

The average income of the top 1/10 of 1 percent is $7.4 million. Currently, the tax bill on that is $2.56 million. If the cuts expire for the top bracket, the tax bill goes to $2.865 million, an increase of $305,081. Here's Krugman's $3 million -- over 10 years.

He probably chose the $3 million over 10 years just to inflate the numbers. He doesn't mention the $3 million is over 10 years until later in the story, almost as an after-thought.

When reading Krugman, you must remember that he is a liberal, a self-admitted liberal who believes in big government. After complaining about deficits for so many years, he now supports even more government spending.

But I believe his economic theories aren't working. Nobel prize or not.

Friday, August 27, 2010

MSNBC, and other political stupidity

MSNBC says "Latest growth data show recovery losing momentum." What recovery? There's been no recovery. GDP growth of 1.6 percent is in reality no growth at all. But what do you expect from a network that is basically just left-wing talking points. They are still trying to paint Obama and the Dems in a positive light, but it won't work because we aren't that stupid out here as we cling to our guns and bibles. But then to be fair, I heard today on FoxNews that the "recovery" was slowing, so go figure. Maybe all "journalists" are clueless.
Mona Charen, who was once a liberal, but then saw the light, writes:
President Obama has a weakness for thinking in categories. For someone who provokes swoons among liberals for his great intellect, he has repeatedly evidenced an unsophisticated, one might even say simple-minded, view of the world: Workers good; bosses exploitative. Borrowers good; lenders bad. Patients good; insurance companies bad. Again and again, the president and his spokesmen have justified their expansions of government power as efforts to help those who “through no fault of their own” find themselves in difficulties.

Many politicians traffic in this kind rhetoric during campaigns, but President Obama has institutionalized it in policy.
I agree with her. Most liberals process information in this manner. She goes on in her piece to describe another failed Obama program.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) thinks we're heading in the right direction.

Access to capital is key to small businesses growing and hiring new employees. That is why the House passed legislation like the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act and the Small Business Jobs Tax Relief Act – bills that will give billions in private sector lending opportunities and lower taxes so entrepreneurs can attract capital and launch new companies.

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans are using procedural tactics to block these pro-growth initiatives. Both bills deserve an immediate up or down vote.

The HIRE Act also supports small businesses. It gives a payroll tax holiday to employers who hire people unemployed for more than 60 days. This law is expected to help businesses hire 300,000 workers. HIRE also funds a variety of projects that should ultimately allow small businesses to expand.
He obviously doesn't have the first clue about what businesses need to grow and hire employees. If I want business advice, I'm not going to listen to Washington, but maybe someone who runs Intel, like CEO Paul Otellini.

The Intel chief was harsh on the massive spending by the White House and Congress — and on the failure to extend the Bush tax cuts, the takeover of the health care industry, and the threat of new taxes on businesses to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

"I think this group does not understand what it takes to create jobs," he said. "And I think they're flummoxed by their experiment in Keynesian economics not working."

If America's ruling class keeps going down this road, "people will not invest in the United States. They'll invest elsewhere."
"I can tell you definitively that it costs $1 billion more per factory for me to build, equip and operate a semiconductor manufacturing facility in the U.S.," he said. And 90% of that added cost, he said, is due to taxes and regulations that other countries don't have.
Intel has $35 billion in sales and employs 80,000 people. He probably knows more about business that everyone in Washington combined.
Otellini isn't alone in his frustration.

Earlier in the week, Illinois Tool Works CEO David Speer, whose company employs 60,000 worldwide, laid out his dilemma — and that of hundreds of other CEOs: "I could borrow $2 billion tomorrow for 3 1/2%," Speer said. "But what am I going to do with it?"
The anger's been building. In June, Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications and head of the Business Roundtable, warned of a growing anti-business slant in both Congress and the White House. Tax hikes, regulations and constant policy shifts, he said, "harm our ability ... to grow private-sector jobs in the U.S."
Businesses make investment decisions based on the outlook three, four, five, even 10 years down the road. Even with 3% money, they can't make projects pencil out. They're just too risky now.
So if this isn't enough to get you going, consider our EPA:
In yet another case of regulatory overreach, perfectly timed to further annoy the electorate, the EPA is considering a petition to completely ban lead hunting and target-shooting ammunition, under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Congress "explicitly excluded" ammunition from the 1976 Act, but the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) - a leading anti-hunting organization - has filed a petition which, if approved by the EPA, would result in the total ban of all lead ammunition, as well as lead fishing sinkers.
That ought to really help out Democrats in November.

Last, but not least, I like to read Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell.  You should too:

Crying Bigotry: Last Refuge Of The Liberal
Liberalism under siege is an ugly sight indeed. Just yesterday it was all hope and change and returning power to the people. But the people have proved so disappointing. Their recalcitrance has, in only 19 months, turned the 40-year liberal ascendancy that James Carville predicted into a full retreat.

‘Moral’ Hazard in Politics
Government handouts encourage citizens to act less prudently.

Have a great weekend...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

If the tax cuts expire

(Note to readers: Because the tax code is so complicated, if you believe I have anything wrong in my analysis, please point it out and provide me a source so I can correct this information.)

Congress, currently controlled by Democrats, has not acted on any type of tax reform. With only about 120 days until tax rates revert back to 2001 levels, it remains to be seen what they will do. (They haven't even worked on a budget for the next fiscal year).

Not only will the tax rates change, but other taxes will also be implemented or increase.

This table shows the tax for different taxable income levels, the increase if the tax cuts expire, and the percentage increase in the tax bill.

Taxable Income2001 Tax2009 TaxIncrease% Increase
Source: IRS 1040 tax schedules

Other tax provisions that will come to be (from The Snow Report and Kiplinger Mag):

Marriage penalty and child deduction: The “marriage penalty” (narrower tax
brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of
 income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1,000 to $500 per
child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples
relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits
will be cut.

Return of the "death" tax: The return of the estate tax. This year, there is no estate tax. For those dying on or after Jan. 1, 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates more than $1 million. A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a huge tax bill to their loved ones.

Higher tax rates on savers and investors: The capital gains tax will rise
from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011. The dividends tax will
 rise from 15 percent this year to a  maximum 39.6 percent in 2011. These rates will
rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.

Second Wave: Obamacare

There are more than 20 new or higher taxes in Obamacare. Several will first
go into effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

The “Medicine Cabinet Tax.” Thanks to Obamacare, Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA),
or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription,
over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).

The “Special Needs Kids Tax.” This provision of Obamacare imposes a cap on
 flexible spending accounts (FSAs) of $2,500. (Currently, there is no federal
 government limit). There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap
will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children.
 There are thousands of families with special needs children in the United
 States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education.
 Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in
 Washington , D.C. ( National Child Research Center ) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of
 special needs education.

The HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike. This provision of Obamacare increases the
additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20
 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged
 accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

Third Wave: The Alternative Minimum Tax and Employer Tax Hikes

When Americans prepare to file their tax returns in January of 2011, they’ll
be in for a nasty surprise -- the AMT – (Alternative Minimum Tax) won’t be held harmless, many
tax relief provisions will have expired.

The AMT will ensnare over 28 million families, up from 4 million last year.
 According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center , Congress’ failure to index
the AMT will lead to an explosion of AMT taxpaying families-rising from 4
 million last year to 28.5 million. These families will have to calculate
 their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level. The AMT was
created in 1969 to ensnare a handful of taxpayers.

Small business expensing will be slashed and 50% expensing will disappear.

Small businesses can normally expense (rather than slowly-deduct, or
"depreciate") equipment purchases up to $250,000. This will be cut all the
way down to $25,000. Larger businesses can expense half of their purchases
of equipment. In January of 2011, all of it will have to be “depreciated.”

Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses. There are literally scores
of tax hikes on business that will take place. The biggest is the loss of
the “research and experimentation tax credit,” but there are many, many others. Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief
 will cost jobs.

Tax Benefits for Education and Teaching Reduced. The deduction for tuition
and fees will not be available. Tax credits for education will be limited.
Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses. Covered
Education Savings Accounts will be cut. Employer-provided educational
assistance is curtailed. The student loan interest deduction will be
disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.

Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed. Under current law, a
 retired person with an IRA can contribute up to $100,000 per year directly
 to a charity from their IRA. This contribution also counts toward an annual
 "required minimum distribution." This ability will no longer be there.

Now your insurance is INCOME on your W2. One of the surprises we’ll find come next year is a little
 ”surprise” that 99% of us had no idea was included in the “new and
improved” healthcare legislation : the dupes, er, dopes, who backed this
administration will be astonished!

Starting in 2011, (next year folks), your W-2 tax form sent by your employer
will be increased to show the value of whatever health insurance you are
given by the company. It does not matter if that’s a private concern or
 governmental body of some sort. If you’re retired? So what; your gross will go up by the amount of insurance you get. (Note: This increase is not included in the table above).

You will be required to pay taxes on a large sum of money that you have
never seen. Take your tax form you just finished and see what $15,000 or
 $20,000 additional gross does to your tax debt. That’s what you’ll pay next
year. For many, it also puts you into a new higher bracket so it’s even

This is how the government is going to buy insurance for the 15% that don’t
have insurance and it’s only part of the tax increases.

It's legalized theft, in my book.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fear of Muslim rule?

While I tend to think the Cordoba House affair is more local to NYC, and should be ultimately decided by New Yorkers, it has some elements that should be discussed by all of us.

Katha Pollitt writes in the left-wing magazine The Nation: "Fear of Muslim rule is even more preposterous than what it has so efficiently replaced—fear of communist rule—and one day it will look just as bizarre."

I remember the typical leftist arguments, especially in the 1980s, that we really had nothing to fear from the Soviet Union. This was nothing but ignorance and delusion. The Soviet Union was a real threat, if anyone bothered to look closely. Reagan knew it, and was demonized by the left for his stance. (Even today, liberals fight the strategic missile defense program, which would defend us from rogue missile attacks. This is absolute idiocy, bordering on insanity).

But we prevailed, and the Soviet Union collapsed and millions of people now live in more democratic states. Ask anyone from Eastern Europe if they'd like to go back to living under communist rule. Tyranny of all sorts is the norm in human history; democracy is the exception.

Many, many imams, authors, leaders, and Islamic scholars have taken the stance that the goal of Islam is the Islamization of the world. It is written in the Qur'an. Do we just ignore what they say? We must be careful, and be vigilant. Our debate over the Cordoba House is not based on prejudice, or bigotry. It is about sensitivity. Many Muslims have stated that they'd like to see America destroyed. It is more about the preservation of our way of life. Another question that must be answered is: Is Islam just a religion, or is it more? An ideology? Islam does not separate religion and politics. This is against our core beliefs. It is an open book that many Muslim children are taught to hate other religions and races. Israel doesn't appear in maps in schoolbooks. I could go on how Islam is not a tolerant ideology. You could say this is cultural, but in a Muslim country, everything derives from Islam.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who Imam Rauf calls "“the most well-known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today," wrote in his book, of which the Saudi Gazette excerpted:
As Islam is a comprehensive system of worship (Ibadah) and legislation (Shari’ah), the acceptance of secularism means abandonment of Shari’ah, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions. It is indeed a false claim that Shari’ah is not proper to the requirements of the present age. The acceptance of a legislation formulated by humans means a preference of the humans’ limited knowledge and experiences to the divine guidance: “Say! Do you know better than Allah?” (Qur’an, 2:140) For this reason, the call for secularism among Muslims is atheism and a rejection of Islam. Its acceptance as a basis for rule in place of Shari’ah is downright apostasy.
Just because we're told this would be a moderate "cultural center" doesn't make it so. Imam Rauf seems a reasonable man. I've read his book, and he seems to be moderate. See "Ground Zero Imam Says U.S. Worse than al-Qaeda." There will be other players involved as well.  And the fact that the U.S. taxpayer is supporting his Mideast fund-raising tour should have the ACLU up in arms. (Would they be quiet if the State Department was sponsoring a Christian in this way?)

This conversation would be better if those in support of the "Cultural Center" would not continually play the race card. This has nothing to do with that.

Another question one might answer. Do we allow extreme fundamental Christian groups that preach hate and violence to exist in our neighborhoods? I find it interesting that the same people who are against any display of Christianity in this country, would support this issue in the name of "freedom of religion," which is not "freedom to build anything you want anywhere you want."

The debate should continue, but do not call us racists or bigots because we want to question the wisdom of the Cordoba House as it is currently conceived.

Monday, August 23, 2010

In an age of deceit

In an age of deceit, telling the truth is revolutionary. -- George Orwell

As the campaigns heat up for the November elections, so does the deceit.

President Obama on Aug 14:

Some Republican leaders in Congress don’t seem to have learned any lessons from the past few years. They’re pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress this fall. It’s right up there on their to-do list with repealing some of the Medicare benefits and reforms that are adding at least a dozen years to the fiscal health of Medicare – the single longest extension in history.
But according to FactCheck.org, this is "mostly false."
It’s simply not true that the Republican leadership of either the House or the Senate is currently pushing to allow any portion of Social Security taxes — let alone all Social Security taxes — to be invested in the stock market. Only one House member who could be characterized as a GOP "leader" — Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — is currently voicing public support for limited, voluntary private accounts for workers age 55 and under.

Obama also misled his audience when he said the Republicans favored "tying your benefits to the whims of Wall Street traders and the ups and downs of the stock market."

It’s quite true that private accounts would be subject to the "ups and downs of the stock market" — for those who chose to take that risk. But the plan proposed by Bush (and currently by Ryan) was optional. Nobody would have been forced to participate.

Furthermore, the plan Bush proposed would have allowed investment only in government-approved mutual funds, and only a relatively small portion of total benefits upon retirement would have depended on the performance of these funds.
FactCheck.org also has some interesting comments about the California governor's race. Here, both sides are distorting facts.

Why do our politicians -- from both sides -- feel they need to lie to get elected? Something is very dysfunctional in either our system, or our society.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Some good advice from 2,000 years ago

“The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome becomes bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, 55 BC

Obviously, our current political elite has not studied history, or studied the wrong history.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Barney Frank reverses course on Freddie, Fannie

I've always known that Barney Frank (D-Mass) had a hand in the financial meltdown. (See my post from Sept. 26, 2008.) No, he wasn't entirely to blame, but he was wrapped up in Democratic group-think for several years that Freddie and Fannnie were untouchable and were essential in expanding home ownership.

Now, in an interview with FoxNews, as reported by Investor's Business Daily, Frank says:

After years of dissembling and denial, Rep. Barney Frank has finally come out. He now says bankrupt government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "should be abolished." Better late than never.

'There were people in this society who for economic and, frankly, social reasons can't and shouldn't be homeowners," Frank said in an interview with the Fox Business Network and sounding a lot more like an elephant than a donkey. "I think we should, particularly, stop this assumption that you put everybody into homeownership."

After years of blaming heartless Republicans and Wall Street for the crisis caused by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — and their predominantly Democratic supporters in Congress — it's refreshing to hear a member of the Democratic Party admit his mistakes.
You have to give credit where credit is due. He has the guts to say, "maybe we were wrong."
As late as 2008, after the tide of losses and foreclosures washed away Fannie's and Freddie's remaining capital, Frank was adamant that it was all Wall Street's fault: "The private sector got us into this mess ... the government has to get us out of it."

Of course, he had it exactly backward. We've already spent $148 billion of taxpayer money on the two losers. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it will ultimately cost taxpayers $389 billion to bail them out.
Now if your buddies will go along with you, that would be great. Good luck on that, Mr. Frank.

Are Bush and the Republicans not so bad after all?

To all those out there who immediately, without any clarity of thought, continually bash Bush and Republicans for every problem we face, I have this to say: You're sick, so get some help. Or at least learn how to think rationally and clearly.

So the Republicans caused the financial meltdown? Of course. They're evil. The Democrats, or progressives, are for the people. What a bunch of bull.  It isn't as simple as that, but I guess some people have simple minds.

Let the FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan project at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, explain that there is plenty of blame to go around for our current crisis. For example:
The MoveOn.org Political Action ad blames a banking deregulation bill sponsored by former Sen. Phil Gramm, a friend and one-time adviser to McCain's campaign. It claims the bill "stripped safeguards that would have protected us."

That claim is bunk. When we contacted MoveOn.org spokesman Trevor Fitzgibbons to ask just what "safeguards" the ad was talking about, he came up with not one single example.
Before you accuse me of cherry-picking facts, you can read the entire article here. Yes, FactCheck does lay some of the blame at the feet of the Bush administration, among others. They list 11 causes for the meltdown.

In an interesting turn of events, some die-hard Bush-bashers are beginning to sing a new tune. Isn't this interesting? Byron York at the Washington Examiner writes:
There's a new argument emerging among supporters of the Ground Zero mosque. Distressed by President Obama's waffling on the issue, they're calling on former President George W. Bush to announce his support for the project, because in this case Bush understands better than Obama the connection between the war on terror and the larger question of America's relationship with Islam. It's an extraordinary change of position for commentators who long argued that Bush had done grievous harm to America's image in the Muslim world and that Obama represented a fresh start for the United States. Nevertheless, they are now seeing a different side of the former president.
York concludes that what people are needing now is leadership, which they are not getting from our current community organizer President.
Eventually, I hope, people will wake up and realize that not all of conservative or libertarian ideas are automatically bad. Even the NYT is now admitting that continually extending unemployment benefits may be bad for unemployment.
Obama and the Democratic party have worked hard to polarize this nation, with the continual use of the race card, class warfare, and the attempts at the personal destruction of their opponents. Why, Nancy Pelosi even wants an investigation into who is opposing the building of the ground-zero mosque. Will she investigate Harry Reid, who has come out and said that mosque should be built elsewhere?  Why not investigate who is funding the mosque? But she's always wanted to silence her opponents. Then she doesn't have to debate them. This is a common liberal failing.

(Update: Pelosi did come out the next day stating that those funding the mosque should also be vetted, but re-emphasized investigating the funding of those opposed to it, as if it is some "right-wing conspiracy.")

Isn't it time for all this crap to end? Seventy-three days and we can fire these losers. I hope.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday's musings

Interesting political knowledge quiz by the Pew Research Center. I scored 11, or 100 percent. I find it interesting that 85 percent know what Twitter is, but only 19 percent know who the Prime Minister of Britain is.

Confidence in the news media is not getting any better, according to a Gallup poll.  Maybe if they’d go back to reporting the news, instead of telling us what to think and promoting the politicians and policies that make their legs tingle, this would change.

Speaking of "news" media, I tried watching Keith Olbermann the other night. Couldn't do it. I find him offensive. No wonder O'Reilly (whom I also don't watch), gets nearly 2.4 million viewers to Olbermann's 942,000, according to tvbythenumbers.com. Generally these primetime shows are not news, but commentary, so I really don't watch them.

If you believe that government is corrupt, why would you want more government?

The hiring outlook, as reported by the newsletter HR Hero Line, is basically flat.

This could be one of the reasons for the weak jobs outlook: "I met with two different groups of independent business owners focused in the southeast and their perception of current business conditions is almost unanimous. They are angry. They face conflicting and unclear regulations, and a near certainty of increasing taxes . They are impatient. Many are not profitable and are unable and unwilling to tolerate customers who cannot pay, employees who do not think, banks without judgment, and a government that despises their efforts to create wealth and jobs." [American Thinker]

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th roundup

I'm not really a huge Huckabee fan, but this report from The Slatest makes sense to me:
Mike Huckabee continues to pull away from the GOP on immigration. The former Arkansas governor told NPR Wednesday that unlike Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. John Kyle, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he doesn't think a constitutional amendment is the way to solve the nation's immigration problems. Graham has said "birthright citizenship is a mistake," but Huckabee expressed little patience with that idea, noting that "in three different centuries," the Supreme Court had ruled that citizenship belongs to every baby born in the United States. "You do not punish a child for something the parent did," Huckabee said. "The question is: Is [an undocumented child born outside of the U.S.] better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes?"

This article, by Victor Davis Hanson, is worth reading (most of his stuff is worth reading, including his history books):
Some 11 million to 15 million illegal aliens are now residing in America, most after crossing into America unlawfully. Once a federal law is arbitrarily not enforced, all sorts of bizarre paradoxes arise from that original contradiction. As proof, examine the following illogical policies and contradictions involving illegal immigration. [Full text here]

Some interesting information from Investors Business Daily. It seems your average American has a better sense of economics than the "experts" in the government.
Tax policies reward borrowers by allowing them to deduct interest they pay on borrowed money.
Tax policies penalize savers by making them pay tax on interest they earn on saved money.

Some White House officials and others, not content with the ways government policies already discourage saving, are trying to encourage people to spend more money, arguing it's needed to grow the economy.
Federal Reserve statistics disprove that claim. Between 1980 and 1994 the U.S. savings rate averaged 8%. Most of those were heady years for economic growth compared to what we see today.
Since World War II there have been 11 recessions. The prior 10 recessions averaged 10.4 months in length, according to the National Bureau of Economic Analysis. Our current Great Recession started in December 2007 — 31 months ago.

Can anyone doubt one reason consumer spending has been weak during the Great Recession has been that people went into it with little or no money saved for a cash cushion? Living paycheck to paycheck is no way to weather a financial storm.

Encouraging people to spend rather than save is the wrong policy for the current time. The more money people save, the more financially secure they are. And the more secure people are, the more likely they are to start spending and investing.

Americans are right to be saving money to increase their financial security. Spending beyond our means — both in government and in our personal lives — caused the bubble that led to the crisis. Most Americans know this.
Too bad so many people in positions of government power choose to deny the obvious.

Ramblings on race, by Lloyd Marcus:

Black and white associates, family, and friends were highly offended that I would consider the character, principles, and associations of the person requesting to be elected leader of my beloved country. It was weird enough that I, a black, openly express love for America, but I actually expected the first African-American presidential candidate to go through the usual vetting process. Clearly, in their minds, Obama's skin color trumped everything.

Eighteen months later, America is suffering the consequences of white guilt and black resentment-inspired racism. Bottom line: Racism is wrong and evil regardless of who does it.

The Obama administration and their liberal mainstream media minions are despicably exploiting race to further Obama's progressive/socialist agenda. Any and all criticism of America's first black president is attacked as racist. Consequently, Americans are more polarized and divided along racial lines than ever.

And on a lighter side:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Comments for the day

Paul Krugman,  who is growing more and more disconnected as time goes on. (Maybe he's getting pissed off because his economic theories aren't really working in the real world.)
It’s crucial to keep state and local government in mind when you hear people ranting about runaway government spending under President Obama. Yes, the federal government is spending more, although not as much as you might think. But state and local governments are cutting back. And if you add them together, it turns out that the only big spending increases have been in safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, which have soared in cost thanks to the severity of the slump.
So the $3 trillion in deficit spending over the last two years is "not as much as you might think?" Spend five minutes with Google, and you'll discover that total government spending -- federal, state and local -- was 6.9 percent of GDP in 1900. This year, it will be 40 percent. That's more than $6 trillion. Yet Krugman wants all government to spend more. The more the better. Total state control goes along with that.

Reader comment of the day, found on wapo:
...I wish leftists would not use the term "progressives." My family has lived under socialism, and there is nothing "progressive" about a command-economy, secret police, gulags, government enforced mediocrity, voter-intimidation, loss of liberty, or the other "blessings of socialism." Obama-slobberers really need to spend some time in a socialist country, and then maybe they will understand why refugees come here rather than flee to North Korea or China. Even Michael Moore left Cuba.
Along these lines, from John Krausher, a communications consulting, writing for FoxForum:

....Moynihan further observed that, “The liberal left can be as rigid and destructive as any force in American life.”

It’s ironic that for all of the liberal left’s piousness regarding values like tolerance, privacy and conservation, we see many examples of hypocrisy in their views. The liberal left demand tolerance for their free speech and protests, but want their critics suppressed or silenced. Liberal leftists find no problem with privacy invasion if bureaucrats muck around in your medical records or hackers publish Sarah Palin’s private e-mails. Apparently it’s “do as I say, not as I do” when liberal leftists like Al Gore and Barbra Streisand live in energy-hogging mansions and travel the world in fuel-guzzling private jets. Meantime, they lecture conservatives and want them to pay dearly because of their “carbon footprints.”

President Obama is trying to rally his liberal left base to turn out and vote in November. But the rigidity and destructiveness of the liberal left may backfire on the president. Liberal left excesses will motivate Republicans and Independents upset with Obama’s leftist policies to turn out in droves, swamping the number of liberal leftists who actually vote.

Moynihan said that, "Liberalism faltered when it turned out it could not cope with truth."

As that applies on Election Day — and going forward — Daniel Patrick Moynihan may turn out to be more prescient than anyone.
And some wonder why we're where we are.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vacationing in Spain. What's wrong with the U.S.?

From my point of view, the excuses by the White House -- and other Obama groupies -- over the First Lady's extravagant trip to Spain, are pure bull hockey.

Axelrod said it was appropriate because she was a "mom," and that she went to Spain for the "privacy".

Privacy? Do Democrats really think the average American citizen is that stupid. It's unbelievable. If she wanted privacy she could have stayed home or gone to Camp David...but that was not the purpose of the trip and shows once again how the White House is disconnected from reality.

I think the arrogance and sense of entitlement the Obama's continually flaunt will insure that they will be gone after 2012.

But I knew someone would play the race card again, and it wasn't hard to find:
Simply put, there are some in this country who cannot stand the idea of women and people of color in positions of power, and there are cynical power mongers who don't mind pushing their buttons to keep the political pot boiling. And they are not above exaggeration and outright lies to prove their nonexistent point.
Are we tired of this yet? I think of all the "women and people of color" who have occupied positions of power over the last several decades, and wonder where some folks keep coming up with this as an excuse for incompetence.

Even some in Europe sense this. From the Telegraph in the U.K.

The First Lady’s ill-conceived trip to Marbella and the complete disregard for public opinion and concerns over excessive government spending is symbolic of a far wider problem with the Obama presidency – the overarching disdain for the principles of limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise that have built the United States over the course of nearly two and a half centuries into the most powerful and free nation on earth.
And the public is waking up. As Admiral Yamamoto said right after Pearl Harbor: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post summed it up nicely:
When many Americans are scraping together pennies to finance a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, the notion that a child must be treated to Spain's beaches to celebrate her decade on the planet is a bitter pill to swallow.

On balance, the vacation was poorly conceived but hardly a crime befitting the condemnation. Perhaps of more lasting concern is the missed opportunity for the first lady to set an example of restraint and even generosity. I hear the Gulf Coast beaches could use a cash infusion.
And what's wrong with a vacation in the United States? Well, we know that Michelle Obama really doesn't like her country all that much and would rather rub shoulders with European royalty. That is the simple, but sad, truth.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are politicians stuck on stupid?

You have to come to that conclusion. Members of both parties are pretty much there. I've been hearing dumb things from both sides of the political spectrum, which convinces me we aren't going to get any fixes to our problems anytime soon.

Let's start with Obama, using a news article from Reuters:
At a fund-raising event for Democrats in Dallas, where Bush now lives, Obama said the former president's "disastrous" policies had driven the U.S. economy into the ground and turned budget surpluses into deficits.

Obama defended his repeated references to Bush's policies, saying they were necessary to remind Americans of the weak economy he inherited from Bush in January 2009.

"The policies that crashed the economy, that undercut the middle class, that mortgaged our future, do we really want to go back to that, or do we keep moving our country forward?" Obama said at another fund-raising event in Austin, referring to Bush's eight years as president.
Sorry, Mr. President. This tactic is not going to work anymore. Man-up. Our country has been moving forward? To what? And where? You must really think that the average American is a gun-toting, bible-thumping moron.

One thing interesting about this article is the reader comments. As of this writing, there were 311 comments. After scrolling through about half of them, I could see the consensus. The blaming-Bush tactic is backfiring. He is losing respect. The following comment is consistent with about 99 percent of the comments:
Whatever happened to being “Presidential”? The buck stops at the top and this president has been at the top for quite some time now. Enough is enough. It is time to buck up and take responsibility for policies that are not working.

You can easily find a lot of Democrats who are using this tactic, and it won't work.

But some on the Republican side are just as stupid. Pete Sessions on Meet the Press:
"We need to go back to the exact same agenda that is empowering the free enterprise system rather than diminishing it," said NRCC chairman Pete Sessions on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning.
Yea, that'll get you re-elected, you nincompoop. Just what everyone is hoping for, a return to the policies that got the Republicans fired from Congress in 2006.

What we need are some solutions, not rhetoric. All we seem to get is gab, gab, gab, and things keep getting worse, not better. Democrats have bad ideas which have never worked, and the Republicans don't have any new ideas. So we have, as Lewis Black put it, a party of bad ideas and a party of no ideas.

Maybe things would improve if we didn't allow lawyers to run for office.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Is it time to bail on stocks?

Many financial advisers have reached this conclusion. One popular CFP in the Dallas area already has his clients in cash or alternative investments. I'm debating -- with myself mostly -- on whether I should reduce my exposure to stocks.

One key component of my decision will be capital gains taxes. If they are set to double, then I may take profits this year. A lot of other people may do the same. This may create heaving selling, which would create a bear market.

While the chart shows a mini-bull session, it may not last. Here's why:

1. Unemployment is not improving. Without new jobs, the economy is not going to grow much. There is not one thing the Obama administration has proposed that will stimulate job growth.
2. While earnings have been impressive so far, revenues have been weak. These earnings have come from cost-cutting, not revenue growth. So earnings may stagnate or decline. This is key to stock market returns.
3. Uncertainty over taxes and regulations have business treading water. They are sitting on cash, waiting to see what Congress and the Feds do. They are not hiring.  A lot will depend on the elections in November.
4. Investment taxes, such as those on dividends and capital gains, are set to go up, maybe. Another uncertainty. Many investors may start more selling just based on this. As uncertainty rises, so does risk.
5. The market top in late April may indeed be a market top. While 10 to 20 percent corrections are the norm, this one may not reverse significantly. Volume on upticks has not been encouraging.

The chart below shows the SP500 for the last six months. Once the 20-day dips below the 50-day MA, and the MACD trend is negative, it may be -- probably will be -- time to sell. Volume will be a confirmation (down ticks on heavy volume is bearish).

Disclaimer: This is not a recommendation, so don't go buy and sell stocks and then come back here and tell me I'm wrong. I could very well be. Do your own research and due diligence.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oops. A 'progressive' tells the truth

This was too good to make up. This comment appeared on Paul Krugman's blog on the NYT, who has recently decided to moderate comments because he's losing the debate.
Who is this guy Sean from Florida? He takes everything that Professor and shreds it, piece by piece. He shouldn't be allowed to post his comments on this blog since he seems to be winning all the debates. We progressives need to stick together and embellish our talking points without someone from the outside pointing out fallacies in our ideology.

For those of you who do not know Krugman, here's one summary:
For those who do not know, Paul Krugman is one of the few who still claim that Keynesian progressivism is the answer to America's (and Europe's) problems, not their cause. He repeats that claim many times each month. Amid these repeated expressions of his "progressive" faith, he now also repeatedly expresses grim despair because his progressive policy prescriptions are being accepted less and less in the public square, even by the Obama administration.
So it looks like the debate is over for Paul Krugman.

For a better perspective on economics and politics, I invite you to check out Dr. Thomas Sowell. He has written several books, which are understandable to the layman. This is an interesting series at Investor's Business Daily.

Obama and Iraq: Nothing New

President Obama's speech about the "end" of combat operations in Iraq is pretty much fluff. I want you to remember that this change in the U.S. forces in Iraq is all part of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) reached between the two nations before Obama took office.

(Note: If you're not familiar with SOFAs, the U.S. has one with any country where U.S. forces are stationed, which is just about everywhere. They guide the rules of conduct for U.S. forces.)

So what is happening now has nothing to do with Obama. Though I'm sure he and his vice-idiot will take credit for it. The good part of all this is that we can bring some more of our troops home (oops...many of them get to go to Afghanistan now). The bad part is that Iraq may descend into anarchy. I'd hate to see all the death and suffering accomplish nothing.

The Associated Press was one of the few media outlets that even mentioned the SOFA.
The president was walking a difficult line in his speech Monday to the Disabled American Veterans. His ambiguous record on the war before taking office and the fact that an end-of-2011 total withdrawal deadline was already in place were sure to have diluted his message.

As an opponent to what he, in 2002, called "a dumb war, a rash war," Obama also strenuously challenged the Bush administration's so-called troop surge in 2007, which is broadly credited with pulling Iraq back from the brink of civil war.

Obama said the combat mission will end by Aug. 31 "as promised and on schedule," but the pullout was, in fact, preordained by the U.S.-Iraqi "Status of Forces Agreement" that took effect before his inauguration in January 2009.
So what has Obama really accomplished? Not much, in my view.

With Obama's approval rating now at 41 percent, and the approval rating for Congress at historic lows, we have to ask ourselves "Why do we elect these people?"

Monday, August 2, 2010

Who has controlled what?

I find it interesting that so many liberals / democrats are continuing to blame all of our problems on Republicans, and especially Bush, on just about everything.

But I have one point here: You can't put blame, if that's what you want to do, on just one party or person. Congress, and more specifically the House, controls spending. Without spending, the President can't do anything. There was a good reason for this, and it continues to be a good reason: Division of power.

Since 1945, Democrats have had a majority in the house 51 years, the Republicans only 14 years. The Senate has been controlled by the Democrats for 45 years, the Republicans only 20.

For the executive branch, Democrats have ruled for 29, Republicans 36. This is a little more equitable, but if we go back 12 more years, to 1933 when Roosevelt took over, then Democrats have ruled for 41 out of 77 years, or more than half the time.

So generally speaking, over the last several decades, it has been Democratic programs and policies. So are we better off than we were in 1945, or 1965, or 1985? It doesn't seem so, and in many cases things are worse, despite decades of liberal policies.

Maybe it's time for something new. Vote them all out and start over.