Bill Whittle has the triple Trifecta this week, and it’s seriously good stuff.
Well, that ought to show him:
“He’s not winning,” said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“A couple of weeks ago he had the president of the entire country under his thumb. He had prevented them from joining the EU. Today, he’s essentially lost the rest of Ukraine. He’s become an international pariah,” said Murphy.
Putin has earned himself lectures from two men (Wiggleroom & Kerry) whom he neither respects nor fears. Putin is also a “pariah” with the leaders of Western Europe, whom he holds by the short and curlies with Russia’s energy exports.
It’s not that the West doesn’t hold any strong cards; we hold plenty. The problem is that we won’t play any of the really strong cards, and anyway Murphy’s condemnation is hardly one of them.
We would have been better off losing gracefully than losing with these constant displays of petulant impotence.
It should touch your heart, each and every time a noble lefty comes to the defense of the powerless. So grab yourself a hanky or three and read Al Hunt’s stirring defense of the little guys at the IRS:
Many Republicans hate the IRS. Its budget has been cut for four consecutive years, while its responsibilities have increased. It has a major role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and it is embroiled in a controversy over the tax-exempt status of political groups.
In less than three months on the IRS job, Koskinen already has bolstered morale at the agency as well as its standing on Capitol Hill. He’s more than halfway through a tour of the 25 largest IRS offices in the U.S.
“After four years of what we’ve been through, there is an amazing amount of energy and commitment,” he says. “One common theme is we don’t have enough people to provide services to taxpayers.”
Most days I feel so well serviced by the IRS I’m afraid to sit down.
The contention on the left is that the labor participation rate is falling because Baby Boomers are retiring. And while that’s certainly part of the truth, it doesn’t explain this:
The labor force participation rate in 2013 for Americans in their twenties hit the lowest level recorded since 1981, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics started releasing employment data on people in the full age bracket of 20 through 29.
The labor force participation rate for people ages 20 through 24—which BLS has been tracking since 1948—hit a 42-year low in 2013.
1981 was the year of a sharp, engineered recession. President Reagan and Fed Chair Paul Volcker squeezed the life out of inflation, at the short-term cost of jobs and economic growth. The recovery which followed shortly thereafter was one for the record books, thanks also to tax cuts and deregulation.
Today we have tax hikes and ever-increasing regulation, plus the economic uncertainty created by ♡bamaCare!!!’s many delays and waivers. So there’s really no end — no hope, no change — in sight for today’s young unemployed.
An Oklahoma man is facing over $100,000 in hospital bills because he lost his health insurance plan due to Obamacare.
Lenny Hubbs, a “healthy man,” as his wife describes him, is a self-employed contractor who was previously on his wife’s health insurance plan. Her employer announced that his employees would no longer be allowed to pay for their spouses’ premiums.
They could not afford to purchase health insurance. Lenny’s wife told KXII-TX that “good” health insurance would have cost them $500 a month. They do not qualify for Medicaid.
Hubbs had to have part of a lung removed, and his family contends he failed to receive proper treatment because of his cancelled coverage.
That Means It’s Working™.
The law might hit part-time Wisconsin schoolteachers hard:
School districts have a choice of laying off or reducing the hours of teachers, aides and substitutes that work more than 30 hours but less than 40 a week, or offering the same health care coverage at the same cost as they do full-time staff.
In March 2013, Mike Nault, human resources director at the Oshkosh School District, offered part-time teachers in the district an ultimatum.
“If you want health insurance July 1, 2014,” Nault told them, “then you need to look for full-time work with us.”
A postponement gave the district a temporary reprieve, Nault told Wisconsin Reporter. “Then I thought ‘OK we’re not going to change anything for a year.’”
With the changes and delays, the Oshkosh district, the 11th largest in the state, may be able to keep the status quo for another year, Nault said. There are still “too many variables” to know what will happen in 2016.
That Means It’s Working™.
More seriously, at this point you shouldn’t be at all surprised if the Wiggleroom Administration begins illegally delaying more and more provisions — past 2015 and into 2017, conveniently after Queen Hillary’s coronation.
But at some point, doesn’t the law have to come into effect?
Japan has decided, for the first time ever, to establish a force of marines similar to the U.S. Marine Corps. Apparently American marines will help train the new Japanese force, currently planned as a brigade of some 3,000 troops. American marines have been teaching Japanese infantry how to undertake amphibious operations for some time but these army troops were not considered marines. The new plan is to establish an elite force of Japanese marines to deal with Chinese threats to Japanese territory. Japan is aware that neighboring South Korea created a Marine Corps in the 1950s, mainly because American marines were involved in protecting South Korea during the Korean War (1950-53) and the Koreans were impressed by the American marines. The South Korean marines turned out to be very good and the Japanese will have to hustle to be competitive.
I’m sure the Japanese will do just that — and the Chinese have nobody to blame but themselves for this development.
There’s a phrase we’ll probably be seeing more of over the next few weeks, months, and years. WSJ has the latest story:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has apparently rejected a U.S. proposal to resolve the dispute over Ukraine that had been put forward by Secretary of State John Kerry over the past week, according to senior Russian and U.S. officials.
Mr. Putin’s decision led Mr. Kerry to put off a Russian invitation to meet Mr. Putin in Russia, as early as the beginning of this week in Sochi, to discuss the Ukraine crisis, according to these officials.
Notice the swastika in the poster above? That’s part of Putin’s propaganda campaign, in which Moscow claims that Ukraine is being run by nationalists with Nazi inclinations to murder Russians. Is it true? Of course not — but it can be portrayed as true in Russia (and in Crimea) for long enough to get Putin what he wants.
While Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom and Secretary of State John Kerry give stern lectures about Putin’s Neanderthal 19th Century behavior, the Russian strongman redefines warfare for the 21st Century.
Danny Vinik for The New Republic:
Republicans like to promise things they can’t deliver, like huge tax cuts that pay for themselves or health reform plans that don’t disrupt the existing system. And that’s made life difficult for Democrats trying to propose initiatives that, in order to accomplish real goals, come with real costs. But lately Republican delusions about policy have hobbled somebody else: Members of their own party trying to show that, yes, the GOP can govern responsibly.
You should read the rest of Vinik’s report just as soon as Democrats fully implement their healthcare “reform” law — on time and on budget.
Another day, another fail, another union turns against ♡bamaCare!!!:
Culinary Workers Union Local 226 is pushing about a dozen of its employers to contribute more money to its health insurance fund to cover rising Obamacare costs. Currently, employers pay 100% of the premiums.
Union workers picketed outside the Stratosphere over the weekend, ahead of a March 20 vote that would give the union the right to call a strike.
At issue are Obamacare fees and mandates that have greatly increased the health insurance fund’s expenses in recent years. What’s angering the local, along with many unions nationwide, is that the fund doesn’t qualify for federal subsidies to cover low-income workers that for-profit insurers do. The union fund wants these subsidies to help offset the added costs.
Those subsidies, which go directly to insurers, help lower-income Americans purchase insurance on the individual market through state and federal exchanges. But since union plans are considered employer-sponsored plans, there is no federal money to subsidize its members.
You’d think Professor Wiggleroom would wave his magic waiver wand, but as I said yesterday, private sector unions no longer hold enough clout to wag the Democrat dog.
Jonathan Martin reports from CPAC:
It was difficult to miss Ian Jacobson at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Known as Rooster, he was 33, with an ample beard, earrings and a towering orange-and-aqua spiked Mohawk haircut. But he also sported a pinstriped suit, French cuffs and a natty contrast collar.
Mr. Jacobson’s sartorial contradictions matched those of his politics: He is among the young Republicans who are pro-free market on fiscal issues and libertarian on social ones. While his views represent a potential growth wing for a party that is losing among other demographic groups, they also show an emerging tension with the older social conservatives at the core of the party’s base.
“I want us to return to our roots,” Mr. Jacobson said while attending the conference over the weekend. A self-described “libertarian-leaning Republican” from San Antonio, he sketched out his ideal political party as one that freed individuals to chart their own course in their personal and professional lives.
The story notes that even GOP presidential hopefuls at the convention “largely avoided divisive social issues or mentioned them only to praise their party’s big-tent tolerance.”
Even the old guard might be starting to learn.
Yahoo has a nice primer on ♡bamaCare!!!’s penalties for failure to obtain insurance, or pay the insurance “tax” or whatever the hell it is. But the penalties, while increasingly harsh, might not be all they’re cracked up to be:
The point of such penalties isn’t to punish people or raise revenue for the government but to provide an increasingly strong incentive to sign up for insurance, from any source. ACA enrollees can qualify for federal subsidies that will reduce the cost of coverage up to income levels of about $47,000 for an individual and $95,000 for a family of four. At some point, the cost of coverage could be cheaper than the penalty for some people, which in theory ought to make enrolling a no-brainer.
There’s one wild card, though: It’s still not clear how the government will collect penalty fees, or how aggressively it will enforce them. About 80% of people who file a tax return get a refund, and the Internal Revenue Service will be allowed to deduct the amount of penalties owed from those refunds. But that could create an undesirable cat-and-mouse game in which taxpayers deliberately underpay each year, making it harder for the government to collect not just ACA penalty fees but basic taxes. So the IRS may be reluctant to hack into refunds. And there’s no other clear-cut way for the government to garnish wages or take other aggressive steps to collect fees.
Simple lawfulness isn’t much of an impediment for the IRS these days, which is why it’s so vital for the GOP to take the Senate this fall if we’re to have any hope of reining in the rogue agency.
A smart GOP (cough, cough) could have a field day sending taxpayer-friendly IRS reform bills for Professor Wiggleroom to veto.
Have this with your coffee:
At some point over the next few years, the rate of money flow and inflation will start to catch up to each other, eventually sending the economy into a recession, according to a new analysis from banking analyst Dick Bove.
The good news in Bove’s forecast is that the day of reckoning is probably four years away.
The bad news is that a 7 percent rate in the 10-year note looms out there, something that would put a severe crimp in the current debt-happy economy.
I’ll say it again. The only reason we get a four-year window is the weight of the Wiggleroom Administration on the private sector has squeezed all the life out of it. There’s no velocity of money when people are hunkered down, expecting the worst.
And so here it comes.
Analysts Molly K. McKew and Gregory A. Maniatis for WaPo:
Putin is no longer bound by the constraints of nation-state warfare. Years of confrontations with separatists, militants, terrorists and stateless actors influenced his thinking. In Crimea, Putin debuted a pop-up war — nimble and covert — that is likely to be the design of the future.
First, the hidden army appeared out of nowhere. Soldiers-of-no-nation were outfitted for troublemaking and street-fighting. These troops, denied by Putin, are also seemingly unconstrained by the laws, rules and conventions governing warfare — Putin’s biggest brush-off yet to international order. They are Putin’s hybrid of soldiers and terrorists: hidden faces, hidden command-and-control, hidden orders, but undoubtedly activated to achieve state objectives. The lack of an identified leader gums up the international community’s response: There is no general with whom to negotiate a cease-fire or surrender; if violence erupts, there is potentially no way to end it short of stopping each gunman.
These irregular forces are also a psychological menace for the local population and Ukrainians nationwide, who don’t know where else the hidden army awaits.
The second component of Putin’s 21st-century warfare is cyber. Calling it propaganda diminishes the insidious and poisonous nature of this information battle.
Two decades ago or more, James Dunnigan and Austin Bay wrote about our future of fighting “little wars” against non-traditional (and possibly non-state) actors. They couldn’t have been more correct in their assessments.
What Putin has done is quite remarkable. He’s taken the little war concepts traditionally used by small nations, rebels, or terror groups, and adapted them for use by a large nation-state.
These tactics act as a force multiplier, especially since the cyber actions and the semi-demi-guerrilla army require less force — and less logistical strain — than a conventional war does. Added to the mix what the authors describe as Putin’s talent for “using financial markets as a polemical tool” to keep himself enriched and in power.
Combatting this multi-layered and asymmetrical warfare, scaled up to continental size, is going to require a much more nimble White House, State Department, and Pentagon than we currently enjoy.
Here’s the latest in FL13′s special congressional election:
With more than 119,000 ballots cast early or in the mail, the GOP holds a returned-ballot advantage of 4.06% — thereby reaching the magic number some observers believe the Republicans must be at by Election Day in order for them to win the seat.
According to the latest data — and this data reflects some cancelling out that does not show up in Pinellas Supervisor of Elections’ raw numbers – 48,123 ballots from Republican voters have been returned as of Friday, while Democrats have turned in 43,526. Third-party or NPA voters have cast 21,503 ballots.
119,000 early ballots seems like a lot for an off-year special election, doesn’t it?
David Jolly has a real chance to win this, but he and his team should be ready to pounce on any signs of irregularities — which is the nice way of saying “the Democrats will steal this election if they can.”
Megan McArdle looked at the people who are actually buying insurance on the new exchanges and concludes:
The positive way to look at this is to note that the number of uninsured people who had purchased insurance increased dramatically by February:
The negative way to look at this is to note that, even so, the majority of activity in the market comes from the previously insured, who are mostly replacing prior coverage.
Or we could conclude that ♡bamaCare!!! causes people to lose their coverage, then takes credit for selling them new, and often worse coverage. Megan adds:
Worse, the number of previously insured people who had not enrolled in a qualified health plan by the end of February was almost twice the number of previously uninsured people who had. That’s the opposite of the effect this law was supposed to have.
And that’s still looking at the law in isolation, without taking into account it’s external unintended consequences on the labor market and economic growth.
That Means It’s Working™.
Found a knee-slapping satirical interview from Thomas Frank with Adolph Reed at Salon. Frank’s questions are in bold:
Maybe the whole project of economic restructuring should be called into question.
And the funny thing about it when you think about it, Tom, is that if you’re concerned with the conditions of black Americans, most black people are working people. One might say even disproportionately. And what improves the condition of the working class is going to improve the condition of more black people than the disparity focus would. That’s not to say it’s either/or. But the fact is we’ve largely dropped the one in favor of the other. You can see the same thing in the women’s movement. I made this point in the article. It wasn’t that long ago when the political agenda of the women’s movement included stuff like comparable worth and universal child and elder care. And right now, attention to that stuff is shriveled. The defense of reproductive rights is a constant, of course. But the political-economic program that gets touted by the women’s movement is directed toward the glass ceiling and the first woman president. Stuff like that.
I was thinking of Sheryl Sandberg.
Right. She is the Alexandra Kollontai of our moment.
Or the Clara Zetkin. The radical Bolshevik theorist who was also a feminist. I guess I should say that Sandberg is the Alexandra Kollontai of the bourgeoisie at this point.
This isn’t satire, you say? That’s right. This is just how members of the Reality Based Community talk amongst themselves.
Remember how Japanese PM Shinzō Abe was going to be the guy to really, truly, and finally spend his country into prosperity? Well:
Japan just printed its worst current account deficit on record and its worst GDP growth since Abenomics was unveiled – both missing by the proverbial garden mile and both confirming that all is not well in Asia. As for the perpetual hope of a J-curve (or miracle hockey-stick reversal)? There won’t be one!
Tyler Durden has the whole story, accompanied by some Doom & Gloom-worthy charts.
Deregulate. Simplify the tax code. Protect the value of your currency. Those three steps are all it takes to achieve prosperity, but as Glenn Reynolds like to say, politicians don’t like them because they provide too few opportunities for graft.
CFR’s Gayle Tzemach Lemmon spoke with retired diplomat Ronald Neumann about Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s “foreign policy reality check.” Here’s the damning bit:
Neumann describes a National Security Council that controls the policy process far more than it makes decisions about it. In Syria, Afghanistan and other hotspots, the administration’s choices range from lousy to awful, a reality that has resulted in a sustained lack of decision-making.
“They recognize a series of choices, they don’t like any of them, they don’t know what to do about it and then they default into endless talking about small stuff,” Neumann said. “I think it is much more a function of a president, at the end of the day, not giving clear strategic guidance because he doesn’t like the options, rather than he doesn’t understand them.”
As the father of two small boys, I sometimes encounter this behavior right here at home. Confronted with an unwelcome decision (“make your bed before breakfast”) they will choose to do nothing until until the stakes become more dire (“make your bed or no Froot Loops for breakfast”) as the situation escalates (“make your bed or no Froot Loops for a week”). The hope is that the situation will go away — that I’ll forget about the bed or cave in and let them have the Froot Loops anyway.
But foreign leaders don’t back down in the face of hemming and hawing. And as a parent I won’t back down either. Partly, that’s just good, consistent parenting. But it’s also because I can’t stand the idea of my boys growing up to become anything like Professor Wiggleroom.
Chrysler has ordered students of a small community college in Olympia, Wash., to destroy a Dodge Viper GTS Coupe. And it’s not just any Viper GTS coupe, either — it’s the fourth Viper model off the production line that’s been sitting for the past seven years at South Puget Sound Community College.
The pre-production car was donated, along with 92 other Vipers, by Chrysler to technical schools nationwide that offer automotive programs. The problem is, according to professor Norm Chapman, that despite the fact that these Vipers were educational tools that were never meant to see the open road, a couple of them “got loose.” And predictably enough for a car with a 8.0-liter V10 underhood and no traction control or ABS to speak of, they were involved in accidents. So now, to mitigate lawsuits, the mint condition example you see before you with VIN number four is going bye-bye.
This particular Viper, while appearing to be a stock GTS coupe, is a prototype from 1992. It has a 600-horsepower V10 engine, a 2,200-pound fiberglass body with a “makeshift hard-top,” according to the Tacoma News Tribune. When the GTS debuted in 1996, it came with a 450-horsepower V10 and more conventional body construction with a heavier curb weight.
This kind of order isn’t uncommon for vehicles never built to be street legal. And do you really want to drive a 600-HP car with a “makeshift” top?
OK, yeah, dumb question.
The amount of debt globally has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis as governments borrowed to pull their economies out of recession and companies took advantage of record low interest rates, according to the Bank for International Settlements.
The $30 trillion increase from $70 trillion between mid-2007 and mid-2013 compares with a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The jump in debt as measured by the Basel, Switzerland-based BIS in its quarterly review is almost twice the U.S.’s gross domestic product.
Obviously we failed to spend enough money.
Here’s the transcript from BizPacReview:
“I was a bit troubled today by the tone of the president,” he began, speaking at the Republican Governors Association Feb. 24.
Perry was describing a meeting at the White House earlier that day between several governors and President Obama.
“When you have governors, and we all compete against each other — we are the laboratories of innovation — and for the President of the United States to look Democrat and Republican governors in the eye and say, ‘I do not trust you to make decisions in your state about issues of education, about transportation infrastructure,’ — and that is really troubling,” he said.
Perry expressed his own fears regarding Environmental Protection Agency restrictions choking off America’s energy production and a possible reduction in his state’s national guard.
“As a matter of fact, he [Obama] said at that meeting, he said, ‘If I hear any of you pushing back, making statements about Washington spends too much money, you’ll hear from me,” he said, adding, “I’m highly offended by that.”
After his comically disastrous presidential campaign in 2012, Perry needed to get serious and stopping running for, as I described it then, “Governor of America.” He’s since switched to wearing glasses and added something of a wonky streak to his persona.
The focus is on Rand Paul and Chris Christie and a few others, but don’t yet count Perry out for 2016.
Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the day the stock market hit its lowest point during the financial crisis and Great Recession.
The fact that the rally is about to turn five has some investors wondering if stocks can keep going much higher.
But previous bull markets, which are broadly defined as a period where the S&P 500 gains 20% or more without a decline of 20% in between, have gone on longer than the current one.
As of this week, this bull market ranks as the sixth longest since 1928 — just behind the bull market from 1982 to 1987, according to Bespoke Investment Group.
If the S&P 500 hits a new high any time after March 22, this bull market would become the fifth longest. Assuming it continues to rally through Memorial Day, the current run would be longer than the bull market from 2002 to 2007, when the housing bubble inflated.
The last bubble was propped up by easy money propping up easy lending propping up housing propping up consumer spending, and it was a global financial disaster when it popped.
But we’ve learned so much since then, that now we have easy money propping up easy Wall Street returns propping up spending by the rich.
Surely, a structure built on that firm foundation could never collapse.
And it’s a doosey, too:
A national union that represents 300,000 low-wage hospitality workers charges in a new report that Obamacare will slam wages, cut hours, limit access to health insurance and worsen the very “income equality” President Obama says he is campaigning to fix.
Unite Here warned that due to Obamacare’s much higher costs for health insurance than what union workers currently pay, the result will be a pay cut of up to $5 an hour. “If employers follow the incentives in the law, they will push families onto the exchanges to buy coverage. This will force low-wage service industry employees to spend $2.00, $3.00 or even $5.00 an hour of their pay to buy similar coverage,” said the union in a new report.
“Only in Washington could asking the bottom of the middle class to finance health care for the poorest families be seen as reducing inequality,” said the report from Unite Here. “Without smart fixes, the ACA threatens the middle class with higher premiums, loss of hours, and a shift to part-time work and less comprehensive coverage,” said the report, titled, “The Irony of Obamacare: Making Inequality Worse.”
I feel for these people, I really do — even if by and large they probably voted for Professor Wiggleroom (twice) and probably support ♡bamaCare!!! “in theory” because of its “noble intentions” to stamp out the unnecessary use of “scare quotes.”
But what are they going to do about? Having used its political clout to make itself economically untenable, private sector labor unions now lack the political clout to get their old Democrat buddies to steer enough goodies their way. Public sector unions are where the action is now, and they might just be the most squeakiest wheel in the Democrat-Government Complex.