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Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

July 15th, 2014 - 8:41 am

CBOUIprojectionsJuly20141

The chart above comes from Chris Conover, who gathered in one place all the various estimates of the reduction in the uninsured. That includes those who purchased insurance privately (and can be assumed to be contributing to keeping insurance profitable and self-sustaining), those who bought on the exchanges (and will be receiving tax dollars for subsidies), and those covered by Medicaid expansion (and represent endless claims on the public purse). It’s safe to assume the second two groups vastly outnumber the first one.

A couple things are telling. First is that the numbers are all over the place, from a high of 50% to a low of just under 7%. Presumably the Wiggleroom Administration has (or could produce) solid numbers, but chooses not to. If the real figure were anywhere near 50%, I assume the White House wouldn’t shut up about it. The second is that even after mandating private insurance purchases, subsidizing the bejeebus out of it, and radically expanding Medicaid, nobody can produce even a made-up, imaginary reduction of the uninsured better than 50%.

That’s like giving people money and beer to attend your concert, and still filling only half the seats. Message: Your band sucks.

And so does ♡bamaCare!!!.

Sign “O” the Times

July 14th, 2014 - 2:16 pm

Corporate profits_0

Corporate profits are being sold as a sign of economic strength — but Zero Hedge says not so fast. They quote a Bank of America report which says, “The decline in corporate profits is indicative of weaker aggregate demand and a drop in productivity.”

Hang on tight.

Chart of Doom

Survey says: YES!

Mobile Malware Menace!

June 26th, 2014 - 12:17 pm

MALWARE

Details here, courtesy of Glenn.

That big green zero on the bottom-left chart represents the total number of threats to iOS users.

Tell Me About the Sustainability, George

June 11th, 2014 - 9:42 am

us-revolving-consumer-debt-mostly-credit-cards-soared-in-april-monthly-increase-in-us-revolving-consumer-debt-mostly-credit-cards-in-billions_chartbuilder-1

Uh-oh:

America’s addiction to credit cards is flaring up again. This is either really good news or really bad news.

Well, if you’re simply rooting for GDP growth, without regard for how it occurs, you can argue that this is a great sign. Roughly 70% of US economic activity is driven by consumption. And a rise in credit card use suggests that consumers are ramping up their buying. (Other data, such as the worsening US trade balance on higher imports of consumer goods (paywall), would seem consistent with that view.)
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But if you care about the long-term sustainability of US economic growth and the financial health of American households, it’s not particularly heartening to see signs of backsliding into a widespread reliance on credit cards.

I’m going to go — surprise! — with “really bad news.”

Look, putting stuff on the Visa isn’t such a bad idea when your income is rising and you’re making some large, one-time purchases. But I’ll remind you that total US consumer spending actually shrank slightly in April (-0.1%), which means that Americans bought tons more stuff on credit at a time when they were spending less overall.

So what does that say about the real state of our earnings?

Probably nothing good.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 11th, 2014 - 5:21 am

One million poor Americans will pay the ♡bamaCare!!! mandate “tax” out of a total of four million:

The CBO estimated that four million people would pay the individual mandate penalty for not having health insurance by 2016 as a result of the president’s health care law, according to a report released last week.

“All told, CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] JCT estimate that about four million people will pay a penalty because they are uninsured in 2016 (a figure that includes uninsured dependents who have the penalty paid on their behalf),” the report said. “An estimated $4 billion will be collected from those who are uninsured in 2016, and, on average, an estimated $5 billion will be collected per year over the 2017–2024 period.”

A chart accompanying the report revealed that 200,000 of those paying the penalty earn less than 100 percent of the poverty line. An additional 800,000 are considered low-income, earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level.

Obviously what is required is a subsidy for paying the tax.

Less Than Zero

June 5th, 2014 - 2:34 pm

ZERO

Banking isn’t exactly rocket science. You deposit money, the bank lends it out for a profit, then shares some of the profits with you in the form of interest on the money you loaned them via your deposit. But what happens when conditions are so anemic that nobody wants to borrow anything? Eventually, this:

Mr. Dragi said the governing council’s 24 members—which include the head of Germany’s Bundesbank—were “unanimous and determined” to take any actions within their mandate, if needed.

In addition to a reduction in its main lending rate to 0.15%, a new low, from the 0.25% rate held since November, the ECB also dropped the rate on bank deposits parked overnight with the central bank to minus 0.1%, thereby charging commercial banks for keeping their money at the ECB, an unprecedented move for a central bank of its size.

That’s right, the ECB is now charging other banks for their deposits instead of paying them interest. That’s an attempt to get the commercial banks to withdraw their deposits and loan them to somebody, anybody, to get the velocity of money back up to sustainable levels.

What the ECB and the commercial banks can’t do however, is drum up demand. They’re trying to sell ice cubes in Alaska, or charcoal in Hell.

oil2-600x387

You might have caught the story at Glenn’s over the weekend, but you might have missed this gem from the comments:

HOCKEY STICK!!!!

We finally have a REAL hockey stick.

Boom.

Wargaming the Senate

May 14th, 2014 - 10:25 am

capture_ripple3

That’s the latest chart from political handicapper Larry Sabato, and it looks like as good a summation of the probabilities as you’re likely to find in a single chart — although it does contain one serious flaw, which we’ll get to in a moment. The best news for the GOP is that voters this cycle don’t seem to be settling on candidates from the Kamikaze Wing of the party. Sabato writes:

The two Republican primary candidates the establishment fears most in the open GOP seat in Georgia – Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, who have inspired headlines with the words “Todd Akin 2.0” – are lagging behind other, more electable candidates in polling ahead of the May 20 primary and a likely runoff. A solid GOP candidate there should be able to beat Democrat Michelle Nunn in a Republican state in a Republican year. The same goes for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky: Polls there are close, but this is a Republican running on very Republican turf. These races are competitive, but they are not tossups, either.

Meanwhile, there are 14 Democratic seats that are at least marginally practical targets for Republicans. The bigger the wave, the greater the number that could sink come Election Day.

The problem I see is Sabato’s use of a strict sliding scale to measure probabilities, although that’s probably due to the chart format, rather than anything limited or incorrect in Sabato’s thinking. You can very closely measure House changes in this way, thanks to the limited number of competitive seats, and the comparatively small size of House districts. Look at the party favorability polls, compare to the individual district Cook ratings, and you can safely assume that a Republican X advantage in national polls will equal about Y seats changing hands.

But as I’ve written here many times before, each Senate contest is in effect a national race with national scrutiny. This is the big leagues, and only serious candidates are good for anything but cringing laughs. So it’s a lot more difficult to line up the contested seats from left to right (from blue to red?) and say for sure that X in the national polls means the Dems keep everything to the left of that level and the GOP wins everything to the right. In other words, if the GOP picks up the expected four-to-nine seats, don’t be surprised if there are a couple of ringers in there, along with a couple of “d’oh!” losses.

We’ll know more once the primaries are finished and we’ve had a few weeks to see the candidates in action. Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying the occasional meal of chewed fingernails and bourbon straight from the bottle.

Sign “O” the Times

May 7th, 2014 - 1:27 pm

Chart of Doom

“Time to Worry About Stock Market Bubbles,” says David Leonhardt:

With relatively little fanfare, the stock market has become expensive again.

While the rest of economy has been growing frustratingly slowly for almost five years, stocks have been rising at a boomlike clip. An investment in the Standard & Poor 500-stock index would have doubled from early 2009 through early 2013 and then gained an additional 18 percent over the last year.

Relative to long-term corporate earnings – and more in a minute on why that measure is important – stocks have been more expensive only three times over the past century than they are today, according to data from Robert Shiller, a Nobel laureate in economics. Those other three periods are not exactly reassuring, either: the 1920s, the late 1990s and in the prelude to the 2007 financial crisis.

The time to get worried about a stock market bubble was when the Fed got in the business of propping up equities prices, just like the time to worry about a housing bubbles was when the Fed got in the business of propping up home prices. I mean, the first time the Fed got in the business of propping up home prices, although you should also certainly worry about this second time.

Remember how bad it was when the bottom fell out of the housing and financial markets a few years ago? It will be much better this time, they swear.

When in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

May 3rd, 2014 - 11:09 am

PRE ZONE

Ever wonder how they calculated the time in different parts of the world before time zones were established? Wonder no more.

Follow the link for a fully clickable version.

By the Numbers

April 23rd, 2014 - 11:12 am

campaign_cash_play_uss_042114

Who’s winning the money race for the US Senate? The Democrats. Tom Dougherty explains:

Looking at the charts below, with a focus on the Democrat vs. Republican numbers, a notable item that jumps to the forefront is the faux outrage by Democrats over the recent McCutcheon decision; and their hollow support for campaign finance reform. When viewed through the prism of the considerable advantage Democrats hold, the recent outpouring by Dems can only be considered phony politicking and an opaque attempt to maintain their advantage.

There are certain factors that contribute to a portion of the Democrat advantage. A combination of first quarter reports that have favored some Republicans, and after some upcoming primaries the purging of many GOP candidates that currently are included as active candidates, could have some impact on the numbers. Though it is unlikely the changes will reverse the Democratic advantage and certainly will not support the aforementioned phony politicking by Dems.

I’m reminded of blithe Rovian promises in 2006 that their money advantage would overcome whatever weakness they showed in the polls. Nancy Pelosi made similar claims about her party’s money advantage in 2010.

I’ll leave you with one more bit:

Without wandering into the soft-money realm too far, suffice it to say that Harry Reid can rail against the Koch brothers all he wants but without acknowledging the infusion of vast sums of money from the likes of George Soros and Tom Steyer, his argument is baseless and lunatic

“Baseless and lunatic” pretty much sums up Reid in general, yes?

Scary-Ass Chart of the Day

April 9th, 2014 - 3:09 pm

Slide1

Those are prices in the individual market for health insurance.

Say — didn’t something happen, some law or something go into effect, in the last quarter or 2013? Something with “Affordable” in the name?

For those with employer-based coverage happy to dodge the individual market premium spike, just remember that none other than ♡bamaCare!!! architect Ezekiel Emanuel says that the law will eventually mean “the end of employer-sponsored insurance.”

MOVEMENT

This chart from Real Clear Politics pretty much says it all — in the last few weeks, virtually all the movement has been to the right. The one exception is in Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell’s race has moved one step to the left, from Leans GOP to Tossup. Barring an unexpectedly tight primary, I’d expect Kentucky to move back into the red column by August.

RCP poll-averaging gives the Donks 46 seats and the GOP 47, meaning each side needs to win four of the seven Tossup races to secure control of the Senate. (Joe Biden casts the tie-breaking Senate vote, so the Democrats only need 50 seats to keep their majority, while the Republicans need 51 to take it away.)

The tossup races ar AK, AR, CO, KY, LA, MI, and NC. If I had to pick right now, I’d give CO and MI to the Democrats and the rest to the GOP for a gain of seven and 52 seats. RCP’s No Tossup map gives KY and NC to the Dems and MI to the GOP for a GOP gain of six. I’m tempted to give CO to the Republicans, but we haven’t seen much yet of Cory Gardner in action yet, and same-day voter registration raises the margin of cheating the GOP has to overcome. Of the rest of my picks, I’m least confident about the GOP pickup in NC, and about the Democrats holding on to MI.

There is still room for surprises however in IA, NH, and even OR. All three seats are currently in Democratic hands, and all three could still end up in play.

Chart of Doom

Public support for ♡bamaCare!!! is in free fall:

The AP noted that support for the law has dropped 13 points since 2010, when 39 percent favored the law. Opposition also has dipped 7 percentage points from 2010, when it stood at 43 percent. The number of people on the fence, the AP reported, has tripled from 10 percent to 30 percent.

That Means It’s Working™.

Wargaming Senate Control

March 25th, 2014 - 5:11 am

SENATE MAP

You’re getting a threefer today, courtesy of Tom Dougherty, Erick Erickson, and David Freddoso, and also courtesy of my recent inability to sleep much past 4AM. Since Tom has the big headline number, let’s go to him first:

The latest ratings from the Practical Politicking Report have seen the odds of the GOP regaining the senate majority jump to 66.3%, an increase of more than 8% since the beginning of March.

The map [ABOVE] shows the 18 seats we consider to be in play, though realistically there are 13 states we are focused on with Hawaii, Massachusetts and Virginia most likely remaining blue; and Georgia and Kentucky (both just miss being rated Likely R) staying in Republican hands.

All 13 states of interest are currently held by Democrats; and we consider South Dakota and West Virginia virtual locks for the Republicans, with Montana also highly likely to go red even with the recent Walsh shenanigans.

Tom has four Democrat seats rated Likely R or Leans R and eight in the Toss Up category. The tossups include AK, AR, CO, LA, MI, MN, NC, OR. If a rising wave smashes all boats, I’d be tempted to put AK, AR, and LA in the Leans R column soon — giving the GOP a net pickup of eight. That’s right in line with various math models I’ve seen, which all seem to hover around a six-to-eight seat GOP pickup, with “eight or more” being more likely than “six or less.” Quite a change from just five weeks ago.

But wait, there’s more.

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How’s Obama Doin’?

March 21st, 2014 - 1:38 pm

MERLINE

That’s the question IBD’s John Merline is asking:

Perhaps the best metric is Obama’s own promises about what his economic plan would produce. Those are contained in his first budget, which was issued in early 2009.

Above are charts comparing that budget’s forecasts for key economic indicators with what actually happened.

The results are startling. The economy did far worse than Obama thought it would on every important measure.

The problem here is that federal spending from 2010 to 2013 was almost exactly where Obama pegged it in his first budget, and it’s much higher as a share of GDP. Deficits were also far higher than Obama expected.

From a standard Keynesian perspective, these should have provided additional stimulus to the economy — above what Obama initially forecast.

Merline concludes the problem lies with the Democrats’ 2009-2011 legislative agenda, and I’m inclined to agree 100%.

The Administration finally found a deadline it won’t assert the authority to alter or delay at will:

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services insisted that March 31 is the firm deadline to sign up for Obamacare. “We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period,” HHS official Julie Bataille said. “In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.”

It seems almost unfair to point out that the closure of the open enrollment period is the last stick remaining to get people to sign up this year.

They’d as soon let go of that as I’d let go of a half-full martini glass. That might be doubly true given the latest revelation from Megan McArdle about exchange signups:

In February, 27 percent of the customers were ages 18 to 34. That’s slightly better than previous months, but not nearly enough to improve the overall demographics of the insurance pool. Before enrollment began, the administration said it needed about 40 percent of customers to be young adults. Even after February’s improvement, the total percentage of young adults in the pool is still just 25 percent.

The administration says it’s hopeful that the pace of enrollment will accelerate in March, based on the experience of Romneycare in Massachusetts. But as you can see in this chart posted by my colleague Ezra Klein in January, by this stage in the enrollment process, signups by young healthy people had already ramped up much more significantly than we’ve seen in the national exchanges. In fact, to go by the Massachusetts experience, we should have seen Young Invincible enrollment peak in February. If 27 percent is the peak, the exchanges are in big trouble.

That Means It’s Working™.

The New Old Grand Old Party

March 11th, 2014 - 9:28 am

REPUBS-2-articleLarge

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.

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:

CHART

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™.

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.

Friday Night Videos

March 7th, 2014 - 10:02 pm

Last week’s selection of Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” generated a lot of smart comments, especially one about John and his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin. And that got me to wonder — what happened to songwriting?

Because it’s grown to mostly suck.

That’s not to say popular music was once always great. I’ll refer you to Exhibit A, 1952′s “(How Much Is) That Doggy In The Window?” as evidence that bad songs have always been with us. And there are still some fine popular songs being recorded today, I’m sure. Although I can’t think of one which has actually made the charts.

Time was though, that American popular music defined the grown-up listening experience, but then Rock’n'Roll came along and changed all that. Rock is essentially adolescent — and I say that as a compliment and not a complaint. It’s permanent (although not exclusive) adolescence is its essential charm. The problem is that popular music followed it down that same path, leaving precious little for the grownups to listen to when we want something a little more grown up.

So what does this have to do with the death of — or at least dearth of — great songwriting?

The American Songbook was filled with popular music written by professional songwriters, who sold their wares to professional vocalists, who performed with professional bands, with arrangements by professional arrangers. That’s a classic Smithian division of labor, and the results were frequently stunning and timeless. It’s also a tough field to break into.

Rock is much more democratic, too. You didn’t need those big orchestras and all those professional writers and arrangers and such. You just needed four or five guys, some inexpensive instruments, and a place to practice. So that’s where the new music started coming from as the old talent aged and the young Baby Boomers wanted something new.

The singer-songwriters were the next nail in the coffin, however — and I say this as a huge fan of the genre.

Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Janis Ian — I could go on, just plucking singer-songwriter names out of my iTunes library at random. They have written and performed great songs. By and large however, the singer-songwriter writes a different style of song than your average Rogers & Hart or Cole Porter. The professional songwriters of old wrote music to sell to vocalists. So they tried their best to write timeless and adaptable songs. The singer-songwriter writes much more personal material, almost exclusively for themselves to perform. You can cover Dylan, but people will always compare you to the original Dylan. But anyone from Sinatra to Brian Setzer can sing a selection from the Great American Songbook and make it completely their own.

Later came the music video, and the rise of the studio producer and the singer-dancer-who-can’t-much-sing. And that was the final nail. Ah, well — it was good while it lasted.

For what it’s worth, I loved all those late ’70s/early ’80s videos, too. The songs might not have been timeless or adaptable, but they were sure a whole lot of fun. So I’m not being a Grumpy Old Man about all these changes. You can’t roll back the clock, or even achieve stasis in popular music, any more than you can in any other form of commerce.

Which brings us to John & Taupin. These two men are so talented and in so many different kinds of music, that I believe they would have thrived artistically and commercially during any musical era. Tonight’s pick, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” could easily have turned out maudlin or saccharine. Instead they wrote a timeless ballad to a situation relatable to any grownup, anywhere.

That’s some fine songwriting right there, so I’m sorry if I alarmed you with exaggerated reports of its death.

Swedish Neo Nazis Invade Ukraine

February 28th, 2014 - 11:57 am

The headline sounds like the headline to some weird alternate history book or maybe some kind of dystopian cyberpunk thriller — but no:

Revolutionary tourists, thrill seekers, and parachute journalists suffused Kiev. Sen. John McCain, actress Hayden Panettiere, and French intellectual Bernard Henri-Levy roused massive crowds with paeans to freedom and national sovereignty, while offering moral support to the opposition forces led by former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.

But Hagberg, a square-jawed and baby-faced member of the Swedish armed forces, had a darker message.

“I stand before your forces of revolution to tell you about what your future might be if you fail your glorious endeavour,” he said in fluid-but-clipped English. “I stand here as a Swede. However where I come from is no longer Sweden.” Hagberg warned Ukrainians that a successful revolution must chart a path that carefully avoided the evils of abortion and ethnic mongrelization, one that harshly punished welfare abuse and rejected the normalization of homosexuality. “Officials in Sweden like to calls us the most modern country in the world. I say to you, brothers, this is what awaits you if you choose to follow our example. You now have the opportunity to choose and create your own future. Do not accept the trap of choosing either the West or Russia.”

Cheap travel, expansive ideologies, and a world in chaos — they add up to trouble in ways we could scarcely dream of during the Cold War.

Wargaming Control of the Senate

February 21st, 2014 - 12:44 pm

Let’s start today with Sean Trende — still the best name in forecasting — and his new Monte Carlo simulation. He has a sidebar explaining how those work, but let’s skip that for now and get to the meat of the matter:

I first looked at races The Cook Political Report currently rates as something other than “safe”; over the past 20 years, only two races that Cook Political has rated as “safe” at this point in the game have wound up switching hands, so we can be awfully confident that those seats are “staying put.” That leaves me with a universe of 17 competitive Senate races, 15 of which are held by Democrats, two of which are held by Republicans.

The next step is to total up our simulations, showing how frequently Republicans would win the Senate at each job approval interval for Obama.

chart2-2-20

Gallup has Professor Wiggleroom’s current approval rating at 46%, which Trende rates as good for between 8 and 12 GOP pickups. Even the lower number is good enough to make Harry Reid the new minority leader, which would suit me like a Savile Row tailor.

The are caveats however. Notice that even at 46%, Wiggleroom’s numbers have been on the upswing. I attribute that to him staying out of the news lately, and to the feeling of national wellbeing we usually enjoy during the Olympics. Also note that Trende’s simulation puts the mostly likely Democrat loss at seven seats, which I read to indicate that each seat will be harder to win for the GOP than the previous seat. Or perhaps not, because a nine-seat gain is Trende’s second-most likely outcome.

The third caveat comes in three parts: Candidates, candidates, candidates. Mark Udall should be as good as gone here in Colorado, but our craptaculent state GOP can’t produce any top-tier statewide candidates.

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Stimulate THIS!

February 18th, 2014 - 2:07 pm

CHART

Remember the Bernstein-Romer jobs chart from 2009, detailing how the unStimulus would keep unemployment below 8% and put us on a glide path to full employment by Q1 2014?

Good times.

What I remember most was how embarrassed Christina Romer always looked on the Sunday shows, trotting out the Keynesian BS she didn’t believe in. At least she has enough moral character to be a bad liar — unlike the rest of the West Wing crew.

Memories aside, Jim Pethokoukis has his final markup of the jobs chart (above) and adds this:

Obama White House defenders might point out that (a) the recession was worse than what the real-time data suggested, (b) outside shocks like the Eurzozone crisis slowed growth, (c) fiscal austerity here at home was also a drag, (d) economies tend to recover particularly slowly after financial crises.

I would counter thusly: (a) Team Obama almost certainly didn’t expect the labor force collapse so the forecast was even more bullish than it appears, (b) the aftermath of the financial crisis should have been no surprise, (c) the economy even had the added boost from historic monetary stimulus.

Let’s call the unStimulus what it was: A massive wealth transfer to us from our grandkids.

Sign “O” the Times

February 13th, 2014 - 3:00 pm

This is even more depressing than my Monday column was:

A new survey of press freedom around the world finds the United States has plunged 13 spots, now ranking just 46th among 180 countries. The annual survey by Reporters Without Borders also says Syria is the most dangerous country for journalists, showing a correlation between conflict zones and a low level of press freedom. Other countries that fell lower than in the previous year’s survey include the civil-war-torn Central African Republic, down 43 spots to 109, and Guatemala, where four journalists were killed last year alone. This comes as the United Nations General Assembly recently adopted its first resolution on the safety of journalists. The group has now called on the United Nations to monitor how member states meet their obligations to protect reporters.

“Congress shall make no law…” is how the First Amendment, detailing our press freedoms begins.

But we have a bullying President and a meddling Congress and a pushover Supreme Court and an increasingly supine populace. Had our actual media been willing do stand up and do its job, rather than play footsie with its destroyers, we would be where we should be — at Number One on any chart.

The War on the Poor

February 10th, 2014 - 10:37 am

CHART OF SUCKING

It’s never easy being poor. It’s worse when the government conspires to make you poorer and to keep you there. Details:

As the chart shows, the lost compensation increases every year from an estimated $108 billion in 2017 to an estimated $147 billion 2024. The analysis is based on numbers provided in a recent Congressional Budget Office report on Obamacare.

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that Obamacare will “cause a reduction of roughly 1 percent in aggregate labor compensation [wages, salaries, and fringe benefits] over the 2017-2024 period, compared with what would have been otherwise” (see page 117 of appendix C of CBO’s February 2014 Budget and Economic Outlook). CBO also suggests that the largest effect will occur among lower-wage workers who were the target of the law’s subsidized coverage expansion,” says a statement from the Republican-side of the Senate Budget Committee, explaining their methodology.

The law’s victims will probably vote Democrat for “relief.”

News You Can Use

February 3rd, 2014 - 11:49 am

TWINS

You know you’re not supposed to… wait, what did she do?

Honestly I can’t do the math to understand this one. I need a flowchart and maybe a time machine.

Wargaming Control of the Senate

January 28th, 2014 - 11:48 am

Let’s start with John B. Judis at TNR, who has a grim reminder for Professor Wiggleroom and the Democrats:

I’m going with the conventional wisdom: Obama and the Democrats are in deep trouble.

Greenberg cites an improvement in Obama and the Democrats’ polling numbers over the last month, but the improvement is very slight. What I’d point to instead is a comparison between where Obama and the Democrats stood in January 2010 and where they stand today. In January 2010, they were about to lose the Massachusetts senate race, and in November 2010 would lose 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate. If Obama and the Democrats’ numbers are better now than they were then, they may not be in trouble; but if they’re worse, the convention wisdom is right. And they’re worse.

How much worse? Let’s take a look at the latest figures from Tom Dougherty:

Using current ratings from our Senate 2014 page that includes the Practical Politicking Report, Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Rothenberg Political Report; and plotting the averages things look good for the GOP.

senate_scores_012714

There are 18 states where at least one of the four ratings is not SAFE in the chart, and 16 of them are currently blue states with only 2 red ones and they’re reasonably safe for the GOP.

You’ll want to read the whole thing, especially the bit where even Oregon might be coming into play. Remember Oregon, the state with the hippie ♡bamaCare!!! videos that can’t sell any actual ♡bamaCare!!! policies? Yeah, that Oregon.

So the playing field is widening for the GOP, and that’s a good sign for them this early in the game. It’s why I maintain that the party should get loudly behind David Jolly’s special congressional election effort in Florida, checkbook in hand. You can’t win where you don’t play, and GOP grassroots are sick and tired of the party not getting behind the people’s nominees — and rightly so. This is a team effort, which is something this party has largely forgotten.

Tom adds that it’s the purple states where things get interesting:

• Arkansas: Cotton is polling ahead of Pryor, raising money at a proficient pace and Gallup has Obama’s approval at just 34.9% (seventh lowest in the nation).

• North Carolina: Rasmussen Reports is out today with latest polling that puts Tillis up by 7% over Hagan, and Tillis is extending his lead in the GOP primary race.

• Louisiana: Landrieu seems incapable of shaking her close ties to Obama, where his current approval rating is only 40% and disapproval of ObamaCare is rising almost daily.

• Alaska: Begich’s favorables are underwater, his fund-raising is flat and Obama’s approval is down to 33.5% (sixth lowest in the nation). Sullivan is a fund-raising machine right now and outside PAC money is pouring into the state attacking Begich.

• Michigan: Land had a tremendous Q4 money haul basically tying Peters in cash-on-hand and polling is within the margin-of-error making this a dead-heat currently. Americans for Prosperity though is pouring money into the race attacking Peters and ObamaCare, and even though Obama’s numbers are better here they are still below 50%.

• Iowa: This may be the only state in the purples that Dems can take any positives from with Braley sitting on a hefty war chest, up in all polling and benefiting from a GOP nomination process that is patently absurd.

I’d add that “absurd” and “GOP nomination process” are virtually synonymous these days. And isn’t it interesting that Michigan is purple? It’s a shame it took the destruction of what was once one of the world’s great cities before voters there even began to wise up and do something about the locusts, but some lessons simply must be painful.

This is where all pundits are required to add A Lot Can Happen Between Now and Election Day™, so let’s just consider it added. The Democrats can take some small amount of comfort in that their numbers were flat or up slightly last month, but one month does not make a trend — and the trend has been pretty awful for them.

How do they continue to improve?

There’s a GOP Congress, so there’s not much positive action the Democrats can take, other than through executive fiat. Wiggleroom’s “pen and telephone” may yet prove to be the big story of 2014 — even some lefties are beginning to get a little nervous about all the executive power being bandied about.

So instead you can look forward to more of the same: Trashing a semi-supplicant GOP from now until election day.

Friday Night Videos

January 17th, 2014 - 10:17 pm

Once or twice a decade it seems, country makes big inroads into the pop charts. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by records and radio pretty much everywhere during the ’70s, when it happened twice — with great results.

One of those was Willie Nelson’s 1978 classic, Stardust. The album was a collection of his deceptively simple-seeming takes on American songbook staples like “All Of Me,” “Moonlight In Vermont,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and of course the title track.

Tonight’s pick, Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” appeared in my head as an earworm the other night when I was settling down into bed. I had my iPad on my lap and my earbuds in my ears, so I pulled up the song on YouTube and let it go. When you’re relaxed and can really listen to a song, you notice things you might not have before. In this case, not in over 35 years of listening to a song.

It’s nicely layered (I wish I knew who arranged it), and doesn’t waste any time establishing them. A few guitar chords and then the piano kicks in followed quickly by the strings and harmonica. Barely 11 seconds have gone by before Nelson’s gentle vocal begins and you know you’re in for something special. But what I noticed the other night is there’s sort of a rhythmic tension between the three main layers of the arrangement — vocal, main orchestration, and strings.

That tension adds excitement, almost drama, to a simple sunny song about a summer sky. Or maybe it was just my imagination getting away from me on a soft bed under dim lights at a late hour.

But something has kept people listening to this one for nearly four decades, and maybe that’s it.