Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stuff I Don't Care That Much About

. . . but thought I'd comment on anyway.

Mark Halperin gets the boot at MSNBC for vulgar name calling of the President. Good, but is it me or does it seem like the punishment is slower and lighter when the President is a Republican.

New York passed some gay marriage law. I commented on this once before and sidetracked my comments section for a while. When the nation is grappling with $14 trillion in debt, its hard to focus on stupidity like this.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn might actually be innocent, of the charge of rape. Even if this is true, there have been greater injustices. But it's also interesting to note press bias on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, Strauss-Kahn is thought guilty and his accuser is seen as a helpless victim, an immigrant no less, fallen prey to the depredations of the rich and powerful. A parable for minority women everywhere? In France, members of the ruling elite are presumed above suspicion until an airtight case is laid out against them. Someone of the maid's station would never be allowed to sully the name of the great and the good. Turns out both biases might be mistaken, as Strauss-Kahn at the least behaved badly, and his accuser seems to have a shady past herself.

The 4th of July parade is a Republican event according to Harvard? Well, it makes people more likely to become Republican by a whopping 2%. I think this says more about the researchers than it does about American politics. Someone chose to study this. Someone chose to fund this research. Someone was looking to find a conclusion that celebrating the birth of our nation was somehow evidence of political bias so that they could discredit such events. If such people represent the mainstream of the Democrat party (which I don't believe) the country is in deep crap. I have opined before that we need a robust Democrat party, not in thrall to socialism, for the health of our republic.

North Korea was appointed as the UN Chair for the Conference on Disarmaments. I swear this is so stupid, I couldn't stop laughing. Because hey, it's the Star Wars Cantina, who takes anything they do seriously?

Weiner's wife is taking an extended vacation from her State Department duties, and him. If he had been more forthcoming to her, as soon as the story broke, who knows? Now, she's just been publicly humiliated, without warning. What do you expect?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Deficit Woes

. . . are worse than you think. And you probably think they're pretty bad, if you read this column. In yesterday's WSJ, Lawrence Lindsey makes the case:
  • Interest on the national debt will get worse when interest rates inevitably rise.
  • Future growth is over-estimated in all budget estimates. 4% in 2012? Really? Maybe if Obama declares he's not running for re-election.
  • Obamacare costs have been underestimated. How many times can I say really?
  • Tax increases won't produce more revenue.
The whole article is worth a read, but we need drastic action now. We'll see if Boehner plays his hand well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Does It Deserve Majority Status?

The Republican party that is. Consider Pennsylvania, where the GOP has control of the Governor's mansion and both branches of the legislature. From today's WSJ, Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA, pictured) rightfully called education reform the "civil rights issue of the 21st century." Both Dean and I have despaired of the GOP doing anything about this issue, even though it could be part of an agenda that reaches out to minority voters. Throughout the nation, efforts to give children in failed schools have been led by blacks and Hispanics, whom I presume were Democrats. Getting serious about this issue shows you seriously understand a top concern of minority voters. (As opposed to professional minority exploiters like the NAACP, who oppose school choice.)

Back to Pennsylvania, where a bill to offer school choice to children of failing schools is languishing in the legislature. There is plenty of finger pointing about who is at fault, but in the end, voters will only know that Republicans failed to deliver for minorities. Unfortunately, the New York Times is reporting that there are divisions within the Tea Party movement over the bill. Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, which has done good work, put some pressure on the House Speaker Mike Turzai to push through the bill. He resented the pressure, of course. Here is what the NYT is reporting, although I am not sure I trust their veracity:

Instead, the bill, which would provide vouchers to poor families who want better schools for their children, has sparked what one Tea Party activist called a “fight within the family.”

Many Tea Party groups oppose the bill because it does not establish universal school choice, and call it a bailout of failing schools. They accuse those who support it — who are backed by a powerful Washington group that has helped cultivate the Tea Party — of selling out to the kind of politics-as-usual approach that the movement was founded to oppose. Supporters say those opponents do not understand that compromise is part of politics.

My reaction: Of course it doesn't provide universal choice. You're not going to get a Democrat co-sponsor of the bill with that approach. Universal choice would be great, but denying the children in the worst schools an avenue of escape misses the opportunity to change the political dynamic. How are you going to build a new majority coalition with an attitude like that? The political calculus for the socialist wing of the Democrat party is pretty bad right now. Pealing off a few percent of black and Hispanic voters will wreak havoc with its electoral chances and drive it back towards the center of American politics and away from the path of socialism it is now on. It is in the best interests of the country that racial minorities be well represented in both parties. Time for Republicans to do something about that.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Leveraging the Debt Ceiling - Medicare

Fellow SLOB W.C. Varones is predicting the Republicans will fold on the debt limit talks and backload any meaningful cuts, making them mostly symbolic. Politicians, being who they are, might disappoint me yet, so I'm not going to argue with a veteran observer like W.C.

But it might all be worthwhile if Democrats would means test Medicare and/or Social Security. Reportedly, Dick Durbin is saying that making the wealthy pay more for Medicare premiums should be on the table. Here is why this makes me smile. It will make it clear that Medicare is a wealth transfer vehicle. It always has been, but it's been hard to make the case, which would be on stark display. Dismantling Medicare as a pure government subsidy of health care spending is vitally important, but politically tricky. This might be the necessary opening.

On the tax side, the Republicans are in a tough position on the so-called oil subsidies, which are nothing more than treating the oil in the ground as an asset that depreciates like any other. Regardless, the Democrats have successfully demagogued this issue, so it might be hard to keep of the table. Since Obama won't allow drilling anyway, it hardly seems like it will matter one way or the other.

This is the main story the Tea Party should be following. So far, Boehner has done his best to reward the Tea Party for its support of Republicans. I know there are those who are upset, but politics is a messy business. But if we don't get some strategic initiative out of the debt ceiling talks, then I will add my voice of criticism.

Finally, I want to thank DooDoo Economics blogger Charles, for putting together a SLOB aggregator. Well done on both having a great idea and taking action.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tighter Lending Standards and the Housing Market

Yesterday's WSJ seemed to lay the blame for the lack of zip in the housing market at the feet of banks, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for being too tight with standards for lending. It is argued by some interviewed that this is an overreaction to the excesses of the last decade. In fairness, they also interviewed experts who thought the tightened standards were appropriate. Fannie and Freddie come in for blame because loans that don't meet their standards will not be purchased by the quasi-governmental organizations. The whole article just goes back and forth on the minutia of the arguments, so I am not recommending reading it.

Here is what I do know. Fannie and Freddie are political creatures of the federal government. Their lending standards are therefore set by politics, not market conditions. Surely there will be pressure for them to loosen their standards by those politicians for whom this will be expedient. This is why Fannie and Freddie need to be broken up into smaller entities and divorced from their status as Government Sponsored Entities. (I can't find that term in the constitution.) The new companies, by competing on how well they assess the riskiness of loans, will find the correct equilibrium for the housing market. Further, these companies could seek out innovative ways to hold banks and other loan originators liable for bad loans that were due to lack of due diligence. This seems like a great way to inject true free market principles to re-vitalize the housing market.

What will the new default rate be? I have no idea, I just know it will be more likely to be beneficial to the economy as a whole. Further, without the taxpayers on the hook for losses, it will cause the system to work out the correct risk level and prevent another expensive bailout.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Spending Problem, Defense Budget and Anonymous Commenting

Noted commenter Anonymous posted a lengthy diatribe asserting that military spending is the primary source of our budget woes. If that were only the truth. From my previous post on the complexities of this subject:

Here is a chart from 2010.

Further analysis of the President's Budget submission for 2012 contains the following projections, total mandatory Social Security spending for fiscal year 2012 is $764 billion where as total defense spending is $696 billion, which includes some spending by the FBI and DOE not part of the Defense Department budget. However, since the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the tune of $118 billion, are considered outside of the defense budget, one might argue that total defense spending is the single largest item in the budget. However, the sum total of entitlements and mandatory spending is still the largest issue with the budget.

However, this does highlight the significant impact of the cost of military operations on the overall federal budget. Even though I supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have to concede that they are expensive. This is just one more reason why the founders reserved the power to commit the nation to war to the Congress, which is also the branch charged with passing the budget. Open ended commitments need to be considered in light of fiscal realities. The President has announced a draw down in Afghanistan, that is probably needed. However, I am concerned that in the long run we will just end up with another surge, because we didn't fully defeat the Taliban. In the long run, committing resources to a complete victory followed by swift withdrawal is the way to keep the cost of war low. Unfortunately, we have allowed ourselves to be drawn into nation building with its attendant cost.

Anonymous also calls for some harsh penalties for members of the military who have ". . . carried out war without a Congressional Delcaration [sic] on trial war crimes give them the death penalty and fire all the troops who carried out war crimes and give them the death penalty too." However, it is the Commander-in-Chief who has committed U.S. Forces. The constitution gives the Congress the power to remedy this situation. Why isn't the commenter calling for the President to be hanged? Because there is a constitutional process to deal with all of this. The Congress has the power to impeach the President for failing to follow the constitution. Due process is at the heart of our Republic. Calling for the willy-nilly hanging of members of the military is certainly contrary to law and would be a revolting sight to the vast majority of Americans. As to war crimes? That is an offensive statement. Today's military is the most professional and ethical in the history of the world. When the law is violated, members of the military are prosecuted. I know from personal experience that military mission planning is performed with lawyers involved to ensure the reduction of damage to civilian populations. Impugning the military because one doesn't agree with the policies of the commander in chief is a coward's game; place blame where it belongs.

My policy of allowing anonymous commenting on this blog is sorely tested by the defamatory postings of anonymous commenters. Their anger and vitriol is indicative of a sense of powerlessness that is truly a personal, not a political problem.

Whether you like or not.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gun Control and Racism

So Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Superintendent, links federal gun control regulation to racism. Turns out he is right, but not in the sense he means. First, his comments:
“I want you to connect one more dot on that chain of African-American history in this country, and tell me if I’m crazy: Federal gun laws that facilitate the flow of illegal firearms into our urban centers, across this country, that are killing black and brown children,”
Well, Garry, you are crazy. Keeping guns out of the hands of blacks and Hispanics has been the racist goal of gun control attempts. A review of the historical record reveals that gun control in America has been directed at keeping guns out of the hands of blacks. Historian Clayton Cramer argues
"The historical record provides compelling evidence that racism underlies gun control laws -- and not in any subtle way. Throughout much of American history, gun control was openly stated as a method for keeping blacks and Hispanics "in their place," and to quiet the racial fears of whites."

He cites numerous examples starting with those that predate the American revolution. As late as 1941 the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court openly acknowledges that a gun control law was intended to only apply to non-whites:
I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps. The same condition existed when the Act was amended in 1901 and the Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.

Garry McCarthy should be ashamed to assert that an assertion of the right to own a gun is racist, when in fact it is gun control that is the historically racist position.

Weekend Music Chill

This weekend's music goes out to a recent college graduate. It's sort of his signature song.

I find this next song to be a nice companion piece.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tax Increases and the Debt Limit Debate

For most of my life, I have opposed tax increases on the theory that the government already takes too much of the people's hard earned wealth. During the Bush administration, I started to waiver in that position. I saw the huge deficits as threats to our long term economic health, and thought that tax increases might be the necessary price for past profligacy. We see in the example of Greece today, where the results of excessive government largesse, along with Enron style accounting leads to. From today's Reuters article:
Greeks seething after two years of belt-tightening reacted in anger Thursday against a new round of tax rises and spending cuts worth some 3.8 billion euros which they said would again hit honest taxpayers hardest.

Of course they will. KT at the Scratching Post felt that higher taxes were inevitable because the math for achieving balanced budgets through spending cuts alone seems too daunting. So there I was, wavering on a lifetime political position. But then I stumbled across Hauser's Law, on which I have posted extensively and rediscovered my inner supply-sider.

Which brings me to the debt ceiling debate. Supposedly only Boehner, Obama, and Reid are left to negotiate the conditions under which the debt limit might be raised. Supposedly, John Kyl and Eric Cantor have left the negotiations, frustrated that the Democrats won't budge on the issue of tax increases. Not having followed the issue for a while, I was heartened to see that the Republicans are using the debt ceiling debate to leverage further budget cuts. My concern is that Boehner is now left as the only negotiator on the Republican side.

The principled position on increasing federal revenue is to maintain low marginal tax rates, with few, if any deductions. This has worked consistently in the past. Given the impact of Hauser's law and need for growth in the economy, no tax increase should be considered in this debate. So far, I believe that Boehner has played his weak hand with great skill, but this is his toughest test to date. I hope he hangs tough, the last thing we need are job killing tax increases.

However, nothing in my reading suggests that either party is ready to deal with entitlements. As Tea Partyers, we need to state our plans to deal with entitlements, because that's where most of the federal budget money goes. Some believe that if we just cut taxes and regulation, the economy would grow its way out of our crisis. While growth would ease the pain, it won't erase it completely, unless growth gets to record setting levels. The only way our economy can grow at the rates needed to maintain entitlements would require a massive influx of new immigrants to raise the labor participation rate of our aging work force. Are we in the Tea Party ready to endorse large numbers of engineers, scientists and technicians emigrating from the likes of China and India? I know I am, but I have seen little discussion of this approach elsewhere. Exit question, what should the official Tea Party position on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid be?

Blog Headline of the Week - Maybe Ever

Comes from Temple of Mut:

It’s like the 1930′s met the 1970′s and had a LOVE CHILD!

Her post correctly analyzes the "malaise" once again affecting America, the result of leftist policies. The whole article is worth a read, even though the headline captures the the thought.

Apologies to anyone who may have been checking this space for new material. I am still suffering from neck pain and muscle spasms. I am getting medical treatment, but I don't have anything left in the tank after work.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Quote of the Week

This week's quote of the week comes from Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch on the pages of the WSJ.
Americans have watched, with a growing sense of alarm and alienation, as first a Republican administration and then its Democratic successor have flouted public opinion by bailing out banks, nationalizing the auto industry, expanding war in Central Asia, throwing yet more good money after bad to keep housing prices artificially high, and prosecuting a drug war that no one outside the federal government pretends is comprehensible, let alone winnable. It is easy to look upon this well-worn rut of political affairs and despair.
Gillespie and Welch argue persuasively that the two parties have provided a continuity in increasing the size of government. The article goes on to argue that the Republican/Democrat duopoly, while stable, is not inevitable. In business, many seemingly stable duopolies have collapsed after years of stability. In an article near and dear to the hearts of SLOBs who have attended beer summits, there is reference to the way that craft beers are eating into the market share of Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors.

The need for independent thinking from the likes of the Tea Party is also called out.
The future—even the present—belongs not to the central re-election committee but to the decentralized single-issue swarm. Wherever both parties have colluded in erecting a roadblock to the desires of American voters, there are citizen groups creating angry and effective coalitions to confront the status quo.

The decentralized and effectively leaderless Tea Party is the most potent example of this permanent non-governing minority. The movement has focused like a laser beam on what all but a few Washington politicians won't dare to touch: actually cutting spending and debt. Whether the group will be able to maintain its emphasis on stanching the nation's flow of red ink while avoiding divisive social issues is an open question.

Without a doubt, the ability of the Tea Party to maintain focus on actually reducing the size of government spending and taxing is key to our success. Even though I have concerns over social issues those must be put on hold to attack the financial problems that could turn our country into Greece if we don't take action.

Here is some video of Nick Gillespie discussing the situation.

A little more about craft beer sales.
Small and independent craft brewers saw volume increase 11 percent and retail sales dollars increase 12 percent over 2009, representing a growth of over 1 million barrels (31 gallons per U.S. barrel), equal to more than 14 million new craft cases.

This while overall beer sales are actually down.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend Music Chill

Going for a little bit of mellow modern music this weekend, it's been a long week. Blogging will continue to be spotty as I am taking muscle relaxants to relieve pain from spasms; I am out of gas before the end of the day.

Tea Party Endorsement for DeMaio for Mayor of San Diego?

Carl DeMaio's candidacy for Mayor of San Diego is exciting to me as a member of the Tea Party. (And no, there is no official membership, it is a matter of self identification.) He has taken aggressive stands to bring spending under control in San Diego, and gained my personal gratitude for his work against Proposition D. Further, by consolidating an effort to get a single pension reform proposition on the ballot, he has shown the ability to work with more establishment Republicans to achieve important Tea Party goals. The Voice of San Diego's Liam Dillon says this about him:
The key question facing DeMaio is if his popularity has a ceiling — can an anti-establishment candidate get more than 50 percent of the vote in San Diego? Organized labor essentially has declared open war against him (there's an @AnyoneButCarl Twitter handle) and he doesn't have a lot of friends among the downtown establishment.
Labor unions and downtown establishment both hate Carl DeMaio? Who could be a more perfect candidate? However, as excited as I am personally, the Tea Party group with which I work, the Southern California Tax Revolt Coalition does not endorse candidates. I think that is a good idea, so that our voice can be heard as a non-partisan voice of average San Diegans, holding our politicians accountable. As the premier Tea Party group in San Diego, you won't see an endorsement from the SCTRC for that reason. However, among those with whom I have discussed the mayoral race, DeMaio is the very strong favorite. Further, he is the favorite among other friends of mine who are more traditional conservative Republicans.

With regards to working with DeMaio, the SCTRC also had some issues with him when the Tea Parties were first organizing. Some members have not forgotten that. Ultimately, Carl DeMaio is a politician, a pretty good one, but a politician none the less. We need to hold them all accountable, and remember that the profession attracts people with certain personality characteristics, so unreserved adoration (think Obamabots) isn't appropriate for a movement based on issues and the principles of the constitution.

That being said, B-Daddy is personally endorsing DeMaio for Mayor, he is clearly the best candidate in the race. Like Dean and I have been saying about a number of our favorite candidates: "He is making all the right enemies."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

San Diego City Council Votes for Increased Ambulance Fees for Ethically Challenged Company

H/T @LorieZapfD6. From the U-T:
The City Council voted 5-3 Monday to have private partner Rural/Metro Corp. buy out the city’s share in San Diego Medical Services for $5.5 million but allow it to remain the city’s ambulance operator for the next two years. During that period, city officials would launch a competitive bidding process to possibly find a new provider and strike a better deal for taxpayers.
We have Republicans on the losing end of a 5-3 vote that seems to harm the poor and uninsured. How do Democrats explain themselves? Here are the objections one can glean from the article.
  • Both a whistle blower, former executive Robert Heffner, and the City Auditor, Eduardo Luna have accused Rural/Metro of cheating the city of millions of dollars.
  • Average costs for ambulance service will increase well above state wide averages.
“We’re talking about a significant increase. ... It falls on the backs of people who don’t have insurance and then those who do have insurance, guess what, their rates are going to go up,” Zapf said. “I don’t understand why we’re looking at such a huge increase.”
Lorie Zapf, Kevin Faulconer, and Carl DeMaio all voted against the buy out.

Feel Good Story of the Day - Wisconsin Supremes Uphold Collective Bargaining Law

H/T @michellemalkin. The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the Republican led state legislatures bill that limited bargaining privileges of the public employee unions. The case turned on whether the courts have the right to enforce open meeting laws that govern the state legislature. This was more important than the mere issue of the content of the law itself. Had the law been overturned on procedural grounds, it would open the door for all sorts of mischief by the courts in ruling on whether legislatures followed their own rules. You could imagine that courts could rule that a law raising the speed limit on freeways could be overturned because the court disqualified expert witnesses called by the transportation committee. Judges have no business ruling on legislative procedure.

Professor William Jacobsen of Legal Insurrection is on the case. (A great legal blog along with Volokh for conservatives and libertarians.) ". . .the ruling, which overturned Judge Sumi's rulings both procedurally (for interfering in the legislative process) and substantively (there was no violation of the Open Meetings Law)."
. . .
The Court adopted the argument I had made here many times, that the Courts had no business questioning the legislature's interpretation of its own rules:
¶13 It also is argued that the Act is invalid because the legislature did not follow certain notice provisions of the Open Meetings Law for the March 9, 2011 meeting of the joint committee on conference. It is argued that Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3) required 24 hours notice of that meeting and such notice was not given. It is undisputed that the legislature posted notices of the March 9, 2011 meeting of the joint committee on conference on three bulletin boards, approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes before the start of the meeting. In the posting of notice that was done, the legislature relied on its interpretation of its own rules of proceeding. The court declines to review the validity of the procedure used to give notice of the joint committee on conference....
This is a great victory, both procedurally and substantively. On the substantive grounds, it gives power back to local governments in Wisconsin to scale back benefits, overcome arcane overtime and inflexible work place rules and generally get a work force more in tune with modern American life.

Carl DeMaio vs Nathan Fletcher

I am leaning to supporting Carl DeMaio for mayor of San Diego. My biggest reason was his outspoken opposition to Proposition D, which made a big difference in its defeat last fall. Meanwhile Bonnie Dumanis ducked the issue and Nathan Fletcher (left) was on record as opposing, but did little to work against its passage.

Now we have another big issue, how are we going to take steps to reduce employee pension costs by shifting new employees from defined benefit to defined contribution plans. Carl DeMaio is aggressively touting the plan, which will reduce the risk to the city in the long run. Nathan Fletcher is "waiting on analysis." From the VOSD:
Contrast Fletcher with Councilman Carl DeMaio, another Republican mayoral candidate. DeMaio's the one with all the answers now. He's touted his authorship of the 401(k) measure and of an 80-page glossy budget plan when he made his official mayoral announcement Sunday. . . .

DeMaio's definitive stances give him license to hammer those who haven't taken them. But it also attracts anger. San Diego's largest organized labor group already has opened a political action committee just to defeat him. He also has a history of upsetting some of the city's more moneyed interests that could help him financially navigate a large mayoral field.

DeMaio didn't accept the anti-establishment mantle, but he sure talks like someone who's that kind of candidate.

"I don't see this as a race of me versus other candidates," he said. "I see this as a race of me versus the system and the people who benefit from the system. Organized labor and a lot of business lobbyists who've really had too cozy a relationship in the past."

Sometimes you have to judge a man by the enemies he makes. Carl DeMaio is making the right ones in my Tea Party opinion.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Michele Beats Sarah on the Draw

Michele Bachmann has announced her candidacy for President, as you have no doubt heard, before Sarah Palin, if Palin ever announces. Certainly the comparisons with Palin are inevitable. Both are attractive female conservative favorites with strong followings in the Tea Party. From the AP report:
Her popularity with tea party activists and her credentials as a social conservative make her a credible threat to other candidates courting conservatives who make up the core of the Republican Party. Her impact may be felt most in Iowa, the first stop in the nomination battle and where Christian evangelicals dominate.

I will confess to knowing little about Bachmann to this point. She hasn't seemed to have made a big impact in the House of Representatives; in fact few candidates have ever made the leap from the House to the White House. Perusing her blog, it appears to be standard fare that even Ron Paul would like, excepting strong support for Israel I suppose and strong opposition to gay marriage at all levels. However, I am disturbed by the lack of mention of any meaningful entitlement reform. Her official web site is still under construction, so she might have more to say later.

Honestly, I am looking for more governors to be in the Republican race. Governors have the best track records for becoming President, because the office is the most similar and provides them with the requisite training and political skills for success. Rick Perry would be a great addition to the field, and I wish Mitch Daniels would reconsider, although that appears unlikely. As much as I dislike Romney, and Pawlenty's speaking skills seem lackluster, at least they both have gubernatorial experience; the same can be said for Gary Johnson. Sarah Palin made a huge mistake, if she was ever serious about Presidential ambition by resigning as Governor of Alaska, I don't think that some voters would ever vote for her because of that.

I note that it was Michele Bachmann who called out the egregious nature of the self funding mechanisms inside the Obamacare bill. Her hard work in this area deserves recognition.

Meanwhile, HotAir doesn't think she can win, but is in it to make the Tea Party voice heard in this election. Really? Certainly Ron Paul and Gary Johnson carry much of the Tea Party message. And since when is gay marriage a big priority for the Tea Party? Further, I think that the Tea Party is going to go with the candidate who will repeal Obamacare and tackle entitlements, at least that is my hope. Oh, and cut off ethanol subsidies, because they are proof of stupidity.

From the AP, probably a little slanted, but I am trying to get a measure of the candidate:

Programming Note - Mobile Edition

For those of you who might follow this blog on a mobile device, we have a new template that makes it easier to scroll through and check out our articles. It also means that I have to introduce my topic in the first couple of lines. Let me know what you think.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weekend Music Chill

This song goes out to Road 'Dawg, who is surveying weather damage in the great state of Texas. Texas has been on my mind of late, with Rick Perry a potential formidable Presidential candidate and the news that something like 37% of the jobs created in America since the start of the recession were Texas jobs. Dean's musical selection this week inspired me to look further afield myself, so here is "Asleep at the Wheel" performing Miles and Miles of Texas.

Gary Johnson

Before I was afflicted with some medical issues, I was posting about the Republican presidential field. I felt that I had given Gary Johnson short shrift, just like the rest of the media. In the comments of my last post, Sarah Bond pointed to Johnson's shortcomings of persona that cause her to question his viability as a candidate. Just as Ron Paul comes off as a crank, even when he is factually correct, Gary Johnson seems a bit the oddball. However, his exclusion from CNN's New Hampshire debate seems shameful. He is a successful former two term Republican governor of a state that often votes Democrat. New Mexico has more people than Alaska; can you imagine the uproar if Sarah Palin were excluded should she announce her candidacy.

Just like Ron Paul, Gary Johnson's ideas need to be included in the Republican debate. He has far less to apologize for than the reputed front runner, Mitt Romney, whose recent endorsement of ethanol subsidies only confirmed his unfitness for high office. (By the way, almost every dis-qualifier that I have tagged to potential Republican nominees almost always applies double to Barack Obama, whose fitness for office remains in doubt.)

Some more on Johnson's policies statements that I found interesting.

Foreign policy:
  • Maintaining a strong national defense is the most basic of the federal government’s responsibilities. However, building schools, roads, and hospitals in other countries are not among those basic obligations. Yet that is exactly what we have been doing for much of the past 10 years.
Civil Liberties:
  • The PATRIOT Act should be allowed to expire, which would restore proper judicial oversight to federal investigations and again require federal investigators to prove probable cause prior to executing a search.
  • Habeus corpus should be respected entirely, requiring the government to either charge incarcerated individuals with a crime or be released.
  • The TSA should take a risk-based approach to airport security. Only high-risk individuals should be subjected to invasive pat-downs and full-body scans.
  • The TSA should not have a monopoly on airport security. Airports and airlines should be encouraged to seek the most effective methods for screening travelers, including private sector screeners. Screeners outside of government can be held fully accountable for their successes and failures.
These are great points. I don't know why the Republicans presidential candidates aren't pillorying the Obama approach to airport security.

On spending and taxes:
  • Revise the terms of entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which threaten to bankrupt the nation's future.
  • Eliminate the costly and ineffective military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan; limit defense spending to actions that truly protect the United States.
  • Stop spending on the fiscal stimulus, transportation, energy, housing, and all other special interests. The U.S. must restrain spending across the board.
  • Eliminate punitive taxation of savings and investment.
  • Simplify the tax code; stop using it to reward special interests and control behavior.
  • Eliminate the corporate income tax so that America will once again be a great place to start a business.
More great stuff. Of course, eliminating corporate income taxes will be billed as Republicans are the party of millionaires.

Here's the part that I agree with, but many of my Tea Party friends do not, Drug Policy:

Despite our best efforts at enforcement, education and interdiction, people continue to use and abuse illegal drugs.

The parallels between drug policy today and Prohibition in the 1920’s are obvious, as are the lessons our nation learned. Prohibition was repealed because it made matters worse. Today, no one is trying to sell our kids bathtub gin in the schoolyard and micro-breweries aren’t protecting their turf with machine guns. It’s time to apply that thinking to marijuana.
Is that too much of a stumbling block to get the nomination? I should hope not. First, he's right on the issue. The rise of the big government police state has been aided by the war on drugs. If we truly believe in limited government, then we should fear the power of the police state. (Sarah, this is not an indictment of the police per se, just the fact that too many agencies have the power to break down your door for too many vague crimes.)

Gary Johnson is a very appealing candidate, in my opinion, even if he might not be the best candidate to beat Barack Obama. Please support his efforts to get into the New Hampshire debate next Tuesday.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The True Story of the Auto Bailouts - Revisited

Last March, I posted an article, mostly of quotes on the true nature of the auto bailout. Mr. Obama has been seen on the news of late, touting this as the big success of his administration. GM execs aren't exactly happy to be his poster child, I'm sure his lack of popularity is a drag on sales. We need to always keep in mind the illegal nature of these bailouts. Fortunately, David Skeel of the WSJ is on the job.
If the government hadn't stepped in and dictated the terms of the restructuring, the story goes, General Motors and Chrysler would have collapsed, and at least a million jobs would have been lost. The bailouts averted disaster, and they did so at remarkably little cost.
The problem with this happy story is that neither of its parts is accurate.
. . .
If the government wanted to "sell" the companies in bankruptcy, it should have held real auctions and invited anyone to bid. But the government decided that there was no need to let pesky rule-of-law considerations interfere with its plan to help out the unions and other favored creditors. Victims of defective GM and Chrysler cars waiting to be paid damages weren't so fortunate—they'll end up getting nothing or next to nothing.

. . .
But the $14 billion figure omits the cost of the previously accumulated tax losses GM can apply against future profits, thanks to a special post-bailout government gift.

The pile up of lies with regards to the auto bailout is stupendous. Here's hoping creative Republican campaign commericials excoriate the President for orchestrating a web of lies to enhance his own image. Here's betting they won't.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Odds and Ends

The election of Nationalist (i.e. Socialist) Party candidate Ollanta Humala over Keiko Fujimoro, shows the power of brand name in politics. Humala's election was feared by many members of Peru's business class. Peru's economy has been growing, but Fujimoro's name is associated with that of her imprisoned father, the former President, who is serving a sentence for authorizing killing of civilians as part of the campaign against the Shining Path Maoist guerrillas. Other accusations during his years in office have not been proved in court, but he was generally seen as an authoritarian. Of course, Humala, who once supported Hugo Chavez, is singing a different tune, claiming he will continue current economic policies. Since he was elected to bring some of the wealth of the economy to the poor, I don't see how this will pan out.

However, the branding problem for his daughter reminds me of California Republicans. They seem perpetually associated with the racist stereotype hangover from Pete Wilson's proposition 187 in the 1990s. This is why they need to stay on guard for any hint of racism in the party. Texas Republicans, by contrast do not seem to suffer in the same way.

Drudge headlines scream about a secret war in Yemen. I can't help but wonder where the left's outrage is now. Obama: doubled Bush's wars, quadrupled Bush's deficits, doubled Bush's unemployment numbers. Why there aren't more Republicans running for President eludes me, this guy has got to be extremely vulnerable. His base hates that Obamacare wasn't the single payer they wanted, they don't really like the extra wars and there is palpable disgust with him among Republicans and distrust among Indies. I can't imagine a worse set of circumstances at this point in the election cycle.

About Weinergate? I don't care. But why Democrats don't resign right away, but Republicans do continues to amaze.

Obamacare doesn't seem to be fairing well in oral arguments before the 11th circuit in Atlanta. Another issue constitutional issue brewing is the feds ability to require states to expand Medicaid as a condition of receiving federal matching funds. A reminder of why a Republican President starting in 2013 is so important. The medicaid mandate in Obamacare could be solved through the budget process and bypass a filibuster in the Senate. Additionally, a Republican HHS Secretary could grant waivers to everyone who asked for them, effectively gutting the law.

Meanwhile, locally the mayor's race is getting moving. Mr. Murphy at Sdrostra has the story of how the Republican candidates are moving out. Despite seeming Republican establishment support for Nathan Fletcher and Bonnie Dumanis, I think Carl DeMaio should be considered the front runner. A handful of grass roots type Republicans I know are all in for DeMaio; he excites the base. The Tea Party types I know also seem to be leaning his way. His heavy lifting to defeat Proposition D is going to go a long way among to winning that constituency. I am personally strongly leaning towards his candidacy.

Programming Note

My lack of blogging lately is due to having a medical condition for which I am taking fairly strong meds at night to get some respite and sleep. It may be a while before I can blog regularly. I will be blogging when I feel up to it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Finally - Congress Gets A Little Spine

Both Democrats and Republicans in the House seem to believe that the President is acting outside the bounds of law and the constitution with respect to Libya, passing a resolution calling on the President to take the actions necessary for Congressional approval of Libyan operations. Finally, I had begun to despair that the Congress would assert its authority. Despite the constitutional implications of the issue, I didn't think that the courts could resolve this particular issue, so absent action by the Congress, nothing would be done. Make no mistake, the resolution that was passed was non-binding, so they have not really exercised their full constitutional prerogative. But it is a worthy start. As the Washington Times article points out, 91 Democrats, over half the House caucus voted for at least one of two competing resolutions that were presented. The bipartisan nature of the debate should concern the President.

The Kucinich resolution failed 148-265. In a telling signal, 87 Republicans voted for Mr. Kucinich’s resolution — more than the 61 Democrats that did.

Still, taken together, 324 members of Congress voted for one resolution or both resolutions, including 91 Democrats, or nearly half the caucus. The size of the votes signals overwhelming discontent with Mr. Obama’s handling of the constitutional issues surrounding the Libya fight.

Despite the rebuke, the administration continues to act as if they have done nothing wrong. It is part of a train of abuses that can lead to dictatorship. We should keep the pressure on the Congress to end the charade that our involvement is not part of a war.

Weekend Music Chill

The economic news this week inspired the following musical selections.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Closing Out the Auto Follies? Hope, but no Change

The Obama administration admitted that the auto bailout will cost taxpayers $14 billion. Of course, that's if you believe their accounting. Judging by prior statements on the repayment of loans, I rather doubt it. Additionally, the slide in car sales this month, may cause this loss to increase. Dean previously posted:
So, if you are scoring at home you have a) a bankruptcy cramdown where unions were shoved to the head of the line before secured creditors, b) a pack of blatant public lies regarding the payback of the TARP loan, c) a $9 billion loss on the first IPO last November and now this... a massive stock dump in order to clear the books ahead of the 2012 presidential elections.
Of course, it was all worth it, for the jobs, according to the administration. Never mind that other car companies would have probably scarfed up assets and workers or that a normal bankruptcy could have resulted in a healthier GM than the one that emerged from this bankruptcy.

In other economic news, consumer confidence is dropping, factories had their biggest one-month slow down since 1984, and the most recent jobs report showed only 38,000 jobs were created in May.

Consumer confidence graph from the Atlantic. If the economy is in recovery, we should see increasing consumer sentiment, which is clearly not the case.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Housing Double Dip? Unfortunately, Yes

Today's headlines from both the U-T and the WSJ report on falling housing prices. This was to be expected as the means of propping up the housing market run out of steam. Dean discussed the overuse of the word "unexpected" with respect to economic news in yesterday's post, but at least this news was not so labeled. I'd like to think that it is because I predicted this, but we know better.

Here is why Obama should demand his money back from Columbia and Harvard for failing to educate him on basic economics. His administration's policies of propping up the housing market only prolonged the recession. Further, it was inevitable that the market couldn't be propped up forever. This second collapse in home prices will likely trigger another bout of recession. Given the time it takes for falling home prices to affect the larger economy, we should be feeling those effects during the 2012 election cycle. This is why I have been feeling Obama is vulnerable for some time.

A better plan would have been to let prices fall to market clearing prices quickly in 2009. Then cash buyers would have piled into the market, spending money turning homes into rental units and jump starting the economy. Many people would have lost their homes, but they were mostly going to lose them anyway. How is it more humane to prolong the suffering in the economy? Obama could have blamed the initial fall on Bush, which might have even had the ring of truth, and taken all the credit for the inevitable rebound. Now he owns this double dip.

From the WSJ discussing the fall in prices.
That doesn't bode well for the economy, which historically has depended on home buying and other consumer spending to rebound. Falling prices hurt economic growth in a number of ways. Not only do homebuyers curb spending when their homes are losing value, but continued price erosion keeps families stuck in homes they can't sell because they are worth less than what they owe.
. . .

Declining home values, rising prices and unemployment continue to weigh on consumer confidence. Another wild card is wrangling over the debt-ceiling in Washington, where lawmakers remain at odds over raising the nation's $2.4 trillion cap.

The Conference Board, a business research group, said Tuesday that its confidence index fell to 60.8 last month, down from 66.0 in April, as Americans grew more pessimistic about the economy.

The loss of confidence is a leading indicator, unfortunately, and I fear for tough times ahead.