There was an error in this gadget

Follow Paul Gregory by Email

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Virtual Insurance: How ObamaCare Saves 30 Million From Being Uninsured While Leaving 30 Million Without Coverage

Obama supporters cite the 30 million who stand eventually to gain health insurance coverage as the most compelling reason for not abandoning ObamaCare in its time of troubles. Despite a string of disappointments and broken promises, ObamaCare critics do not push back against this  claim. After all, the 30 million who will gain insurance is a calculation of the “non-partisan” CBO.


go to forbes.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Putin Clears The Decks For Sochi Olympics With Pardons



In a surprise move near the end of his annual press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a pardon for rival, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and clemency for the Pussy Riot girls remaining in prison. These pardons signal Putin’s absolute confidence in his personal power and the importance to him of the Russian winter Olympics to begin in Sochi in February. Putin has placed his personal prestige on the line with his $50 billion investment in building the Sochi Olympic infrastructure. He cannot let anything happen to spoil his big day.

Putin’s move was timed to counter the growing list of heads of state including Obama, Harper, Hollande and Merkel who are refusing to attend. His pardons gave his Western rivals less to complain about.

Left unresolved is the world gay and entertainment community’s boycott of the Sochi Olympics in protest over Russia’s anti-gay laws and Putin’s own anti-gay stance. Even with a turnabout in policy towards gays, Putin must fear the threat of pro-gay protests in Sochi by attendees, gay participating athletes and their sympathizers.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kim Jong Un Copies The Playbook of Joseph Stalin In North Korea, The World's Last Stalinist State

Stalin would have slapped the “Great Successor” heartily on his back for executing his “traitor-for-all-the-ages” uncle. Well done, young fellow. This young guy, Kim Jong Un, doesn’t shirk from killing his own relatives. He reminds me of myself. I did not hesitate to shoot my closest friends and the relatives of my beloved first wife, Katya.  Shooting friends and relatives sends a chilling message to all. Well done!
This Un guy sure knows how to run a show trial. Uncle Song pled guilty to all charges, even the most outrageous. I had to wait until I was 49, and here he is orchestrating show trials at 30. But credit where credit is due: I pioneered the choreography back in 1936.

The apple does not fall far from the tree. Un’s grandfather dispatched 12 of his most senior officials back in 1953, my last year on earth. Un promised Uncle Song he could live if he confessed and that his wife and children would be safe. I used that trick hundreds of times, and they all fell for it, but what could I do when the courts sentenced them to death?  As I used to say: “Friendship is friendship but business is business.”


go to forbes.com

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Weak World Economy, Not ObamaCare, Is Bending The Cost Curve

Obama’s central planners are latching on to what they think is a rare  ObamaCare “win.” Harvard professor and ObamaCare guru, David Cutler (The health-care law’s success story: Slowing down medical costs) proclaims that ObamaCare has “bent the health care cost curve down” as a consequence of  measures already in effect, such as “value based reimbursements” and “Accountable Care Organizations.”  ObamaCare has thus attained one of its main goals before it even begins. Quite an accomplishment, I must say, if true.

Note that Cutler rules out that the downward bending cost curve is a result of the 2008-9 world recession and the spindly recovery thereafter. As he writes:

“Even as coverage efforts are sputtering, success on the cost front is becoming more noticeable. Since 2010, the average rate of health-care cost increases has been less than half the average in the prior 40 years. The first wave of the cost slowdown emerged just after the recession and was attributed to the economic hangover. [Wrong. The slowdown began during the recession]. Three years later, the economy is growing, and costs [No. He means the growth rate of costs] show no sign of rising. Something deeper is at work.”
Sounds too good to be true. With some minor jiggling, Obama’s central planners have somehow slowed the rise in health care costs for the first time in forty years. Per Cutler: “The Affordable Care Act is a key to the underlying change.”

Cutler fails to mention the world-wide phenomenon of slowing healthcare costs caused by the world recession and the weak recovery in its aftermath. The U.S. medical cost slowdown has nothing to do with the ObamaCare tweaks that Cutler praises. Cutler would have us believe that the somnambulant world economy explains the deceleration of medical costs in all countries except the United States, where ObamaCare must be credited. Try selling that one on the streets.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Will Kiev Streets Thwart Putin's Grand Design?

A fateful drama is playing out in central Kiev. Tens of thousands of demonstrators occupy Independence Square and block entrances to government buildings. They demand “revolution.” They clamor for the resignation of President Victor Yanukovich’s government  as punishment for his surprise decision to reject the European Union’s offer of association status and to look instead eastward for partners. Yanukovich’s use of the riot police has been met with ever larger numbers of demonstrators.

An experienced observer like Anders Aslund predicts that this is the beginning of the end of Yanukovich. If so, it will be the Ukrainian people, not President Obama or professional European diplomats, who will have dealt Vladimir Putin his first major foreign policy defeat. Putin has risked a lot of skin in the Ukrainian game, defiantly calling the Kiev demonstrations a “pogrom.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

2:01 PM November 22, 1963: That's My Friend Lee Harvey Oswald!

The mind is an uncooperative filter. Fewer memories pass through it as events become more remote. Trivial memories can loom larger than significant ones. But Friday, November 22, 1963, jumps out of stored recollections in sharp focus, even though separated in time by fifty years.


go to forbes.com

Friday, November 15, 2013

Germany Bashing With Bad Economics and Wrong Facts



If this were a football game, the referee should call unnecessary roughness for piling on Germany. The American Left led by Paul Krugman (The Harm Germany Does and Those Depressing Germans) excoriates Germany for forcing austerity on the rest of Europe. The U.S. Treasury (no newcomer to spending) demands that miserly Germany spend more to pull the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) out of their economic doldrums. Angela Merkel and her scrooge Germans are pictured as eating their Kuchen mit Schlag as Greek public employees lose jobs and unemployed youths riot in the streets. Even the sober Financial Times (Germany Is a Weight on the World) accuses the German juggernaught of piling up export surpluses to “beggar their neighbors.”

To understand the liberals’ beef against Germany, we must go back to the PIIGS borrowing spree that followed the creation of the Euro. As part of a single currency with strong partners to the North, even the PIIGS could borrow at low interest rates, and they borrowed voraciously not for investment but to pump up public spending. Their solvency in doubt as the financial crisis exploded, the PIIGS could no longer borrow. Suddenly, they had to live within their own means, except for the limited official loans the European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF begrudgingly handed out to prevent the collapse of the Euro. Greece, Spain, and Portugal descended into deep recession with one quarter of the work force unemployed.
 



go to forbes.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

To Achieve ObamaCare's Insurance Goals, We Must Abolish ObamaCare


ObamaCare was sold to the American people as an “effort to help 40 to 50 million Americans with low income or people with preexisting conditions.” (Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer,  http://thomas.loc.gov).  ObamaCare’s original promises (now long forgotten) were that we can help those 40 to 50 million unfortunates who can’t get insurance, keep our doctor and plan, lower premiums by $2,500, and it will  cost less than a trillion dollars over a ten year period. Sounds almost too good to be true, and it was!

If your car is acting up, you want the mechanic to fix the problem. Only if the car’s problems are catastrophic would you consider junking it. However, Obama is ready to junk our health care system because of problems with the uninsured poor and pre-existing conditions that affect only three percent of the population. He did not ask, like in the case of  the auto mechanic, what it costs to insure the poor and those with pre-existing conditions, while keeping the rest of the system that is working just fine (such as our current plan and doctor) for the 97 percent of us.

go to forbes.com

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

President Obama's Loss Of Trust Over Obamacare Imperils Immigration Reform

The President’s “misspeaking” on his Obama Care pledges have doomed any chance of immigration reform, or any other major reform, for that matter. Obama may go into campaign mode on immigration reform to gain Hispanic votes, but it will be only talk. There can be no comprehensive reform of anything – immigration, entitlements, or the national debt — if legislators and, more importantly, the voters do not trust the President’s word.

Obama has declared immigration reform his top legislative priority for the rest of his term. In June of 2012, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which spends more on border security, provides provisional legal status and eventual pathway to citizenship for people living in the country illegally, and outlines reforms for the existing visa programs for immediate relatives and skilled workers.

House Speaker John Boehner declared the Senate bill a nonstarter and expressed hope that the House would produce its own bill. A House bi-partisan group of four Republicans and four Democrats began drafting such a plan but has subsequently fallen apart with only one Republican remaining. The chances of passage of any comprehensive immigration reform during the Obama years are about zero.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A New 1 Percent: The Tiny Sliver Of Obama Care 'Winners'

Beleaguered Obama Care supporters use three arguments to dismiss the cancellation of insurance policies that millions of Americans were satisfied with. First, the cancelled policies are no good in the first place. (How can a one-size-fits-all bureaucrat determine that?) Second, greedy insurance companies are canceling the policies, not Obama Care. (The insurance companies must cancel under Obama Care rules). Third, those families being cancelled “represent the relatively small part of America that the Obama administration did not talk about while campaigning for the Affordable Care Act.” (See: New York Times When Insurers Drop Policies).  Did he really forget about them or did he decide not to share this information with American voters?


go to forbes.com

Monday, October 28, 2013

Obama Care A Mess? Liberals Say Go Single Payer

More suspicious voices on the right warned that the Left would use a collapsing Obama Care as an excuse for a single payer medical care system. The “train wreck” of the Obama Care roll-out has underscored its incredible complexity, contradictions, and peccadilloes, and we are just beginning to scratch the surface. Who knows what horrors lie buried in the thousands of pages of regulations that no one has read?

The warning that the Republicans will be blamed for the crash of Obama Care is already coming true. As ueber-Liberal Robert Reich writes from his Ivory Tower of Berkeley (Don’t Blame Dems. We Wanted Single Payer):

“Had Democrats stuck to the original Democratic vision and built comprehensive health insurance on Social Security and Medicare, it would have been cheaper, simpler, and more widely accepted by the public.”

The Left is champing at the bit to go single payer, even before Obama Care has begun. The employer mandate has been delayed and thousands of exemptions have been granted. Of the major provisions, only the individual mandate and fines remain, and even they may be delayed. But the liberals say:  Let’s change the venue and the rules before the game even starts.

The oracle of the Left, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (The Big Kludge) explains that Obama Care, as constituted, is too complicated a mix of  the private and public sectors. (Why did he not say that when the bill was before Congress?)  Krugman explains that Obama Care was given to us by the Republicans in cahoots with Big Insurance, Big Pharma, and Big Hospital. Poor Obama and the Democrats had to take what was possible not what was best because of the rascally Republicans.
Krugman then issues his siren song for the single payer system:



go to forbes.com

True Patriots Stop Train Wrecks

Ted Cruz’s filibuster and the House Freshmen’s battle against Obama Care have drawn media derision and establishment Republican “I told you so’s.” Suicide-vest, unhinged, insane, extortionist, and Astroturf metaphors dominated political discourse as Democratic Schadenfreuders cited polls that Americans blame Republicans more for the government shutdown and debt ceiling near miss.

The Charge of the Light Brigade, led by Lord Cardigan as ordered by his commander Lord Raglan against an entrenched Russian artillery battery (and immortalized by Tennyson six weeks later),  has been pounced upon as the historical analogy for the “failed” Tea Party attack on Obama Care. Pundits say the Light Brigade, which symbolizes gratuitous loss (of life) for a futile cause exacerbated by poor planning and confusion, exemplifies the Tea Party’s huge political losses in pursuit of an impossible cause – the defunding or delay of Obama Care.

A more appropriate analogy is found in Jimmy Stewart’s 1951 classic film “No Highway in the Sky.” In it, Stewart plays an aeronautical engineer whose wind tunnel tests predict that a newly-introduced aircraft will break apart in mid air. Jimmy deliberately sabotages a doomed flight and is branded a mental case. His daughter even pleads to skip school because of teasing. Jimmy Stewart turns from goat to hero when the plane he sabotaged loses its tail section as it rolls down the runway for its next take off.

go to forbes.com


Monday, October 21, 2013

Krugman On Austerity: How About Looking At The Facts For A Change?



New York Times economist and editorial writer, Paul Krugman, has headed the Left’s crusade against austerity, both in the United States and across the industrialized world. To Krugman, “austerity” does not denote a careful husbanding of government money. Rather austerity denotes unwisely large cuts in government spending that, he claims, threaten economic growth and recovery. Krugman bases his opposition to austerity on an empirical assertion that we can test; namely: “Across the advanced world, big spending cuts have been associated with deeper slumps.”

Krugman’s testable hypothesis, therefore, is: Countries that experience large reductions in government spending grow more slowly (or not at all or worse).

Just as some people speak before they think. Krugman seems to believe his asserting something to be true makes it true. The scientific method does not work this way, however. It requires that we first gather the facts on government spending and growth. Second, we must use these facts to test the Krugman hypothesis of a positive relationship between government spending and growth.  

The scientific method, so applied, shows Krugman’s facts to be wrong (where are the “big spending cuts”) and it refutes his hypothesis. Not a good day for Mr. Krugman. Next time, he should gather and test the facts before he writes.
 


go to forbes.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Tea Party Victory

We cannot see the forest because of the trees. The prevailing wisdom “from the trees” is that the Tea Party lost. The Tea Party “kamikazes” in the Senate and Congress donned their “suicide vests” and fumbled the partial federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling negotiations.

I see it quite differently “from the vantage point of the forest:” The Tea Party has denied President Obama his long term goal of creating a positive-rights European-style entitlement state.  The Tea Party changed the conversation from fundamental change, massive second stimuli, investment banks, national value added, fuel, and carbon taxes to sequestration and haggling over nickels and dimes of federal spending, and forced the Obama administration to gamble its second term (and legacy) on the unlikely success of Obama Care, which every Democratic member of Congress now personally owns.

go to forbes.com

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Obama's Pre-existing Conditions Whopper

How to Lie with Statistics was a standard college statistics textbook in the 1960s. It became one of the best-selling statistics books in history by showing how to lie, intentionally or unintentionally,  with statistics.  We need a new edition with a new title: How politicians lie – and lie big time —  with statistics.



go to forbes.com

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Obama's Fatal Mistake on Social Security

In a speech in Rockville, Maryland today, President Barack Obama blew up the Democrat’s social-security “third rail” in eighteen words.  Usually, Obama’s gaffes come off-the-cuff. Today’s remarks were, however, prepared; namely:

“In a government shutdown, Social Security checks still go out on time. In an economic shutdown — if we don’t raise the debt ceiling — they don’t go out on time.

go to forbes.com 

We are Shutting Down Only Thirteen Percent of the Government (At Most)

Eight cents out of every federal non-defense dollar represents a transfer from taxpayer to recipient. Entitlement transfers do not require annual Congressional approval. They can be changed only by entitlement reform, which is not on the table. We cannot, therefore “shut down” a federal government whose primary business is income redistribution.

go to forbes,com 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Merkel’s Awful Election Blunder


The German and world press universally laud Angela Merkel’s election triumph in the German parliamentary elections. She has won (not 100% sure) a third term and she fell only three seats short of the holy grail of German politics – the absolute majority. Pundits say she won because German voters like her slow but steady decision making and her down-to-earth style. Few have pointed out that her election victory has been marred by a huge electoral blunder.


go to forbes.com

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Problem Is Obesity Not Hunger (Thoughts On The Food Stamps Debate)

Throughout history, politicians have fabricated crises to justify their own solution to the crisis they themselves dreamed up. History is strewn with non-existent crises – the population bomb, global cooling, resource depletion,  freon destroying the ozone layer, and so on  – that threaten destruction unless the government acts. The U.S. “hunger crisis” is the latest in a long line of such relics.

The current hysteria over the House bill to cut food stamps by $40 billion over a decade  (see Krugman, Free to Be Hungry) will be framed against America’s “hunger crisis” fabricated by the powerful “hunger lobby.”  Democrats will use the “hunger crisis” as a cudgel to beat those who favor cuts in food stamps into bloody submission. How can any decent person favor cutting aid to hungry families, who, according to the crisis mongers, constitute one out of six of our neighbors? Few politicians have the fortitude to withstand the onslaught and the “crisisists” will likely win. A non-crisis will be “solved,” as real facts and real crises are ignored.

Facts are the enemy of the “crisisists.”  Therefore, we hear few of them, and the facts we hear are distorted beyond recognition. In this case, the facts speak for themselves: The United States, and increasingly the affluent world, has a crisis not of hunger but of obesity. The hunger crisis is a clever fabrication to serve political and commercial interests. If the hunger lobby’s facts are true, our hunger rates equal those of the poorest African and Asian countries.

A quick review of the real facts:
Fact 1: More than one of three Americans is obese.  
On the other hand:
Fact 2: One in a thousand adults and one in ten thousand children do not eat for a whole day on an average day.
Fact 3: Almost a third of a million Americans die annually of obesity. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable deaths.
On the other hand:
Fact 4: Deaths from hunger (due primarily to eating disorders) are too rare to be recorded in mortality statistics.
(Readers can check my sources: Journal of American Medical Association, USDA Economic Research Service, S-9, West Virginia Health Statistics Center.)

go to forbes.com

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Putin Cannot Afford Runoffs: Navalny and the Moscow Election

As Vladimir Putin was running circles around Barack Obama,  opposition mayoral candidate Navalny was giving Putin’s Kremlin a lessen in American retail politics. Putin won big on Syria but lost big in the Moscow mayor’s race, whose outcome may change Russian politics in the long run.

In the September 8 Moscow mayoral election, incumbent, Sergei Sobyanian, narrowly avoided a run off with 51.2 percent of the votes. Challenger, lawyer, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, officially received 17.2 percent. The Moscow Electoral Commission subsequently declared Sobyanian the victor. Navalny continues to challenge the vote in the courts with truckloads of evidence of voter fraud. Navalny has a snowball’s chance in hell of reversing the outcome in Russia’s courts.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sorry, Mr. Reich: Your Economics Grade Is Still F (Reply to Robert Reich)

In my Robert Reich’s F Minus In Economics: False Facts, False Theories, I gave Professor Reich an F for his Higher wages can save America’s economy — and its democracy. For those who missed it, the reasons for my grade (as a 40-year teacher of economics) are Reich’s lamentable disregard for facts and his lack of knowledge of basic economics. My specific criticisms included:
First, Reich’s assertion that America’s growth and prosperity rest on a “basic bargain” that corporations pay their workers enough so that they can buy their products is wrong.  Reich claims the bargain was pioneered by Henry Ford in 1914, who decided to pay his workers enough to buy his Model T’s.
Second, historical statistics show Reich’s assertion that the Great Depression was caused by businesses allowing wages to stagnate and profits to soar in the 1920s is false.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Robert Reich's F Minus In Economics: False Facts, False Theories

I am appalled by the economic illiteracy encountered in leading newspapers, business magazines, and prominent web sites (the news section of the Wall Street Journal is no exception). Robert Reich’s Higher Wages Can Save America’s Economy – and Its Democracy (Salon.com) is only one of many examples. As a teacher of economics for over forty years and a co-author of a best-selling 1980s economics 101 textbook, I would have given Reich’s paper a resounding F, if he had submitted it for my elementary economics class.

Reich’s elevated credentials point to an automatic A+.  As a frequent TV pundit, author of 13 books, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley no less, and self-identified as one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy,” many readers will automatically believe his economic nonsense. As a former Secretary of Labor, readers would be surprised to learn that Reich does not appear to understand how wages and labor markets work.

Reich’s resume raises one red flag: He is not an economist but a lawyer – a Yale Law School classmate of Hillary Clinton, who studied a smattering of economics for his PPE (politics, philosophy, and economics) degree at Oxford – a Rhodes Scholar no less. I am no formal credentials snob. Non PhD economists, such as Robert Samuelson, write very good economics. Robert Reich is not one of them.

go to forbes.com 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Moscow Mayor's Election: So Much for Competitiveness, Transparency, and Legitimacy

Muscovites went to the polls today to elect their mayor. Mayor Sergei Sobyanin (mentioned as Putin’s eventual successor) resigned unexpectedly to call an early election for September 8. Sobyanin, appointed by Putin after he fired Sobyanin’s predecessor, needed to establish his legitimacy as a duly elected mayor. Sobyanin’s unlikely opponent is Alexei Navalny, anti-corruption fighter, blogger, and “embezzler,” convicted on trumped up charges in one of Putin’s kangaroo courts.

Navalny, who faces a five-year prison term, was unexpectedly released on bail instead of being sent to jail. The Kremlin’s logic: Sobyanin needed at least some opposition to claim legitimacy. Navalny offered an ideal ploy – a convicted criminal, deprived of television and radio coverage, and under the threat of prison,  running a futile campaign against the well oiled Kremlin machine. In pre-election campaign mode, Sobyanin cleaned up parks, repaired roads, and spent billions to prove what a good job he was doing on behalf of his beloved people of Moscow.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama: Ain’t Broke, Fix It. Broke: Keep As Is



The Obama administration is rolling out a new program to fix America’s universities and colleges. Allocation of federal funds for higher educational establishments is to be based on measures of college “performance,” such as affordability, admission rates for low-income students, remedial support for disadvantaged students, and graduation and transfer rates.  The Obama’s education department will require all of America’s 4,500 diverse private, public, and religious colleges and universities to follow the same federal rules or risk loss of federal support – another “one size fits all” characteristic of Obama.

Obama’s stated purpose of fixing our broken higher education: We must ensure that “earning a postsecondary degree” is no longer “a pathway to opportunity for the ‘talented few.’” In other words, our higher educational system, like most everything else, is unfair. It limits success to a privileged few and leaves others saddled by debt, unable to buy a car or home.

Note that Obama proposes to fix a higher educational system that is not broke. According to international statistics, the United States has one of the highest higher educational enrollment rates in the world at 74 percent versus the G20 average of 52 percent. The U.S. enrolls 40 percent more of its young people in higher education than the average of the twenty richest countries. We are one of the few countries that believe in and offer higher education for the masses. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Chinese Can't Stage a Decent Show Trial

The trial of the decade — against former party heavyweight, Bo Xilai – has become a disaster for the new Chinese leadership. The charismatic Bo’s forceful assertions of innocence against charges of petty corruption and misuse of office have enlivened his supporters and made his accusers look weak and petty.
Joseph Stalin mastered the political show trial. His first, against sixteen of Lenin’s deputies and Trotsky allies, lasted five days. His second, against seventeen party officials, lasted a week. The third, against the twenty-one members of the “Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites,” lasted almost two weeks in the presence of invited diplomats and journalists.
Stalin orchestrated his show trials as carefully staged rituals. In each, the defendants’ confessions were extracted well before the trial. They dutifully confessed in public court to horrendous crimes of murder, espionage, and treason. Official newsreels showed the repentant traitors begging for mercy. With few exceptions the defendants received the death penalty and were shot within a day or two of the trial. The Soviet press condemned the “mad dogs” in incessant drumbeats of vitriol. Factory workers organized “spontaneous” meetings to demand the supreme penalty. Confused diplomats and journalists, many of whom did not understand Russian, sat in the court room as interpreters whispered in their ears. They concluded that the show trials had exposed real plots against a Soviet Union, which had narrowly averted overthrow by sinister forces from within and without.  What a success for Mr. Stalin!
Stalin would erupt in laughter at the pantywaist show trial of the disgraced party leader, Bo Xilai, currently underway in Beijing. It violates all of Stalin’s rules for a successful show trial.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Airbrushing Away The Numerous False Promises Of Obama Care

President Barack Obama spent an entire year fighting a Blitzkrieg culminating in the signing of Obama Care on March 23, 2010. He drummed two unambiguous promises into the public consciousness:
“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your current health insurance plan you can keep it.”

Without these two presidential pledges, Obama Care would have stood no chance. By and large, people were happy with their doctors and with their insurance plans. They would not have given up something that is working for the vague promises of Obama Care.


go to forbes.com

Friday, August 2, 2013

Putin the Predictable: Guest Snowden


It takes no savvy to know what Vladimir Putin will do next. Putin (Vova  or VVP, as he is known by Russians) can be counted on to do exactly what his declared “enemy” – the United States – does not want him to do.  He will do so, moreover, unadorned with diplomatic language or tact. Putin’s granting of asylum to fugitive Edward Snowden is just another on a long list of examples.

Putin sends ships full of supplies to Syria during Assad’s lowest point in his civil war as President Obama declares Assad must leave. He provides Iran with “peaceful” nuclear technology and weakens sanctions as Obama declares the noose is being tightened. He sends his emissaries to anti-American rulers in Latin America. VVP consistently votes against U.S. proposals in the United Nations.

Now VVP has stuck his finger straight in Obama’s eye. Surprise, surprise: He has granted fugitive Snowden asylum in Russia – a not unexpected move after he allowed a passportless Snowden to enter Moscow Sheremetova without a visa. Take that, Barack, he says with gesture and deed.


go to forbes.com

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ideological Blinders Prevent An Obama Pivot On The Economy

President Barack Obama and Japan’s Shizo Abe both face sluggish economies that have been stimulated to the limit with few, if any, positive results. To his credit, Abe recognizes the need for the politically tough “structural reforms” of credit, agriculture, and retail sales to restore Japanese growth. Obama ignores the deep structural problems of the U.S. economy – over regulation, the uncertainties of Obama Care, anti-growth tax policy, and growing entitlement incentives not to work. Instead, he offers minor sops masquerading as reform, and blames his five-years-out-of-office predecessor for what is wrong today. Under Abe, Japan, at last, has a chance of revitalization. Under Obama, the U.S. will see more of the same. He cannot attack the structural problems restraining the U.S. recovery because they are largely of his own making. The pitiful recovery was authored in Washington.

In yesterday’s hour and four minute speech, President Obama reprised his many “pivot to the economy” speeches of the past: He inherited a mess from Bush, but he got America moving again. He has been blocked by a recalcitrant opposition determined to see him fail.  Without his bold actions, we would still be mired in a painful recession. The President paraded a wish list of shopworn mini-fixes – youth training, mortgage relief, more infrastructure investment — and “mother and apple pie” calls to bring American jobs and manufacturing back home. He failed to offer any concrete proposals how to create jobs and accelerate tepid growth.



go to forbes.com

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Images of Navalny and Putin



Putin at Work
Not vultures, I presume


Poor opponent stands no chance, like Navalny
Two fools
Reset at work
Welcome guest?




Putin's future?
Navalny in court
Navalny and wife after sentence

Some Facts on Food Stamps You’ll Not See Elsewhere



The House Republicans proposed to cut $2 billion a year for ten years from food stamps (a “drastic” 3% cut fro0m the $80 billion program). The Senate passed on a bipartisan basis a much smaller reduction over the same period. House Republicans understood that they could not pass a farm bill that included $2 billion annual cuts in food stamps, so the House tried but failed to pass a farm bill without food stamps, hoping to pass a separate food stamp bill later. Liberal Democrats condemned the House action in unison, claiming falsely House Republicans wanted to wipe out the food stamp program entirely.

The liberal blogosphere condemns any cut in food stamps on the grounds that poor hungry people, especially children, are hurt and that food stamps have become an essential (and apparently permanent) stimulus to keep our economy moving.

Currently, 48 million people receive food stamps, 17 million of which are classified by the USDA as families with very low food security, of which 5 million are children. The USDA’s “very low food security measure” is its feeble attempt to measure the number of hungry Americans.

The accompanying chart (taken directly from the Congressional Budget Office) provides some perspective on where we stand:

The chart shows that, in past years, the number of recipients and spending on food stamps move with the business cycle, as measured by the unemployment rate. However, starting in 2001, food stamp spending and participation rose despite low unemployment due to the use of EBT credit cards and enhanced enrollment efforts. (Thank you, George W. Bush?) Both enrollment and spending soared with the recession of 2008, but did not moderate with the recovery that began in late 2009/early 2010. Both food stamp spending and participation doubled between 2007 and the present!

Those who oppose any cuts in the food stamps program argue that food stamp spending and participation were driven up by the recession and we still need an extra boost. If so, they should accept the fact that food stamps should decline as the recovery continues. The chart shows that the CBO expects food stamp spending to drop by $11 billion over the next decade, and the number of recipients to fall by 13 million people (under current legislation) as a consequence of the economic recovery.

Using CBO projections, Congress should prepare for reductions in the food stamp program. Using the CBO figures, Congress should budget slightly over $1 billion less per year over the next decade even without any changes in food stamp rules. Although opponents of food stamp cuts warn that some 2 million people will lose coverage as a result of the proposed House bill, the CBO projects that a much larger 13 million will lose coverage as the recovery proceeds without any changes in the way food stamps are administered.


Let us remember that food stamps are an entitlement that is supposed to increase during bad economic times and decrease during good economic times. Supposedly, we are in a recovery, or at least that is what we are told.

Those who oppose any reduction in the number of beneficiaries and benefits paid have lost sight of the meaning of entitlements, just as those who argue for permanent stimulus have forgotten the basics of Keynesian economics. Instead of accepting the reductions that are supposed to accompany a recovery, they are making new arguments. One is that food stamps really do not fight hunger. Rather food stamps fight obesity, especially among children. (I do not know how food stamps affect recipients’ choice of food. Please enlighten me). Obesity is a growing problem, so we need more food stamps. Second, they argue that we need food stamps as a disguised form of stimulus, without which the recovery is jeopardized.

I guess obesity and deficient stimulus will always be with us. Therefore let’s have no cuts in food stamps.

In googling material for this piece, I found that the first 40 posts argued against any food stamps cuts of any kind and warned of horrendous consequences of cuts. I ran across a vast array of groups and lobbyists with vested interests in food stamps. I did not find one article supporting the food stamps cuts that must come according to the CBO. The one exception was an attack on Lou Dobbs for venturing to say food stamps need to be cut.

We have no lobby for cutting government spending. Let’s hope the Tea Party gets animated again. This is a good issue for them.

Putin Declares Himself Dictator With The Navalny Verdict

Alexei Navalny’s five-year prison sentence on fabricated charges removes Vladimir Putin’s last political opponent from the scene. Navalny was charged with stealing a small amount of money during the course of giving pro-bono legal advice to a regional government on the sale of timber.

Navalny, the charismatic anti-corruption blogger and activist, was one of the key organizers of anti-Putin demonstrations following the disputed parliamentary and presidential elections of December 2011 and March 2012. He had been a thorn in the side of the Putin machine by exposing its high-level corruption on his blog, which is followed by millions of Russians. He was indicted by Putin’s Investigative Committee – an extrajudicial body that works like the troikas of the Stalin era. Among those exposed by Navalny for the theft of billions were the very members of the Investigative Committee that indicted him. Navalny coined the term widely applied by the Russian people to Putin’s United Russia, as the “party of thieves and scoundrels.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

China Is About To Make A Mistake That May Rival Its One Child Policy

China avoided the world recession that started in 2009. The wise communist party, we are told, ramped up infrastructure spending – unimpeded by the need for licenses, court reviews, or rights of way. The government pumped in just enough infrastructure spending to maintain China’s healthy growth rate.
Skeptics of democracy and free enterprise waxed eloquent about China’s state capitalism, as directed by China’s communist party. We want more of what China is having over here – was the refrain.

Democracy and free markets indeed make mistakes. No one promised free sailing of steady growth, low unemployment, and the absence of business cycles. Bubbles and busts have been a part of the capitalist system since the Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637. We can debate the role of government in the U. S. housing bubble and in Europe’s banking and Euro crises, but no proponent of market capitalism has promised a bubble-free, recession-free world.

The proponents of state capitalism and a one party system do make such promises. The Soviet Union promised that “scientific planning” would lead to steady growth, innovation, and the eventual overtaking of the United States. China’s communist leaders laud their “socialism with a Chinese face” in which sober and wise party and state officials can be counted upon to make the correct decisions.

History tells another story.  The most disastrous blunders have been committed by the scientific planners of one party states. Miscalculations and errors of the market system tend to be self-correcting if they are left alone. Even when they are mishandled, the damage is minor compared to the blunders of the state capitalists.


go to forbes.com

Friday, July 5, 2013

Let The Progressive Groups Targeted and Harassed by the IRS Come Forward

In an opinion piece disguised as news, the New York Times (I.R.S. Scrutiny Went Beyond the Political) reports that many applicants for tax-exempt status were singled out for scrutiny, not just political groups.  Groups like “Break the Bonds,” “Cash for Musicians,” and advocates of medical marijuana and open source software were selected for extra scrutiny under the IRS’s  “be on the lookout” program. They were subjected to long waits, intrusive inquiries and bureaucratic hassles that appear unrelated to politics. It was not just the Tea Party that suffered such indignities. Rather, the problem is not the politicization of the IRS but a “process that became too rigid and too broad.”


Big whoopee: The Times is telling its readers that the IRS might actually be doing its real job of preventing shady money-making organizations from disguising themselves as charities. So, the IRS does something other than harass conservative organizations. Let’s hope so.


go to forbes.com

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Egypt's Rocky Road Into The Unknown

The Egyptian military’s ouster of President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is, to play with Lenin’s famous expression, one step back (away from democracy) in order later to take two steps forward (for democracy).

The Muslim Brotherhood electoral victories that brought Morsi to power with a parliamentary majority show ability of a disciplined minority to gain power over an undisciplined majority. The Bolsheviks gained power in October of 1917 through their greater discipline (and their willingness to use force) despite garnering only a quarter of the votes for the constituent assembly at the peak of their power and popularity. It is noteworthy that Morsi ran on an electoral platform that promised a secular Egyptian state. It was this electoral promise that he was backing off when he was ousted.

go to forbes.com

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Will Obama Follow Richard Nixon As An Asterisk President?

The notorious asterisk (*) is applied to discredited sports records. Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories have been followed by an * in the record books since his admission of doping. Richard Nixon is modern history’s only asterisk President. His * denotes the only President to resign from office. More generally, the asterisk applies to any achievement gained through questionable means.

Hence, the media elite will discredit any piece that has Barack Obama “Asterisk President” in its title as spiteful partisanship, sour grapes, and ignorance of “politics as usual.” Obama’s spin doctors and the media will retort: Do these conservative wing nuts not know that Obama won by a comfortable margin?  Our democratic underground has indeed put an asterisk next to George W, Bush, but that is only right. Bush did not really win in 2008 and lied about weapons of mass destruction, but our Barack won fair and square and by a comfortable margin.

Columnists James Taranto and Peggy Noonan  have broken the “asterisk taboo.” Taranto (President Asterisk) describes how the mainstream media has circled the wagons to protect Obama from the swirling scandals that threaten the legitimacy of his second term. The media chant in unison: “Barack did not know. It was only low level bureaucrats. Government is too complicated anyway. The Republicans will lose by overplaying their hand.”



go to forbes.com

Friday, June 28, 2013

Harry Reid's Unicorn: The Left-Leaning Group Harassed By The IRS

Democrats on the House Committee investigating IRS targeting abuse of conservative groups have settled on their story, namely: Progressive groups were subject to targeting too. Left-leaning and right-leaning groups were treated equally. The IRS was fair to both sides.

Unfortunately for the democratic cover story, the Treasury Inspector General assigned to investigate IRS abuses specifically refutes their argument. I quote from his letter to democratic members of the House Committee dated June 26:

“The evidence only shows conservatives being systematically targeted by the IRS, not just flagged…but actually targeted….While we have multiple sources of information corroborating the use of tea party and other related criteria…we found no indication in any of these other materials that ‘progressives’ was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention.”   

I guess the Democratic recipients forgot to read that part of the letter.

go to forbes.com

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Timeline of IRS Targeting of Conservative Groups

The timeline shows the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status and of public statements about such tax-exempt groups by the President, White House officials, and the Democratic National Committee by date.

The main findings of this timeline:

The targeting of conservative groups  begins March 2010. It has lasted more than three years.

President Obama, White House,  and the Democratic National Committee publicly and repeatedly warn about nefarious and illicit activities of conservative groups, starting in August of 2010. There are eleven public warnings,  nine of which are issued by President Obama himself in public speeches.

Higher ups in the IRS learn about targeting  on June 29, 2011 but have three follow up meetings to define and expand the categories of targeted groups, the latest being January 25, 2012.

IRS officials deny the existence of targeting (or fail to mention it) before Congress March 22, 2012 and May 3, 2012.

April 24, 2013, White House Counsel learns of targeting and informs senior White House Staff.


The Timeline
March 1-17, 2010: The IRS’ Determinations Unit asks for a search of “tea party or similar organizations’ applications.”

go to forbes.com  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The CBO's Immigration Study And Its False Surplus

The analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of the Senate immigration bill spells out the methodology for calculating the budgetary effects of immigration legislation: Increased immigration will have a positive budgetary effect if the average immigrant adds more to the pot in taxes than he or she takes away in benefits.
Insofar as Congress is supposed to act in the general interest, state and local taxes and benefit costs must be added to make the calculation complete.

Whether immigration produces deficits or surpluses depends on factors including immigrant income (and taxes paid thereon), number of children and age. Currently, a family of two parents and three school-age children (immigrant or otherwise) earning $25,000 per year draws some $25,000 more in government benefits than it pays in taxes.
Immigration will add to deficits if the average immigrant family earns $25,000 per year. It will add to surpluses, if it earns $150,000. These are simple facts not subject to dispute.

Will the Senate bill leave us with high or low-income immigrants? The Senate bill does not place quotas on family-based immigration. Moreover, its merit-based immigration (track 2) appears to give preferences to siblings and married adult children over the age of 31. Immigration categories that emphasize skills and education are capped at low levels.

These provisions suggest a long-term predominance of low-income immigrant households — a steady supply of cheap labor for the American labor market. Some may consider this good for the economy, but its budgetary implications are negative.

Now let's turn to the CBO's flawed conclusion that the Senate immigration bill will produce a budgetary surplus in its first decade. (I will not even discuss its projection for the second decade because we cannot predict the composition of immigrant families 20 years hence.)

The source of the CBO's projected surplus is that legalized immigrants will pay Social Security taxes over the first 10 years while receiving virtually no benefits. Only "0.5% (of foreign-born individuals) would qualify (for Social Security) by the end of their 10th year," CBO says.

But the CBO ignores the fact that the immigration reform bill makes Social Security an even worse pyramid scheme than it already is. It counts each year's Social Security contributions by immigrants in the positive column without making provisions for future benefits, which will be about twice what the immigrants contributed over the long term.
Private companies are required by law to make provisions for the funding of pension and health liabilities of their employees. Meanwhile, the federal government, while imposing such provisions on the private sector, can spend current Social Security contributions on other things and hope that no one understands this is a Ponzi scheme. Maybe the federal government hopes that Charles Ponzi will pay these future benefits?



Read More At Investor's Business Daily: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/062113-660996-increased-immigration-wont-have-positive-effect-on-budget.htm#comments#ixzz2WxMVwitf 
Follow us: @IBDinvestors on Twitter | InvestorsBusinessDaily on Facebook

Friday, June 21, 2013

A "Dysfunctional" House Does What's Right On The Farm Bill

In a shock to its leadership, the House voted down the farm bill 234 to 195. Too many Democrats and Republicans defied their leadership. Expecting the easy passage of the farm bill, the Washington political and media elite harrumphed that Washington politics has become completely dysfunctional. We can’t even pass something as routine as the farm bill! We are supposed to run Washington  as  “business-as-usual.”

The farm bill, which is passed every five years, has long been exhibit number one of what is wrong with Washington. Although U.S. agriculture is the most productive and efficient in the world, our farmers still receive subsidies, price supports, and loans under programs that date back to the farm collapse of the Great Depression. The vast majority of today’s farm programs  simply transfer tax dollars to a few wealthy grain farmers, dairymen, and sugar growers at taxpayer and consumer expense. They raise milk and sugar prices (Americans pay at least double the world price) under the guise of helping the struggling family farm. Small agricultural enterprises get only one quarter of the goodies that the farm bill hands out. The top ten percent get three quarters. Where are the Congressional opponents of inequality when we need them?

go to forbes.com

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Least Worst Candidate Wins Iran's Presidential Election

The Wall Street Journal news alert proclaims that a “moderate” has won today’s  Presidential election in Iran:
“Hassan Rohani, the candidate backed by the opposition and reformist political factions, was declared the winner in Iran’s presidential vote, giving a decisive victory to Iranians calling for change. Iran’s interior minister said Mr. Rohani had received more than 50% of the more than 36 million votes cast in Friday’s election. Mr. Rohani was the lone moderate candidate in a race that once appeared solidly in the hands of Tehran’s ruling clerics.”

Rohani replaces  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who served in this position since the 2005 election. His disputed reelection in 2009 sent millions of young Iranians to the streets in protest. Rohani is indeed “moderate” in the sense that he cannot be worse than his predecessor, reputedly one of the militants who held U.S. diplomats hostage during the Carter presidency.

Rohani is Iran’s second moderate/reformist president.  Iran’s fifth president, Mohammad Khatami, a so-called reformist, captured 70 percent of the vote in 1997 and raised expectations of a democratic revival. During his two terms, Khatami advocated free speech, tolerance, civil society, and normal diplomatic relations. His presidency ended in frustration and disappointment. Khatami, Iranians discovered to their disappointment, did not have the power to institute any reformist agenda.

go to forbes.com 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why The Financial Press Buys Into A Non-Existent Keynesian Consensus

Few Wall Street Journal readers know that its news and opinion sections are written and managed separately. Whereas the opinion section – as edited by the late Robert Bartley and now Paul Gigot – consistently champions fiscal discipline, smaller government,  and lower marginal tax rates, analysts from the Journal’s news side – David Wessel and Gerald Seib, in particular – are consistent proponents of Keynesian tax and spend policy. That the news section delivers conclusions at odds with the opinion section puts the Journal at risk of an errant headline like: “The Wall Street Journal Says Keynes Was Right.”


David Wessel consistently represents the Keynesian party line in the news section. In his most recent analysis, his conclusions about the effects of the sequester coincide with none other than the New York Times’ Paul Krugman. Although Wessel’s language is more restrained, their conclusions boil down to one and the same.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Poverty And Hunger In America: A Letter From The Front Line

My article Even Matt Damon and Beyonce Could Not Sell the True Child Hunger Statistic (One In A Thousand) stirred up a hornet’s nest. I used USDA statistics to show the child-hunger lobby’s “one-in-five-children-hungry” statistic is a wild exaggeration. Instead, maybe one in a thousand children are hungry on any given day – a number not statistically different from zero. This drew a righteous response from the CEO of the largest hunger charity (Feeding America), who argued that “even one hungry child is one too many.” (I guess he would then agree that a child killed in an entertainment park is one too many, so we should close them down along with those dangerous city zoos). Another angry critic invited me to her home town to view child hunger first hand. I requested that she send me some cases from her community, but I am still waiting.
I reproduce, in its entirety, a remarkable comment from a couple living in poverty, in which they describe their experiences with hunger in their own home and community – a report, so to say, from the front lines of poverty in America.

 ”John Doe” writes in his comment:


go to forbes.com

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Even Matt Damon and Beyonce Could Not Sell the True Child Hunger Statistic (One In A Thousand)

To understand the magnitude of childhood hunger, we need a snapshot of how many children are hungry on a given day.  According to a typical alarmist, sixteen million children face hunger every day.”  That is a huge figure — more than one in five children — that suggests a massive failure of food stamps, free school lunches, and private charity.  After all this time and public and private expense, so many children remain hungry in a rich country like the United States! What a disgrace!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes data from which one can calculate how many children are hungry on a given day. (Just as the Census Bureau asks where you live on the day of the census).  The conclusion for the number of hungry children is (extended drum roll): One tenths of one percent of children, or one per thousand. Even if we use the USDA’s liberal measure of hunger at least one incident over  twelve months, we get a child-hunger figure of one percent.

Such  low figures (one in a thousand or one in a hundred) will be ignored by the hunger lobby, food stamps expansionists, and the media because it suggests a problem that has been solved. (Discussion would then have to turn to childhood obesity, as it already has).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Leading Economist Gives Up On Putin’s Russia



Sergei Guriev has left Russia. Guriev, the Dean of Moscow’s New School of Economics, is Russia’s most respected economist with a deserved international reputation for his publications on contract theory and political economy. The New Economic School, which he heads, is the leading school of economics in Russia and remarkably among the best in Europe. Its small MA and BA programs attract Russia’s best young minds, and its graduates teach in top economics departments in the United States and Europe and occupy leading positions in government and business.  The New Economic School has the beginnings of the Russian Harvard – a private institution in a sea of state universities that has made its own way through hard work, brilliance, and a superior educational program.