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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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:

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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).