In 2009, we told you that the best thing we could do for the economy was nothing at all. It looks like we were right.

From The Times of India:

Japan’s Abe unleashes stimulus plan to spur growth
AP | Dec 27, 2014, 06.53 PM IST

TOKYO: Japan’s cabinet approved 3.5 trillion yen ($29 billion) in fresh stimulus on Saturday for the ailing economy, pledging to get growth back on track and restore the country’s precarious public finances.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is wrapping up his second year in office hard-pressed to salvage a recovery that fizzled into recession after a sales tax hike in April.

The stimulus plan endorsed by the Cabinet includes 600 billion yen ($5 billion) earmarked for stagnant regional economies. It also lays out Abe’s vision for countering longer term trends such as Japan’s surging public debt and a declining and aging population.

“A strong economy is the wellspring of Japan’s national strength,” said a summary of the plan released by the government.

It pledged to restore vitality to local regions to enable young Japanese “to have dreams and hopes for the future.”

More at the original, which continues to note that Japan’s government debt is already twice the nation’s gross domestic product, and that Mr Abe’s government is promising to balance the budget by 2020. Just last year, Bloomberg reported that Mr Abe’s government had proposed a record budget, and record budget deficit, and that the sales tax increase then scheduled to being in April 2013 would increase government revenues, but “is forecast to push the economy into contraction.” The sales tax went into effect, and the economy, as predicted, contracted.

Japan’s economic problems are far worse than those of the United States, but, 5½ years after President Obama got his stimulus plan passed, our economy is still not doing particularly well. As we have reported several times before, the lowered unemployment rate, the U-3 “big number,” has masked the very large U-6 unemployment rate.1

With that in mind, I am going to refer back to what I wrote on January 28, 2009, on the old site:

One of the underlying notions concerning the stimulus proposal is the idea that the government controls the economy, but it quite simply does not.  If the government could control the economy, we’d always have good times.  But the very regrettable history is that the more control the government does exercise over the economy, the poorer that economy is: that’s why the Soviet Union is no more.

There are slightly more than 300 million people in the United States, and the vast majority of them, including children past the age of three or so, wind up being decision-takers of some sort in the economy.  (Children three years old might not have their own money, but they can certainly plead with mommy to buy this cereal or that toy advertised on Barney.)

The government, which naturally thinks it’s smarter and wiser than the common people, would, in this case, borrow hundreds of billions of dollars, and try to direct it in ways that the government thinks wisest; you’ll pardon me if the fact that I’ve studied the Soviets’ various Five-Year Plans, and been impressed with the thought behind them but very unimpressed with the results.  One thing is certain, if President Obama’s Five-Year Plan stimulus package is passed: the deficit will soar — again — and the national debt will rise.

The stimulus plan reminds me of a trip to the dentist.  When the dentist has to do some drilling and gives you Novacaine, he isn’t preventing the pain; he’s just delaying the pain until he’s done with his work.

And so it is with this stimulus package.  At some point, we’ll have to pay for it, and that’s the pain.  I’m beginning to think that we’d be better off just going through the pain now, and getting it over with.

The voters elected Franklin Roosevelt because of the Depression, and our 32nd President put forward and got passed all sorts of alphabet soup government programs, but still, the Depression persisted.  We got out of the Depression due to the stimulus package passed by Hideki Tojo and Adolf Hitler, creating massive employment opportunities in the Army and new armament industries, and creating a demand for many goods that were not used in the civilian economy and which were rapidly expended, creating even more demand for replacements.  Somehow I don’t think we want to go to the extreme of having the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor again!

The question is: had World War II not arisen, when would the Depression have ended — and would the New Deal have hastened its end, or prolonged its length?  There’s no control group we can use to measure the results.

What has government done in the past to deal with recessions?  Ronald Reagan put a big tax cut in place, and we came out of the recession.  The elder President Bush agreed to a big tax increase, and we went into a recession.  But then President Clinton added another huge tax increase, and we came out of the recession.  We went into recession again at the very tail end of the Clinton Administration, and the younger President Bush got a big tax cut, and we came out of the recession.  But then, with those same tax cuts in place, we went into another recession in 2008.

Take your pick: both tax cuts and tax increases have preceded recessions, and both tax cuts and tax increases have preceded recoveries.  Maybe, just maybe, changes in taxation have nothing to do with whether the economy goes into recession or recovers from one.

This recession was preceded by the same thing that struck in 1988: housing prices were bid up far in excess of inflation.  The housing market collapsed, because people were afraid of losing their jobs and the prices had gotten so out of tune with the rest of the economy.  It seems worse this time, because new financial instruments have spread around the pain of a falling housing market to a wider group of people.

That, friends, has nothing to do with the government; that has to do with the individual decisions of a couple hundred million economic actors in our country.

I honestly think — and remember, I’m in the construction industry — that we’d probably be better off doing absolutely nothing.  Let the economy adjust, as the economic actors in the United States take their individual economic decisions concerning what’s right for them.  There will be pain, but the economy will recover.

But, doing it my way means about a trillion dollars less, per year, added to the national debt.  We can avoid that future pain, if we’ll take our medicine in the present.

I didn’t get my way, of course, and the Congress passed the 2009 stimulus plan. I had noted, in a comment on Sister Toldjah:

Am I the only one who thinks that maybe the best thing the government can do for the economy is to do nothing at all?

The economy will recover, because the economy always recovers; that’s just part of the business cycle. But President Obama would add spending programs that would push the deficits to above a trillion dollars a year, far as far as the eye can see. That can’t be good.

Let me put it very bluntly: I was right in January of 2009! The stimulus plan was passed, and completely failed to produce the results the Obama Administration claimed that it would. It was supposed to hold the U-3 unemployment rate to a maximum of 8%; U-3 unemployment hit 10.0% several months after the stimulus plan was passed. Our economy was supposed to be humming along in just a couple of years; even today, economic growth has been sluggish, with some decent quarters and some not so good quarters, incomes for working and middle class Americans have stagnated, and welfare rolls have increased dramatically.  Despite what the official economic numbers might say, polls indicate that 72% of the public believe that we are still in a recession. Despite the wholly misleading official unemployment number, there are fewer full-time jobs than before the recession began.

We did just what the Democrats said we should do, and it failed! Now, Prime Minister Abe is going down the same road in Japan, and he will fail, too.

When The First Street Journal tells you something about economics, you should listen, because we have a record of being right.

  1. The U6 unemployment rate counts not only people without work seeking full-time employment (the more familiar U-3 rate), but also counts “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons.” Note that some of these part-time workers counted as employed by U-3 could be working as little as an hour a week. And the “marginally attached workers” include those who have gotten discouraged and stopped looking, but still want to work. The age considered for this calculation is 16 years and over

Rule 5 Blogging: NYPD

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Paris Hilton in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude.

This week, we depart from the military, to honor the New York Police Department! Click any photo to enlarge.


Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: NYPD’ »

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From the Associated Press:

Police Outside Cop Funeral Turn Backs on NY Mayor
By Jonathan Lemire and Mike Balsamo, Associated Press | Dec 27, 2014, 11:30 AM ET

New York City — Hundreds of officers standing outside the church where a funeral is being held for a New York City policeman killed in an ambush shooting have turned their backs on the mayor as he spoke during the service.

The reaction Saturday follows comments from police union officials who said Mayor Bill de Blasio contributed to a climate of mistrust toward police amid anti-police protests.

Inside the church at Officer Rafael Ramos’ funeral, mourners gave de Blasio polite applause before and after his speech.

The mayor said hearts citywide were aching after the shootings that left Ramos and his partner dead.

The police union president and others turned their backs on the mayor in a sign of disrespect at the hospital after the Dec. 20 shooting. Lynch blamed de Blasio then for the officers’ deaths and said he had blood on his hands.

Even at this somber event, many of the police officers in New York could not decline this opportunity to show their disrespect for Mayor de Blasio. I can’t say that I blame them. The Mayor’s public siding with the protesters following the decision of the grand jury not to indict any of the police officers in the botched arrest which led to the death of Eric Garner, along with his statement that he told his son, who is half-black, to be careful in his dealings with the police, certainly fell right in line with his liberal beliefs, but, as is almost always the case, liberal beliefs, when put into governing authority, backfired.

And now, onto the blogroll!

Movie Review: Christmas Icetastrophe

There’s nothing quite like the SciFi SyFy Channel for terrible movies, so we wound up watching Snowmageddon and Christmas Icetastophe. The New York Times didn’t think too much of it, either:

Making Icicles of Everyone
‘Christmas Icetastrophe’ on Syfy Defies Tradition
By Neil Genzlinger, December 19, 2014

Tiera Skovbye in “Christmas Icetastrophe,” about an asteroid hurtling to Earth, Christmas night on Syfy. Credit Cinetel Films

Warning: Humans may be enjoying time off starting right about now, but asteroids don’t give a hoot about the holidays. They just keep right on hurtling toward Earth with devastation on their minds. Be ready to seek shelter, because one of them breaks through the atmosphere on Saturday night, and even a guy in a Santa suit isn’t safe.

Yes, it’s time for another Syfy holiday-themed disaster movie. This year’s title is “Christmas Icetastrophe,” and it is just as mindlessly ridiculous as 2012’s masterpiece, “The 12 Disasters of Christmas.” The problem in 2012 was a killer ice storm. In 2014, it’s an asteroid that crashes into a small-town holiday celebration and ruins Christmas for just about everyone.

Victor Webster, who has experience with nature gone wacky thanks to his appearance in “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators,” a 2013 Syfy creature feature, is Charlie, a father and all-around good guy who becomes an anchor of sanity when the asteroid strikes and causes bizarre flash-freezing of the air, bodies of water and bodies of people. Jennifer Spence, who probably already knew a lot about celestial debris from her time in “Stargate Universe,” plays Alex, a graduate student who has been tracking the inbound asteroid.

While most of the locals run around like idiots, Charlie and Alex combine forces to try to figure out why a simple asteroid is causing all heck to freeze over and whether anything can be done about it. Perhaps you’re wondering about the science of all this. Could a meteorite embedded in Main Street U.S.A. actually cause a nearby lake to freeze in a matter of seconds while Charlie and Alex try to race across it in a speedboat? Perhaps not, but it makes for an amusingly cheesy special effect.

It was just so, so bad that we had to sit through the whole thing. The older Miss Pico was a bit wrong, though: she said that, since the astrophysicist character was a woman, she’d be only close to correct on how to save the planet, but it would be the rugged male lead character who’d figure out the final bit and save the world. Turned out that, of course, the man did have to do the work, but the female astophysicist got the solution completely correct, and when the lead character’s arm started freezing up just an inch away from reuniting the two halves of the meteorite, she was there to grab him and force through that last inch . . . at the risk of her own life, of course.

We were having a good old time laughing at his movie. Why, when people were freezing and complaining about the cold, did they have the hoods on their parkas down, except, of course, to look better for the cameras? And while you can always tell which characters are going to die in these movies, we did get one wrong. The town mayor, who’s depicted as a self-centered [insert slang term for the rectum here], and who survived one freezing wave by slamming the door behind himself as he hid in a boiler room, thus trapping the people behind him in the wave, lived because he committed the One Noble and Selfless Act of going out, by himself, in the snowy mountains, to look for the Hero’s son and his daughter, who were lost outside.

Ice Quake followed Christmas Icetastrophe, but by then it was 11:00 PM, so I headed to bed . . . but not before setting the cable box to record it! :)

They say that . . .

Kim Jong-un’s office work station

. . . North Korea’s internet system is back up and running. I guess that it isn’t too hard to repair three Commodore 64s and a TRS-80.

One Paragraph Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

We went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies today. You need to have read the book first, to understand it, but if you have read the book, you’ll be pissed off by the movie!

Why NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu are dead

NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu

From the New York Post, concerning the killing of two New York City police officers:

(Ismaaiyl) Brinsley was known as a lifelong criminal with ties to Brooklyn. . . . Brinsley’s criminal record stretched back to at least 2004 and included a string of arrests in Georgia and Ohio. In Georgia’s Fulton County alone, Brinsley was arrested nine times over the past decade on charges including simple battery, criminal trespassing, carrying a concealed weapon, obstruction of a law enforcement officer and shoplifting, according to the Baltimore Sun.

On the old site, Common Sense Political Thought, your Editor paid some attention to the rash of killings of police officers in Philadelphia:1

Ismaaiyl Brinsley

A lot of articles, but they all point out one stark fact: the killers of some fine Philadelphia Police Officers should all have been in jail at the time they committed those murders! And the same is true of Ismaaiyl Brinsley: with the record that the Post noted, he shouldn’t have been able to shoot his ex-girlfriend, and he shouldn’t have been able to shoot Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu yesterday, because he should have been sitting in jail.

Jeromy Brown of the late website Iowa Liberal2 once described your Editor as “near pathological in his desire to throw people in jail,” and, you know what: he’s right! If the criminal justice system had been doing its fornicating job, Officers Ramos and Liu would be alive today! If the criminal justice system had been doing its job, Philadelphia Police Officers Charles Cassidy and Timothy Simpson and Patrick McDonald and Stephen Liczbinski and John Pawlowski would not have been killed.

William Bratton and George Kelling noted, in an article in The Wall Street Journal published two days before Officers Ramos and Liu were gunned down, the effectiveness of what is called “broken windows” policing:

In 1993 New York’s murder rate was 26.5 per 100,000 people. Since 1994, when Broken Windows policing was put into practice citywide, crime has fallen further, faster and for longer than anywhere else in the country. Today the largest and densest city in the U.S. has a lower murder rate, at four per 100,000, than the nation’s 4.5 per 100,000. In 1993 New York accounted for about 7.9% of U.S. homicides; last year the city’s share was 2.4%. These striking figures are emblematic of broader, historic declines in crime.

And the Associated Press reported that:

NEW YORK – Low-level arrests remained steady and crime continues to fall even while the NYPD is grappling with its image.

Final tallies for 2014 could carry even more weight this year as Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio deal with the outrage over the police killing of the unarmed Eric Garner, who was black, and rancor among police officers who feel the administration doesn’t have their back.

Crime numbers themselves look good: Through Dec. 14, overall serious crime had declined 4.7 percent compared to the same period last year, continuing a downward trend that started in mid-1990s despite predictions it couldn’t last. The murder total stood at 305, a 5.3 percent drop. Reports of robberies were down 14 percent and those of felony assaults dipped about 1 percent.

“Broken windows” theory is:

a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.

Though actually begun before he was elected Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani pushed “broken windows” theory harder, and established a zero tolerance policy for petty crimes, and the crime rate for New York City dropped significantly.

I have related this anecdote previously: several years ago, my younger daughter and I were on an architecture tour of New York, and, on our way to see the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, at Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street, we missed our subway stop, and wound up getting off at the 125th Street station, which is in Harlem. My daughter and I walked down to 112th Street from there, without any hint of a problem, on streets that were clean and orderly. There are naysayers to the broken windows theory, but it was plainly evident, to me, that New York City had been cleaned up and was safe, and that Mayor Giuliani’s policies3 had been effective, and subsequent mayors had continued them. Among the many articles listed above, I have noted that Philadelphia din’t follow that example, and was running its criminal justice system like a fishing expedition, a catch-and-release program for the small fry, which was why so many cop-killers weren’t in jail when they should have been.

Mr Brinsley was a small-time hoodlum, one caught and thrown back in Georgia and in Ohio, right up until the time he stopped being small-time, right up until the time he shot an ex-girlfriend and then killed two police officers. His suicide saves the city the expense of a trial, but the authorities in Georgia and Ohio, the ones who didn’t throw the book at him when they had him, are the reason two fine police officers are dead.

  1. Some of the internal links in these older articles no longer work. The Philadelphia Inquirer, our source for many of the articles, does not maintain older links.
  2. The website still exists, but there have been no substantive posts since November of 2012
  3. This was after Mr Giuliani had retired.

Rule 5 Blogging: From down under!

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Elle MacPherson in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude. This week: Aussies!


Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: From down under!’ »

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Will Mayor Bill deBlasio be barred from their funerals? From The New York Times:

Two Police Officers Are Fatally Shot in Brooklyn; Suspect Is Also Dead
By Benjamin Mueller and Al Baker | December 20, 2014

Two police officers were killed after they were shot in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon, according to a law enforcement official.

The shootings took place near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“It looks like they were shot in the upper body,” Deputy Chief Kim Royster said.

She said that a suspect fled into a subway station after shooting the officers from the patrol car’s passenger side, and that the police had recovered a gun from the scene.

Chief Royster said the suspect opened fire on the police officers, ran up Myrtle and went into a subway station. The man died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Chief Royster said.

More at the link. But this is from just six days ago:

NYC police union wants de Blasio banned from funerals
Published December 14, 2014 |

New York City’s rank-and-file police union is urging cops to tell Mayor Bill de Blasio not to attend their funerals in the event that they are killed in the line of duty.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association posted a link on its website telling members not to let de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito “insult their sacrifice” should they be killed. The union posted a “Don’t Insult My Sacrifice” waiver officers can sign requesting the two politicians not attend their funerals due to their “consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve.”

The waiver says that attendance of the two elected officials “at the funeral of a fallen New York City police officer is an insult to that officer’s memory and sacrifice.”

The New York Post reports the mayor and council speaker are calling the effort “deeply disappointing.”

“Incendiary rhetoric like this serves only to divide the city, and New Yorkers reject these tactics,” they said in a joint statement.

Sources told the Post the union is angry that the mayor did not show more support for the NYPD after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer involved in the death of Staten Islander Eric Garner.

In a press conference about the grand jury’s decision not to charge the officer, de Blasio announced that he had warned his 17-year-old, mixed-race son, Dante, to be careful around police officers, which caused PBA President Patrick Lynch to claim de Blasio had thrown NYPD officers “under the bus.”

More at the link. We don’t yet know if either of the two officers killed today had signed the purported waivers.

Now, on to the blogroll!