Clearly a set-up, but still cool:
From The Wall Street Journal:
GDP Contracted at 1% Pace in First Quarter
First-Quarter Downturn Reflects Pattern Seen Repeatedly Over Past Five Years
By Ben Leubsdorf and Sarah Portlock | Updated May 29, 2014 9:35 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON—The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter of 2014, the latest stumble for a recovery that has struggled to find its footing since the recession ended almost five years ago.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, contracted at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.0% in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. It was the first time economic output contracted since the first quarter of 2011, when it declined at a 1.3% pace.
Government economists had previously estimated GDP slowed to a 0.1% growth rate in the first quarter as harsh winter weather disrupted work sites, curtailed foot traffic at retail stores and snarled transportation networks across much of the U.S. The newly revised estimate incorporates additional economic data released in recent weeks. Higher-than-expected imports and slower-than-expected inventory growth dragged the economy into negative territory.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had predicted Thursday’s report would revise GDP growth down to a 0.6% decline.
More at the link. But, as we have noted previously, relying on the projections of economists for what proposed policies will do is a pretty chancy thing, when you have professional economists, surveyed by as august a publication as the Journal, who are that much off not on projections for the future but measurements concerning what has already happened.
We’re being told, of course, that the blame for the contraction can be put on the shoulders of Mother Nature, and the abnormally high snowfalls and unusually low temperatures. If growth is low or slow in the second quarter, it’ll go back to being George Bush’s fault.
However, it would seem to your Editor that if the economy isn’t growing at a decent rate,1 this would be exactly the wrong time for the Obama Administration to increase costs on the economy which do not provide any economic return. With wages and job growth stagnant — there were fewer jobs at the end of April of this year than at the end of April in 2008 — and consumer spending such an important part of the economy, the last thing that the government should do is to add a net cost to consumers for no tangible economic benefit to them.
Related Articles from The Wall Street Journal:
- Contracting GDP Is Rare Outside of Recessions
- U.S. Jobless Claims Drop as Labor Market Continues to Improve
- Yellen Offers Upbeat Outlook, but Points to Housing Risk
Other Related Article:
- Ed Morrissey: Boom: Q1 GDP revised downward to -1.0%
- Macroeconomic Advisers before Thursday was forecasting a 3.8% growth rate for the second quarter this year, but that’s guessing the future. ↩
Would this arrangement be Separate, But Equal, Or, Separate, But Unequal. OR is this a Set-up For Sharia Law to allegedly be an alternate to US Law. I smell a rat either way, or in all ways. Sharia’s not in the article, but it would make sense if you had separate laws in Hawaii, the camel has the nose under the tent for Sharia. Remember what was said about Gay Marriage. If a Progressive is involved, it’s up to no good.
Obama administration proposes race-based legal system in Hawaii
By Neil Munro
Published May 27, 2014
Thousands of native hawaiians and local supporters wearing red shirts carry large Hawaii state flags overflowed Kalakaua Avenue as they marched along side Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 6, 2004. Hawaiian clubs, trusts, agencies and schools, marshal over 5,000 to protest threats to native Hawaiian entitlements and land trusts as well as U.S. military expansion on the islands. For the second year in a row, trustees and representatives from alii trusts, state and civic organizations, and native and non-Hawaiian supporters joined together in a march for “Ku I Ka Pono,” or “justice for Hawaiians.” (REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni)
President Barack Obama’s administration has quietly suggested it is willing to create a two-tier race-based legal system in Hawaii, where one set of taxes, spending and law enforcement will govern one race, and the second set of laws will govern every other race.
The diversity proposal is portrayed as an effort to create a separate in-state government for people who are “native Hawaiians.”
If Obama succeeds, “what’s to prevent creating similar [self-governing racial] groups out of say, Cajuns, or Orthodox Jews or Amish?” said Gail Heriot, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
“If you can do that with groups that are already part of the mainstream, you can balkanize the country,” said Heriot, who is a law professor at the University of San Diego.
But the proposed measure to increase legal diversity is illegal because the president doesn’t have the power to grant one group of Americans the status of a separate government, she said.
“There is no constitutional basis for conferring such status, and Congress has repeatedly refused to confer this status,” said Carissa Mulder, a spokeswoman for two members of the federal Commission on Civil Rights.
“This seems to be yet another case of the Obama administration ignoring the law to achieve its policy objectives,” she added.
The move was announced Friday before Memorial Day as White House officials and congressional Democrats stepped up predictions that the president will try to bypass congressional opposition to his progressive policy preferences.
Last week, for example, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid suggested the president would reduce enforcement of federal immigration law because the House has not agreed to double the current inflow of almost two million immigrants and guest workers per year.
The proposed new legal regime for Hawaii is sketched in a federal document released Friday, dubbed an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
“The Secretary of the Interior is considering whether to propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community,” said the document.
The goal, it claimed, is “to more effectively implement the special political and trust relationship that Congress has established between that [Hawaiian] community and the United States.”
The move is likely intended to protect lucrative financial set-asides for Americans who are also part of the Hawaiian racial group, said Heriot.
As we noted before Memorial day, the Veterans’ Administration Hospital scandal does not surprise us in the slightest. But, naturally, the scandal keeps growing. From The Daily Beast:
Last week, President Obama pledged to address allegations of corruption and dangerous inefficiencies in the veterans’ health-care system. But before the president could deliver on his pledge, the scandal has spread even further. New whistleblower testimony and internal documents implicate an award-winning VA hospital in Texas in widespread wrongdoing—and what appears to be systemic fraud.
Emails and VA memos obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast provide what is among the most comprehensive accounts yet of how high-level VA hospital employees conspired to game the system. It shows not only how they manipulated hospital wait lists but why—to cover up the weeks and months veterans spent waiting for needed medical care. If those lag times had been revealed, it would have threatened the executives’ bonus pay.
What’s worse, the documents show the wrongdoing going unpunished for years, even after it was repeatedly reported to local and national VA authorities. That indicates a new troubling angle to the VA scandal: that the much touted investigations may be incapable of finding violations that are hiding in plain sight.
“For lack of a better term, you’ve got an organized crime syndicate,” a whistleblower who works in the Texas VA told The Daily Beast. “People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted and they’re pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.”
“I see it in the executives’ eyes,” the whistleblower added. “They are worried.”
The current VA scandal broke in Phoenix last month, when a former doctor at a VA hospital there became the first whistleblower to gain national attention. The doctor’s allegations of falsified appointments—and veterans dying while they waited for treatment—unleashed a wave of similar claims from VA employees nationwide. In Cheyenne, Wyoming, Chicago, and Albuquerque, more VA whistleblowers came forward claiming that the same fraudulent scheduling was being used in the hospitals where they worked. At last count, the VA inspector general’s investigation had expanded to 26 separate facilities.
More at the link.
Now, let’s get real here: if the same methods are being used at VA Hospitals so widely spread across the country, then it’s more than the actions of a couple of rogue administrators; the probability that this wasn’t known about, and encouraged, by the Department of Veterans Affairs leadership in Washington is getting lower and lower with each report.
After retiring in January of this year Spann sent a letter to VA investigators accusing a VA employee of manipulating patient wait lists to hide treatment delays for veterans. The rigged reporting scheme Spann described in his letter, which threatens veterans’ lives by delaying their treatment, is the same method that has been exposed in Phoenix, Cheyenne, Albuquerque, and scores of other VA hospitals across the country.
According to Spann, Dr. Gordon Vincent, chief of radiology at Olin E. Teague Veterans Medical Center in Temple, Texas, didn’t just break VA policy by manipulating veterans’ appointments himself. He ordered VA employees across central Texas to engage in the same fraudulent practice.
The VA said it investigated Spann’s charges, and, after, finding nothing to substantiate the claims, cleared Vincent and the Texas VA.
But documents obtained by The Daily Beast appear to show Dr. Vincent doing precisely what Spann accused him of—the activities the VA said it could not substantiate.
In the above document, taken from the VA’s internal record system, you can see Dr. Vincent cancel an ultrasound appointment for a veteran suffering from cirrhosis. Vincent tells the doctor who submitted the original order to change the desired date—the day the provider selected for the procedure based on their diagnosis and clinical judgement—citing the facility’s patient backlog.
Veterans are supposed to be seen within 14 days of their desired date, according to VA policy.
Again, more at the original.
Now, why wasn’t The First Street Journal surprised? Because this is precisely how single-payer health care systems across the developed world do things! Delaying or stretching out appointments and treatments is a cost-saving measure, one widely practiced; why would anyone expect the single-payer VA system to be any different?
And that’s the crux of the matter: Americans do expect it to be different, because those of us who have private health insurance are used to much better service from the private, for-profit health care system. Physicians and hospitals compete with each other, attempting to maximize profits.
On the old site, the New Zealander who identified himself as the Phoenician in a Time of Romans told us that he went private to get ingrown toenails cut out, and had two podiatrists working on him, rather than wait four months for the appointment that New Zealand’s single-payer system gave him. Four months, suffering through ingrown toenails? At the rate that toenails normally grow, they would have grown completely out the end of his toes by that time. He chose to get it taken care of privately, paying out-of-pocket rather than suffering for four months — and ingrown toenails just flat out hurt! — but what he also did was save the government the costs of paying for the treatment. The stretched-out appointment schedule did exactly what it was meant to do.
More, the Phoenician even told us that the two podiatrists he paid, privately, to take care of his toenail problems were the same podiatrists who would have performed the procedures during the government-scheduled appointment. They were working on the side to supplement their government salaries, in effect demonstrating the same profit motive that enables Americans to get much more prompt treatment in our for-profit system. We had a supporter of socialized medicine, one telling us how great it was, but unintentionally confirming to us exactly what we already knew about economics and the profit motive.
The Veterans’ Administration health care system is one in which the profit motive has been removed, one which cannot make money — though some top administrators can make hefty bonuses if they get the numbers looking good — and one which has been behaving just like socialized medicine systems in other countries. There’s simply no getting away from the need for health care administrators to hold down costs; they have budgets which have to be met.
When you go to single-payer — and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) believes that single-payer is the solution to the problems of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — these are the kinds of problems that you are going to have, because they have already happened in every other large single-payer system.
Americans should not be surprised by this at all, and need to be told — hopefully by publications more widely read than this one — that what the VA system did is what we could all expect under single-payer.
Watch what happens to this 25 year old Brit woman when she revisits her childhood town in BRITIAN. It is Unrecognizable.
On Truth Before Dishonor, John Hitchcock noted the defeat of Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst by Dan Patrick in the Republican primary run-off.
But there’s more: Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX 4th District), at 91, the oldest member of Congress, who was first elected in 1980 as a Democrat — he switched parties in 2004 — was defeated by former U S Attorney John Ratcliffe, who was also supported by the TEA Party.
There have been TEA Party upsets of incumbent Republicans before, and the results were not positive in the general elections, but Messrs Ratcliffe and Patrick are as close to shoo-ins in the general election as you are going to find amongst Republicans.
I found this via Twitter:
Obama’s new rules for coal plants are going to be a huge, huge, huge deal: http://t.co/kBckVUtqiR
— The New Republic (@tnr) May 27, 2014
to which Mark Buehner replied:
— Mark Buehner (@ElBuehn) May 27, 2014
Here’s the story, from The New Republic:
Conventional wisdom holds that second term presidencies rarely yield accomplishments and that this second term president, in particular, has lost the ability to get much done. In one week, President Obama has a chance to prove that the conventional wisdom is wrong.
And he can do it while helping to stop the planet from cooking.
On June 2, Obama will to unveil a new set of federal regulations on power plants, designed primarily to keep coal-fired plants from spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere. The hope is that these new regulations will slow down climate change—at first incrementally, by reducing emissions from existing plants in the U.S., and then more dramatically, by providing the Administration with more leverage to negotiate a far-reaching, international treaty on emissions from multiple sources.
Along with other steps the administration has taken, like setting higher fuel standards for cars and trucks, the new regulations could make climate change action one of Obama’s signature achievements—something historians will cite alongside Obamacare, rescue of the auto industry, and the Recovery Act. As Jonathan Chait has written in New York magazine, “By the normal standards, of progress, Obama has amassed an impressive record so far on climate change.”
Of course, a lot hinges on what the EPA actually proposes next week—in particular, whether the new regulations are strong enough to make a difference. It also depends on whether the new regulations can withstand the furious political and legal assault that conservatives, parts of the energy industry, and climate change deniers have launched.
To prepare you for next Monday, and everything to follow, here’s a quick guide to what’s going on and why it’s so important.
Of course, you can read it all at the link. But the big kicker is that the Obama Administration wants to impose tighter regulations on existing plants, not just new ones, and that means, unless the Republicans in Congress can block them, added expenses for current suppliers of electricity (pun most definitely intended.) And that means higher costs for consumers of electricity: for individuals, for factories, for businesses, really for everybody. Not only will the electric utilities pass those costs down to the individual in the form of higher electric bills, those costs will be passed down to the commercial users, who will, as you would expect, pass their increased costs down to the consumers. As we have pointed out before, the end consumer pays the total costs of all production, including all taxes, regulatory expenses, and costs of doing business.
I’ve used this example before: when I buy a gallon of milk, I am paying the corporate and fuel taxes of the dairy farm, I am paying the Social Security and Medicare taxes and the diesel fuel taxes and all of the other taxes on the trucker who hauls the milk from the farm to the dairy processor and bottler, I am paying the corporate income, Social Security and Medicare, utilities, excise, unemployment compensation and other taxes of the dairy, I am paying the diesel fuel and road usage and all of the other taxes for the trucking company which hauls the packaged milk from the dairy to the grocery store, and I am paying all of the taxes heaped upon the grocery store. Then, in the end — so to speak — I am paying a fee to the Borough of Jim Thorpe for the, umm, disposal, of the digested byproducts of the milk.
That quote was related to taxes, but the same applies to every expense the businesses bear, throughout the chain of production. The end consumer is the one who does not take the product and sell it further down the line, and those are almost always individuals. If the businesses don’t pass down all of their costs, then the businesses lose money, and eventually go out of business.
And that’s why Mr Cohn tells us that this is a BFD, because every penny of added costs is going to be imposed on the public.
Wages are stagnant, The Wall Street Journal reported, slightly trailing the low inflation rate, in a report that most Americans already knew was true without seeing the numbers.
Economic growth remains sluggish, advancing at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of less than 2% for three straight quarters—below the prerecession average of 3.5%. That effectively has put a lid on inflation, which has been near or below the 2% level the Federal Reserve considers healthy for the economy. With demand for labor low, prices not rising fast and 11.5 million unemployed searching for work, employers aren’t under pressure to raise wages to retain or attract workers. Businesses are changing how they manage payrolls. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in a recent paper said that, in the past, companies cut wages when the economy struggled and raised them amid expansions. But in the past three recessions since 1986—and especially the 2007-2009 downturn—companies minimized wage cuts and instead let workers go to keep remaining workers happy. As a result, to compensate for the wage cuts that never were made, businesses now may be capping wage growth. “As the economy recovers, pent-up wage cuts will probably continue to slow wage growth long after the unemployment rate has returned to more normal levels,” the researchers said.
Globalization continues to pressure wages. Thanks to new technologies, Americans are increasingly competing with workers world-wide. “We are on a long-term adjustment, as China, in particular, but all developing countries, get their wages closer to ours,” said Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University. According to Boston Consulting Group, there will be only a roughly 10% cost difference between the U.S. and China in making products such as machinery, furniture and plastics by 2015.
The upshot: Even though rising home prices and stock values are making some people optimistic, many workers can’t push for higher pay—crimping their spending and potentially the recovery. “Workers feel like they have absolutely no bargaining power,” said Robert Mellman, an economist at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
Many companies have learned the dirty little secret: they don’t have to give raises to keep employees, because employees have little opportunity to go elsewhere for more pay. If the Obama Administration adds additional costs for no additional gain, companies are going to be under even more pressure to not give raises, to not increase their labor costs any further.1 President Obama is pushing for an increase in the minimum wage, but as we have previously noted, even the CBO estimates that such a raise will cost jobs, and that an increase in the minimum wage is likely to result in clustering more people closer to the minimum wage, as workers currently earning more than the minimum are unlikely to see raises that keep them at proportionally higher wages. In the long run, with all of the Obama Administration’s oh-so-nobly-intended actions taken together, the American people wil be poorer in real terms when Mr Obama leaves office than when he entered . . . and he entered during a deep recession.
I would like to think that this is all because no one in the Administration understands economics and business in the slightest, but the more probable answer is that at least some of them do, and they just don’t care. It is going to take a long time to undo the damage that this President has done to our economy.
- The Obama Administration acknowledged that roughly two-thirds of small businesses will see their health insurance costs rise due to the rules imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That’s yet another cost of labor being added to businesses, which will make the giving of raises less likely. ↩
From the Times of Israel:
Ignoring Israel, Kerry says US alone seeking Nigeria girls
Secretary lashes out at world for not helping find kidnapped schoolchildren, despite assistance from Israel, Britain and France
BY AFP May 23, 2014, 5:05 am
WASHINGTON — The United States is alone in helping Nigeria locate more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamists, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, despite help on the ground from Britain, France and Israel
With 80 military personnel sent to neighboring Chad for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the United States is the biggest foreign participant in the effort against the militant group Boko Haram.
Washington has also deployed surveillance drones, spy planes and about 30 civilian and military specialists to support Nigeria’s security forces.
“Boko Haram, Nigeria, only the United States is there offering the assistance to help find those young women,” Kerry said during a dinner at the State Department.
“Other countries, not only aren’t they invited, but they did not even offer.”
Kerry spoke during a dinner at the State Department on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the US diplomatic corps.
However the United States is joined in Nigeria by Britain, France and Israel, which have sent their own experts. China, which saw 10 citizens likely abducted by Boko Haram in a region bordering Cameroon, has also proposed to help.
More at the link, and from The Telegraph in the UK as well.
Remember then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presentation of a mistranslated “Reset” button to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov? To the right is the button in the current Secretary’s office.
Then there was this bit of brilliance:
White House mistakenly identifies CIA chief in Afghanistan
By Greg Miller, Published: May 25, 2014
The CIA’s top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops.
The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been identified on the initial release as the “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country.
The disclosure marked a rare instance in which a CIA officer working overseas had his cover — the secrecy meant to protect his actual identity — pierced by his own government. The only other recent case came under significantly different circumstances, when former CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed as officials of the George W. Bush administration sought to discredit her husband, a former ambassador and fierce critic of the decision to invade Iraq.
Emphasis mine; and the emphasized part is a blatant falsehood. Even the editors of the Post concluded that “the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame’s CIA career is Mr. (Joseph) Wilson,” her husband.1
The Post is withholding the name of the CIA officer at the request of Obama administration officials who warned that the officer and his family could be at risk if the name were published. The CIA and the White House declined to comment.
The CIA officer was one of 15 senior U.S. officials identified as taking part in a military briefing for Obama at Bagram air base, a sprawling military compound north of Kabul. Others included U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in the country.
More at the link.
OK, this Administration has been in office now for 5 years, 4 months and six days; they ought to have some experience by now! At some point, preferably before January 20, 2017, they ought to get the bungling under control. But I wouldn’t count on it.
- My very thorough review of Mrs Plame’s book, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House can be found here. ↩
Our good friends at the Delaware Liberal are all up in arms — pun most definitely intended — about guns being legal, because of the massacre by a wimpy guy who couldn’t get laid, Elliot Rodgers. I’ll leave the stories about Mr Rodger in the fine hands of Patterico and Robert
Stacey Stacy McCain (that’s three separate links for Mr McCain), but I wanted to record this into-moderation comment I left on the Delaware Liberal, because it contains some important statistics:
Say that the perpretartor took his BMW at 100 mph and aimed it toward the largest group of students that he could find. Many would have been killed and seriously injured. What would your response be in that case?
Unfourtunatly, for you, guns connote only the negative.That is your opinion and I respect it. Why are you so unable to respect my opinion? Are you somehow better than me? Maybe more “enlightened?”
Almost 100 years ago alcohol was the object blamed as the root of all evil. So much so that a constitutional amendment was passed to ban it entirely.
We all know how that worked out.
Well, if you search this fine site for “marijuana,” you’ll find a fair amount of support for legalizing yet another intoxicant, which would result in more people on the road driving stoned. And though it has been awhile, this site used to sponsor “drinking liberally” get togethers, parties at local taverns and other establishments which served alcoholic beverages. Given that these parties were widely spaced out geographically, it meant that almost all of the participants would have had to have driven to them, thus greatly increasing the probabilities that some of them would have been driving back with blood alcohol levels in excess of the legal limit.
The good folks of the Delaware Liberal do not have what I would call a sterling record when it comes to wanting to crack down on the intoxicated getting behind the wheel of two tons of rolling death, even though, in 2011, there was one alcohol-related automobile fatality every 53 minutes, 9,878 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. During the same year, there were 8,583 people murdered, with all types of firearms, in the United States, fewer than were killed by alcohol-related wrecks.
There are something like 310 million firearms in civilian hands in this country, and roughly 254 million automobiles registered in the United States.
The odds that an individual American will be killed by a firearm are .00279%; the odds that an individual American will be killed by an alcohol-related automobile accident are .00389%, right at 40% higher, but our good friends at the Delaware Liberal don’t want to ban automobiles, and have been rather blasé about driving while intoxicated. But, then again, perhaps now that they are aware of the statistics, perhaps they’ll convert over to a ban-the-Buick status.
Jason330, the site owner, does not particularly like or respect me, which is absolutely his privilege, and my comments have “been disappeared” from that site before, which is why I wanted to reproduce this one here (very slightly edited). What the anti-Second Amendment left will not tell you is that you are far more likely to be killed by an automobile than by a firearm, despite their arguments that the sole purpose of the firearm is to cause death, while the automobile has many more purposes than killing people.
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 Megan Fox 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.
Today, the United States Army, and soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One. The 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army is the oldest division in the United States Army. It has seen continuous service since its organization in 1917. It was officially nicknamed the The Big Red One after its shoulder patch and is also nicknamed The Fighting First. The 1st is based at Fort Riley, Kansas. Click on any photo to enlarge.