Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remember the flap over foreign ships and the Deepwater Horizon cleanup?

Remember the flap over foreign ships and the Deepwater Horizon cleanup? Mark Tapscott Beltway Confidential Washington Examiner

Remember the flap over foreign ships and the Deepwater Horizon cleanup? By: Mark Tapscott

Soon after the Deepwater Horizon disaster began, with raw crude pumping out of the seabed into the Gulf of Mexico in the worst oil spill in American history, foreign nations began offering help with the clean up.

Especially notable was the Belgian firm DEME, which specializes in ocean-going clean-up work and which offered to bring the best equipment in the world for the operation to the Gulf.

But it didn't happen because President Obama refused to waive the Jones Act, a protectionist law sought by the maritime unions to keep foreign-crewed vessels out of U.S. waters.

The Jones Act has a national-emergency provision that allows the president to waive its requirement of American crews, as President George W. Bush did during the Hurricane Katrina disaster that nearly destroyed New Orleans.

But Obama resolutely refused last year to waive the Jones Act in order to allow the DEME and other equipment offered by foreign nations to be brought to the Deepwater Horizon cleanup. An operation that could have been completed in four months instead stretched into nearly a year.

But this week we have learned that under certain well-defined conditions Obama is more than willing to set aside his reservations about waiving the Jones Act. And those conditions have mainly to do with the fact Obama wants to be re-elected in 2012.

Among the biggest obstacles to Obama's re-election effort is the prospect that gas will still be around $4 a gallon next year. So what does Obama do? Not only does he authorize using 30 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, he waives the Jones Act to allow foreign crewed ships to deliver the SPR oil to U.S. ports.

That decision left Jim Adam, president and CEO of the Offshore Marine Service Association, bewildered and angry. He issued this statement:

"It is mind-boggling that the president would jeopardize national security by letting foreign owned and operated ships transport oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to and from American ports. (Ironically, the President had earlier cited Libyan unrest as a national security emergency in order to tap those reserves.)

"For more than a year, the Obama Administration has had a stranglehold on energy development in the Gulf of Mexico, which has put tens of thousands of Americans out of work.

"The administration talks incessantly about the importance of safety and environmental compliance by industry, but when those regulations stand in the way of the President’s agenda, he doesn’t hesitate to do the opposite.

"Foreign-flagged vessels do not have to comply with U.S. safety and environmental standards. They do not pay U.S. taxes. And most certain, they do not employ U.S. workers."

Obviously, Adams simply fails to understand the fact that millions of barrels of raw crude was gushing into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico was not nearly enough of a national emergency to justify waiving the Jones Act compared to the extreme urgency of getting those gas prices down so voters won't take it out on Obama at polls in November 2012.

Now there's a real national emergency!

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Al Qaeda In Eclipse

Al Qaeda In Eclipse by John Hinderaker/Powerline blog

This report on a letter that was found in Osama bin Laden's compound sheds light on the extent to which nearly ten years of relentless pursuit by American intelligence and military forces has devastated al Qaeda:

As Osama bin Laden watched his terrorist organization get picked apart, he lamented in his final writings that al-Qaida was suffering from a marketing problem. ...

In other journal entries and letters, they said, bin Laden wrote that he was frustrated that many of his trusted longtime comrades, whom he'd fought alongside in Afghanistan, had been killed or captured.

Using his courier system, bin Laden could still exercise some operational control over al-Qaida. But increasingly the men he was directing were younger and inexperienced. Frequently, the generals who had vouched for these young fighters were dead or in prison. And bin Laden, unable to leave his walled compound and with no phone or Internet access, was annoyed that he did not know so many people in his own organization.

Bin Laden thought that changing al Qaeda's name might help:

Maybe something like Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, would do the trick, he wrote. Or Jama'at I'Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

As bin Laden saw it, the problem was that the group's full name, al-Qaida al-Jihad, for The Base of Holy War, had become short-handed as simply al-Qaida. Lopping off the word "jihad," bin Laden wrote, allowed the West to "claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam."

I love "Monotheism and Jihad Group." It sounds like an industrial conglomerate. Part of the rationale for a name change apparently was that al Qaeda's image was poor because it killed so many Muslims:

In one letter sent to Zawahri within the past year or so, bin Laden said al-Qaida's image was suffering because of attacks that have killed Muslims, particularly in Iraq, officials said.

No doubt that is true. When al Qaeda issued a call for terrorists from around the world to go to Iraq and fight, some argued that this broadening of the war showed the folly of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, others that it offered an opportunity for a decisive victory over al Qaeda. What actually happened was that foreign terrorists were so brutal and indiscriminate in their mass murder that they decisively alienated not just the Iraqi population generally, but leaders of what had been the Sunni resistance to American occupation. Many of those Sunni leaders joined forces with us and our allies, which allowed the eventual pacification of the country. Meanwhile, as bin Laden conceded, the same brutality that alienated Iraqis put off other Muslims around the world. This, combined with the fact that al Qaeda was defeated in Iraq, thereby proving to be the weak horse rather than the strong one, probably did play a key role in the continuing decline of that organization.

All of this has been known for a while, but it is interesting to see it at least partially confirmed by bin Laden himself.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Election 2012: Generic Presidential Ballot--Any R beats O

Election 2012: Generic Presidential Ballot from Rasmussen Reports

A generic Republican candidate now holds a four-point lead over President Obama in a hypothetical 2012 election matchup. It's the fifth week in a row that the GOP candidate has been ahead and the widest gap between the candidates to date.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds a generic Republican candidate earns support from 46% of Likely U.S. Voters, while the president picks up 42% of the vote. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and nine percent (9%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Last week, the Republican held a 45% to 43% advantage. In weekly surveys since the beginning of May, support for Obama has ranged from 42% to 45%, while the Republican has earned 43% to 46% of the vote. Rasmussen Reports will provide new data on this generic matchup each week until the field of prospective Republican nominees narrows to a few serious contenders.

Republicans also hold a seven-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 26. Republicans have led on this ballot every week since June 2009.

Government looks to past, free enterprise to future

Government looks to past, free enterprise to future Michael Barone Politics Washington Examiner

Government looks to past, free enterprise to future By: Michael Barone

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson lectures during the Boao Forum For Asia Annual Conference 2011 at The International Conference Center of the Boao on April 15, 2011 in Boao, China. Two years ago, in June 2009, the American economy emerged from recession, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. But as this week's Economist noted, with typical British understatement, "The recovery has been a disappointment."

And maybe not a recovery for long. Robert Shiller, the economist who first identified the housing bubble, said last week that we may be headed for recession again. "Whether we call it a double dip or not," he told Reuters, "there is a risk."

His Case/Shiller housing price index indicated that home prices in March slumped to levels not seen since March 2003, and Shiller says they may keep falling for 20 years.

As I look back on these years of economic tumult, I sometimes think of an off-the-record session arranged by National Review with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson back in the fall of 2007.

I asked Paulson when the government was going to change the Securities and Exchange Commission regulation under which the credit rating agencies were paid by the sellers rather than the buyers of securities. That arrangement gave the credit agencies an incentive to give high ratings to the mortgage-backed securities that later turned sour.

Oh, we'll get to that, Paulson said, when we get through the rough stuff we face right now. Of course he had not yet gotten to the stuff that was so rough that, as he wrote in his memoir, he had to leave meetings to throw up.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that our leaders, in both the Bush and the Obama administrations, responded to crises and challenges all too often with measures that attempted to revive the old pre-financial crisis economy rather than with policies that would allow a new economy to grow.

As in Paulson's comment, the thinking seems to have been that if we can just get things back in place then we can attack the underlying problems.

Such was the theory behind the now seemingly puny stimulus package agreed to by George W. Bush and Democratic congressional leaders in early 2008. And behind the Federal Reserve's rescue package for Bear Stearns in March 2008.

It was behind the argument that Paulson used to persuade Congress to pass the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program package in October 2008. He said he'd use the money to buy toxic mortgage-backed securities from the banks, but then decided to lend the banks tranches of $25 billion instead.

The Obama Democrats' February 2009 stimulus package doled out one-third of its $787 billion to state and local governments so that public-sector employees (and union members) would not lose their jobs as so many private-sector employees were. That worked for a while but did not prevent painful cuts and layoffs later.

Then there were the various mortgage forbearance programs, designed to prevent foreclosures. Precious few homeowners took advantage of them, and many who did ended up losing their houses anyway.

And of course there was cash for clunkers, which increased car sales in the summer only to see them decline in the fall. Hundreds of millions were spent, but with no permanent effect except to increase used-car prices because clunkers traded in had to be junked.

Decision makers have responded as if they were facing liquidity crises (we don't have enough cash to pay off debts immediately) instead of solvency crises (we will never be able to pay off these debts). Too often pain has not been prevented, but just postponed -- and prolonged.

In retrospect much of the pain could not be avoided. As economist Tyler Cowen has put it, we were not as rich as we thought we were. Housing bubble prices did not turn out to be real wealth, unless you sold out at the peak and moved to a cave.

Trying to put everyone back in the position they once thought they were in simply won't work. But it does sound attractive politically. People can remember what life was like in the past.

We don't, however, know what it will be like in the future. Republicans want less government spending and more leeway for entrepreneurs to create new businesses and jobs. No one knows what innovative products and services will emerge.

That's the beauty of free enterprise, but it also makes it a hard sell politically. Unless voters have figured out no amount of government spending is going to restore the old status quo.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Hokey President--in more ways than one

Our Hokey President  by John Hinderaker/Powerline

Michael Ramirez skewers President Obama for playing politics with our troops in Afghanistan. But then, when does Obama do anything other than play politics? His release of oil from the strategic reserve is a classic: the Democrats tell us that increasing our domestic production won't affect gas prices, until they face a political crisis. Then the clouds part, momentarily, and they remember Economics 1: increasing supply will lower prices. They remember it, however, only until the political crisis passes.

Anyway, here is Ramirez on Obama's Afghanistan machinations. Click to enlarge:

"Suspending Disbelief" and other lies, misnomers, frauds

"Suspending Disbelief" by Clark Judge

By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc. ; chairman, Pacific Research Institute

One of the tricks of politics is coming up with memorable phrases that define issues. But as the White House has been learning in recent weeks, phrasemaking carries with it a variation of the Colin Powell rule: You break it; you own it. In this case, if you break through the media clutter, the soundbite owns you.

Case in point number 1: “Shovel ready”.

At the time of the first stimulus, the White House was adamant that, if Congress would just appropriate the requested money, construction projects would bloom across the nation. Untold numbers of roads, bridges and other public works dreams were teed up and ready to start, they said. What about environmental impact statements and attendant court challenges, Republicans asked? Don’t listen tot them, was the White House’s response. They’re just obstructionists.

Republicans did suggest that tax cuts would produce jobs quickly and, for the government, cheaply, with the resultant economic growth diminishing the net drain on the federal coffers. There they go again, was the White House’s brush off – the Laffer Curve.

So now “shovel ready” is a joke. The spending it let loose has been big enough to sink the US government’s capital market position, and the president must live with his memorable defining phrase.

Case in point number 2: “Nine Percent”.

Enact our program and unemployment will never rise about nine percent, the president said. This unfortunate prediction has engendered a second recently: We’ve hit a little bump in the road. Some bump. Some road.

Again, Republicans warned that the program didn’t fit the realities. Consider the General Motors bailout, which was part of the larger package. Had it never occurred, GM would have gone through bankruptcy, been restructured, and come out the other end a going concern. Some now say that after the bailout money was spent, that, essentially, is what happened. The only thing changed would have been that the UAW would have kept its contractual place at the back of the line and senior bondholders would have kept theirs at the front. The US government’s reputation for honoring and upholding contracts would have remained intact. But that reputation is one reason the U.S. has long been considered the world’s safe haven for investment, and by extension for job creation, a reputation now a little less secure. Like so much in the president’s program, the result may have been less job creation than had the administration done nothing.

In any event, Mr. Obama must live with the now laughable “nine percent” soundbite of two years ago.

Case in point number 3: “If you like your health insurance, you will never have to give it up.”

This was the president’s poll-driven promise during the health care debate. Pollsters were unanimous that being forced to give up their current coverage was one of the biggest objections to Obama-style health care overhaul. So the president said again and again, it is not true; you won’t. And the poodle press wagged its tail and yapped at critics: he said not to worry; what more do you want?

How awkward that last week, McKinsey & Company concluded that up to 78 million Americans will lose their health insurance once Obamacare is fully in force. Actually, the Congressional Budget Office had predicted at the time of Obamacare’s passage that the legislation would lead to nine to eleven million Americans losing their current coverage. A few months later, a former CBO chief pegged the number at 35 million. Still others have put the number who will involuntarily lose their current insurance thanks to Obamacare at 100 million or higher.

Case in point number 4: “Weeks, not months.”

That is how long we would be involved in the Libya action, the president pledged. Or was it not a pledge but a prediction, as in, hey, what do I know, it’s anyone’s guess. Or perhaps “weeks, not months” was a poll-driven diversion so the administration could get us so far into whatever it wanted to do that we couldn’t get out -- just as with the unpopular healthcare overhaul or the unpopular government spending?

Here is the sad fact. It looks as though the administration simply puts out whatever line it needs to get through the next day. It is doubtful that anyone inside the White House ever seriously examined whether Obamacare would cost Americans their current policies… or did a serious inventory of public works projects ready to go… or seriously demanded to know what it would take to wrap up a Libyan operation once launched. Even for the president’s supporters, accepting White House assurances on anything has begun to require a suspension of disbelief.

With just sixteen months until the election, that’s a problem.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stimulus Prevented Second Depression? Evidence Says No

Stimulus Prevented Second Depression? Evidence Says No -

Did Obama Really Prevent A Second Great Depression? By JOHN MERLINE

It has become a common refrain at the White House and among administration supporters that President Obama's aggressive efforts to stimulate growth prevented an economic catastrophe.

"We had to hit the ground running and do everything we could to prevent a second Great Depression," Obama told supporters last week.

Politically, the claim makes sense. Casting the challenge Obama faced as immense can help explain the economy's lackluster performance in the two years since the recession officially ended.

But is it an accurate portrayal of what really happened?

IBD reviewed records of economic forecasts made just before Obama signed the stimulus bill into law, as well as economic data and monthly stimulus spending data from around that time, and reviews of the stimulus bill itself.

The conclusion is that in claiming to have staved off a Depression, the White House and its supporters seem to be engaging in a bit of historical revisionism.

Economists weren't predicting a Depression.

White House economists forecast in January 2009 that, even without a stimulus, unemployment would top out at just 8.8% — well below the 10.8% peak during the 1981-82 recession, and nowhere near Depression-era unemployment levels.

The same month, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that, absent any stimulus, the recession would end in "the second half of 2009." The recession officially ended in June 2009, suggesting that the stimulus did not have anything to do with it.

The data weren't showing it, either.

The argument is often made that the recession turned out to be far worse than anyone knew at the time. But various indicators show that the economy had pretty much hit bottom at the end of 2008 — a month before President Obama took office.

Monthly GDP, for example, stopped free-falling in December 2008, long before the stimulus kicked in, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. (See nearby chart.) Monthly job losses bottomed out in early 2009 while the Index of Leading Economic Indicators started to rise in April.

The stimulus timing is off.

When the recession officially ended in June 2009, just 15% of the stimulus money had gone out the door. And that figure's likely inflated, since almost a third of the money was in the form of grants to states, which some studies suggest they didn't spend, but used to pay down debt.

Other programs Obama often touts — Cash for Clunkers, mortgage help, homebuyer tax credits, the auto rescue plans — either came as the recession had ended or was ending or were widely deemed to be busts.

The stimulus wasn't up to the task.

Economists on both sides of the aisle complained at the time that the stimulus was too small or too slow-acting to be very effective at growing the economy, much less stopping any Depression.

Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krug man wrote that while "the administration insists that the plan is adequate to meet the economy's need ... few economists agree."

Conservative Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, who had advocated for a large stimulus, likewise complained that the one Obama signed would do "too little to raise national spending and employment," calling it an "$800 billion mistake."

Obama himself admitted last week that the stimulus was too slow-acting, saying at his Jobs and Competitiveness Council that "shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected."

Also often overlooked is that a tremendous amount of stimulus already was in the economy when Obama took office, including President Bush's $150 billion stimulus, two unemployment benefit extensions and $250 billion spent on "automatic stabilizers."

More importantly, the Bush administration pushed through the controversial $700 billion TARP program (which Obama sustained), while the Fed pursued an aggressive anti-recession campaign by, among other things, effectively lowering its target interest rate to zero.

Princeton economist Alan Blinder and Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi studied the relative contribution of Obama's $830 billion stimulus compared with TARP and the Fed's "financial-market policies."

While the economists credit Obama's stimulus for helping end the recession when it did and keeping unemployment lower than it would have been, they concluded that TARP and the Fed's actions were "substantially more effective" at saving the economy from ruin.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Is Economic Growth Now a Partisan Idea?

Is Economic Growth Now a Partisan Idea?  by Steven Hayward/Powerline blog

Our friend Bill Voegeli notes over on NoLeftTurns that Governor Tim Pawlenty's goal of a sustained 5 percent economic growth rate is being met with derision practically across the political spectrum but especially from the know-it-all left, and yet the 1960 Democratic Platform called for exactly that same target: "We Democrats believe that our economy can and must grow at an average rate of 5% annually, almost twice as fast as our average annual rate since 1953. We pledge ourselves to policies that will achieve this goal without inflation." And for the first half of the 1960s, the U.S. did indeed achieve this rate.

That was back in the heyday of "growth liberalism," which was the particularly American form of Keynesian "fine-tuning" of the economy. Lyndon Johnson's budget director, Charles Schultze, said, "We can't prevent every little wiggle in the economic cycle, but we now can prevent a major slide." It is important to recall that this was liberalism in its most optimistic phase, and two aspects of that long-ago liberal optimism are worth keeping in mind. One of the ironies of Paul Krugman and other liberals who now celebrate the 1950s as the economic golden age for the American middle class is that the growth liberals of that time, especially John F. Kennedy, were scornful of the Eisenhower Administration's economic record. Recall Kennedy's campaign slogan: "Let's get the nation moving again." Today that is Pawlenty's de facto slogan.

Of course the other irony is that Kennedy and his growth-oriented economists saw cutting income tax rates as an important step toward reinvigorating growth, because, among other things, "a rising tide lifts all boats." It's worth recalling the full flavor of Kennedy's view on this issue, as he explained to the Economic Club of New York in the fall of 1962:

The current income tax system siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power. . . it reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment, and risk-taking."

Our true choice is not between tax reduction, on the one hand, and the avoidance of large Federal deficits on the other. It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance our budget just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits. Surely the lesson of the last decade is that budget deficits are not caused by wild-eyed spenders but by slow economic growth and periodic recessions, and any new recession would break all deficit records.

In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. The experience of a number of European countries and Japan have borne this out. This country's own experience with tax reduction in 1954 has borne this out. And the reason is that only full employment can balance the budget, and tax reduction can pave the way to that employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.

Any Democrat who talked this way today would be drummed out of the party, and would make Krugman's head explode. (Hey, there's. . . never mind.) Instead, Krugman, Robert Reich, and company are starting to wax nostalgic about the 70 to 90 percent marginal income tax rates of the 1950s, which they argue didn't retard economic performance at all, thereby willfully forgetting the critique the growth liberals made of the slow-growth Eisenhower years.

That's only the beginning of the contrast. To be sure, those growth liberals of the 1960s had a redistributionist itch--it was after all the beginning of the Great Society misadventure. But the growth liberals thought faster growth would make more redistribution possible by expanding the pie; in other words, their redistributionism was based on the idea of surplus. Today's liberals think redistribution is necessary because of scarcity and the lack of economic growth.

So what the heck happened to liberalism? Here's how one author described it:

By the end of the 1970s, however, liberalism had come to embrace the polar opposite--the limits to growth. The supposed scarcity of oil and natural resources of the 1970s was merely symptomatic of a new era of low or no growth that constricted the hitherto broad horizons of liberalism. Indeed, it might be said that within the space of a single decade, the central governing challenge of liberalism changed from allocating abundance to rationing scarcity. Jimmy Carter had ratified this thinking in his infamous Camp David retreat in the summer of 1979, where he told one group of visitors that "I think it's inevitable that there will be a lower standard of living than what everybody had always anticipated, constant growth. . . I think there's going to have to be a reorientation of what people value in their own lives. I believe that there has to be a more equitable sharing of what we have. . . The only trend is downward." Within this newly constricted horizon, liberalism's redistributionist impulse, never far below the surface, metastasized into a zero-sum mentality that believed anyone's gain must entail someone else's loss.

The author? Me, in The Age of Reagan, vol. 2. Meanwhile, today's liberalism has not only given up on economic growth, but doesn't even have Charles Schultze's long-ago confidence that it can "prevent a major slide" in the economy. Investor's Business Daily today reviews the evidence of the poor performance of the "stimulus," noting tacitly the lack of confidence the Obama Administration conveys about its own economic stewardship.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The coming teacher-union offensive

SOIFER: The coming teacher-union offensive - Washington Times

The coming teacher-union offensive

Education lobby gathers big money to reconquer lost ground

Already, national political fundraising ma- chines are beginning to hum and s putter toward early targets in their quest to break another election cycle’s worth of spending records. The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA), was the heaviest contributor to U.S. political campaigns in 2007-08, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Early indications show it is a front-runner to be so again. Along with its state affiliates, the NEA took in $1.5 billion in revenue in 2008-09, the Education Intelligence Agency notes. Nearly all of this revenue came from member dues, and most of the war chest will be spent seeking to increase spending and to block those school reforms deemed most threatening to union clout.

The stakes are high, even by contemporary standards. The nation’s annual taxpayer investment in kindergarten-through-12th-grade public education runs over half a trillion dollars and accounts for more than 4 percent of gross domestic product. Meanwhile, teachers union members are starting their summer under the dark cloud of a trillion dollars in unfunded educator pension-fund liabilities.

Having endured a string of high-profile legislative setbacks around the nation, highly politicized teachers union leaders have taken to the airwaves and are prepared to invest heavily in the upcoming election cycle. The teachers unions give mostly to Democrats and in national elections nearly exclusively so. Their legislative agenda for education continues to focus on increasing spending, loosening accountability for results, avoiding the use of test scores in teacher evaluations and thwarting parental choice that could derail the public education monopoly.

In an effort to fight on their own terms, unions have turned to their lawyers. In courtrooms around the country, union attorneys seem to have adopted the legal strategies of segregationists to fight the expansion of charter schools and school choice. In the period immediately following the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brownv. Board of Education ruling, opponents of desegregation saw promise in pursuing a strategy of forcing desegregation advocates to win one lawsuit at a time. Obstructionists including Georgia’s Attorney General Eugene Cook proclaimed that they could hold up desegregation in the courts for “generations or centuries of litigation.”

So teachers unions are spending millions in dues revenues on legal fees suing to block charter schools and other parental-choice reforms. Charter schools have emerged as primary targets for the wrath of teacher-union leadership largely because charter teachers rarely belong to unions.

While most empirical studies show these independent public schools demonstrating results that are slightly better on aggregate than those of traditional public schools, they also show that charters serve more poor and minority students. Studies on funding disparities conclude that charters typically receive between 20 percent and 40 percent of the public funding spent on traditional public schools.

The fact that longtime American Federation of Teachers (AFT) leader Albert Shanker was an original architect of the charter school model lends irony to this offensive against charter schools around the country.

c New York’s United Federation of Teachers, which spent $2.5 million in legal fees in 2009, is suing for the second time in two years to block the city Department of Education from closing 22 struggling schools and to stop offering colocation or expansion permits to charter schools.

c Georgia’s NEA affiliate helped lead a challenge to charter schools in the state’s Supreme Court, which last month resulted in overturning a 2008 law and rejecting 16 charter schools authorized by a state commission.

Absent openings to block or close charter schools, teachers union leaders increasingly are trying to take them over. A ruling earlier this year by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board granted an AFT chapter the right to organize two new charter schools in Chicago, following two charters that had been unionized previously. Other high-profile battles to unionize charter schools are under way in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri and elsewhere.

When it comes to accountability for these results, teachers union leaders will see rapid evidence of their success or failure - evidence with profound implications for their financial bottom lines. Unfortunately, it can take far longer for the indirect effects of their efforts to become evident in the form of classroom results.

Don Soifer is executive vice president of the Lexington Institute.

More regulations: EPA's fantasy solution to unemployment

More regulations: EPA's fantasy solution to unemployment Examiner Editorial Opinion Washington Examiner

More regulations: EPA's fantasy solution to unemployment

President Obama and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson are trying to force Americans to stop using fossil fuels to generate energy. Carolyn Kaster/AP fileAmerican Electric Power Chairman Michael Morris announced last week that his company would be forced to close five coal-fired power plants, spend an additional $8 billion refitting other plants, and lose 6,000 megawatts of its coal-generated capacity if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency follows through with its latest proposed regulation of coal power plants. That's just fine with President Obama and Lisa Jackson, whom he appointed as EPA administrator. Their goal is to put people like Morris and utilities like AEP out of the coal-fired generation business.

Since the White House's signature environmental policy, cap and trade, died in the Democrat-dominated 111th Congress in 2010, Obama has sought to use the Clean Air Act to do by bureaucratic decree what he could not achieve through the legislative process: force Americans to stop using fossil fuels to generate the energy that our society must have to function on a daily basis. The EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule for power plants will take giant steps toward doing exactly that.

Despite the fact the mercury pollution levels have been decreasing worldwide for two decades, the EPA's proposed rule would force power companies to install costly new mercury-scrubbing equipment on existing coal-power plants. The EPA says this will reduce mercury emissions from coal plants by 91 percent. But the EPA's own Regulatory Impact Analysis also concedes that the new regulation will lead to "new lower levels of consumption as a result of higher market prices." That is bureaucratese for saying Americans will have a lower standard of living because they will have to pay more for energy.

This is exactly what Obama promised his energy policies would do. In January 2008 he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. ... Coal power plants, natural gas, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers." Sure enough, the Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois consumers could see their electricity bills jump an estimated 40 to 60 percent in the next few years if the proposed EPA rule is implemented.

Not to worry, according to the EPA, which claims the proposed regulation will create 30,000 new jobs: "Regulated firms hire workers to operate and maintain pollution controls. Once the equipment is installed, regulated firms hire workers to operate and maintain the pollution control equipment." But if more regulation creates jobs, why has unemployment during Obama's tenure in the White House stubbornly remained above 9 percent? In the real world, the only thing red tape produces is additional pages in the Federal Register. If Obama wants to know why unemployment is still so high, he should start by questioning his EPA's assumption that more regulations lead to more jobs.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oil, polling, Obama--cartoon says it all!

We noted last night that the Obama administration's decision to release 30 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve reveals the follow of the Democrats' energy policies. We didn't really comment on the administration's motivation, which Obama made little effort to hide. Michael Ramirez does comment (via Powerline blog):

Obama and Boeing

Obama and Boeing

Uncharacteristically, the President is silent in a key labor dispute..
Did you hear what President Obama said about the National Labor Relations Board's complaint against Boeing Co.? We didn't either.

Mr. Obama has been touting his plan to double the country's export growth by 2015, thereby creating two million new jobs. Now one of the country's foremost exporters is under assault for seeking a lower-cost venue for manufacturing to stay globally competitive, and the President has had nothing to say.

According to the NLRB's complaint, Boeing acted illegally when it set up its new 787 assembly line in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, to avoid using the unionized workers in Washington state. The gripe comes from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers, whose history of strikes against the airplane manufacturer in Washington state have been costly for Boeing.

The Washington state site has gained thousands of Boeing jobs since the company began to add the South Carolina line, but never mind. The real issue for the Obama NLRB is the chance to make an example of Boeing and diminish investment in right-to-work states, which offer companies a chance to manufacture products without the headaches and work stoppages that unions create.

Seattle administrative law judge Clifford Anderson urged the parties to settle during a hearing on Tuesday, but short of that the case could drag on. After the judge makes his findings, the case will go to the five-member NLRB, where Mr. Obama's nominees hold a three to two majority. One of those three is Craig Becker, whose antibusiness views are so transparent that he needed a recess appointment after a Democratic Senate wouldn't confirm him.

Even if Boeing prevails on the law in an appellate court, relief could be months or years down the road. Meantime, the allegation hangs over Boeing's investment and over any other unionized company contemplating a similar move.

The President isn't above wading into labor disagreements in the states. When unions objected to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's plan to reform his state's arrangement with public employee unions earlier this year, Mr. Obama said he didn't like to see unions "denigrated or vilified" or have their "rights infringed upon."

So here is a seminal case about the ability of a corporation to manage its own assets and decide where to locate its business. Should the NLRB be able to block an American company's domestic expansion? Mr. President, how are your labor appointees assisting American jobs and exports?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

EPA: The Agency That Eats Jobs

EPA: The Agency That Eats Jobs  by John hinderacker/Powerline

The Obama Environmental Protection Agency is completely out of control. You could call it a rogue agency, but that wouldn't be right because it acts at the president's direction. If the EPA's mission is to destroy jobs while enhancing the environment little, if at all, it is doing very well. Michael Ramirez envisions the EPA as the Little Agency--well, Big Agency--of Horrors.

Tax dollars for La Raza skyrocket after Obama appoints one of its leaders to White House post

Judicial Watch: Tax dollars for La Raza skyrocket after Obama appoints one of its leaders to White House post Mark Tapscott Beltway Confidential Washington Examiner By: Mark Tapscott

Should anybody care when a radical left-wing special interest group gets a big boost in federally funded grants and contracts after one of its most visible leaders is appointed to a key White House job?

That's exactly what happened after President Obama appointed Cecilla Munoz, the National Council of La Raza's (NCLR) senior vice president, as his director of inter-governmental affairs, according to an investigation by Judicial Watch.

The inter-governmental affairs job is among the most powerful in a presidential administration in terms of its occupant being able to direct or influence the awarding of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal grants in aid and contracts.

Here's how Judicial Watch describes the significance of the Munoz appointment:

"The influential and politically-connected National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has long benefitted from Uncle Sam’s largess but the group has made a killing since Obama hired its senior vice president (Cecilia Muñoz) in 2009 to be his director of intergovernmental affairs.

"Ignored by the mainstream media, Judicial Watch covered the appointment because the president issued a special 'ethics waiver' to bring Muñoz aboard since it violated his own lobbyist ban. At the pro illegal immigration NCLR, Muñoz supervised all legislative and advocacy activities on the state and local levels and she was heavily involved in the congressional immigration battles that took place in the George W. Bush Administration.

"She also brought in a steady flow of government cash that’s allowed the Washington D.C.-based group to expand nationwide and promote its leftist, open-borders agenda via a network of community organizations dedicated to serving Latinos.Among them are a variety of local groups that provide social services, housing counseling and farm worker assistance as well as publicly-funded charter schools that promote radical Chicano curriculums. Judicial Watch published a special report on this a few years ago."

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why the Jobs Situation Is Worse Than It Looks

Why the Jobs Situation Is Worse Than It Looks - US News and World Report

We now have more idle men and women than at any time since the Great Depression By Mortimer B. Zuckerman

The Great Recession has now earned the dubious right of being compared to the Great Depression. In the face of the most stimulative fiscal and monetary policies in our history, we have experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000. From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs. This is contrary to all previous recessions. Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment.

The real job losses are greater than the estimate of 7.5 million. They are closer to 10.5 million, as 3 million people have stopped looking for work. Equally troublesome is the lower labor participation rate; some 5 million jobs have vanished from manufacturing, long America's greatest strength. Just think: Total payrolls today amount to 131 million, but this figure is lower than it was at the beginning of the year 2000, even though our population has grown by nearly 30 million. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the economy.]

The most recent statistics are unsettling and dismaying, despite the increase of 54,000 jobs in the May numbers. Nonagricultural full-time employment actually fell by 142,000, on top of the 291,000 decline the preceding month. Half of the new jobs created are in temporary help agencies, as firms resist hiring full-time workers.

Today, over 14 million people are unemployed. We now have more idle men and women than at any time since the Great Depression. Nearly seven people in the labor pool compete for every job opening. Hiring announcements have plunged to 10,248 in May, down from 59,648 in April. Hiring is now 17 percent lower than the lowest level in the 2001-02 downturn. One fifth of all men of prime working age are not getting up and going to work. Equally disturbing is that the number of people unemployed for six months or longer grew 361,000 to 6.2 million, increasing their share of the unemployed to 45.1 percent. We face the specter that long-term unemployment is becoming structural and not just cyclical, raising the risk that the jobless will lose their skills and become permanently unemployable.

Don't pay too much attention to the headline unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. It is scary enough, but it is a gloss on the reality. These numbers do not include the millions who have stopped looking for a job or who are working part time but would work full time if a position were available. And they count only those people who have actively applied for a job within the last four weeks.

Include those others and the real number is a nasty 16 percent. The 16 percent includes 8.5 million part-timers who want to work full time (which is double the historical norm) and those who have applied for a job within the last six months, including many of the long-term unemployed. And this 16 percent does not take into account the discouraged workers who have left the labor force. The fact is that the longer duration of six months is the more relevant testing period since the mean duration of unemployment is now 39.7 weeks, an increase from 37.1 weeks in February. [See a slide show of the 10 cities with highest real income.]

The inescapable bottom line is an unprecedented slack in the U.S. labor market. Labor's share of national income has fallen to the lowest level in modern history, down to 57.5 percent in the first quarter as compared to 59.8 percent when the so-called recovery began. This reflects not only the 7 million fewer workers but the fact that wages for part-time workers now average $19,000—less than half the median income.

Just to illustrate how insecure the labor movement is, there is nobody on strike in the United States today, according to David Rosenberg of wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff. Back in the 1970s, it was common in any given month to see as many as 30,000 workers on the picket line, and there were typically 300 work stoppages at any given time. Last year there were a grand total of 11. There are other indirect consequences. The number of people who have applied for permanent disability benefits has soared. Ten years ago, 5 million people were collecting federal disability payments; now 8 million are on the rolls, at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $120 billion a year. The states today owe the federal insurance fund an astonishing $90 billion to cover unemployment benefits. [See cartoons about the deficit and debt.]

In past recessions, the economy recovered lost jobs within 13 months, on average, after the trough. Twenty-three months into a recovery, employment typically increases by around 174,000 jobs monthly, compared to 54,000 this time around. In a typical recovery, we would have had several hundred thousand more hires per month than we are seeing now—this despite unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus (including the rescue of the automobile industry, whose collapse would likely have lost a million jobs). Businesses do not seem to have the confidence or the incentive to add staff but prefer to continue the deep cost-cutting they undertook from the onset of the recession.

But hang on. Even to come up with the 54,000 new jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics assumed that 206,000 jobs were created by newly formed companies that its analysts believe—but can't prove—were, in effect, born in May under the so-called birth/death model, which relies primarily on historical extrapolations. Without this generous assumption in the face of a slowing economy, the United States would have lost jobs in May. Last year the bureau assumed that 192,000 jobs were created through new start-ups in the comparable month, but on review most of them eventually had to be taken out, as start-ups have been distressingly weak given the lack of financing from their traditional sources such as bank loans, home equity loans, and credit card lines. [Read more stories on unemployment.]

Where are we today? We have seemingly added jobs, but it is not because hiring has increased. In February 2009 there were 4.7 million separations—that is, jobs lost—but by March 2011 this had fallen to 3.8 million. In other words, the pace of layoffs has diminished, but that is not the same thing as more hiring. The employment numbers look better than they really are because of the aggressive layoffs in the early part of this recession and the reluctance of American business to rehire workers. In fact, the apparent improvement in job numbers has been made up of one part extra hiring and two parts reduced firing.

Even during past recessions, American firms still hired large numbers of workers as part of the continual cycle of replacing employees. Of the 150 million workers or job seekers in America, about one third turn over in a typical year, leaving their old jobs to take new ones. High labor "churn" is characteristic of our economy, reflecting workers moving to better jobs and higher wages and away from declining sectors. As Stanford business professor Edward Lazear explains so clearly in the Wall Street Journal, the increase in job growth over the past two years is attributable to a decline in the number of layoffs, not from increased hiring. Typically, when the labor market creates 200,000 jobs, it has been because 5 million were hired and 4.8 million were separated, not just because there were 200,000 hires and no job losses. But when an economy has bottomed out, it has already shed much of its excess labor, as illustrated by the decline in layoffs—from approximately 2.5 million in February 2009 to 1.5 million this April. In a healthy labor market like the one that prevailed in 2006 and into 2007, American firms hired about 5.5 million workers per month. This is now down to about 4 million a month. Quite simply, businesses have been very disciplined in their hiring practices. [Read Zuckerman: America's Fading Exceptionalism.]

We are nowhere near the old normal. Throughout this fragile recovery, over 90 percent of the growth in output has come from productivity gains. But typically at this stage of the cycle, labor has already taken over from productivity as the major contributor of growth. That is why we generally saw nonfarm payroll gains exceeding 300,000 per month with relative ease. This time we have recouped only 17 percent of the job losses 23 months after the recession began, as compared to 207 percent of the jobs lost from previous recessions (with the exception of 2001). There is no comfort either in two leading indicators of employment, with no growth in the workweek or in factory overtime.

Clearly, the Great American Job Machine is breaking down, and roadside assistance is not on the horizon. In the second half of this year (and thereafter?), we will be without the monetary and fiscal steroids. Nor does anyone know what will happen to long-term interest rates when the Federal Reserve ends its $600 billion quantitative easing support of the capital markets. Inventory levels are at their highest since September 2006; new order bookings are at the lowest levels since September 2009. Since home equity has long been the largest asset on the balance sheet of the average American family, all home­owners are suffering from housing prices that have, on average, declined 33 percent (compare that to the Great Depression drop of 31 percent). [See a slide show of the 10 cities with the lowest real income.]

No wonder the general economic mood is one of alarm. The Conference Board measure of U.S. consumer confidence slumped to 60.8 percent in May, down from 66 percent in April and well below the average of 73 in past recessions, never mind the 100-plus numbers in good times. Never before has confidence been this low in the 23rd month of a recovery. Gluskin Sheff's Rosenberg captured it perfectly: We may well be in the midst of a "modern depression."

Our political leadership in both Congress and the White House will surely bear the political costs of a failure to work out short- and long-term programs to fix the job shortage. The stakes are too high to play political games.

Conning the country on jobs

Matt's Meditations, Rants and Reviews Conning the country on jobs by Matt Holzmann

In a sound bite broadcast on the radio this morning, the President was once again head blaming his predecessor for today’s poor job picture. Shortly after this at a LED lighting plant in Durham, N.C. 2 1/2 years after spending close to $1 Trillion, he said “shovel ready was not as shovel ready as expected.” In the meantime, his administration has been doing its best to stymie jobs creation since his inauguration.

It starts with his energy policy. The president is at war with conventional energy if you haven’t noticed. From his mismanagement of the BP oil spill to the shut down of offshore drilling to the new battles in Congress to remove “oil & gas subsidies” to the revelation the other day of the machinations by the Director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in attempting to cancel the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site to his war on the coal industry, the president has clearly articulated his vision of America’s energy future and it is directly at odds with those jobs he says he wishes to create. His policies are raising the cost of goods and services at a time when we are becoming ever less competitive.

Last year, the President visited one of the recipients of his bailout largesse, Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer favored by the administration, who received over $600 Million in federal loans and guarantees. Today, Solyndra, who were touted to be creating thousands of green jobs, is barely surviving. He visited a windmill plant in Indiana a few weeks ago. No one is sure if he tilted at one while there. In the meantime, small businesses, the primary engines of job creation, can’t get loans and the big just keep on getting bigger. It seems every merger means job losses these days in the name of efficiency and synergy.

A year ago, the president modified his rhetoric to tout “jobs created or saved”. Most of those jobs were saved, and most of those jobs were in the public sector. Huge bloc grants were made to a number of states where the administration sought political advantage in order to maintain what in many cases were bloated union payrolls and overwhelmingly Democratic Party loyalists.

While the President was in Durham, 125 miles to the south in N. Charleston, S.C. a Boeing plant that will create 10,000 high paying jobs is in jeopardy. The National Labor Relations Board has filed suit against the company on behalf of the Machinists Union in Seattle, who feel it is their right to dictate where the company operates and to hold the company hostage every few years when contract negotiations come along. The average salary for a Boeing manufacturing worker is $59,000+/year before benefits and overtime. It is not uncommon with the massive backlog of orders at Boeing and delays in many cases caused by union slowdowns for these workers to make well over $100,000/year. Boeing is the nation’s largest exporter and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout their supply chain. The president is holding the company hostage for his political supporters.

The administration’s industrial policy, if you can anything so haphazard and corrupt such, is about as logical as playing the lottery. There is no coherent plan or analysis of technology, markets, or opportunities. Green is good. Everything else is bad. It has taken the President 2 1/2 years to come up with a grab bag of proposals that he will be rolling out over the next two weeks.

In the meantime, the real estate industry is constipated with properties in default that have been held up in the foreclosure process by slick attorneys and populist politicians. These are people who are 8 – 10- 12 or months overdue, and who have basically been spending the money that should have gone to their mortgages on everything but in many cases. We have become a nation in default. Is there any wonder there is a crisis?

Fear has become the American Way of Life for the first time in our history. Fear of job loss. The loss of medical care. The loss of one’s dignity. And we are being conned like a Three Card Monty hustler on Fifth Avenue. With the current occupant of the White House, one must watch what he does, not what he says.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The "Government Is Always Good" Economy

The "Government Is Always Good" Economy by Austin Hill

Have you noticed that economic data seems to almost always be reported as a surprise these days? As bad news emerges, it’s being portrayed as though nobody could have possibly seen it coming!

Michael Barone, the esteemed editorialist and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, along with the “Instapundit” blogger Glenn Reynolds, have both noted that the word “unexpectedly” has often accompanied media descriptions of our economy as of late. Sentences like "Previously owned home sales unexpectedly fall," and "New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed," are pretty standard stuff right now, as President Obama ramps-up his re-election bid.

Barone pointed out that to some degree, this is symptomatic of the political bias of many journalists. “It's obviously going to be hard to achieve the unacknowledged goal of many mainstream journalists -- the president's re-election -- if the economic slump continues” he wrote late last month. “So they characterize economic setbacks as unexpected, with the implication that there's still every reason to believe that, in Herbert Hoover's phrase, prosperity is just around the corner.”

But Barone also noted that many media professionals really believe President Obama’s economic policies – massive government regulation of business, and lots and lots of deficit spending – are actually conducive to economic growth. “A less cynical explanation,” Barone noted about the surprised reporters, “is that many journalists really believe that the Obama administration's policies are likely to improve the economy. Certainly that has been the expectation as well as the hope of administration policymakers.”

I think that Barone is correct on both accounts. But I also believe that journalists and members of the Obama Administration are not the only people who are surprised. Lots of “Obama faithful,” who were quick to embrace his economic rhetoric as the 2008 crisis unfolded, are now genuinely shocked that things haven’t worked out.

President Obama, of course, ran a successful campaign by portraying himself as the “un-George W. Bush” candidate. While painting his actual opponent John McCain as a “carbon copy” of Bush back in 2008, Mr. Obama was able to rhetorically juxtapose his policies on just about everything – economic matters included – with President Bush’s policies, and a majority of voters went with the guy who was offering “change.”

The flawed assumption that many of our fellow Americans made – an assumption that many are still making today – is that President Obama’s policies must be good, because they’re different from those of his predecessor. This assumption not only entails a lack of knowledge of both Presidents, but it also entails some horribly wrong-headed assumptions about economics, itself.

Stop and ask some of the Obama die-hard’s. You’ll find many of them still juxtaposing Bush with Obama, and their conclusion is simple: “Obama good, Bush bad.” And from this they often try to derive thoughts on economic policy, which frequently end up looking something like “government good, business bad.”

Think about it. It’s a fairly common belief that “under Bush the economy was un-regulated, and that’s how out-of-control business people drove us over the cliff. But now that it’s regulated, things can only get better.” President Obama still reiterates this theme, in a variety of different ways.

Of course, the idea that our economy is, or was “un-regulated,” is utter nonsense. The electronic device with which you’re reading this – a computer, “electronic tablet,” iPhone, whatever –was designed, assembled, transported, and sold under heavy U.S. government regulation, and it’s powered with electricity that was generated under heavy regulation. The same would have been true had you read one of my columns back during the eight years of the Bush presidency, as well.

As for the mortgage lending meltdown – well indeed, bad government was a big part of that problem. Yet it wasn’t a lack of government regulation that helped bring about the crisis, but rather it was too much of the wrong type of government regulation that did the damage.
For years the feds sought to make it increasingly easy to buy real estate, all in the name of the “affordable housing” agenda. Flawed as his presidency was, George W. Bush actually tried at least twice to reign-in the out-of-control lending, only to be shot-down by both Democrats and Republicans in the Congress (a fact I documented succinctly in my latest book – see below).

Selfish and destructive as the easy lending policies were in the long run, the cheapening of the mortgage markets brought about so much short-term political gain for congressional members that they couldn’t bring themselves to say “no.” And in a similar way, President Obama is today acting-out his own self-serving agenda.

Bailouts and “waivers” go to companies that can be politically beneficial to Barack Obama. And while the President says he “saved the American automotive industry,” in reality he “saved” some unionized assembly jobs – which is good for his political base – while G.M. remains fiscally unsound and continues to lose money.

Hopefully the President’s loyalists will soon realize that government is not always good. It can’t happen too soon.

Where is the green jobs explosion?

Where is the green jobs explosion?  by Ed Morrissey /Hot Air

When Barack Obama spoke of “necessarily bankrupting” coal-fueled electricity producers, he claimed that the explosion in “green jobs” would replace the workers dislocated by penalizing fossil fuels. So far, though, there is little evidence of any explosion in green jobs, or even significant job creation at all. As Politico reports, the Obama administration is having to fall back on “saved and created” language to describe its big investment in the green-collar field:

President Barack Obama heads to an energy plant in North Carolina on Monday to talk once again about the job-creating power of a green economy.

The catch? Nearly three years into Obama’s presidency, the White House can’t point to much solid evidence that significant numbers of Americans are scoring the green jobs the president has been touting.

Monthly Labor Department employment reports say nothing about the new clean energy workforce, while an effort to document how many Americans actually make a living in the “green collar” field may not be done by November 2012.

Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers suggests 225,000 clean energy jobs were either created or preserved through the third quarter of 2010 thanks to more than $80 billion in the economic stimulus package. But those are estimates at best.

At $80 billion, that would mean a cost of $355,555.56 of public subsidy per job created … or “saved.” At best, as Politico states. The administration responds by claiming that these subsidies will have 825,000 people working in green jobs by the end of 2012, work that includes building car batteries — an effort that can only be called green by using the most flexible kind of definition possible, considering the environmentally problematic processes of manufacturing and disposal on which batteries rely.

Even at that, though, the subsidies just from the stimulus (ignoring other federal funding, which is ongoing) would equal to almost $100,000 per job. And the administration claims that a significant number of these jobs would be for “retrofitting homes” for energy efficiency, which would be temporary in nature. That claim also ignores the fact that we have had those stimulus tax breaks and subsidies in place since early 2009. Has construction added jobs, or has it shed jobs, since that time?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is rushing to create a “green jobs” analysis as part of its monthly reporting on the workforce. That should be an interesting project, especially when it comes to definitions of “green.” The BLS estimates that those statistics should be ready by the end of next year, not exactly in time to help Obama make his case for re-election on the basis of a green economy. But that ambiguity might be best anyway, and Obama will certainly make the most of it. And “most” in this context isn’t going to be tough to achieve, relatively speaking:

That report doesn’t appear to have a deadline. But Obama is unlikely to stop talking about his commitment to the issue in the meantime.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they use the green jobs story in the same way they’re using the auto story, as a place where they can tell somewhat of a good story, even if they don’t have the fact base to make it really compelling,” said McDonald.

“Here’s the thing,” he added. “There’s not that many places where they can tell a good story about the economy, so the bar is very low for green jobs to be a centerpiece of his agenda.”

It’s not the green part of the agenda that will be Obama’s problem in 2009. It’s the low bar.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Consumers' electric bills likely to spike as coal plants close


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Consumers' electric bills likely to spike as coal plants close

The Chicago Tribune reports:
Consumers could see their electricity bills jump an estimated 40 to 60 percent in the next few years.

The reason: Pending environmental regulations will make coal-fired generating plants, which produce about half the nation's electricity, more expensive to operate. Many are expected to be shuttered.

The increases are expected to begin to appear in 2014, and policymakers already are scrambling to find cheap and reliable alternative power sources. If they are unsuccessful, consumers can expect further increases as more expensive forms of generation take on a greater share of the electricity load.

The pagan religion called "environmentalism" may just drive you to the poor house.

Posted by Steve Bartin

1.9 Million Fewer Americans Have Jobs Today Than When Obama Signed Stimulus

1.9 Million Fewer Americans Have Jobs Today Than When Obama Signed Stimulus  By Matt Cover

( – Twenty-eight months after Congress passed President Obama’s signature economic stimulus law, and nearly one year after he declared the summer of 2010 to be “Recovery Summer,” 1.9 million fewer people are employed.

In February 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 141.7 million people were employed. By the end of May 2011 – the last month for which data are available – that number had fallen to 139.8 million, a difference of 1.9 million.

While the number of people with jobs has increased slightly from its low point during the recession – 137.9 million in December 2009 – those 1.9 million jobs have been lost despite $800 billion in stimulus spending.

This does not mean that the economy is not creating jobs, but rather that it is not creating jobs fast enough to keep up with a combination of layoffs and people entering the job market for the first time.

In a Washington Post op-ed, former White House chief economist Larry Summers noted that the percentage of the population that has a job has not improved, even though the economy is technically in recovery.

“From the first quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2011, the U.S. economy’s growth rate averaged less than 1 percent a year,” Summers wrote. “The fraction of the population working remains almost exactly at its recession trough, and recent reports suggest that growth is slowing.”

The fraction of the population with a job has in fact fallen in the 28 months since Congress passed the stimulus – down from 60.3 percent in February 2009 to 58.4 percent in May 2011.

The economy cannot create jobs fast enough to keep pace with layoffs and recent high school and college graduates seeking employment. If the trend continues, as Summers notes may happen, the economy will suffer further in the future as college graduates delay entry into the labor force, reducing their lifetime productivity.

“Beyond the lack of jobs and incomes, an economy producing below its potential for a prolonged interval sacrifices its future,” argued Summers. “Huge numbers of new college graduates are moving back in with their parents this month because they have no job or means of support.”

As both Summers and the BLS data make clear, the economy is not creating new jobs fast enough to make up for layoffs and new graduates, calling into question Obama’s oft-repeated claim that the economy is recovering and creating jobs.

In fact, by citing figures from the first quarter of 2006, Summers is understating the economy’s poor performance. According to BLS data, the number of people with jobs peaked at 146.6 million in November 2007, meaning that over the entire recession – which officially began in December 2007 – the number of people employed has fallen by 6.8 million.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Union bosses come first for Obama

Union bosses come first for Obama Examiner Editorial Opinion Washington Examiner

Union bosses come first for Obama Examiner Editorial

For decades, unions have perpetuated the myth that the interests of Big Labor's bosses and of American workers are identical. A tenuous case for that proposition could be made decades ago when unions represented a third of all private sector workers. But doing so today requires a studied refusal to acknowledge reality when fewer than 7 percent are union members. Nevertheless, President Obama often seems concerned only with serving the interests of the union bosses who are among his most frequent White House guests. It is hardly coincidental that recent economic news has gone from bad to worse. Unemployment is back up to 9.1 percent (more like 20 percent when the count includes the millions who have quit looking for work), manufacturing activity is weakening, housing prices are still falling, job creation is all but stopped except in Texas, and banks are slashing growth forecasts. The American economy, in short, is in desperate need of a jolt.

Yet Obama is playing political games by refusing to send already-negotiated free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia to Congress for ratification, even though they would expand overseas sales opportunities for American businesses and create thousands of new jobs here at home. The holdup is that Obama wants to ensure that his labor union buddies get sufficiently bribed for swallowing a trade deal. Obama demands renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides help often funneled through unions, to Americans who claim to be adversely affected by such deals, and he TAA funding made permanent at the artificially high levels established under his failed stimulus legislation. Under this formula, in 2010, the program spent $975 million to aid 228,000 people at a cost of nearly $4,300 per beneficiary.

In another development, the National Labor Relations Board, which Obama has packed with union activists, has continued its assault on workers. It was bad enough last month when the board's general counsel, Lafe Solomon, sued Boeing for building a nonunion facility with 1,000 workers in South Carolina -- a move that even a former Democratic chairman of the National Labor Relations Board called "unprecedented." But this past week, when three South Carolina Boeing workers sought to intervene in the suit, Solomon opposed them, arguing that they had "no cognizable interest" in whether Boeing will actually be able to employ them. That's the same position taken by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The union wants NLRB to force Boeing to shut down its new production line in South Carolina and instead build a new facility in Washington state. So what if 1,000 or more South Carolinians who were offered jobs in the new plant Boeing just finished.

As outrageous as these actions are, none of them should be surprising, because Obama vowed during the campaign to do the bidding of unions. "I know how much more we can accomplish as partners in an Obama administration," he told the Service Employees International Union as a candidate. "Just imagine what we could do together. Imagine having a president whose life work was your work." Sadly, the work of the Obama-Big Labor alliance is harmful to actual American workers.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Where’s the warming?

Where’s the warming? by Ed Morrissey/Hot Air

Carbon emissions over the past decade actually exceeded predictions by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), no thanks to the global economic recession. According to their anthropogenic global-warming theories, global temperatures should have risen significantly as a result. James Taylor at Forbes wonders what happened:

Global greenhouse gas emissions have risen even faster during the past decade than predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other international agencies. According to alarmist groups, this proves global warming is much worse than previously feared. The increase in emissions “should shock even the most jaded negotiators” at international climate talks currently taking place in Bonn, Germany, the UK Guardian reports. But there’s only one problem with this storyline; global temperatures have not increased at all during the past decade.

The evidence is powerful, straightforward, and damning. NASA satellite instruments precisely measuring global temperatures show absolutely no warming during the past the past 10 years. This is the case for the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, including the United States. This is the case for the Arctic, where the signs of human-caused global warming are supposed to be first and most powerfully felt. This is the case forglobal sea surface temperatures, which alarmists claim should be sucking up much of the predicted human-induced warming. This is the case for the planet as a whole.

If atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions are the sole or primary driver of global temperatures, then where is all the global warming? We’re talking 10 years of higher-than-expected increases in greenhouse gases, yet 10 years of absolutely no warming. That’s 10 years of nada, nunca, nein, zero, and zilch.

Be sure to check out the links, which show charts over varying time sets, but which all show basically the same thing: no real change over longer periods of time. Not in the Arctic, which Taylor notes was supposed to be the canary in the coal mine, nor in the northern hemisphere, or the globe overall. That’s even true for just the last decade, but it’s especially true over the period of several decades. Periods of high amplitudes in warming are matched with low amplitudes.

Earlier this week, I linked to a couple of articles from physicists who have expressed considerable skepticism of the AGW hysteria, including one who worked in Australia’s climate-change ministry. It’s worth revisiting his observation about the science, its models, and what’s missing:

This is the core idea of every official climate model: For each bit of warming due to carbon dioxide, they claim it ends up causing three bits of warming due to the extra moist air. The climate models amplify the carbon dioxide warming by a factor of three — so two-thirds of their projected warming is due to extra moist air (and other factors); only one-third is due to extra carbon dioxide.

That’s the core of the issue. All the disagreements and misunderstandings spring from this. The alarmist case is based on this guess about moisture in the atmosphere, and there is simply no evidence for the amplification that is at the core of their alarmism.

What did they find when they tried to prove this theory?

Weather balloons had been measuring the atmosphere since the 1960s, many thousands of them every year. The climate models all predict that as the planet warms, a hot spot of moist air will develop over the tropics about 10 kilometres up, as the layer of moist air expands upwards into the cool dry air above. During the warming of the late 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the weather balloons found no hot spot. None at all. Not even a small one. This evidence proves that the climate models are fundamentally flawed, that they greatly overestimate the temperature increases due to carbon dioxide.

This evidence first became clear around the mid-1990s.

It’s becoming even more clear now. If carbon increases and the predicted warming didn’t follow, then the obvious conclusion is that the hypothesis regarding cause and effect is incorrect — and the missing hot spots are even further evidence of this.

(for links):

The 'declarant presidency' era must end

The 'declarant presidency' era must end Hugh Hewitt Columnists Washington Examiner
By: Hugh Hewitt

President Obama ordered his Department of Justice to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act, even though it was passed by a bipartisan coalition and signed into federal law by President Clinton on Sept. 21, 1996.

No appellate court has decreed the law constitutionally flawed. The president has simply willed it so in an unprecedented attempt to repeal a duly passed and executed law by simple fiat.

Obama has ordered his Environmental Protection Agency to develop an administrative cap-and-trade system regulating carbon emissions despite the fact that Congress refused to authorize just such a system last year. The president is willing the oceans to stop rising and the towers of paper regulations to keep rising.

Obama is on the verge of dictating a unilateral set of changes in federal contracting law obliging bidding participants to disclose the level and identity of the recipients of their corporate political contribution.

This slam-down substitutes for the failure of last year's Democratic majority to pass the campaign finance law they desperately wanted. These rules effectively amend federal law without passing an amendment to federal law.

The Obama Imperial Presidency 2.0 is driving its National Labor Relations Board to wage war on Boeing's new assembly plant in Charleston, S.C., even as it unleashes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to launch recall after recall, creating an epic insecurity among potential recipients of such notices.

Did we mention the Obamacare and Dodd-Frank mandates, rolling inexorably out of the rabbit warrens of the regulation writers, each inch of rules another suffocating blow to real jobs with real career paths leading to real productivity increases and real prospects for promotion?

Offered a palm branch by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the president used it as a switch and smacked it back and forth across the Wisconsin Republican's face.

Offered a fresh start in the Middle East, the president excoriated Israel and put the long-shelved 1967 borders into play, which is like asking the late George Blanda to return to run the Washington Redskins when the NFL reconvenes. The '67 lines, like Blanda, had a role once but are worse than useless now as they are both dead.

We have not even mentioned that he is poised to impose "card check," new rules for defining wetlands, no procedures for declaring species endangered.

The sky is the limit for directed innovation in border control policy. The "virtual fence" has been scrapped and DOJ's "fast and furious" have shipped deadly weapons to the cartels with the hope of tracing them, only to lose them.

It is far worse than an era of an Imperial Presidency. It is the era of the President Declarant. We have never before had such a moment, and it will require rapid response from House Speaker John Boehner making much use of former Solicitor General Paul Clement's estimable skills.

Boehner ought to consider establishing a special legal defense fund for the purpose of cabining the president's unilateralist Hyde within. It is very clear we will need one before the president's term is over.

What we will need if he somehow wins a second term will be a state of emergency among judges called upon to set aside partisan allegiance and act with an eye on preserving not a momentary advantage, but an overarching system, a glorious, wonderfully effective system of checks and balances.

Once begun, unilateral rule is as addictive as it is destructive of balance of powers. It has to be stopped in November 2012, for another four years of accelerating concentration of power so that power can be deployed unilaterally would leaves the United States fundamentally off the rails on which is has run for 220 years.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Senate Democrats United In Opposition to Fixing Medicaid

Senate Democrats United In Opposition to Fixing Medicaid by Peter Suderman
On a per-beneficiary basis, Medicaid is cheaper than Medicare. But that doesn't mean it's not part of the spending problem: Since its inception in 1966, total spending on the program has continued to eat up a larger share of GDP.

One obvious reform would be to turn the program into a system of federal block grants. Currently, Medicaid is a joint federal-state operation that matches every dollar that states spend with additional federal money. The exact amount of the match varies by state, but on average the federal government pays a little more than half of total. At the same time, that money allows the federal government to exert a lot of heavy-handed influence over the management of the state programs: Take Utah, for example, which had to wait eight months to get a response from the federal government about whether it was allowed to contact Medicaid recipients over email. The answer state officials finally got? No. The federal government's response was delivered via email.

The incentive, then, is for states to spend ever-larger amounts in order to extract as much money as possible from the federal government, but not to innovate or experiment.

It's not obvious to Senate Democrats, however. As Politico reports, they've made it clear they aren't willing to sign on to the block-grant approach. In a letter to President Obama, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and 36 other Democrats warn that block grants would "undermine" the "federal commitment" to the program. (As far as I'm concerned, the federal government's essentially unlimited commitment is a big part part of the problem.) "We are unwilling to allow the federal government to walk away from Medicaid’s 68 million beneficiaries, the providers that serve them and the urban and rural communities in which they live,” the letter says.

Under a block grant system, the federal government wouldn't be "walking away" or anything like it. Indeed, it would still pay out hundreds of billions of dollars each years. Instead, federal officials in Washington would be putting state Medicaid programs on defined budgets and allowing them to manage the programs as they see fit.

ObamaCare, naturally, makes the Medicaid problem worse for states. (DP: I lost track of the source link)

After 29 months of the most left-wing presidency in US history, the American superpower is heading towards the economic abyss

After 29 months of the most left-wing presidency in US history, the American superpower is heading towards the economic abyss By Nile Gardiner

I imagine there are some very worried figures in the White House today, including the president himself. Today’s job figures are extremely bad news for the Obama administration, and as I noted in my last post, an electoral disaster for Barack Obama in November 2012 is now looking like a distinct possibility. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment has risen again to 9.1 percent, with private employers adding a mere 54,000 jobs in May. That’s up from 9 percent in April, and 8.8 percent in March.

The White House’s chief economist Austan Goolsbee has described the figures as a mere “bump in the road.” In reality they should be a massive wake-up call for an administration that refuses to acknowledge the huge damage its big government policies have done to the American economy, with 13.9 million Americans now out of work.

Under President Obama unemployment has remained above 8 percent for every single month, with the exception of January 2009 when he entered the Oval Office, rising as high as 10.1 percent in October 2009. By any measure, this is a terrible track record, and as even The New York Times acknowledged earlier this week, “no American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.”

The dire jobs figures are just part of an extraordinarily grim picture for the US economy, nearly two and a half years into the Obama presidency. As ABC News reported yesterday, “a cascade of negative economic reports this week is leaving Americans wondering if this is really a recovery from the recession that officially started December 2007 and ended June 2009.” And the housing market, in which 67 percent of Americans have a stake, is in serious trouble, with home prices sinking to their lowest levels since 2002, falling by 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2011 and for eight straight months in a row.

In addition, the White House is paralysed in the face of the nation’s towering debts, which reached 62 percent of GDP by the end of 2010, the highest percentage since the end of World War Two. The Congressional Budget Office warned last year in its “alternative fiscal scenario” that “with significantly lower revenues and higher outlays”, the federal debt could grow to a staggering 87 percent of GDP by 2020, rising to 109 percent by 2025 and 185 percent in 2035.

It is little wonder that 66 percent of Americans now worry the federal government will finally run out of their money, and Moody’s Investors Service is threatening to downgrade America’s sterling credit rating unless it gets to grips with the debt crisis. Undoubtedly, the very future of the United States’ position as the word’s only superpower is at stake in the next few years. And as Congressman Paul Ryan, the Reaganite chairman of the House Budget Committee warned in a superb speech last night to the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington:

The unsustainable trajectory of government spending is accelerating the nation toward the most predictable economic crisis in American history. Years of ignoring the real drivers of our debt have left us with a profound structural problem. In the coming years, our debt is projected to grow to more than three times the size of our entire economy.

This trajectory is catastrophic. By the end of the decade, we will be spending 20 percent of our tax revenue simply paying interest on the debt – and that’s according to optimistic projections… This course is simply unsustainable. If we continue down our current path, then a debt-fueled economic crisis is not a probability. It is a mathematical certainty.

Years of profligate spending, massive bailouts and useless stimulus measures have made America poorer, not richer, and threaten the long-term economic foundations of this great country. President Obama’s big government experiment has been a dangerous failure, only further proof that the deadening hand of federal intervention is the last thing America needs at this time. The United States needs more economic freedom, less government regulation and spending, and lower taxes if it is to create jobs, wealth and prosperity, a message that seems to have been lost on the Obama presidency as it drives the United States towards the financial abyss.