Sunday, August 5, 2012

Quick Hits - August 4, 2012

We open today's QH with the latest Afterburner by Bill Whittle.  In this episode, Bill looks at one of my favorite topics - California.

Today's Wall Street Journal features a commentary based on a report recently done by former NY state Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker focusing on the growing state fiscal crisis.  [Full article only available to subscribers]

The report centered its attention on six of the largest states - California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia.  What they found in these states, particularly the progressive dominated states of CA, IL, NY, and NJ, are not just major warning signs, but signs of real trouble.  These range from massive risks resulting from out of control rising healthcare costs, massive unfunded pension liabilities, and a systematic dependency on budget gimmicks to mask the fiscal disaster that is approaching.

We learn that Illinois has over 457 state and local pension systems - and irresponsible actions from states like California which increased pensions on those already retired in the 'good years' - to the point that in one now bankrupt CA city, the police chief was able to retire after 8 months on the job and collect a $204,000 annual pension.

California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York are securitizing their FUTURE tax revenue receipts in efforts to 'balance' today's budget - making it harder to correct their budget challenges in the future.  Simply put, these states are doing more irresponsible things fiscally than even Greece or Spain are doing - adding to entitlements, rewarding their political supporters, concealing the evidence of their mismanagement, all while treating the taxpayer as a bottomless source of more funds to fuel a rapidly failing ideological vision.

Why aren't more questioning the lack of real logic or common sense behind the fiscal decisions being made by their state governments?  California has, officially, a $16 billion current budget deficit - and the Governor is insisting on spending what will be at least $100 billion on a white elephant high speed rail network that does not have a viable business plan, or a market, or a base of customers...not to mention not one private investor.

In CA, we're being told we need to pass $8 billion in tax increases, supposedly on the 'wealthy', to 'solve' the $16 billion shortfall in this year's budget.  For those in California earning more than $48,000 a year, you are already paying a 9.3% state income tax rate on top of a 7.75% to 9.25% state sales tax rate.  That income tax rate, by the way, is higher than the top tax rate in 47 other states.

This is why businesses and the middle class are starting to flee California for other states like Texas.

Today, President Barack Obama will celebrate his 51st birthday by playing a round of golf.  According to the WH Press pool, this is his 104th round of golf since be became President in January 2009.  He's also attended roughly 195 fundraisers since announcing his reelection campaign kickoff in late 2010.  Both far exceed those of his predecessors.

Imagine what shape the country would be in if he didn't spend so much time at golf or fundraising and devoted more of his time to 'running the country'?

The Weekly Standard highlights a recent Obama campaign advertisement...

In a recent campaign television ad, President Barack Obama states, "I believe the only way to create an economy built to last is to strengthen the middle class. Asking the wealthy to pay a little more so we can pay down our debt in a balanced way." The last part--committing to pay down the national debt--is a promise Obama's reiterated throughout his presidency and campaign.

Yet, new analysis by the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee contradicts the president's claim. According to the chart set to be released by the committee later today, the budget plan submitted to Congress by President Obama "would add $11 trillion" to the national debt:

Remember this promise from Barack Obama?
"If we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road as our interest payments rise, our obligations come due, confidence in our economy erodes and our children and grandchildren are unable to pursue their dreams because they are saddled with our debts. That's why today I am pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office... That means taking responsibility right now in this administration, for getting our spending under control."
Cut the deficit in half?

We've had four consecutive years of annual federal deficits greater than $1.2 trillion dollars.  Federal spending is up over 30% since 2007 - now approaching $3.82 trillion per year.  George W. Bush increased the national debt by nearly $5 trillion in his eight years in office, yet Barack Obama exceeded this in just 39 months in office.  By the end of this year, we're going to have to have another debate on increasing the national debt ceiling because we will exceed the $16.39 trillion level - marking over $6 trillion in new debt since January 2009.

The Hill's Amie Parnes penned a vapid cheerleading commentary masquerading as a news article that takes a very partisan and myopic view towards the July jobs report - promoting the fact that since 163,000 new jobs were created, this will improve the President's reelection chances....
President Obama’s reelection got a boost Friday from the best monthly jobs report on the U.S. economy since February, something that gave his campaign team more fuel in making their argument that the economy is making steady progress.

While the good news was coupled with an uptick in the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent, analysts predicted that if the job numbers—however murky—are maintained over the next several months, Obama is likely to win reelection in November against his opponent Mitt Romney.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday the economy added 163,000 jobs in July, more than expected and more than the economy added in May and June combined.
This seems to be the new standard message from the Obama sycophants within the lamestream media - as the Associated Press is also pushing the same meme.

Yet, what is being ignored is the 'cooking of the books' the Bureau of Labor Statistics is doing to put the best face possible on the dismal economic conditions Barack Obama and his policies have created.  They are also ignoring the 'promises' of the Obama economic team from 2009 that we would have a sub 6% unemployment and a 5% GDP growth level at this point of time.  What we do have is 41 consecutive months of an unemployment level greater than 8%, anemic 1.5% GDP growth, and an unemployment rate that would be 11.1% today if the labor participation levels were at the same levels as they were in January 2009.

The Administration touts 29 months of job growth and claims that they have added over 4 million jobs - yet, we have over 5 million fewer workers in the marketplace today than were working in January 2009.  With more of this 'good news' like the July jobs report, we're on track to restore all of the jobs lost in the 2008-2009 recession (yes, the recession ended in June 2009) by 2025!

The Investors Business Daily looks at where we are, and predicts the defeat of Barack Obama in November's election...from the words of a former Obama voter.
The social experiment that was Barack Obama's election and presidency is over. Way over.

As one who was born in the heart of Boston and worked the political world of Washington for 20 years, I know quite a few Democrats. Some are family, and many are close friends. Most voted for Obama in 2008. None at this point is inclined to vote for him in 2012.

Why? Because they view him as an abject failure across the board and have decided to put the welfare of their families and themselves before the empty rhetoric of the Obama campaign before it's too late.

Because of my time in Washington and past positions there, I also know and am friends with quite a few journalists. I speak with many on a regular basis, and it's safe to say that the majority of them lean left politically.

That said, in off-the-record conversations with my left-leaning journalistic friends, not one believes Obama is going to win re-election. Not one. While most believe Mitt Romney to be a weak candidate, they are still convinced that he will comfortably defeat Obama on Nov. 6.

These liberal and jaded journalists privately admit that Obama has been exposed for what he is: an overhyped, self-invented candidate with no real-world experience who has been frozen into inaction by the enormity of the office he holds.
Well, not all of those 'liberal and jaded journalists'.  We still have the sycophants like Amie Parnes or Michael Tomasky, who writes on 'The Daily Beast' about the 'coming Obama landslide' in November....
There’s a secret lurking behind everything you’re reading about the upcoming election, a secret that all political insiders know—or should—but few are talking about, most likely because it takes the drama out of the whole business. The secret is the electoral college, and the fact is that the more you look at it, the more you come to conclude that Mitt Romney has to draw an inside straight like you’ve never ever seen in a movie to win this thing.
I think he needs to reduce his intake of illegal drugs.

The pro-gay activist 'Chick-fil-A Kiss-in' that was pushed yesterday was about as effective as the OccupyWallStreet movement - which is to say it laid a 'gigantic egg'.  The turnout was far smaller than the grassroot effort on Wednesday to support the values of the company - and defend it from political attack.

Yesterday's QH featured a report on the damning evidence from emails uncovered in the investigation of the bankrupt solar company Solyndra - emails between company stakeholders and administration officials.  The Heritage Foundation has an excellent post in their blog on 10 of the most revealing of these emails - highlighting not only the crony capitalism at work in assisting this private company, but the fact that the company was known to have been in serious fiscal straits.

Bloomberg News provides more information and an interesting analysis on another report from yesterday's QH - the mismanagement of Amtrak and the waste of taxpayer funds which subsidize the operation of the railroad....
But that's not true if you're on Amtrak. At a congressional hearing yesterday, we learned that the agency's on-board, microwave-in-bag hamburgers cost $16 to serve, even though the agency only charges travelers $9.50 to buy one.

The purpose of the hearing was to examine why Amtrak's food service operations have lost $800 million over the last 10 years. The answer is, apparently, that it costs Amtrak a ton of money to serve food that is mostly pretty terrible.

Selling edible food at a profit is not rocket science. Even the airlines have increasingly figured out how to do so. If Amtrak can't do it itself, it could outsource its food service operations to a company like Gate Gourmet that has expertise in travel catering.

Why doesn't Amtrak do this? Nick Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has one answer. He says Amtrak food service jobs are well-paying, and we shouldn't eliminate them, even if the food service is expensive and terrible. “It’s a whopper of an idea, trading good-paying jobs for cheaper hamburgers,” said Rahall.

This is worth remembering. I have often criticized President Barack Obama and other Democrats for failing to make the case that government does valuable things that the public -- including the middle class -- should be willing to pay taxes for. But that argument assumes that the government will focus on actually doing valuable things.

If Democrats in Congress are going to make the case that the government should keep selling $16 hamburgers at a $6.50 loss -- hamburgers that aren't even any good -- because that helps keep workers on the public payroll, then I see why they aren't prepared to make the case that taxes are worth paying.
Wrapping up today, we have this laugher from the left.... promoting the global warming meme claiming that these streetlights in Oklahoma melted from the record setting temperatures the region is experiencing...

What's not mentioned is that those streetlights were melted by a fire in a nearby dumpster.

Today in History

1892 - Andrew and Abby Borden, elderly residents of Fall River, Massachusetts, are found bludgeoned to death in their home.  Their daughter, Lizzie, was charged with the horrific crime - but acquitted in the trial.

1944 - Acting on a tip from an informer, the Nazi Gestapo arrests a 15 year old Jewish diarist, Anne Frank, and her family in a sealed off area of an Amsterdam warehouse.  Ten were captured and only 1, her father Otto, survived the Nazi death camps they were sent to.  The diary that Anne kept while in hiding was published by her father in 1947 becoming an instant best-seller.

1950 - The Battle of Pusan starts in Korea.  140,000 Allied and South Korean troops were trapped with their backs against the sea to make their final stand on the peninsula against the invading North Korean army.  They held a 140 mile long perimeter for the next 45 days - holding back 10 attacking divisions equipped with the latest in Soviet artillery and tanks.

1964 - The remains of three civil rights workers whose disappearance on June 21st garnered national attention are found buried in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

1964 - Two US Navy destroyers, the USS Maddox and the USS C. Turner Joy, intercept radio messages from the North Vietnamese that give the Captain of the USS Maddox the impression that they will be attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats.  No boats are seen, but sonar operators on both destroyers report torpedoes approaching them.  The ships maneuvered to avoid the torpedoes and begin to fire at the North Vietnamese boats.  The incident sparked a drastic increase in US involvement in the war in Vietnam.

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