Friday, June 26, 2015



At least one American Senator is willing to speak truth to power.

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz attacked Chief Justice John Roberts and other members of the Supreme Court in unusually harsh terms Thursday, referring to them as "rogue justices" and "robed Houdinis" after a 6-3 decision to uphold President Barack Obama's health care law.

Cruz, a Texas senator, did not mention any current high court members by name in remarks on the Senate floor. But his speech included a thinly veiled reference to Roberts, part of the court majority that upheld tax credits that defray the cost of coverage for lower-income individuals nationwide.

"These justices are not behaving as umpires calling balls and strikes. They have joined a team," the Texas lawmaker said.

At his Senate confirmation hearing a decade ago, Roberts said, "I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat."

Cruz also said the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist — whom Roberts succeeded — "would be filled with sorrow at what has become of the Supreme Court of the United States."

...He said the decision was "judicial activism, plain and simple," and said the court spoke for "nakedly political reasons ... They are lawless, and they hide their prevarication in legalese."

While Cruz did not explain his reference to "robed Houdinis," Harry Houdini was an early 20th-century magician who specialized in escaping from jails, straitjackets, coffins and other seemingly inescapable surroundings...

During its original framing, the Constitution was intended to represent a straitjacket on the federal government.

The bounds have been slipped. The American Republic is no more.


... read more

Thursday, June 25, 2015

#SCOTUScare is scary -- glad 0bamacare is gone though

A guy walks into the doctor's office, says: Doc, I've got this terrible pain, it's eating away my wallet, the doctor says: yeah, I know, mine too, it's a condition called #SCOTUScare, pretty scary, huh?

The most amusing part of the SCOTUS decision is Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion. Here are some of the highlights:

* * * Worst of all for the repute of today's decision, the Court's reasoning is largely self-defeating. The Court predicts that making tax credits unavailable in States that do not set up their own Exchanges would cause disastrous economic consequences there. If that is so, however, wouldn't one expect States to react by setting up their own Exchanges? And wouldn't that outcome satisfy two of the Act's goals rather than just one: enabling the Act's reforms to work and promoting state involvement in the Act's implementation? The Court protests that the very existence of a federal fallback shows that Congress expected that some States might fail to set up their own Exchanges. So it does. It does not show, however, that Congress expected the number of recalcitrant States to be particularly large.

* * * Faced with overwhelming confirmation that "Exchange established by the State" means what it looks like it means, the Court comes up with argument after feeble argument to support its contrary interpretation. None of its tries comes close to establishing the implausible conclusion that Congress used "by the State" to mean "by the State or not by the State."

* * * Today's opinion changes the usual rules of statutory interpretation for the sake of the Affordable Care Act.That, alas, is not a novelty. In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U. S. ___, this Court revised major components of the statute in order to save them from unconstitutionality. The Act that Congresspassed provides that every individual "shall" maintain insurance or else pay a "penalty." This Court, however, saw that the Commerce Clause does not authorize a federal mandate to buy health insurance. So it rewrote the mandate-cum-penalty as a tax. The Act that Congress passed also requires every State to losing all Medicaid funding. This Court, however, saw that the  Spending Clause does not authorize this coercive condition. So it rewrote the law to withhold only the incremental funds associated with the Medicaid expansion. Having transformed twomajor parts of the law, the Court today has turned its attention to a third. The Act that Congress passed makes tax credits available only on an "Exchange established bythe State." This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.

* * * Perhaps the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will attain the enduring status of the Social Security Act or the Taft-Hartley Act; perhaps not. But this Court's two decisions on the Act will surely be remembered through the years. The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed ("penalty" means tax, "further [Medicaid] payments to the State" means only incremental Medicaid payments to the State, "established by the State"means not established by the State) will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Abbott & Costello Explain The Unemployment Situation

Sometimes you just have to laugh!!

h/t Feral Irishman via Jim Quinn's Burning Platform blog,

COSTELLO:  I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America  .
ABBOTT: Good Subject.  Terrible Times.  It's 5.6%.
COSTELLO:  That many people are out of work?
ABBOTT: No, that's 23%.  
COSTELLO: You just said 5.6%.
ABBOTT:  5.6% Unemployed.
COSTELLO:  Right 5.6% out of work. 
ABBOTT: No, that's 23%.
COSTELLO: Okay, so it's  23% unemployed.
ABBOTT: No, that's 5.6%. 
COSTELLOWAIT A MINUTE. Is it 5.6% or 23%? 
ABBOTT: 5.6% are unemployed.  23% are out of work. 
COSTELLO: If you are out of work you are unemployed. 
ABBOTTNo, Congress said you can't count the "Out of Work" as the unemployed.  You have to look for work to be unemployed.
ABBOTT: No, you miss his point.
COSTELLO:  What point?
ABBOTTSomeone who doesn't look for work can't be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn't be fair. 
COSTELLO: To whom?
ABBOTT: The unemployed.  
COSTELLO: But ALL of them are out of work.  
ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work gave up looking and if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed. 
COSTELLO: So if you're off the unemployment roles that would count as less unemployment?
ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!
COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don't look for work?
ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes  down. That's how it gets to 5.6%. Otherwise it would be 23%.

COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?  
ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.
COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?
ABBOTT: Correct.
COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?
ABBOTT: Bingo.  
COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to have people stop looking for work.
ABBOTT: Now you're thinking like an Economist. 
COSTELLO:  I don't even know what the hell I just said!  
ABBOTT: Now you're thinking like a Politician.

Now it’s serious: No more “Dukes of Hazzard” toys with the Confederate flag on the General Lee [feedly]


"Bo." "Yeah, Luke?" "Y'ever wonder why we don't have any black friends?" This is "progress," I suppose, but not until the Duke boys are finally caught will we truly be able to declare victory over the Confederacy. One of the most iconic pop-cultural images of the Confederate flag — atop the famous "General Lee" car […]

Read this post »

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Corporations Win Again: Senate Passes Obamatrade Fast-Track Bill

Corporations Win Again: Senate Passes Obamatrade Fast-Track Bill

Fast-track authority is being sought in the Senate this week for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), along with the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) and any other such trade agreements coming down the pike in the next six years. The terms of the TPP and the TiSA are so secret that drafts of the negotiations are to remain classified for four years or five years, respectively, after the deals have been passed into law. How can laws be enforced against people and governments who are not allowed to know what was negotiated?

The TPP, TiSA and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (or TTIP, which covers Europe) will collectively encompass three-fourths of the world's GDP; and they ultimately seek to encompass nearly 90 percent of GDP. Despite this enormous global impact, fast-track authority would allow the President to sign the deals before their terms have been made public, and send implementing legislation to Congress that cannot be amended or filibustered and is not subject to the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds treaty vote.

While the deals are being negotiated, lawmakers can see their terms only under the strictest secrecy, and they can be subjected to criminal prosecution for revealing those terms. What we know of them comes only through WikiLeaks. The agreements are being treated as if they were a matter of grave national security, yet they are not about troop movements or military strategy. Something else is obviously going on.

The bizarre, unconstitutional, blatantly illegal nature of this enforced secrecy was highlighted in a May 15th article by Jon Rappoport, titled "What Law Says the Text of the TPP Must Remain Secret?" He wrote:

It seems like a case of mass hypnosis. . . .


Members of Congress are scuttling around like weasels, claiming they can't disclose what's in this far-reaching, 12-nation trade treaty.


They can go into a sealed room and read a draft, but they can't copy pages, and they can't tell the public what they just read.


Why not?


If there is a US law forbidding disclosure, name the law.


Can you recall anything in the Constitution that establishes secret treaties?


Is there a prior treaty that states the text of all treaties can be hidden from the people?

To Congressmen who say they cannot reveal what is in a treaty that will adversely affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, Rappoport says:

Wrong. You're lying. You can reveal secret text. In fact, it's your duty. Otherwise, you're guilty of cooperating in a RICO criminal conspiracy.

A Corporate Coup d'État

What is going on was predicted by David Korten in his 1995 blockbuster, When Corporations Rule The World. Catherine Austin Fitts calls it a "corporate coup d'état."

This corporate coup includes the privatization and offshoring of the judicial function delegated to the US court system in the Constitution, through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that strengthen existing ISDS  procedures.

As explained in The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe. Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases. The secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent give wide scope for creative judgments – the sort of arbitrary edicts satirized by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, although the termination was apparently legal. Under the TPP, however, even larger and more unpredictable judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of "investment" it protects includes not just "the commitment of capital or other resources" but "the expectation of gain or profit." That means the rights of corporations extend not merely to their factories and other "capital" but to the profits they expect to receive. Just the threat of a massive damage award for impairing "expected corporate profits" could be enough to discourage prospective legislation by lawmakers.

The Trade in Services Agreement adds additional barriers to proposed legislation.  TiSA involves 51 countries, including every advanced economy except the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The deal would liberalize global trade in services covering close to 80% of the US economy, including financial services, healthcare, education, engineering, telecommunications, and many more. It would restrict how governments can manage their public laws, and it could dismantle and privatize state-owned enterprises, turning those services over to the private sector. It would also block the emerging trend to return privatized services to the public sector, by limiting or prohibiting governments from creating or reestablishing public utilities and other "uncompetitive" forms of service delivery.

It seems that the TPP, TTIP and TiSA are not about the sort of "free trade" that would free local businesses to sell abroad. They are about freeing international corporations from the government regulation necessary to protect the economy, the people, and the environment. They are about preserving privatized monopolies and preventing competition from the public sector. And they are about moving litigation offshore into private arbitrary tribunals – the sort of tribunal that might have lost Alice her head, if she had not awakened from her bizarre dream.

Monday, June 22, 2015

AP photographer pretending a gun’s pointed at Ted Cruz’s head

What if the AP or Fox News did this kind of positioning with 0bama?
Can you imagine the outrage from the left - cries of RACISM.
This proves the Mainstream Media bias!

"The images were not intended to portray Sen. Cruz in a negative light." - yeah right.

This is bias — a similar shot involving Hillary Clinton or, god forbid, Barack Obama is unthinkable — but I wonder which strain of bias it is. .@AP photo lines pistol up with Senator, 2016 candidate @tedcruz's brain

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Great economics lesson!

 Hurricanomics: Keynesian Stimulus Or Captain Facepalm
by Jared "The 10th Man" Dillian via Mauldin Economics,

An old friend from the Coast Guard visited me over the weekend. He is retired and now works as an emergency planner.

If there's one thing government folks do, it is plan. But many times I've seen plans go out the window when emergency strikes and people start to improvise. Or maybe the planned-for emergency never materializes. Maybe you get a different emergency you didn't plan for. The anarchist in me says that plans are useless. But I agree that it's good to think about these things ahead of time.

So my friend and I got to talking about hurricanes, which is a specialty of his. He told me that no hurricane has ever scored a direct hit on my piece of the South Carolina coast (I live just a few yards away from the beach). Hurricanes have hit north of me and south of me, but in the recorded history of hurricanes, none have ever hit here, at least, not a direct hit by one of the big ones.

I'm not sure if that makes me feel good or not. If my house did sustain a direct hit, smell you later.

But it got me thinking about when I was working at Lehman Brothers in 2004, when Hurricane Katrina hit. Were you active in the markets back then? If so, you probably remember that stocks ripped to the upside, particularly energy and construction companies that would have to repair all the damage. Of course, the insurance stocks got killed.

I was 30 years old back then and not really steeped in economic thought. None of us were. We were traders, not philosophers. But we were all sitting around wondering why the stock market was ripping when the hurricane was clearly going to wipe out a huge city. Made no sense.

My answer was that the winners from Katrina were probably publicly traded, while the losers weren't.

But does anybody win from a hurricane in the first place?

The Parable of the Broken Window

You may have heard of the "Broken Window Fallacy," where a boy throws a rock through a storefront window, breaking it. The shopkeeper must hire the glazier to come fix the window. He pays him 50 bucks, thereby stimulating business in town.

Everyone sees this and says, "Gee whiz, a kid breaks a window and suddenly there's 50 bucks in circulation. Hey kid, why don't you run around town and break the rest of the windows?"

If this sounds familiar, it's because you've heard it before—from an economist named Frédéric Bastiat.

Bastiat basically comes up with the ideas of opportunity cost and unintended consequences simultaneously, when he observes that if the shopkeeper did not spend 50 bucks to fix his window, he might have spent it on something else more productive. What, we don't know. But we can assume that he knows best how to spend the 50 bucks, at least better than the kid who broke his window.

Bastiat is one of the forefathers of libertarian/Austrian economics, and he often talked about the things that are unseen in finance. A good example is the minimum wage debate, which we talked about briefly in last month's issue of Bull's Eye Investor.

The layman thinks if you raise the price of labor to $15/hour by fiat—yay, people are making $15! But generally what happens is that some people will see their wages drop to $0/hour, because the bossman had $150 to spend on labor to begin with, and he can either hire 20 people at $7.50/hour or 10 people at $15/hour.

If you think the bossman should somehow operate at a loss to accommodate everyone at the higher wage, then we can have a nice discussion on the role of profit in society.

Bastiat is the reason I come to work every day, because there are so many people who have believed, and will always believe, that you can fix the price of something at x just because 51% of the voters said so.

Keynesian Stimulus

One of the great tragedies of the financial crisis was the $780 billion we shelled out for the giant stimulus package. Wow, was that bad, for a lot of reasons.

I remember driving around and getting stuck in construction and seeing these stupid signs everywhere:

So back to Bastiat, why was the stimulus bad? We spent $780 billion basically paving the same roads over and over again. It was one step up from digging holes and filling them back in. And just like in the broken window example, sure, some people got rich off it.

But what would the taxpayers have done with $780 billion, aside from paving roads? Probably some pretty interesting stuff. Possibly they could have thought of better things to do with it than paving roads.  Even if they had saved it, that's $780 billion less the government would have had to borrow, which would have lowered interest rates and increased credit availability for private borrowers.

The counterargument is that if you go back to the 1930s when we did all this Keynesian stimulus (the Hoover Dam, etc.), that it worked in getting us out of the Great Depression. Did it? Maybe it made the depression worse. You can't go back in time and not have the Keynesian stimulus and see what happens.

In US history classes over the years, FDR has generally gotten credit for ending the depression, but more and more scholars are beginning to challenge that idea.

Captain Facepalm

I think these things are pretty obvious. I can't figure out why people have such a difficult time seeing them. I can't figure out why Nobel Prize winners can't see them.

Any economic intervention, no matter how slight, causes unintended consequences. There are things that you cannot see, that the planner cannot anticipate. There are also easy ones. If you cap the price of a good, there will be a shortage. If you put a floor on it, there will be a surplus.

If you make it hard for people to trade swaps, you might reduce liquidity and push people into other, potentially more risky products.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Change in US Civilian Employment since Dec 2007

Bureau of Labor Statistics: 3 times more foreign-born workers added since Dec 2007


Rand Joins Tax Debate With Flat-Rate Proposal

Kentucky senator Rand Paul has introduced a tax reform proposal that promises to "blow up the tax code" and replace it with a flat tax on individual and business income. Here's Paul introducing his proposal in the Wall Street Journal:

Some of my fellow Republican candidates for the presidency have proposed plans to fix the tax system. These proposals are a step in the right direction, but the tax code has grown so corrupt, complicated, intrusive and antigrowth that I've concluded the system isn't fixable.

So on Thursday I am announcing an over $2 trillion tax cut that would repeal the entire IRS tax code—more than 70,000 pages—and replace it with a low, broad-based tax of 14.5% on individuals and businesses. I would eliminate nearly every special-interest loophole. The plan also eliminates the payroll tax on workers and several federal taxes outright, including gift and estate taxes, telephone taxes, and all duties and tariffs. I call this "The Fair and Flat Tax."

In addition to the flat rate on all income, Paul's plan would remove all deductions from the code except those for mortgage interest and charitable donations. "The first $50,000 of income for a family of four would not be taxed," he writes. "For low-income working families, the plan would retain the earned-income tax credit."

Paul says he developed the plan with the helps of Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation, flat-tax advocate Steve Forbes, and economist Art Laffer. He also says the Tax Foundation estimated the plan would add 1.4 million jobs and 10 percent to GDP over ten years.

How The GOP Could Win Pennsylvania

How The GOP Could Win Pennsylvania

With nearly a million untapped voters in the redder counties of Pennsylvania, we really don't know what the GOP's ceiling actually looks like.
By Brandon Finnigan

Hello, party leaders, potential candidates, lifelong donors, and long-suffering base voters. It's me, the guy who constantly asks about Pennsylvania. The guy who drives people to muting me on Twitter because I won't stop talking about Pennsylvania. Who is already showing flashcards of Collar Counties to his seven-week-old son.

Recently, I received an email from a follower of the Decision Desk, the gist of which was asking me, yes or no, do I really believe the Keystone State is winnable.

Well, here's my answer: Yes.

Yes, this state, which hasn't gone for a Republican president since H.W. Bush in 1988, is absolutely winnable. But not for the reasons often cited (its eroding partisan voting index, older demographics, etc). In fact, the thing has driven me along in my obsessive quest for the great beast east of Ohio is an article Nate Cohn, now with The New York Times, but then with The New Republic, wrote on the eve of the 2012 election: "Romney has a problem in Pennsylvania: Math." This passage, in particular, has stuck with me for three years:

It's easy to understand why Romney would invest in Pennsylvania. Like Missouri or North Carolina for Democrats, Pennsylvania is what I call a 'spreadsheet state.' When you start plugging in favorable numbers for the traditionally disadvantaged party, it's too easy to get up to 48 percent of the vote, or even more. But those final hundred thousand votes are incredibly difficult and require something extraordinary.
I think I found it. But before we get to that, let's review the problem with Pennsylvania.

Why Republicans Lose Pennsylvania
When the Republican Party last carried the state, it did so on the backs of massive support from suburban Philadelphia. In the City of Brotherly Love, Bush I managed to snag a third of the county vote (219,053 votes, if you are one of those guys who like to quote vote totals to strangers on the street). With 20-plus margins in Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, and Bucks, why in heavens was the state a two-point squeaker?

When the Republican Party last carried the state, it did so on the backs of massive support from suburban Philadelphia.
Because metropolitan Pittsburgh was union blue. Westmoreland County went to Dukakis by 11 points, Washington by almost 25 points, Allegheny by 20, and so on. The margin Dukakis had out of the Western third of the state was greater than the margin he enjoyed in Philly.

It seems almost inconceivable now. President Clinton and candidates Al Gore and John Kerry would go on to secure the western Pennsylvania vote, albeit by smaller margins as the years went on. Even President Obama managed to barely carry the metro area in 2008. He lost it—a first for a Democrat since 1972—to Mitt Romney in 2012. However, he no longer needed it: he had the Collar.

Thanks to a blend of suburban moderate rejection of conservative candidates, wildly successful voter drives by Democrats, and the lack of incentives for county party offices to pump out a presidential-level effort, the four counties mentioned with 20-plus margins in 1988 have trended Democratic for the last 30 years.

Bucks showed some promise in 2012, voting more in Romney's favor than it had for President Bush in 2004, perhaps a reflection of Romney's last-ditch visit there late in the campaign. Chester seemed to be reverting more to its pale-red nature (it went to Romney by around 500 votes) too, but in general, the cerulean hue of southeast Pennsylvania remained in the last election.

Meanwhile, things went from lopsided to laughable in the city of Philadelphia. Remember that vote total of H.W.'s in 1988? Now, cut that in half. The number you are left with is still larger than what Romney managed to eke out of it. President Obama enjoyed a monstrous 492,000-vote edge there. With the terrible trends in the eastern third, surely, it makes sense for Republicans to just throw in the towel here. Put down the harpoon. Go home. Forget about the great white whale.


Things Are Looking Up for the GOP
Republican fortunes brightened notably in the western third of the state, and this has been happening for far longer than President Obama has been on the scene. One of the frequent assumptions I encounter is that the white, blue-collar Democrats that still dominate the region are voting on race now but will pounce on a Clinton. Yet Republicans have made incredible gains, and enjoyed a nice swing in voter registration out there beyond just these last six years.

Local Republican efforts and the presence of third-party groups like Americans for Prosperity has paid off quite well in the west.
This was happening from 1988 through 2004, with Bush improving in 2004 on his 2000 numbers, and his 2000 numbers improving on his father's numbers in 1992. It may have accelerated under the current president, but the trend has been there for some time. As mentioned earlier, President Obama became the first Democrat in decades to lose the Pittsburgh media market outright. The state is no longer "Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Kentucky in-between," as James Carville once summed it.

Local Republican efforts and the presence of third-party groups like Americans for Prosperity has paid off quite well in the west, and with similar demographics in northeastern Pennsylvania (albeit poorer), there is still room to grow with this particular group. This is hardly enough to carry the state, of course: Pittsburgh is slowly aging, its population declining compared to the sustained growth in the state's eastern third. More would be needed to offset the gamma-ray burst of Democratic votes emanating from Philadelphia.

So, what about independent voters? Well, that's a problem, because Pennsylvania has very few of them. While still writing for The New York Times, Nate Silver showed how a greater preponderance of nonpartisans in a state would make it more likely to swing. It is why Romney, McCain, Bush, and every other presidential contender spends so much focus on places like Iowa and New Hampshire: if they can convince the mushy middle, conventional wisdom says they're halfway home. But I have a counter-argument.

Democrats Have Been Getting Out There
Committed partisans are the most reliable participants in elections, and often vote more than 90 percent of the time with their stated party. Independents, on the other hand, are mostly lying (a huge portion of them are simply disaffected Democrats or Republicans who, when pressed, would likely vote for the party they "left"), and when truly independent, are incredibly unreliable as a bloc from cycle to cycle. If they are the true "pox on both houses" types, and that terribly undecided, they may not even bother to vote. To win a major election, greater emphasis must be placed on finding, registering, contacting, and turning out new voters.

To win a major election, greater emphasis must be placed on finding, registering, contacting, and turning out new voters.
This is exactly what Democrats did throughout the country after 2004, and they certainly gave Pennsylvania a good one-over. From 2000 to 2014, Democratic and third-party efforts tipped the scales of registration even further to the Left, expanding the blue team's edge over Republicans by almost 650,000 voters. President Obama received more votes in 2012 than Sen. John Kerry did eight years prior, even with a drop-off from his 2008 high, a testament to his team's incredible turnout operation.

Despite that sizable shift, the actual impact on elections from 2000 to 2012 was miniscule: the president's margin in the Keystone in 2012 was only about 105,000 votes wider than Gore's had been. How does his performance over Gore's stack up with other states he carried?

In Virginia, the margin swung by over 379,000 from 2000. In Colorado, 283,000. Wisconsin, 218,000. Iowa, 88,000. Nevada, 89,000.

Let's not forget that Romney spent a fraction in Pennsylvania of what he had spent in all of these states. Only Colorado and Virginia would wind up closer for him, by fractions of a point in the former and a point-and-a-half in the latter. The state has been just sitting there, despite its bluing Philly 'burbs, with very little focus by the national party on registering voters and developing an effective GOTV. It is infuriating.

The Secret Is Unregistered Voters
So is there a path to winning the Keystone? As I said before, yes. The secret lies not with the current number of registered voters, where Democrats dwarf Republicans by a cool million, but in the number of citizens of voting age not registered. Finding them and goading them into registering won't be easy, but they aren't a rare breed: per current registration figures provided by the Department of State, and the Census estimate of current voting-age population, there are more than 1.6 million such untapped voters residing here. Heck, some of them may have already registered once before, but it lapsed.

Attesting to the sheer power of that Democratic voter drive that started a decade ago, only 14 percent of them reside in Philadelphia or Allegheny County. A clear majority, 62 percent to 38 percent, of this untapped mass resides in counties that went to Romney. I broke down the numbers and converted it into a simple diagram, where the counties have been re-sized (or outright eliminated if they failed to clear even half a percentage point) according to how big a share of the untapped vote they account for:

We cannot assume these voters are natural Republicans just because they reside in friendlier counties (ex: back to Cohn's 2012 article, Berks County has a sizable Hispanic population now). It als

How The GOP Could Win Pennsylvania

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What's The Real Unemployment Rate In The US? 25% to 40%

Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

By my reckoning, roughly 60% of the civilian work force is fully employed and 40% are marginally employed or unemployed.

Officially, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is 5.6%, meaning 5.6% of the work force is temporarily out of a job and actively seeking another one. This low number reflects nearly full employment, as 3% to 4% of the work force is typically in the process of quitting/being laid off and finding another job.

Typically, periods of nearly full employment are economically good times, as household income is bolstered and employers have to pay a bit more to hire workers when the labor market is tight.

But these do not feel like good times for most households, despite the low unemployment rate. Earnings are stagnant for 90% of the work force, and employers are only paying a competitive premium for workers in very select fields (programmers adept at Python and mobile user interfaces, etc.)

This creates a cognitive dissonance between the low official unemployment rate and the real economy, which is behaving like an economy with much higher rates of unemployment, i.e. sluggish hiring, stagnant wages, difficulty in finding jobs, and very little pressure on employers to pay more for typical jobs.

Let's start by trying to calculate the work force--the number of people who could get a job if they wanted to. This isn't quite as straightforward as we might imagine, because the two primary agencies that compile these statistics use slightly different categories.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates the civilian noninstitutional population as everyone 16 and older who is not in active-duty military service or in prison. The BLS reckons this to be about 250 million people, out of a total population of about 317 million residents: Household Data (BLS)

The BLS subtracts 93 million people who are not in the labor force, leaving about 157 million people in the civilian work force--roughly half the nation's population.

Of these, 148.8 million have a job of some sort and 8.6 million are unemployed.

The Census Bureau calculates the civilian noninstitutional population as everyone who is not in active-duty military service or in prison. (You can download various data on the U.S. population on this Census Bureau website: Age and Sex Composition in the United States: 2012. I am using Table 1 data.)

The Census Bureau places the civilian noninstitutional population at 308.8 million in 2012. Since roughly 4 million people are born and 2.6 million die in the U.S. each year, we can adjust this upward by roughly 3.5 million to bring it up to date (mid-2015) to 312 million.

About 74 million people are 17 and younger, and 36 million are 68 and older. Given that the full-benefit retirement age for Social Security is pushing 67, I am using 67 as the cut-off for the work force rather than the traditional 65.

This is of course a squishy calculation, as many people retire at 62 and others work beyond the age of 70. But given the strong employment trends of the over-65 cohort, I think it fair and reasonable to include everyone between 18 and 67 in the work force.

Subtracting 110 young people and retirees leaves a civilian work force of around 200 million people. Let's then subtract those who can't work or choose not to work for conventional reasons. There are roughly 8 million people on permanent disability and several million more at any one time on temporary disability, so let's subtract 10 million disabled.

Next, let's subtract stay-at-home parents. Since there are 20 million children under the age of 5, let's reckon 20 million adults will on average choose to leave the work force to care for their children full-time.

Should this number be 40 million? What about home-schooling? Given the possibilities for part-time, home-based and free-lance work, I am reluctant to conclude everyone caring for or schooling their children cannot possibly earn some income. But let's consider adding another 10 million adults who may be caring for their families (seniors as well as children) at home full-time.

While it may seem as if every other hipster in town is a trust funder, i.e. a person who draws upon inherited wealth and doesn't need to work, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data reports less than 2 million people draw substantial incomes from trusts. Since even those with unearned income can still perform work, I include trust funders in the work force.

If we subtract 10 million disabled and 30 million stay-at-home parents, we have a work force of around 160 million--not far from the BLS number of 157 million. If we use a smaller number of full-time stay-at-home parents, then perhaps the work force is closer to 170 million.

The BLS calculates what it calls labor force participation rate--63% of the total civilian noninstitutional population is in the labor force.

The next issue is what we reckon qualifies as a job. In general, the BLS and the Census Bureau count anyone with earned income as employed. The BLS reckons 148.8 million people have jobs, but this includes 23 million people who earn less than $5,000 annually. The Social Security Administration (SSA) states that 155 million people reported taxable income, which includes not just earnings (wages and salaries) but distributions from retirement funds, IRAs, etc. that are taxable. Wage Statistics for 2013.

The question boils down to this: should we count someone who earns $1,000 a year as employed? How about someone who earns $5,000? At what point does an income enable a person to support himself/herself? Should we place those earning incomes far below a living income in the same category as those with full-time jobs/incomes?

This is where I part company from the government agencies' classification of any earned income in any amount as qualifying as a job. If I am a consultant earning less than $5,000 annually, clearly I cannot support myself on this income. If I earn $2,500 annually in part-time free-lancing, this is at best 10% of poverty-level income for a household in a low-cost region; in a high-cost region, it is perhaps 5% of poverty-level income.

The BLS attempts to define a broader definition of under-employment and unemployment in its categoryU-6 Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force: this is 10.8% of the work force.

Depending on how we calculate the work force, and if we count everyone with any earnings as employed, we get an unemployment rate of somewhere between 5.6% and 12.5%. If we use the BLS's metric for including under-employment, this is in the range of 10% to 15%.

Common sense suggests that we calculate employment/unemployment based on earnings, not just any income in any amount. If we reckon that only those with earnings of $15,000 or more annually (roughly speaking, full-time work at minimum wage) are fully employed, then the numbers change dramatically.

The $15,000 annual earnings are also a rough benchmark of self-supporting households: two wage-earners making $15,000 each would have a household income of $30,000--enough to get by in much of the country.

About 50 million people earn less than $15,000 annually. This includes roughly 10 million self-employed and 40 million with part-time jobs or other sources of earned income. This suggests that only 100 million of the 160 million work force are fully employed in the sense of not just having a job but making enough to be self-supporting.

There are many caveats resulting from the way that government social welfare is not included in earnings: thus a household might have two part-time wage-earners making very modest sums monthly who are getting by because they qualify for Section 8 housing, SNAP food stamps, Medicaid healthcare, school lunch programs, and so on. These programs enable the working poor to support a household despite low earnings.

Should we include those depending on social welfare programs as fully employed?

By my reckoning, roughly 60% of the civilian work force is fully employed and 40% are marginally employed (i.e. earning less than $15,000 annually) or unemployed. Since full-time workers even at minimum wage earn close to $15,000 annually, I think it is fair to use that as the cut-off for fully employed. The BLS counts 121 million people asusually work full-time, but given only 100 million workers earn $15,000 or more, this doesn't add up unless we include self-employed people earning very little who are counted as full-time workers.

Based on income, I set the fully employed rate at 60%, and the marginally employed/unemployed rate at 40%. If we accept the BLS's 121 million full-time jobs (which once again, this doesn't make sense given even minimum wage full-time jobs earn $14,500, and 50 million people report earnings of less than $15,000), we still get a marginally employed/unemployed rate of 25%: work force of 160 million, 121 million fully employed.

These numbers align much better with the real economy than the official unemployment rate of 5.6%. It's nonsense to count everyone earning a few hundred or few thousand dollars annually as being employed in the same category as full-time workers or those earning $15,000 or more annually.

What's The Real Unemployment Rate In The US?

Friday, June 12, 2015

House Defeats Trade Bill...

For once I agree with Democrats, but for a different reason.
This bill is completely hidden from the American People.
Only congressmen and the president can read the bill.
Whatever happened to transparency?

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Settled Science

Settled Science

Good medical news:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., June 1, 2015 - In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer's disease to multiple sclerosis....

So, great news, and it also teaches a valuable lesson: There is no such thing as settled science except when it comes to global warming. The only question about global warming concerns the way in which it will lead to our painful and certain extinction.

The science though? That's settled. Never mind the fact that real world, well measured, temperatures aren't following the computer models. Never mind that climate-gate revealed a cabal of zealots who were willing to bend the rules in order to further their cause. The science is settled.

arewelumberjacks - Blogger
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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Think Piece: Tax Sin

This is a great idea! Kill two birds with one stone, create a win-win situation for everyone!

Think Piece: Tax Democrats
June 05, 2015

What is more dangerous, smoking or living in Baltimore?  No, no, no.  It's a serious question.  Tobacco is taxed.  Why is it taxed?  Tobacco is taxed for a plethora of reasons.  It's taxed to discourage people from using it, because it is said it can lead to an early death.  It can lead to other problems.  It kills.  We also tax tobacco in order to pay for (and in a couple of cases entirely fund) children's health care programs. 

You're aware of that?  The taxes derived from the sale of tobacco, that revenue is used to pay for children's health care programs.  I've always said that smokers deserve a special thanks, despite all the obstacles they face.  I mean, we don't ban the product. We make it available. You can sell it, you can buy it, but you can't use it very many places in America anymore without running the gauntlet. Yet these people continue to buy the product, they continue to use it, and they pay higher and higher prices, just astronomically high prices.

They continue to buy the product, they pay the price, and the taxes go to children's health care programs.  So if tobacco is taxed to discourage from using it because it can lead to an early death and other problems -- and that's the primary reason it's taxed -- let's face it, the prices are designed to dissuade people from using the product.  That would be the primary purpose that nannies in life and the social do-gooders would give you. 

Using that logic, should we not be taxing Democrats?  Their policies, look at Democrat policies.  They ruin families.  Democrat policies spread ignorance in the schools.  Democrat policies make health care unaffordable.  This results in great stress from unemployment and underemployment, and Democrats have created and maintained dangerous cities with horrible crime and death rates. 

It's arguably more dangerous living in Baltimore than it is to smoke cigarettes.  Look at the death rate.  I'm not joking.  It's a way to make a point, and I think it would be a perfect opportunity to say we need to tax registered Democrats the way we tax tobacco, because Democrats are causing illness. Democrats cause strife. Democrat policies are ruining cities. Democrat policies have ruined families.  Just a little think piece.  

Related Links

UKDM: Baltimore Cops Ask for More Federal Aid Amid Alarming Surge in Murders in Wake of Freddie Gray's Death in Police Custody
Daily Caller: Baltimore's Top Cop Says Drugs Stolen During Riots To Blame For Skyrocketing Murder Rate

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Sen. Rand Paul: Don’t Trust a Lying Government


Sen. Rand Paul: Don't Trust a Lying Government
Sen. Rand Paul

The USA Freedom Act, which the Senate approved Tuesday, still threatens the constitutional rights of Americans

This week President Barack Obama suffered a serious rebuke. Congress sent the president a bill that he signed that tells him his illegal bulk collection of phone records must end.

Apologists for collecting all the phone records of all Americans all of the time now belatedly say they are OK with ending the bulk collection program. They want you to know that your records are not really protected by the Fourth Amendment. They are only doing you a favor by granting you this reform.

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Former Director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency Michael Hayden writes in TIME that the law is clear. According to Hayden, your records—once held by the phone company—have no Fourth Amendment protection. Hayden writes: "The controlling legal authority here is a Supreme Court case decided in 1979, Smith v. Maryland, where the court held that metadata is not, repeat not, constitutionally protected."

I think the Supreme Court has not yet caught up to an era in which one keeps one's papers in a cloud, not a castle.

In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Smith v. Maryland that a few days worth of phone records for a single individual were not protected by the Fourth Amendment. The NSA today, though, collects hundreds of millions of phone records from hundreds of millions of Americans without an individualized warrant. I hardly think Smith v. Maryland contemplated this vast dragnet.

The justices who dissented in Smith v. Maryland, though, were amazingly prescient and on target. Justice Thurgood Marshall—who disagreed with the opinion of the court—wrote that he didn't share the assumption that customers would "typically know" that a phone company tracked calls internally—and that even if they did, there's no way individuals would expect the general public or government to be privy to such records.

Privacy, Justice Marshall argued, is not a "discrete commodity, possessed absolutely or not at all." Citizens who disclose information to a bank or a phone company with a specific intention for business, Marshall maintained, have a reasonable expectation that this information will not be released to outside entities.

Justices Potter Stewart and William J. Brennan also expressed their belief that phone records deserved protection, writing in their dissent that they were "not persuaded that the numbers dialed from a private telephone fall outside the constitutional protection of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments."

Stewart and Brennan maintained that a private citizen at home has an assumption of privacy regarding whom he or she contacts, and a constitutional right to privacy. "The numbers dialed from a private telephone—like the conversations that occur during a call—are within the constitutional protection," Stewart and Brennan wrote. "The information captured by such surveillance emanates from private conduct within a person's home or office—locations that without question are entitled to Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment protection."

The numbers dialed are "not without 'content,'" they argued—and despite that phone books are in the public domaine, most customers would not want their call log revealed to the world. "This is not because such a list might in some sense be incriminating, but because it easily could reveal the identities of the persons and the places called, and thus reveal the most intimate details of a person's life," they argued.

If the government has unrestricted access to the call logs of individuals without probable cause, Justice Marshall feared the suppression of speech would "impede certain forms of political affiliation and journalistic endeavor that are the hallmark of a truly free society." Here Marshall was incredibly prescient to be suspicious of government efforts to track anonymous sources. Records of outgoing phone calls and phone numbers, Marshall concluded, deserve protection equal to speech.

Just as one who enters a public telephone booth is "entitled to assume that the words he utters into the mouthpiece will not be broadcast to the world," Marshall maintained that "he should be entitled to assume that the numbers he dials in the privacy of his home will be recorded, if at all, solely for the phone company's business purposes."

And if law enforcement officials deemed privacy speech necessary because of reasonable suspicion, Marshall insisted that telephone companies disclosed any secure information otherwise inaccessible to government only when presented with a warrant.

General Hayden knows full well the powerful and invasive nature of metadata. Hayden is so confident of the "truth" discerned from metadata that he once remarked that "we kill people based on metadata."

If so, we should be duly alarmed that metadata is collected in bulk and nothing in the Patriot Act prevents the government from using data collected in this less than constitutional way from being used in prosecuting domestic crime.

In fact, the section of the Patriot Act that authorizes the government to legally search and seize properly without telling the owner right away, is used 99.5% of the time not to prosecute terrorists, but to prosecute Americans for domestic crimes.

General Hayden tells us he is "willing to give the USA Freedom Act a try." But that is only after the intelligence community is forced to admit that they lied about the very existence of bulk collection. My guess is that their easy acquiescence to transferring the bulk collection from the government to the phone companies is somewhat disingenuous since no reform would have ever been possible but for Edward Snowden revealing that the intelligence community was lying to Congress.

I, for one, will remain constantly vigilant of a government that admits its transgressions of liberty only when they are caught lying.

Sen. Rand Paul: Don't Trust a Lying Government | TIME


Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Weekend at Bernies 4 President

That awkward moment when...

Monday, June 01, 2015

Rand Paul Declares Victory Over NSA As Bulk Collection Shuts Down


Exclusive — Rand Paul Slams Establishment Republicans, Declares Victory Over NSA, Thanks Matt Drudge As Bulk Collection Shuts Down - Breitbart

Late Sunday the National Security Agency (NSA) shut down its bulk data collection program as the PATRIOT Act expired thanks to Paul's efforts. He tells Breitbart News exclusively that "we're excited by the fact that the battle has been won."

"The president has been told in no uncertain terms—and by the end of the week this will be in writing—that he can no longer illegally collect all of Americans' phone records and keep them in Utah," Paul said.

I think this is a big rebuke for the president. The courts told him it was illegal and he just kept doing it anyway. I think most Americans, particularly Republicans, don't trust this president. This is the same president who went after Tea Party groups and went after religious liberty and religious groups. I don't understand why some of the big government Republicans up here don't get it because most Republicans I meet across the country don't want this president to have access to all their phone records.

Paul criticized—without naming names—GOP senators including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)81% of Florida, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)45% of Arizona and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)49% of South Carolina and other Republicans like Jeb Bush for failing to listen to voters about their concerns with the NSA program.

"I think they get in a Washington echo chamber for so long and don't get outside the beltway enough to listen to people in America," Paul said of the Republicans who blindly support the program.

I've been all over the United States in the last year, particularly in the last week or so when we've been talking just about the PATRIOT Act, and we get hundreds of people showing up at every stop who are all saying you know what, they don't want President Obama to be collecting their phone records. So I find that not only is it the right position, it's also a very popular position among Republicans—just not in the Washington establishment Republicans. But when you're out there meeting with grassroots Republicans, the grassroots by and large think that President Obama went way too far with this illegal collection of our phone records.

Despite a Washington Post article that suggested he's slipping in Iowa because of this stance against the NSA's program, Paul points to several recent polls that show he's in the top tier of GOP candidates—and one of the best Republicans when it comes to facing off directly with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, polls from battleground states ranging from Iowa to Colorado to Pennsylvania to New Hampshire have Paul beating Clinton if the election were held right now.

What's more, several GOP primary polls put Paul in the top tier of GOP candidates. In fact, the newest Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics poll puts Paul tied with Dr. Ben Carson for second place in Iowa at 10 percent apiece. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the far-and-away frontrunner, however, reaching 17 percent.

"I think even more importantly is when you poll me against Hillary Clinton, I'm one of the few Republicans who beats her in purple states," Paul said.

We've had statewide polls showing me beating her in Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire. Really, elections are about winning the purple states—the battleground states—so the polls show I'm consistently in the top tier in the Republican primary but even more importantly they show us having the ability to beat Hillary Clinton in the battleground states. I think that's precisely because of my defense of the right to privacy and to be left alone. So I will continue that—I think this is something that's an important battle, so we're going to continue the fight.

In Paul's interview with Breitbart News on Monday, he largely credited Matt Drudge—the proprietor of the wildly successful Drudge Report—for helping lead the fight to stop the NSA.

"I think one of the things about Matt Drudge that's probably made him so successful is that he doesn't live in Washington and he's not part of the Washington establishment," Paul said of Drudge. "I think that if anybody is tapped into the grassroots of people who believe in limited government, it's Matt Drudge. We're excited that he Tweets out and is supportive of our fight to keep the government from collecting all of our phone records."

Drudge himself has been very vocal on the matter, Tweeting out his disdain for the NSA's data collection program many times and also highlighting stories and efforts critical of the program on his website.

Paul added he thinks that his effort to take down the NSA's data collection program is proof positive that one person can make a difference in this world—even when they're going up against the entire federal government.

"The thing is is that as we discuss this program, one of the important things for people to know is I want to collect more records—from terrorists—I just want to collect less records from innocent Americans," Paul said.

The Constitution doesn't prevent us from getting the records of terrorists. In fact, a judicial warrant with an individual's name on it allows them to collect an enormous amount of information. The FBI said last week they don't have enough FBI agents. I'd like to hire a thousand new FBI agents with the money we'd save from ending the collection of Americans' records.

Let's spend that time actually collecting records and investigating people who are here and are inclined to attack us. The main objective I have is to the generalized collection—the collection of records when you don't put someone's name on the list. If you put the name of a suspect—and it doesn't even have to be enough to convict, you just have to have  enough information to make a judge believe there's probable cause that a crime may have been committed—it's really not that high of a standard.

It's a standard that is almost always affirmed by the judges. I would like people to know that I'm not just defending privacy, but I'm also a believer that the Constitutional warrant can get more information than the bulk collection system can.