Saturday, October 31, 2009
Apparently, we're supposed to pop the champagne corks and celebrate: GDP is up 3.5%, the recession is over, and the Recovery has begun. At least that's what the prObama Media outlets and White House are telling us.
My ECO 101 students could do a better job analyzing that statistic than most of the talking heads currently reporting it.
GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is a measure of all the goods and services created within a society's economy. Due to the work of noted Economist Arthur Okun, we know that GDP and Employment move in the same direction: when Employment increases, GDP increases, and vice versa. After four or five quarters of negative GDP, an increase of 3.5% would normally be a welcome sign. Except in this case, the figure is highly deceptive and manipulated, for the following reasons:
1) While GDP increased 3.5%, Consumer Spending - purchases by you and me - decreased by .5% AGAIN. In other words, the increase in purchases of goods and services did NOT come from "the people." Our spending fell. Rather, this spending came from the Federal Government as it purchased flashy orange signs to erect around the country proclaiming that our tax dollars were at work.
2) This additional spending was a one-time shot in the arm by the government. Does the White House and Congress expect to authorize 787 Billion every quarter to keep that up? Much of the increase in spending was in the "Cash for Clunkers" Program....which is now over, and which did not create a single job anywhere.
3) The White House claims that One Million jobs were saved or created through the stimulus. Since the stimulus was 787 Billion, that amounts to $787,000 tax dollars (not including future interest) spent per job. I would rate that as a FAILED effort.
4) The White House also claims that most of these jobs were in Construction and Education. How Convenient...construction jobs are considered highly seasonal, and when these workers lose their jobs in the winter, they are often excluded from the unemployment figures, which are usually presented as "seasonally adjusted unemployment" figures. The White House is now *counting* these jobs when they are created to credit the Stimulus Package, but you can bet these job losses will be *excluded* when the winter unemployment figures are released because they will be 'seasonally adjusted.'
5) Education, while important, doesn't create products or jobs. Saving jobs in education may ingratiate Obama to teacher's unions, but this sector does not create products or create wealth in the economy as other sectors do. It is no surprise that while GDP increased, Unemployment increased to 9.8%, and most economists expect it to hit double-digits this month - a month when pre-Christmas hiring would normally reduce this figure.
With unemployment increasing and consumer confidence and purchases falling, the 3.5% GDP increase is a make-believe number based on the Federal Government maxing out it's credit cards with few places left to turn when they come due.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
(a guest post from Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a valiant liberty-minded Representative from Manchester, as posted on http://www.redhampshire.com)
Despite all the words being uttered to change the minds of two senators, it just didn’t happen. After the House voted 240-115 to override John Lynch’s veto of medical marijuana today, two senators need to change their positions to go from 14-10 to the 16-8 necessary for two thirds.
Not a single vote changed.
Republican Bob O’Dell said no (not to pass the bill) early in the roll call and things went as expected until it came to Ted Gatsas, the Republican who is running for Mayor of Manchester. Pro medical marijuana forces knew they needed Gatsas to switch. He said no and it was all over. Then Senator Betsi DeVries, the only Democrat to vote against the bill and very much beholden to firefighters who fought the bill, also said no.
Thus, no change. 14-10.
The House vote was closer than expected even though seven more Republicans voted for the bill this time than last time, from 50 up to 57. Had four yes votes gone no, it would not have made it in the House. Why so close? Because of absenses. More than twice as many Democrats (the yeses ) than Republicans were absent, 29-13.
Final party vote in the House was Democrats 183 yes and only 11 nos. Republicans 57 yes and 104 no including Deputy Republican leader David Hess who, stressing that he was speaking for himself and not the party, lied about the bill during his final speech. Some people don’t think I should use the word lie, but he said the bill allowed for someone to raise six plants with this bill, totally untrue. To me, that’s deliberate misrepresentation which kis tantamount to “lie”. That six plant section was removed from the bill prior to going to the Governor’s desk. If it wasn’t a lie, it was certainly the type iof blatant misstatement that no responsible long term rep like Hess should ever make.
Yes, I’m not happy. It was a sad day for the people of New Hampshire and for the Republican Party.
The two Republican candidates most likely to challenge Betsi Devries for Senate next year should both get tons of Democratic support based on this issue. They both voted for the bill. That would be Will Infantine of Ward 6 ,and oh yes, I would be the other one. Think Libertarians can raise $100,000 to beat Betsi? They did it for Ron Paul, maybe someone else.
Monday, October 26, 2009
It's true: Dede Scozzafava, the Republican candidate in northern NY's special Congressional election, doesn't toe the Right-Wing line on a number of issues. Staunchly pro-2nd amendment, she is also pro-abortion rights (consistent with the Supreme Court) and pro-Marriage Equality. My God, she almost sounds Golderwateresque!
But wait, there's more: her husband is a union organizer, and she has very tight ties with union leaders. Her district, along the Canadian border, contains a significantly higher proportion of union workers (and trade concerns) than most districts in the US, and so yes, she tends to side with labor on a number of issues. Hmmm...sounds rather Jack Kempesque, too....which isn't surprising, considering that her district is the remotest, most economically hardest-hit district in New York.
Sarah Palin has opened her mouth in endorsing rival Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, and Minnesota's Gov. Pawlenty is leaning in that direction. One has to wonder what these two know, if anything, about the 23rd District, and why they are sticking their noses into a New York race.
Even Newt Ginrich has weighed in for Scozzafava, saying
"I just think it is a mistake for the conservative movement to think splitting in the special election is a smart idea. If we give that seat to the Democrats, shame on us.”
He continued: “She has signed a no tax increase pledge. She is endorsed by the National Rifle Association. She has come out against cap and trade… She is opposed to the Obama health care plan. She will vote for John Boehner instead of Nancy Pelosi. All of those things together make her – it seems to me – a legitimate, authentic, Republican nominee.”
Republicans who do not support her are sending a clear message about their onw Rule-or-Ruin attitude: they would rather support the Conservative Party candidate who will lose, but enable unyielding ideologues feel warm and fuzzy at the purity of their vote.
When, oh when will the Republican Party cut off the Right-Wing tail that keeps wagging its dog?
[Disclaimer: I was a Conservative Party State Committeeman from the 5th CD of NY 1986-1988]
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
For as long as there has been a federal income tax (only since 1917), the federal government has asked taxpayers to indicate their marital status. Taxpayers need not prove their status, they need only swear that all the information contained on the form is true.
And so, come April 15, I, along with other gay and lesbian couples in New Hampshire and other states permitting same-sex marriage, will have a choice: we can check off "married" on page 1 of our 1040, and sign the bottom of page 2 in good conscience that our return is truthful, or we can call ourselves 'single,' and sign that statement, knowing that calling ourselves 'single' would be a patent lie under state law.
The choice, of course, has both legal and financial consequences: two people filing as married pay far less in federal income tax than those same two people filing as single, especially if there is a large income disparity between them.
And so, for the first time in decades, I will actually engage in an act of civil disobedience under federal law, because I am choosing to answer honestly under state law. (One has to wonder, of course, just how the Feds will choose to pursue this: nowhere on the federal income tax form do they request 'gender'.) And if and when they do uncover it, and charge me with increased taxes and penalties and late fees, I will challenge it in federal court as long and as far as I am able.
And if even a small part of the 600,000+ gay couples in this country do the same, it will be a federal court logjam the likes of which we have never seen.
The problem, of course, stems from "DOMA," the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," a 1996 law that contains two provisions. The first guarantees each state the right not to recognize a same-gender union performed in another state (mere political pandering, as the courts had already long-ruled that states had that right.) The second provision states that the federal government would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
The problem with that approach, of course, is that it is not the federal government's jurisdiction to define marriage. There is no federal Constitutional provision permitting a federal law in this arena.
In fact, marriage laws are very specifically creatures of state jurisdiction. Nebraska law requires that couples be 19 if they don't have parental consent, while 17 year olds can marry with parental consent; in Hawaii those as young as 15 can marry with parental consent. Alabama and Kansas permit common-law marriage; most states no longer do. In Idaho, females must be tested for Rubella, and In New York, tests for sickle cell anemia may be required before marriage. In Rhode Island, first cousins can marry; In Illinois they can as long as they can not bear children; in Oregon they can if one was adopted; while in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania there is no first-cousin marriage permitted at all.
The rules for who can and who can not get married are state-specific, and the federal government has always accepted the definitions of the states, even though they differed from state to state. By imposing DOMA, the federal government has involved itself in a sphere that is clearly not within it's own jurisdiction, but, under the 10th Amendment, "reserved to the states or to the people."
So, on April 15, I will be checking "married," and I will be signing a sworn oath that I have told the truth.
Let the feds argue in court that I was wrong for so doing. And while I will do it alone if necessary, I invite other couples in our situation to join us.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I have to say I was as shocked as anyone to hear the President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize, a mere nine months after taking office.
In the past, this award has gone to people such as Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. Jimmy Carter (A well-intentioned but gerenally inept President) was certainly deserving, as he brought together Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel for the very first Arab-Israeli Peace Agreements. And this year, doctors and volunteers working with rape victims in the Congo (where rape as a weapon of war is standard) had been nominated. But Obama won.
This is curious. War continues in Afghanistan (in fact, casualties have worsened). Iraq is unchanged. Tamil Tigers continue their guerilla war in Sri Lanka. Iran denies the holocaust and builds nuclear weapons capable of reaching Israel and beyond. The Guantanamo Bay Detention Center remains open. Just what has Obama accomplished?
Not that anyone should have expected him to. I don't fault him for not solving these problems, and this award is not his 'fault.' However, he really doesn't deserve it. This is more of the Nobel Prize honchos making the political statement "We didn't like Bush, and we're glad Obama won" than anything else, and it has completely cheapened the value of the Nobel Prize.
Obama scores no points with me for winning this. But there's one thing he can do that actually would impress me:
He can refuse it.
By refusing it, and acknowledging the great accomplishments of those who have won it before, he can blunt some of the criticism he receives for his youthful hubris.
But somehow, I doubt that His-Messiah-Ship will have the courage to do that.