No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

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Archive for July, 2011

July 31, 2011

Why tax hikes need to be way off the table

by @ 16:23. Filed under Budget Chop, Politics - National, Taxes.

Presented from the Congressional Budget Office June 2011 Long-Term Outlook, the anticipated federal tax burden in terms of GDP between 2013 (the first year the “SuperCommission”‘s $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction will likely affect) and 2021:

Extended-baseline (Bush tax rates expire at the end of 2012, alternate minimum tax not “patched” to protect middle- and lower-income taxpayers, and also the base from which that $1.5 trillion will be scored):
2013 – 18.8% (already well above the 1951-2000 18.06% average)
2014 – 19.9%
2015 – 20.0%
2016 – 20.0%
2017 – 20.3%
2018 – 20.4%
2019 – 20.5%
2020 – 20.6%
2021 – 20.8% (a new non-WWII record, breaking the 20.6% GDP set in 2000)

Alternate Fiscal Scenario (assumes Bush tax rates continue, AMT “patched” annually):
2013 – 17.0%
2014 – 17.5%
2015 – 17.6%
2016 – 17.6%
2017 – 18.0%
2018 – 18.1% (again, above the 18.06% 50-year average)
2019 – 18.2%
2020 – 18.3%
2021 – 18.4%

Moreover, while the CBO assumes in the Alternate Fiscal Scenario further tax-rate cuts are made to keep revenues at 18.4% GDP, The Heritage Foundation does not. They estimate that keeping the Bush tax rates and implementing an AMT fix would put the tax burden above 18% GDP by 2013, and above 20.6% GDP between 2030 and 2035.

To paraphrase the campaign of the last Democrat President, “It’s the spending, stupid!”

Revisions/extensions (6:28 pm 7/31/2011) - Jimmie Bise reminded me that, in 1944, the federal government took in 20.9% of GDP.

July 29, 2011

“Well, you’re wrong”, Debtpocalypse edition

by @ 14:01. Filed under Budget Chop, Politics - National.

I decided to revisit my conceptions on the inevitable DOOM! scheduled to arrive next Wednesday, and I’ve got bones to pick with, and promptly bat about the heads of, everybody. This is a bit longer than a typical Captain Tenneal monologue at the start of “MXC”, so if your ox hasn’t been gored, keep reading and it will be.

First things first, I’m still of the opinion that House Speaker John Boehner royally misplayed things. He really should have walked away once “Cut”, Cap and Balance (there’s a reason why one of those words is in scare quotes; more in a bit) got tabled in the Senate. However, had he felt the need to put a Plan B out there before either Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid or President Barack Obama put a Plan A up in legislative form, here’s what he should have said (in more-diplomatic terms, of course):

You don’t want a Balanced Budget Amendment? Fine; we plan on getting enough conservatives here and across the Routunda to send it out to the states in 2013. You don’t want to deal with this again until 2013? Here’s how that’s going to happen. You pass our budget and the appropriations based on it, and we’ll pass a $2.0 trillion debt increase to get this into 2013. If you don’t like that, lots of luck, gentlemen. By the way, that means instead of spending $29 billion more than the CBO baseline adjusted for the effects of the current continuing resolution and beginning the wind-down of the Global War on Terror, we’ll be spending $98 billion less.

I suppose it’s time to do the lengthy side note on why HR 2560 is “Cut”, Cap and Balance, with “Cut” in scare quotes. Nobody actually asked the CBO to score CCB, so that devolves to me. We start with the $1,225 billion limit on outlays for discretionary spending other than that on the Global War on Terror. The outlays on the GWOT, based on the $127 billion in budget authority for the same in both the President’s budget and the House budget, would be $118 billion. The “uncapped” portion of direct spending (what is often misleadingly-labelled “mandatory spending”), which consist of the majority of Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, and net interest, would come to $1,632 billion. The “capped” portion of direct spending is $681 billion. Add all that up, and it comes to $3,656 billion in total spending. Unfortunately, once the effects of the final FY2011 continuing resolution and the agreed-to-by-everybody GWOT spending are put into the March 2011 CBO baseline (or a net -$12 billion), the CBO baseline comes to $3,627 billion. That’s neither exactly Hertz nor exactly a cut.

On the other hand, the Cap part adopts as the spending ceiling the percentage of GDP the House budget would spend that year beginning with FY2013, that would a significant and immediate reduction of debt compared to the adjusted CBO baseline. In fact, the “short-term” FY2012-FY2013 deficit reduction would be somewhere north of $125 billion versus Boehner 1.0.2’s $63 billion, and be almost indisguishable to the House budget total 10-year deficit of $5.1 trillion, or a solid $1.5 trillion less than the $6.6 trillion in deficit spending indicated by said adjusted CBO baseline.

You may have noticed that is nowhere near the “$4 trillion in deficit reduction” the credit rating agencies want from an unspecified baseline, or even $2.5 trillion-$2.8 trillion in deficit reduction that a 1-to-1 ratio of debt-ceiling hikes to spending cuts call for. If you think that it’s possible to get the 10-year deficit from $6.6 trillion to $2.6 trillion, I wish you the best of luck, and then point you over to Wisconsin, Greece, France, and Portugal, where a whole lot of the populace (and in the case of the foreign countries, a majority of said populace) has been in a non-stop temper tantrum over far less cutting measures of austerity. It is, however, well over $4 trillion less in deficit spending than Obama’s budget, which envisions $9.5 trillion in deficit spending.

Back to the here-and-now beatings. I will, for the point of this post, ignore the fact that Boehner and McConnell were all-too-willing to return to permanent minority status before Obama decided he wanted it all, and go to Boehner 1.0.x. The first version was an unqualified disaster; even Reid’s all-defense-cuts plan, which won’t even be voted on until Boehner 1.0.3 receives the same cement burial that the House budget and CCB received, managed to create more scoreable cuts, and the scored cuts were less than the first phase in debt-ceiling increase. The second version was a minimum effort to beat Reid on the spending score, and it barely did both that and hit the 1-to-1 hikes-to-cuts ratio (against the toughest scorecard the CBO has in its files, no less) at the cost of the caucus and any semblance of bipartisanship, which “C”CB had. Of course, since it doesn’t automatically absolve Obama and Reid of having to deal with the debt ceiling again next year, it’s been declared dead-on-arrival, with Reid promising a tabling in 30 minutes (or the next one’s free). It also represented, even though it wasn’t voted on, the “ceiling” the House Republicans can possibly get.

At that point, Boehner had a choice of either bringing back the “Cap” or bringing back the “Balance”. He chose poorly from the negotiating standpoint – the BBA is a singular take-it-or-leave-it item, while the additional $1.4 trillion in identifiable deficit reduction in “Cap” is far more negotiable. At least Boehner managed to raise the ceiling a little bit, and probably more important, get the caucus back together.

One more thing – if we had a rational actor in charge of deciding which bills get paid once 8/3 rolls around without additional borrowing authority, I would be marginally less worried about the expansion of the default situation. That’s right; once Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had to start juggling accounts around and stop fully-funding the federal employees retirement system, we were in a default situation. The saving grace is that since there is enough cash available to pay all the actual bills, there was no real pain felt.

That will change soon, and can change at the drop of the hat (or in this case, the utterance of an order). Once that shell game is insufficient to keep the cash flowing, there is going to no longer be enough money to pay all the actual bills. While technically Geithner could likely keep up the shell game for a week or so beyond August 2, for political reasons, that is the drop-dead date.

The bad news is this is not a lack-of-appropriation shutdown, so beyond the Constitutionally-mandated servicing of the public debt, the entirety of the payments on federal obligations is up to the sole discretion of the executive branch. Yes, this includes the servicing of intragovernmental debt, which, if not fully-serviced, would be a technical default.

The ugly news is that the decision of whether or not to escalate the default situation is no longer in the hands of anybody in Congress. Once the calendar flipped over to 7/22, Obama gained the ability to bury any bill sent to him by Congress until after the 8/2 DOOM! date. The fact that he walked away from a deal that he and all four leaders of Congress had that would have given him almost every economic, and every political, element he could possibly want on that date tells me just about everything I didn’t want to know about how next week will play out.

As Monty over at Ace of Spades HQ is fond of saying, we’re boned.

July 27, 2011

How the GOP f’ed it all up (f-bomb warning)

by @ 17:26. Filed under Budget Chop, Politics - National.

Warning; there will be f-bombs. I am that fucking pissed off.

If you missed The Morning Jolt from Jim Geraghty this morning, you missed your humbled correspondent being featured in the Addendum. I guess it’s time to expand on the tweet that put the closing charge in things:

(W)ait until 8/3 to introduce the Boehner plan – NOTHING will get signed by Obama before then. NOTHING!

It should have become crystal-clear when the White House-led debt ceiling talks broke off abruptly last Friday, after President Obama altered the terms of a deal that would have both cemented his re-election and permanently buried the GOP as the minority “half” of the bipartisan Party-In-Government, that he wants a default and what Monty over at Ace of Spades HQ succinctly calls DOOM!. It did become crystal-clear when Obama kept on blaming everybody but himself for the collapse while offering, to date, no plan. We could argue the “why”, but that would be a tinfoil-hat-swapping party (hint; the one-word explanation starts and ends with a “S”).

At that point, the Republicans had a rather strong opening position called Cut, Cap and Balance, one that already was voted out of the House. I’ll state right here and now that, even though I like it, it had no chance of actually becoming law. However, it, along with the equally-stalled House budget (which, while it did not address the debt ceiling and indeed would need about a $2.0 trillion increase in the debt ceiling to make it work through early 2013, addressed the larger issue of size and cost of government), stood as the only things that actually had any demonstrable support.

The first two fuck-ups actually predated the collapsed White House talks, one by a large margin. The continuing resolution to fund government through September 30 did absolutely, positively nothing to alter either the timing of the debt-ceiling crisis or the amount perceived to be necessary to get the next credit-card application date into early 2013. In fact, those of us who bitched about it not exactly cutting spending were told to shut up and wait for the debt ceiling battle. As I noted above, the House budget did change the latter slightly, but then again, that is as stalled and dead as Cut, Cap and Balance.

Senate Repulican “Leader” Mitch McConnell leaked the first Plan “B” (for Blame) – let Obama raise the debt ceiling on his own unless 2/3rds of Congress objects. It would have been, had it truly been a Plan “B” rather than Plan “Good, Solid B+”, an elegant trap for Obama. However, it was released weeks before the DOOM! date.

The third fuck-up was offering up $800 billion in tax hikes in those ultimately failed talks, presumably versus what the CBO calls the alternative fiscal scenario, which continues all current tax rates through 2021 rather than current tax law. News flash – by 2018, the taxes under that scenario already would be more than the 50-year (1951-2000) average of 18.06% of GDP, and then it would permanently be stuck at the even-higher 18.4% of GDP it reaches by 2021. That tax-pledge break would, had only Obama been savvy enough to accept it, have been strike three on fiscal matters for the GOP in the last 21 years, and functionally the same as the broken “No New Taxes” pledge from former President George H.W. Bush that was strike one.

The fourth fuck-up was McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner getting a “broad” agreement with Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid that had only a nebulous $2.8 trillion “deficit reduction” number and no tax increases with with absolutely, positively no common baseline. Reid, who unlike either McConnell or Boehner, is at least someone who has a half-assed fucking clue on how to lead, played the Stupid Party “leaders” like a pair of bongo drums by claiming the $1 trillion in “savings” from reductions in expenditures in the Global War on Terror everybody else already agreed to as, ultimately, the major part of his “deficit reduction”.

The fifth fuck-up was Boehner going first on the basis of that agreement. Actually, I’ll call it two fuck-ups to make it an even half-dozen; going first, and going before Obama forces a default. Going first allowed Reid to put in just enough non-GWOT “deficit reduction” to beat Boehner in that category, at least with version 1.0.0. Boehner did put in a minimal amount of effort to beat Reid with version 1.0.1 (note to self; update the previous post with that minimal effort).

As I stated above, there is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, Obama will sign before he forces a default and DOOM!. It actually has been too late to avoid DOOM! since July 21st as Obama can sit on a bill for 10 days (plus Sundays) before he has to do something with it. Proof of that is that Reid, who has served his role as Obama’s roadblock well, declared Boehner’s version 1.0.0 plan dead-on-arrival.

All Boehner has done is make the “ceiling” the GOP can reach the Ohio Two-Step instead of Cut, Cap and Balance. By releasing it before anything the Democrats put forward either get to a vote or get to a head, he lost any chance of getting even that modest concession.

Boehner gets rolled (again), or comparing apples to apples

by @ 13:20. Filed under Budget Chop, Politics - National.

You’re going to see a whole lot of bloviation on how the Congressional Budget Office scored the Harry Reid plan as reducing the growth of the debt far more than the already-scrapped-for-retooling John Boehner plan. What you won’t see nearly as much of is how Reid and the LeftSteamMedia are able to get away with it.

Before I give you the tale of the tape in table form, I’ll explain that it has almost everything to do with the spending on the Global War on Terror (or whatever it’s being called nowadays at the White House). The CBO, in its baseline, assumes that spending on the GWOT will continue to increase at the rate of inflation through the end of FY2021, the end of its 10-year estimation period. That, between FY2012 and FY2021, would be (give or take rounding) $1,590 billion. Both the White House and the House of Representatives, in their budgets, reduced the amount of that spending to $547 billion over that same period, or a $1,043 billion reduction from the CBO baseline. Since the House already passed those cuts in budget form, Boehner told the CBO to not consider that spending in the baseline.

Meanwhile, the Senate has not passed a budget for either FY2011 or FY2012. Harry Reid is using this as the opportunity to effectively sign on to that GWOT spending plan, with a $1,044 billion reduction in GWOT spending relative to the CBO baseline (effectively a rounding error compared to the White House/House of Representatives plan). Because this is also not a true budget, Reid did not specify which year or years those cuts would need to be made, which is something both the White House and the House of Representatives did. Even though the CBO separated the raw effect of the cuts in spending on the GWOT from the “cuts” elsewhere in the discretionary budget, they did so in a clumsy way. Therefore, I decided to redo the first and third tables from each CBO summary to put the two plans back on the same playing field.

There is one more thing to keep in mind while looking at the charts – there is supposed to be another $1.8 trillion in “cuts” from a bipartisan commission in the Boehner plan that is, due to the lack of ANY detail, not scored by the CBO. Likewise, there’s a bipartisan commission in the Reid plan that is supposed to keep the deficit at or below 3% of GDP, which is, in the quick take, a bunch of Bravo Sierra. I’ll get back to that after the charts.

Note: There was a rather big error on the first chart I had up. As I did not save it in Excel, I decided to pull it entirely rather than spend time reworking something where a third of the data has been rendered moot.

Next, the net effect of the duelling pieces of legislation on the deficit (which includes Reid’s further cuts on farm subsidies and additional revenues from “re-auctioning” of various radio frequencies). I had to re-estimate the effect of the reduced debt service because that was not broken down by GWOT versus non-GWOT spending/revenue changes on the Reid proposal, and that re-estimation, bumped back up against the CBO’s estimate from House proposal, was low by $5 billion (again, click for the full-sized table):

Boehner managed to back-load things rather badly the first time around, and he got schooled by Reid even once the spending on the Global War On Terror gets discounted, at least when the “scored” items are counted. However, that does not quite tell the whole story.

Remember what I said about the Reid commission to bring deficits down to 3% of GDP? If the extended-baseline from the CBO can be believed, the only two years of the next 10 that the deficit would be above 3% of GDP are FY2012 and FY2013. Since Congress is dealing with, or at least is supposed to be dealing with, the FY2012 appropriations process right now, I’ll assume the commission won’t be able to affect that massive deficit. FY2013’s deficit under the Reid plan would be scored at $592 billion, or a mere $100 billion less than the $492 billion that is 3% of the estimated $16,400 billion GDP.

Meanwhile, Boehner’s commission would have a hard $1,800 billion in additional deficit reductions to come up with. Even if one applied the usual Boehner-to-reality conversion rate, that would result in a much larger reduction in deficit than the Reid plan, at least assuming that the adjusted CBO extended-baseline scenario of $5,807 billion in deficits or the House budget scenario of $5,088 billion in deficits is anything near reality.

Revisions/extensions (1:23 pm 7/27/2011) - There’s more from Ed Morrissey, who somehow forgot that one plan raises the debt ceiling by about $0.9 trillion to get us barely into 2012 while the other raises it the $2.5 trillion Obama needs to get past November 2012.

R&E part 2 (6:56 pm 7/27/2011) - After what can only be described as a “minimum effort” (namely, a revision of FY2012 and FY2013 caps), Boehner Verison 1.0.1 does barely beat Reid 1.0. I won’t redo the graphics, but the bottom line is:

  • FY2012 discretionary spending change is -$25 billion from the adjusted baseline, $2 billion better than Reid’s plan
  • FY2012 net deficit change from the adjusted baseline is -$21 billion, $4 billion better than Reid’s plan
  • FY2013 discretionary spending change is -$47 billion, $1 billion better than Reid’s plan
  • FY2013 net deficit change (excluding debt service, which is a somewhat-shaky estimation) from the adjusted baseline is -$41 billion, $3 billion better than Reid’s plan
  • The subtotal net deficit change (again excluding debt service) is -$758 billion, $3 billion better than Reid’s plan

R&E part 3 – 8:46 am 7/29/2011) - I screwed up the math on the Memorandum portion of Table 1, affecting the CBO assumption for GWOT funding. I have pulled the chart.

Negotiating Against Yourself

After a several week “government shutdown” in Minnesota the recently passed budget has been celebrated as a great success for the tea party and other conservatives. Rush Limbaugh himself heralded the announcement by Governor Mark Dayton that he would accept the Repubilcan’s proposal as “Dayton caves!”

Admittedly, there is much to like of the new Minnesota budget: The total package is a bit under $36B as compared to a projected need of $39B, there are legislative changes that will give greater leverage for school districts to negotiate with teacher unions and several that will help to reduce the acceleration of growth for future budgets.

Unfortunately, there are also some things in the new Minnesota budget that are not good. To get the agreement, Republicans agreed to some one time revenue in the form of bonding a settlement from cigarette companies and most offensive, putting off payment of approximately $700M committed to schools that will force the schools to borrow until they get paid.

I’m told that the Republican leadership wanted the final budget to be $34B. Unfortunately, rather than leaving themselves room for negotiating, their original offer to Governor Dayton and the Democrats was $34B. Leadership was concerned about the MSM and Democrat meme that they were “cutting spending” when in fact they were increasing it from the previous budget. They thought that by offering $34B, they would be seen as “reasonable” and not have to fight for their principles. They were wrong.

Dayton promptly vetoed the $34B budget and demanded that any new budget must have tax increases. It was fairly obvious that Dayton was expecting and planning for a state government shutdown. Rather than hold pat, the Republicans immediately began negotiating and their negotiations were focused on adding revenue to increase the budget beyond the $34B.

Dayton rebuffed all of the Republican attempts to find a “compromise” and caused the government to shut down. After nearly three weeks, Dayton announced that he would accept the Republican’s last offer and “caved.” Unfortunately, the “cave” was at a number much higher than the Republicans wanted the budget to be and paid for in part, with “accounting tricks.”

Some would call the final budget the result of compromise, I wouldn’t be among them. Unfortunately for Minnesota taxpayers, the final budget was a result of poor negotiating by Republican leadership. Had they begun their negotiation at a number lower than what they were willing to accept or if they had caused Dayton to make major concessions before they found “new revenue”, the outcome could have been much better. In my opinion, the Republican leadership in Minnesota made critical errors and negotiated more against themselves than they did the Democrats.

Why am I outlining in a Wisconsin based blog, what happened in Minnesota, especially since I no longer live there? Because, what happened in Minnesota is exactly what is happening with John Boehner and DC Republicans.

In April, Paul Ryan set out a detailed roadmap for dealing with budget deficits including methods to deal with ever increasing entitlement costs. At the time, John Boehner endorsed the Ryan plan saying:

“In order to move forward I think Paul Ryan has set the bar in terms of the kinds of targets we need to meet and the kind of serious effort that is required given the deficit we have. I fully support Paul Ryan’s budget, including on Medicare.”

The “Ryan Plan” passed the House but was voted down in the Senate.

Roll forward to July and Boehner supported “Cut, Cap and Balance,” a bill that didn’t have a detailed budget but did provide for a combination of budget cuts and a balance budget amendment in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling. On the day the House voted on CCB, Boehner said:

…(CCB is) the most responsible thing that we can do to address our problems today, and to address our problems long term.

Cut, cap and balance was killed by the Senate.

After CCB, Boehner tried “the grand bargain” with President Obama. Reportedly, that would have had $4T of reductions….until Obama threw a hissy fit and left.

Now Boehner is trying a paltry $1.2T of cuts which have been scored by the CBO as only $850B in cuts.

Boehner is now on record with supporting at least four and maybe as many as five or six different plans for dealing with the budget and at least indirectly, the debt limit. Rather than standing on one of these plans, Boehner has spent the last 2 weeks negotiating with anyone who will talk to him, Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Bo the dog, to find a solution for raising the debt limit. Every negotiation he enters further undercuts his credibility and resolve (if he really had any) to the only two plans (Ryan or CCB) that actually deal with our current situation in a way that doesn’t simply kick the can for some additional period of time.

The effect of Boehner’s “negotiations” have been not one iota of change from the Democrats.  If anything, Obama has become more transfixed on raising taxes and Reid yelling “no” even louder.  With all of his “negotiations,” it turns out that the only negotiating Boehner has been doing is with h

I’ve said numerous times that Boehner is no conservative. Worse, I’m not sure he is a whole lot better than Barack Obama. Boehner is unable to determine what he stands for and is even less willing to stand for it once he determines what it is that he does stand for. Boehner has been in Washington too long and is too committed to being a participant in the dance that is Washington politics rather than fighting for the principles that he purports to hold.

Washington operates under the false assumption that doing something, anything is always better than doing nothing. Boehner’s proposal for a debt limit increase is worse than doing nothing. John Boehner is about to but the period at the end of the sentence that will head our country into history as a banana republic.

July 26, 2011

Interview with Kim Simac

by @ 7:33. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

Over the weekend, I traveled up to Lincoln County and caught up with Kim Simac, the Republican candidate in the recall election of Democrat Senator Jim Holperin in the 12th Senate District on August 16. Unlike the Democrat challengers to the 6 Republicans up for recall on August 9, Simac is still focused on the “trigger” of all the recalls – the budget repair law and the initial Democrat Senate response of fleeing the state for three weeks.

Simac is running her campaign as though it will decide which party controls the Senate for the next 17 months. Indeed, even before we got to the interview, a small business owner came up, and he and Simac had a rather lengthy discussion of how many barriers Wisconsin puts up to those who create their own paychecks. During that, he showed her (and me) all the licenses he has to maintain to be in business.

We finally got to the interview, which you can listen to by clicking here.

I’ll expand a bit on the taxes issue. Due to the nature of the Simacs’ businesses, much of their income arrives between spring and fall. With respect to property taxes, that means they avail themselves of the installment plan Vilas County and the town of Lincoln offer. With respect to income, as both personal and business income are reported on the same individual income tax forms, when money gets reinvested or there just isn’t that much money coming in, that means there isn’t a tax liability.

There is one more item from a mailer put out by “We Are Wisconsin”. I had thought that it would be nigh impossible to take 140 characters out of context, but that union front group managed to do it. Let’s review the entire tweet (with the part “We Are Wisconsin” chose to take in italics, though they did correct the typo in the original):

Stop the fraud and fix Medicare first! If we cannot do that then why should we invest more into a corrupt, loosing venture?

News flash – Medicare Part A, the Hospital Insurance part, is burning through its “Trust Fund” at a rate that puts exhaustion by 2024, or probably earlier if one believes the chief actuary. In 2010, CBS pegged Medicare fraud at $60 billion per year and termed it “…one of, if not the most profitable, crimes in America.”

July 21, 2011

Open Thread Thursday – Summer in the City edition

by @ 7:52. Filed under Open Thread Thursday.

If it’s Thursday, it’s time for wholly-expected “unexpected” bad news on the initial jobless claims front (this time up 10K from the upwardly-3K-revised previous week to 418K) as well as Open Thread Thursday. Since I don’t feel like being The Sweaty Guy, I’ll let you tell the gang what’s hot and what’s not. Maestro, music…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWXcjYNZais[/youtube]

Go to it.

July 20, 2011

Wisconsin Senate Recall Elections – Round 2 post-mortem

by @ 17:50. Filed under Elections, Politics - Wisconsin.

Yesterday over at Hot Air, I ruminated on what to look for out of the results from yesterday’s round of elections. There’s one bit of good and a whole boatload of ugly that came out of last night, including something I didn’t quite foresee that should shake my side to its core.

The one bit of good came from the 12th Senate district, where the number of votes for winner Kim Simac (11,301 votes according to the Associated Press) and Robert Lussow (7,767 votes) came very close to the 19,255 signatures that Simac and her group gathered to force the recall election of incumbent Democrat Jim Holperin. Among what can be fairly described as the “anybody but the incumbent” crowd, that 99% “retention” rate from the recall to the election is the second-best of any effort.

The percentages were not nearly as good in the 22nd Senate district, where the votes for winner Jonathan Steitz (5,981 votes, again according to the Associated Press) and Fred Ekornaas (3,369 votes) totaled under 55% of the 17,138 signatures gathered by the recall group. That is the worst “retention” effort of the bunch, even worse than Democrat Nancy Nusbaum’s 59% “retention” rate last week or David VanderLeest’s utter failure against Sen. Dave Hansen in the 30th last night, with a 71% “retention” rate.

That leads me to the 30th Senate District. The 66% (once write-ins are considered, something the Associated Press did not track) of the vote Hansen received went above the 65% “trouble” level I set based on a DailyKos/PPP poll that had Hansen beating VanderLeest 62%-34%.

More troubling than the percentage is the raw number of votes Hansen received. Special elections, which is what a recall election is, are “turnout” elections. The 22,052 votes Hansen received is nearly 88% of the 25,192 votes fellow Democrat Tom Barrett received in the gubernatorial election last November. It is also greater than the number of votes either Supreme Court Justice David Prosser (20,536) or challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg (18,706) received in April, and far greater than the 15,540 signatures VanderLeest’s group gathered to force the recall election.

I toyed with the idea of titling this “Big Trouble in Little Suamico” because the results from that town in Oconto County and the 30th Senate District perfectly illustrates the current enthusiasm gap. In November, now-Governor Scott Walker beat Barrett 1,115 to 554. In April, Prosser beat Kloppenburg 549-348. Yesterday, Hansen beat VanderLeest 520-385.

That is not, to say, all is lost. The two challengers to the incumbent Democrats still under election threat who I consider to be stronger won last night. As we found in both November 2010 and April, a “max effort” from the Left can be beaten; however it takes a “max effort” on our part. We also know, thanks to the Supreme Court election, even a belated “max effort” can carry the day. In this regard, I am (almost) thankful John Nygren screwed up on his nomination papers – we know there is an enthusiasm gap and there is just under three weeks to counter it.

Revisions/extensions (9:34 am 7/21/2011) - Craig Gilbert took a different tack on turnout, looking at total turnout versus “opposition” turnout. While he noted that none of these races were expected to be competitive, he also noted the one serious precedent, the recall of George Petak down in Racine County after he flipped on the Miller Park tax vote, saw a turnout of estimated 37% of voting-age-population.

Assuming the Democrats actually had a “max effort/near-max turnout” in the 30th, Hansen would have been in trouble had turnout been 34% instead of 25%, may well have lost had turnout been the 37% it was in Racine in 1996, and would have lost had turnout been the 42% it was in November.

July 18, 2011

Is blogging dying?

by @ 19:37. Filed under The Blog.

I’ll ingore the fact that up until today, I hadn’t posted in over a week, and jump right into the mini-firestorm that John Hawkins kicked off by declaring the death of the right-o-sphere. Read that, and the return fires from Jimmie Bise (and his unintentional prequel, which should have had my name on the subject instead of his), William Jacobson (who shouldn’t have to worry about his place in the pecking order), Ann Althouse, John Lilyea, the Lonely Conservative, Dan Riehl, and Gregory Flap Cole, and then follow along the winding, rambling road.

John Hawkins, who is one of the rare professional independent bloggers who blogs for a living, interprets the stagflation of blog traffic as the slow death of the right side of the blogosphere. Honestly, what we’re seeing is quite similar to the consolidation the left side has seen. Indeed, William Jacobson noted that in his piece.

How much of that is consolidation at the top, how much is just more voices out there, and how much of that is social media sucking the life out of everybody is up for grabs. Way back in the day, Charlie Sykes established the Rule of Five, saying that one couldn’t really follow more than 5 blogs very closely. While he was way off on the 5 number, especially with the advent of RSS feeds, there is a very-real limit to how many blogs one can follow. Trust me on this one; I can’t keep up with all 400+ feeds I try to.

Jimmie Bise bemoans the lack of linkage, and Dan Riehl extends that to the Beltway mentality. Yes, there is definitely a part of that (side note; I really should bring back The Morning Scramble). The problem for a new blogger is all the major national players have pretty much solidified their list of sources, even though there is a dearth of good state- and local-level bloggers (a couple I recommend are Badger Blogger and Freedom Eden here in Wisconsin, Blue Collar Muse in Tennessee, and Thurber’s Thoughts out of Ohio). You just have to keep on sending good stuff up the food chain, and at times that includes what Jimmie calls “light stalking” (personal tip; don’t stalk the opposite sex).

The biggest bombshell was the quote of “(G)et big or go home,” in response to the question of what to do about stagnation. If you’re going to try to make money at this, small ball isn’t going to cut it, and unless you’re truly gifted, it’s probably too late to do it independently. Indeed, John notes that the consolidation has already happened at the top.

Flap, Ann Althouse, the Lonely Conservative and Dan Riehl all vehemently disagree. Flap sees social media as an extension of the blogosphere, and noted that the Tea Party Movement has its roots in it. Indeed, he sees social media much like the blogosphere back in the beginning.

As far as social media goes, it’s impossible to do more than a character-limited conversation on Twitter, even though one can punch way above one’s weight class every so often. As for Facebook/Google+, while it is theoretically possible to duplicate long-form posts that people will link to (see Sarah Palin), it’s very kludgy.

Ann notes that all sorts of people manage to make the time to do what is essentially full-time work for free. I’ll counter that if one isn’t counting on the hits, it doesn’t need to be full-time work. Hell, that explains the gaps in the posting schedule. Of course, over the years, I somehow managed to get a semi-loyal base of readers, and despite me being even more introverted and self-depreciating than Jimmie, a few of them happen to be movers and shakers.

So, while blogging is changing, it certainly isn’t dying.

Belatedly

by @ 18:50. Filed under Miscellaneous.

Sorry, I missed it Steve….I was out of the country…Really!

Living with 56 mpg

by @ 12:33. Filed under Envirowhackos, Transportation.

After I read Jazz Shaw’s series of posts on the Obama administration’s plan to raise the CAFE average to 56 mpg by 2025 (part 1, part 2), I was reminded of a story Car and Driver did back in the day on life at 40 mpg. Let’s take a trip into the future with the vehicles from today that at least come close to 56 mpg.

Before I get to the meat of the matter, however, there’s a couple of explanatory notes that need to be made. First, there is a significant diference between CAFE mileage and the mileage one sees on the sticker of the car. Last year, Popular Mechanics estimated that 35 CAFE mpg, a bit higher than the 34.1 CAFE mpg that is mandated for 2016, translated to between 26 and 27 mpg on the EPA combined sticker. That would suggest that 56 CAFE mpg would translate to about 42-43 mpg on the EPA combined sticker. That’s a good thing because nothing on the lot today gets 56 combined EPA mpg.

Between 2011 and early 2012 models, the Department of Energy says there are exactly three gasoline/diesel models, plus 3 electric-only models that will be ignored as Obama famously said “…electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket.” and (possibly, depending on the mix of electric- and gas-powered driving) one plug-in hybrid model, that meet the 42 combined EPA mpg standard. Even after knocking down the standard to 40 combined EPA mpg, we have added one more model (plus the 2011 version of a 2012 model that is rated at above 42 combined EPA mpg). Therefore, I’ll “cheat” some more and consider cars that are rated at a minimum of 35 combined EPA mpg (plus the 2011 Volkswagen and Audi diesels that get a 34 combined EPA mph rating based on the fact that the one 2012 VW diesel model in the database, which is larger than any model in the 2011 VW non-SUV TDI lineup, barely cleared the 35 combined EPA mpg mark).

There are three things that you won’t find in this lineup – SUVs, pick-up trucks, and minivans. The highest-mileage SUV is the Ford Escape Hybrid (and its rebadged siblings), which gets 32 combined EPA mpg in front-wheel-drive and 29 combined EPA mpg in all-wheel-drive models. The highest-mileage minivans are the 6-passenger “micro-van” Mazda 5 (24 combined EPA mpg with no cargo capacity if more than 4 passengers are in the vehicle), the 5-passenger cargo-minivan-based Ford Transit Connect Wagon (23 combined EPA mpg) and the “traditional” 7-passenger minivan Honda Odyssey (22 combined EPA mpg with the optional 6-speed automatic transmission). The highest-mileage pickups are the compact 2WD Ford Ranger (24 combined EPA mpg with the manual and 4-cylinder), the lighter-duty-than-its-full-size-suggests Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid (21 combined EPA mpg in both 2WD and 4WD configurations), and the compact/mid-sized 4WD Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon (20 combined EPA mpg in either manual or automatic 4-cylinder versions).

None of the 16 models (plus siblings) that meet the mileage mark appear to be rated for towing, so the biggest water craft that they can transport is a canoe tied to the top (which really kills the aerodynamics and thus mileage). None of them can carry more than 5 people, so large families are out of luck. The highest-capacity version offers but 67 cubic feet of cargo capacity, so if you want to move that couch from one place to another, call up U-Haul.

I don’t have the budget that the car magazines do, so I’m going off their driving impressions. Now, let’s see what’s left to ply the roads in the ObamiNation:

Jr’s first car – Smartfortwo pure coupe (36 combined EPA mpg)

I’ll ignore the fact that this cheap little two-seater requires premium fuel to get its 36 combined EPA mpg. It is, by at least $6,000, the cheapest car of the contenders. Of course, the fact that it is literally half a car might have something to do with that.

Parents will like the fact that there isn’t a back seat and that Jr. can’t get the 70-horsepower car going fast enough to get into serious trouble. The problem is that it is entirely unsuitable for domesticated life with just the two seats and the tiny trunk.

The family sedan – Toyota Prius (50 combined EPA mpg)

Like the gang at the original version of “Top Gear”, I hate this car with a passion. Testers who care about performance have, until the latest version with the handling option, uniformly ripped the sterile driving environment. Other contenders, like the Ford Fusion hybrid and the Hyundai Sonata hybrid, offer more passenger room, especially in the back seat. However, the Fusion and the Sonata give up a lot of trunk space to accomodate the battery pack, while the Prius’ purpose-built hatchback trunk has 21.5 cubic feet of space. That allows for easier re-creations of “National Lampoon’s Vacation”.

The commuter car – Honda Civic hybrid (2012 version, 44 combined EPA mpg)

The first rule of commuting is to have a balance between city and highway mileage. One can’t get more balanced than the 44 EPA mpg city and 44 EPA mpg highway the 2012 model is rated. The second rule is that it be big enough to actually handle a carpool, which rules out the Smart. The third is that it be bland, and recent Civics are, outside the Si, bland. It’s also not the family hauler, so you won’t have to get the “My other car is also a Prius” bumper sticker (assuming, of course, you can afford 2 cars in the ObamiNation).

For just the briefest of moments, I had considered the Chevrolet Volt. However, once the electricity runs out, the EPA estimates that it would get a mere 35 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Besides, there’s this little matter of necessarily-skyrocketing electric rates.

The “Mid-Life Crisis” car – Volkswagen Golf TDI (34 combined EPA mpg)

This is an exceedingly-hard category to fill as neither of the two contenders that actually get 35 combined EPA mpg are worthy of being called sports cars. The Smartfortwo cabriolet has the same wimpy drivetrain as the coupe. The CVT-equipped Honda CR-Z couldn’t break 9 seconds in the 0-60 mph test, and only Motor Trend found a way to get the manual version (which gets only 34 combined EPA mpg) to do that. Worse, while the manual version felt somewhat like a car that was comfortable being tossed about, the CVT didn’t exactly like it. Fortunately, the just-shy-of-35 combined EPA mpg (34) Golf TDI picked up the slack. Both Car and Driver and Motor Trend noted the TDI acted a lot like the sporty GTI in the twisties, and nothing that qualifies for the ObamiNation roads gets to 60 mph faster.

For those of you about to complain about whether the VW TDIs belong in this group, I can only offer an ancedotal bit of evidence that suggests the EPA is a bit conservative in their estimation. My father owns a 2009 Jetta TDI, and in the 6 months he doesn’t have to use the winter blends of diesel, he’s able to average better than 35 mpg in mostly short-distance suburban driving and bump it up to over 40 mpg on the highway. Of course, once the temperature drops and the service stations have to throw additives into the fuel to keep it from gelling, the mileage drops like a rock.

The light-duty cargo hauler – Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI (manual only, 34 EPA combined mpg)

Again, I had to cheat on the 35 combined EPA mpg by one to get something with hauling capacity, and I had to toss the automatic because its 33 combined EPA mpg is too low. If the upcoming Toyota Prius V wagon’s stats were verifiable instead of being estimates obtained by Edmund’s (44 EPA mpg city/40 EPA mpg highway/34 cubic feet behind the back seat/67 cubic feet behind the front seat), it would have won the category by default.

Instead, we’re left with another of Volkswagen’s oil-burners, at least for those who can handle a clutch. Its 32.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat easily beats the next-best Prius’ under-22 cubic feet behind the seat and comes close to the 39.6 cubic feet Edmund’s measured behind the Prius’ front seat. Fold the Jetta’s seats down and that expands to 66.9 cubic feet.

The personal luxury car – Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (39 combined EPA mpg)

How did Ford take a rebadged version of its small family hauler, hybridize it, and beat two Lexus hybrids? The trifecta of “mainstream” car magazines unanimously say that it feels more like the standard MKZ than the Lexus hybrids feel like “real” Lexuses. It doesn’t hurt that the base Fusion Hybrid is a very competent car (more on that in a bit).

The limousine/taxi – Volkswagen Passat TDI (35 combined EPA mpg)

It’s all about the rear seat, and nothing in the group comes close to the 39.1 inches of rear-seat legroom in the Passat. Add in a group-leading 57.0 inches of shoulder room and a not-exceeded 37.8 inches of headroom, and a sedan-leading 15.9 cubic feet of trunk space, and the few people who can afford to be driven around might for just a second forget the Crown Vic, the Town Car and the DTS that currently serve these roles.

The cop car – Ford Fusion Hybrid 39 combined EPA mpg)

This one is pretty much by default – only the Fusion (and its corporate siblings) and the Chevrolet Volt are from the Big Three, and the Governmen..er, General Motors entry is rather lacking in both size and performance. That isn’t to say it’s a bad default from the performance side – the Fusion is able to hit 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds, hang onto the skidpad to the tune of around 0.8 g, and, unlike Car and Driver’s choice back in the day of the Honda CRX HF for this role, transport prisoners. Of course, the 11.8-cubic-foot trunk is barely half the 21 cubic feet found in the Ford Police Interceptor (and also smaller than that in the Dodge Charger or Chevrolet Impala), so some of the gear the average officer hauls around “just in case” won’t be there.

July 7, 2011

The GM-ification of the federal government, or “Obama, SEIU toss grandma over the cliff”

It is perhaps fitting that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) compared the debt crisis to a bankruptcy, though not in the way he intended. Before I give you what Obama is prepared to do, I’ll give you the quote from Sen. Johnson (courtesy Tina Korbe over at Hot Air):

“I’ve been on the unsecured creditor side of a customer going bankrupt,” he said. “If you come to me as an unsecured creditor in a bankruptcy situation where the customer is going through a reorganization and you say, ‘Secured creditors are getting dollar for dollar — that’s interest on the debt, that’s Social Security. The rest of you guys, until we get this figured out, will basically get 60 cents on the dollar. Once we go through the reorganization, once we get this figured out, you’ll probably get 98 cents on the dollar.’ I’d be going, ‘That’s a sweet deal.’ I’d do that in an instant.”

The problem is, that’s just not how bankruptcies happen in the ObamiNation. I’ll let Doug Ross explain why Obama is throwing seniors under the bus (emphasis in the original):

Consider what Obama has already committed to — or is proposing to — cut:

  • The Obamacare takeover of the health care industry slashed $500 billlion from Medicare to help pay for the new entitlement.
  • The states will be forced to find about $400 billion in Medicaid funding in 2011, this time without the “shovel-ready Stimulus” package which picked up about $100 billion of the tab.

And now the President proposes additional cuts for seniors, this time in the form of reductions in Social Security.

Notice who doesn’t have to sacrifice: the public sector unions, whose support is crucial to Obama’s 2012 relection campaign.

Given the treatment of the creditors in the government seizures of GM and Chrysler in favor of the profiting UAW (at last check, the UAW will end up getting over $1.50 on every dollar GM owed it), we should have seen this coming.

That is not to say, however, that Social Security is a sacred cow. After all, assuming the Trustees’ intermediate-case scenario isn’t too rosy, in order to get the “Trust Funds” to their exhaustion dates of 2018 for the Disability Insurance fund and 2038 for the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance fund, the Treasury Department will need to come up with roughly $7 trillion in cash it doesn’t have.

Ask Egg – Twitter edition

by @ 8:01. Filed under Ask Egg.

If President Obama can crank out the Twitter version of “Ask Me”, I can lampoon it. Let’s roll in 140 characters or less, with the note that other than my account, these aren’t real Twitter accounts (though it should be easy to tell who I’m lampooning):

TehWon2012: How can I rescue the economy? #AskEgg
steveegg: @TehWon2012 Resign? Make the Bush-era tax rates permanent. Start drilling. Kill the EPA. Of course, you won’t listen. #AskEgg

Fleebag14: When we can’t honestly change our name to @Fleebag17 after spending millions, what next? #AskEgg
steveegg: @Fleebag14 3 words – Suck. It. Up. (or 2 for the DX fans among you) #AskEgg

BigBenFed: I’ve seen QE1 and QE2 slip beneath the waves. Should I launch QE3? #AskEgg
steveegg: @BigBenFed: Don’t be insane. The only things it did were sink the dollar and the economy. #AskEgg

MarkyDMN: I’ve inflicted as much pain as I could, but I still can’t get the eeeevil Pubbies to keep people from being as rich as me. What now? #AskEgg
steveegg: @MarkyDMN If U listened 2 Target CFO, you would have figured out MN is at the far end of the Laffer Curve. See reply to @Fleebag14. #AskEgg

NREFan: Are you going to post more? #AskEgg
steveegg: @NREFan Depends on how I feel.

Thus ends this episode of Ask Egg.

July 4, 2011

Yes but No

by @ 19:40. Filed under Global "Warming".

It’s been a lot of fun watching the contortions the folks invested in global warming have been going through the past couple of years.  Begin with the stolen emails that showed severe credibility questions with foundational AGW research, add the recent lack of high count hurricane seasons and double it with increasing studies that tie Earth’s temperature changes to solar activity and you get AGW scientists chasing theories looking like the Keystone Kops chasing a petty thief. Yet, for all the pretzel logic moves employed in an attempt to keep AGW alive, I can’t remember any as wacky as this from Reuters:

Asia pollution blamed for halt in warming: study

According to this study, sulphur from coal burning plants in Asia have offset the increase we nasty humans have created in carbon dioxide. The result is that global temperatures are no longer rising!

Oh, lucky us! Now we don’t have to cut back on our carbon dioxide emissions! Wait, not so fast! The article goes on to say that as the nasty coal plants are cleaned up and sulphur is reduced, we’ll go right back to sending our temperatures towards those of Mercury. Damn, we can’t win!

Let me see if I have this correct:

  1. If we pollute the world with carbon dioxide, we’ll all burn up…
  2. If we pollute the world with sulphur, the world is fine…
  3. But we can’t pollute the world with sulphur because it’s bad?  Can it be worse than being burnt to a crisp by our own sun?

I thought pollution was bad but now pollution is good, right?  Well yes, but no!

I’m so confused!

Update 7/5 -If the above irony isn’t enough, glance through this article and you can see why the logic has gotten so contorted.  Some people will tell you anything you want to hear if their…livlihood depends on it.

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