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 the 'Politics – National' Category

December 3, 2013

Cooking the unemployment numbers

by @ 20:24. Filed under Economy, Politics - National.

Note – a version of this originally appeared on DaTechGuy Blog as part of DaTechGuy’s Magnificent Seven. Do make sure you head there daily from content from both Pete Da Tech Guy and the rest of the Magnificent Seven.

Two weeks ago, the New York Post‘s John Crudele broke the story that the Census Bureau, which conducts the Current Population Survey (CPS) that is the basis for the unemployment rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), has been falsifying the data since 2010. Curdele interviewed a person who was caught by the Census Bureau in 2010 simply making up data, with the employee claiming his superiors told him to do so because his region was not successfully interviewing enough people for the survey. According to an anonymous source, that effort intensified in the months leading up to the 2012 election, with September 2012’s data specifically falsified to President Barack Obama’s favor, and continues to the present time.

These allegations are currently being investigated by both the House Oversight Committee and the Inspector General of the Census Bureau, with the BLS also quite interested in them.

One place they can start is comparing what came out of the CPS to a measure of unemployment conducted by Gallup, started in January 2010. There are a couple of key differences between the CPS and Gallup which make a comparison a bit harder:

– While the CPS uses a reference week that includes the 12th of the month (5th of the month in November), Gallup uses a 30-day rolling average.
– The CPS surveys (or claims to survey) 60,000 people age 16 and over, while over the course of each 30-day rolling average, Gallup surveys 30,000 adults.

Fortunately, the BLS releases, as part of its dataset, the data from the portion of the CPS that covers adults, or about 57,500 surveyed out of approximately 153,000,000 considered part of the labor force. That allows an apples-to-apples comparison:

Gallup-CPS

For the most part, the CPS measure of adult unemployment is significantly lower than Gallup’s measure. How significant? Let’s take a look at Gallup’s measure on the day that puts the CPS reference day right in the middle of the rolling average, the 27th day of the month (20th for November and also December to avoid an artificial post-Christmas spike). The CPS unemployment was calculated by dividing the number of unemployed by the number considered to be in the workforce, so I could get much closer than to the nearest tenth of a percentage point reported. The raw data was not available for Gallup’s measure of unemployment, so I took the closest possible number to the CPS measure that still rounded to Gallup’s tenth of a percentage point reported.

Gallup-CPS divergence

Polls, which is what the CPS and Gallup measures really are, come with a margin of error, within which the true value can be expected either 90% or 95% of the time. For the CPS, the 90%-confidence margin of error is +/-0.20 percentage points and the 95%-confidence margin of error is +/-0.24 percentage points. For Gallup, the 90%-confidence margin of error is +/-0.28 percentage points and the 95%-confidence margin of error is +/-0.34 percentage points.

Two polls are considered to be in good agreement when their values are within each others’ margin of error. Meanwhile at least one poll has to be wildly incorrect when the difference between the two is more than the sums of their margin of error. Out of 46 months’ worth of data:

– 18 months saw Gallup’s and CPS’s measures of unemployment disagree by more than the combined 90%-confidence margin of error of 0.49 percentage points, with 17 months having Gallup’s measure higher.
– 8 months saw the measures of unemployment disagree by between 0.28 percentage points (Gallup’s 90%-confidence margin of error) and 0.49 percentage points, with another 3 months seeing a disagreement between 0.20 percentage points (CPS’s 90% confidence margin of error) and 0.28 percentage points.
– 17 months saw the measures of unemployment in “good agreement”, disagreeing by less than 0.20 percentage points.

When two polls wildly disagree more than they are in “good agreement”, one of them has to be wrong. Given the disagreement has been almost invariably in the administration’s favor, and there already was a proven round of fakery in the CPS, it sure looks like the official measure of unemployment has been cooked longer than a burnt turkey.

November 26, 2013

NBC News – Employers abandoning “Cadillac” plans due to PlaceboCare’s “Cadillac plan” tax…4 years early

by @ 9:07. Filed under PlaceboCare, Politics - National.

I wonder whether this counts against the 80 million-100 million of those with existing group health insurance plans expected to lose said insurance by the end of 2014:

For 75 million Americans who get their insurance through large companies, the Affordable Care Act is a mixed bag. Experts tell NBC News the new healthcare law is only slightly increasing premiums next year, but causing some companies with the most generous plans to reduce their employees’ benefits.

Aaron Baker, 36, his wife Billie and their two young children are covered under a generous health insurance plan offered by the private Midwestern university where he’s worked for 10 years. When they opened their benefits notice this year, they were pleased to see their $385 premium is only up by four dollars next year. However, they were shocked to discover that instead of covering the first dollar they spend with no deductible, the Baker’s plan now includes a $1,000 deductible and a $2,500 out of pocket maximum. They also will still have small co-pays for services.

According to the enrollment notice, the changes are “to relieve future health plan trend pressure and to put the university in a position to avoid the excise tax that becomes effective in 2018.” The 40 percent excise tax—often called the “Cadillac tax”— is part of Obamacare and is levied on the most generous health plans. It’s designed to bring down overall health costs by making companies and workers more cost-conscious. The thinking is that if consumers have to pay more expenses themselves, through higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, they’ll avoid unnecessary or overly costly procedures. And that is supposed to make care more affordable for everyone.

I have to quibble with NBC’s analysis of the PlaceboCare Cadillac plan tax – it’s designed not to drive down costs, but to ensure that, except for the favored nomenklatura, nobody gets high-quality care. I am frankly surprised that some entities, specifically the non-union shops that are the primary targets, are reacting 4 years early.

That will just make the eventual repeal at the behest of the unions, which by 2017 will be essentially the only places still offering group health insurance, that much more odious.

October 29, 2013

It’s official – Obama administration violating the 9-month-minimum coverage-or-penalty provision of PlaceboCare law

by @ 10:56. Filed under PlaceboCare, Politics - National.

You heard the rumblings here last week about the Obama administration looking into administratively rewriting their signature law one more time to benefit those who can’t use their PlaceboCare exchange website by 2/15/2014. Yesterday, they made it official. From the AP:

The extension — granted for 2014 only — addresses confusion that was created when the administration set the first open enrollment period under the law from Oct. 1-March 31.

The problem was that health insurance coverage typically starts on the first day of a given month, and it takes up to 15 days to process applications. So somebody signing up March 16 — well within the open enrollment period — wouldn’t get coverage until April 1, thereby risking a penalty for being uninsured part of the year.

While there is a limited authority for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to grant individual waivers from the ta…er…penalty, the key word is “limited”. Specifically, that authority extends only to those who have “no affordable qualified health plan available through the Exchange, or the individual’s employer, covering the individual”, or to those covered by the other, specified exemptions from the individual mandate. Mere “glitches” and general failures of the exchange website do not qualify as a complete lack of available plans.

October 24, 2013

PlaceboCare Über Alles, IRS Edition?

by @ 9:05. Filed under PlaceboCare, Politics - National, Taxes.

The IRS choosing to implement its portions of PlaceboCare fully as its top priority during the 17% Shutdown instead of ensuring it could start receiving individual income tax returns on-time next year is the charge House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) leveled after the IRS announced that it will not be starting the Tax Year 2013 filing season on-time. Camp noted that the prior tax season, the IRS managed to start accepting tax returns on-time even though there were wholesale changes approved by Congress in December 2012, though my memory says it was delayed by a couple days.

The IRS counter-claimed that they were in the middle of building a new system for the Tax Year 2013 filing season when they were forced to prioritize. One can only hope that they didn’t choose the 404Care Exchange designers for that.

The significance of the delay is those big spenders who budgeted for a big income tax refund check to arrive February 2014 (an aside – that is perhaps the stupidest financial decision one can make) won’t get one.

October 23, 2013

Broken website? We’ll just break the law (again).

by @ 19:36. Filed under PlaceboCare, Politics - National.

Unless you’ve been in a cave watching NBCCBSABCCNNPMSDNC or reading the NYTWaPoLATUSATodayYourLocalPaintcatcher, you know that we’ve entered the third week of EPIC FAIL of PlaceboCare’s exchange website. Not two weeks after they torpedoed the GOP’s “fallback” position of a 1-year delay in the individual mandate to buy PlaceboCare “coverage”, Democrats have started calling for a “delay” until the exchanges are actually up and running, a process that likely will take months.

The early response from Team SCOAMT:

Before I continue, I need to explain a couple things. Health insurance is sold by the month, with coverage beginning on the first day of a month. In order to get coverage for the following month, one must complete the application process 2 weeks prior to the month.

There is a ta…er…penalty for not having PlaceboCare “coverage” (the greater of $95 or 1% of one’s adjusted gross income for 2014, payable when one files one’s 2014 income tax return in winter/spring 2015), with a 2-consecutive-month grace period for non-“coverage”. That means, at least according to the state of law when the sun rose this morning, one had to complete their PlaceboCare exchange application by February 15 to get coverage for March and thus not pay at least 3 months’ worth of ta…er…penalty. Since PlaceboCare’s 2014 open-enrollment period ends on March 31, that is the last day one can avoid paying the full 2014 ta…er…penalty, but one would still be liable for 4 months’ worth of the ta…er…penalty because they wouldn’t have “coverage” until May 1.

Now, I can continue. There was some confusion on whether the “6-week delay” would be an extension of the PlaceboCare open-enrollment period until mid-May or an increase in the “grace” period described above. I’ll let Phillip Klein explain why administratively extending the administratively-set end of the open-enrollment period is illegal.

NBC News later clarified what Team SCOAMT was talking about:

As the law stands now, individuals are expected to begin the application process via HealthCare.gov by Feb. 15 to avoid a financial penalty. But under the prospective change, individuals will be expected to have started enrollment by March to avoid incurring the penalty.

It figures that they would go with the more-blatantly-illegal route. 26 USC § 5000A (e) (4) specifically proscribes the exemption from the ta…er…penalty for those with “short coverage gaps”:

(4) Months during short coverage gaps

(A) In general
Any month the last day of which occurred during a period in which the applicable individual was not covered by minimum essential coverage for a continuous period of less than 3 months.

(B) Special rules
For purposes of applying this paragraph—

(i)the length of a continuous period shall be determined without regard to the calendar years in which months in such period occur,

(ii)if a continuous period is greater than the period allowed under subparagraph (A), no exception shall be provided under this paragraph for any month in the period, and

(iii)if there is more than 1 continuous period described in subparagraph (A) covering months in a calendar year, the exception provided by this paragraph shall only apply to months in the first of such periods.
The Secretary shall prescribe rules for the collection of the penalty imposed by this section in cases where continuous periods include months in more than 1 taxable year.

In short, the United States Code, which prior to Teh SCOAMT’s ascension to the Oval Office, trumped administrative decisions, mandates that those without PlaceboCare “coverage” for more than 2 months must be ta…er…penalized. Of course, in the ObamiNation, Teh Royal Team SCOAMT decrees override any and all laws or provisions of the Constitution.

October 22, 2013

House to use Air Force to shuttle en masse to attend Bill Young’s funeral

by @ 12:45. Filed under Politics - National.

Yes, you read that right – the House of Representatives will shut down on Thursday and use multiple Air Force planes to take a day trip down to Florida to attend the funeral of late Congressman Bill Young (R-FL). Well, it’s appropriate since Young was one of the kings of pork, serving as chair of the appropriations committee from 1999-2004, and as exempted-from-term-limits chair of the appropriations subcommittee on defense when he died in the middle of his 22nd term in Congress.

Bo(eh)ner and company just lost all ability to bitch about Air SCOAMT’s multiple trips for SCOAMT, the missus, and the dogs. As Wile E. Coyote would say, “Brilliance, Bo(eh)ner. Sheer, unadulterated brilliance!”

October 17, 2013

A complete cave in 11 easy steps

by @ 10:48. Filed under Politics - National.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in a cave (in which case consider yourself lucky the Park Police didn’t tear gas you out), you’ve heard by now that the Republican Party (or as I’ve begun to call its Hispandering successor, El Partido Republicano Legado in a nod to its Mexican PRI blueprint) got absolutely, positively nothing in the latest can-kick of the mess that is the federal spending-and-borrowing. Those of you who’ve been around in the comments at Hot Air and Ace of Spades HQ where I spent my sabbatical already know that I was predicting the GOP would get nothing and like it from the start. So, how did they do it? It didn’t even take a dozen steps:

– They started in late March with a Paul Ryan-written budget that included exactly $0.00 spent on PlaceboCare over the next 10 years, both the “mandatory” and “discretionary” spending, through FY2023. This was the same 10-year budgetary “defund” they quietly and fully abandoned the previous two years.

– About the time they wanted to switch to a 1-year “total” delay attached to a slightly-down-the-road debt-ceiling increase, Sen. Ted Cruz decided that the “defund” strategy wouldn’t be so quietly abandoned this time, switched that to an indefinite total defund, and got it attached to the nearer-down-the-road continuing resolution needed to keep the 35% of federal government subject to yearly approprations going into FY2014.

– In response, the Rats demanded a “clean” short-term (couple weeks versus the GOP’s couple months) continuing resolution to allow government to keep on racking up the deficits and a longer-term “clean” debt-ceiling increase to allow government to keep up racking up the debt required to finance the deficits.

– The Cruz version of “defund” met a bipartisan Party-In-Government end in the Senate, with nearly half the “Republican” caucus, including both leadership and those who campaigned in 2010 on doing everything possible to derail PlaceboCare (cough…Ron Johnson…cough) joining Harry Reid in raising the knife to it and another quiver of arrows into Cruz’s back.

– With no concessions from the Rats, the GOP dropped the full 1-year delay for a 1-year delay in the individual mandate and a repudiation of the administrative Congressional exemption from the no-employer-subisies in the individual exchanges Congress successfully begged Obama for (aka the Vitter amendment previously rejected by the Senate Rats).

– Again with no concessions from the Rats, the GOP dropped the 1-year delay in the individual mandate, instead switching to a desperate try to get back into the good graces of K Street by offering an elimination of the medical device tax in exchange for screwing over pensioners with higher taxes.

– Then Paul Ryan got the proverbial chair of offering up the end of the sequester (in exchange for “negotiations” on Social Security) out from under the ring.

– The Rats seized that chair and, as negotiations between the Senate Rats and “Pubbies” finally began, added a demand of the end of the non-defense portion of sequester immediately to their list of demands. They used the “giving up” of this new 11th-hour demand to knock down the elimination of the medical device tax to a 2-year suspension of same on the Senate side.

– In exchange, they introduced a union-demanded call for a 1-year delay in a “reinsurance” tax, a 3-year tax assessed on existing group insurance policies to fund the subisidies to those who in the past would be in high-risk insurance pools. They then used the “giving up” of this new 11:30 pm demand to eliminate the Vitter amendment on the Senate side.

– Meanwhile on the House side, the rank-and-file found out that the post-2012 election war their leadership has been waging against the conservatives amongst them, and the full-scale assault on Cruz, were ordered by the portion of K Street that hadn’t already given up entirely on the GOP as tests of fealty to them. That torpedoed the last desperate House idea of a 2-year suspension of the medical device tax and an expansion of the Vitter amendment to cover the political appointees of the executive branch before it could get out of the House.

– That left the Reid plan, with a slightly longer CR and less time between the end of the CR and the end of the debt-ceiling raise, as the only game in town. Senate Minority “leader” Mitch McConnell demanded and got a $2 billion por…er…lock project on the Ohio River and a completely-meaningless strongly-worded letter for Obama to enforce the income-verification requirements for PlaceboCare subsidies he already decided to unilaterally ignore.

Thus you have what we got – a punt down the road for a few months with nothing to show for it and the stage set for the end of the non-defense portion of the sequester before Christmas. I doubt Wile E. Coyote could have done a “better” job than MiniCave and Bo(eh)ner (and by “better”, I mean “more self-destructive”).

October 14, 2013

Shutdown number of the day – $83,990,000

by @ 12:56. Filed under Politics - National.

That is the amount of money the Treasury Department will need to come up with on Default Day, October 17, to fully-service the $120 billion in short-term Treasury bills that come due that day, assuming a successful rollover of that debt.

Here are the amounts of federal tax deposits from, in order, 10/16/2012, 10/17/2012, and 10/18/2012 – $8,148,000,000, $6,751,000,000, and $1,980,000,000. Surely Treasury Secretary Jack Lew can’t be serious when he says he might not be able to come up with the cash to service that “pitiful” (in federal government terms) interest amount.

There’s another $40 million in interest coming due next week Thursday, and $5.1 billion at the end of the month, which is less than what the federal government took in on two of the three days mentioned above. Even the $56 billion in interest due to be paid out on 11/15 is less than a third of what came into the coffers last November.

In short, the only way there is an “interest-only” default in the near-future is if President Barack Obama and Lew order one. The bad news is, if they do order one, that opens the door to either a default on principal as investors refuse to reinvest in Treasury securities or hyperinflation as the Federal Reserve soaks up what isn’t bought by private and foreign interests. I’m not convinced that isn’t their goal.

October 10, 2013

Thursday Hot Read – DrewM’s “The GOP Civil War…The Role Of Outside Groups And The Empire Strikes Back”

by @ 9:53. Filed under Politics - National.

This is what a post on the GOP Civil War written by me would look like if I had the time to do 1,695 words and the talent of DrewM. While even this three-paragraph excerpt can’t do justice to the entire piece, I hope it whets your appetite enough to read it all:

There’s clearly a faction of the party (the entrenched professional class) that saw the victories of 2010 as simply an opportunity to return to business as usual. There was no real urgency to roll back the Obama agenda of 09-10, just to accept the ground lost and move on. Oh sure there were plenty of votes to repeal ObamaCare but not when it really counted. In divided government only a handful of bills are going to pass. If you don’t hitch your wagon to one of the few “must pass” pieces of legislation, you’re really just putting on a show for the folks back home.

Enter the establishments new favorite conservative villains…the Senate Conservative Fund, Heritage Action and The Club for Growth. The knock on these groups is that they spend far more time attacking Republicans than Democrats. And to a large extent, it’s a fair description. But that ignores the problem they are trying to solve…weak kneed Republicans who left to their own devices will revert to their big spending, go-along, get-along ways.

The fact of the matter is, given past performance, Republican office holders do need an enforcer looking over their shoulders. I like to think of these groups not as “the enemy within” but as the “motivation squad”. If you aren’t a self-motivator, most people will take the path of least resistance. For Republican officeholders, that often means giving in to the DC mindset that their job is to manage the train and keep it running to the benefit of those who pay the freight. Well, these conservative groups are serving as the eyes and ears (and occasionally the clinched fist) of conservative voters back home who sent people to DC to slow the train down and eventually put it on a different track.

What are those “past performances”? No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D in 2003, the torpedoing of Social Security reform in 2005, an average publicly-held debt increase of over 9% per year, the growth to near 50% of the income-earning populace not paying any income taxes…need I go on?

How many people would have avoided PlaceboCare’s tax had the exchanges worked 100% from Day One?

by @ 8:11. Filed under PlaceboCare, Politics - National, Taxes.

(H/T – Hot Air commenter MobileVideoEngineer)

3,800,000 according to DNC Chair (and Congresswoman) Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL). That’s right – the PlaceboCare exchange website was designed to handle a grand total of 50,000 people per day. There are 76 days, including weekends and holidays, between October 1 and December 15, the last day to sign up for PlaceboCare to be covered starting in January and thus not taxe…er…fined for not having PlaceboCare coverage.

No wonder why the IRS is saying the PlaceboCare exchanges are going “as planned”. They stand to get a rather-substantial ill-gotten windfall.

Revisions/extensions (8:15 10/10/2013) - I forgot to mention that, just like every other Rat-introduced health-related spending disaster, the PlaceboCare exchanges busted the budget by orders of magnitude. It was supposed to cost $94 million; instead, the cost is $634 million and counting.

R&E part 2 (18:20 10/10/2013) - It’s supposedly 50,000 at a time, not per day. Of course, that’s less than half the capacity of the GOP’s Medicare drug benefit expansion, which if memory serves was also available through snail mail.

October 8, 2013

Jimmy Carter – today’s middle class is as poor as the poor were in my day

by @ 8:06. Filed under Economy, Politics - National.

Really, Peanut Farmer? Let’s ignore the middle class for now and compare the poor now and the poor then:

  • Back then, the average family had one color TV out in the living room and maybe one black-and-white TV in the parents’ bedroom. Now, there’s color TVs in every room used for either living or entertaining (oh yeah, they’re probably hooked into a pay-TV service and some are hooked into gaming consoles, neither of which were exactly the province of the poor or the middle class back in Peanut Farmer’s day).
  • Back then, there were 2, maybe 3, phones in the house on a single line. Now, every family member over the age of 12 has his or her own phone and phone number (and they’re portable, and a couple are probably smartphones, again not exactly the province of either the poor or the middle class, or in the case of the smartphone, even the ultra-rich, back in the Peanut Farmer’s day).
  • Back then, home-cooked meals, and cooked-from-scratch meals, were the norm, with even fast-food restaurant a rare treat. Now, dinner is about as likely to come out of a McDonald’s bag or a Domino’s box as it is out of a heat-and-serve one, and a cooked-from-scratch meal is the rare treat.
  • Back then, there might have been 2 cars in the household, and most likely only if the mom also worked. Now, it’s as likely as not that little Biffy/Buffy has his/her own car to drive to prom (which would make 3 cars in the average 2-parent family because, thanks to a historically-high overall government demand, mom has to work too).

I will grant that there has been a major slip backward since the summer of 2008 with the “legacy” rich’s attempt to make sure Al Czervik doesn’t even have enough money to think about getting into Bushwood, but that’s on the Peanut Farmer’s party.

October 7, 2013

The definitive shutdown analogy

by @ 17:56. Filed under Politics - National.

Hot Air commenter 18-1 absolutely nailed it in the comments section of a post on White House economic advisor Gene Sperling terming prioritization of paying bills “default by another name”:

Let’s break this into an analogy.

Your house is about to be foreclosed on and your credit cards are maxed out. Your earnings are down because the Obamaconomy has devastated your income.

Your spouse comes to you with a handful of credit card applications saying this is the only way you can still afford to go out to eat every night and still go on that vacation to Obamacare Tahiti as promised.

You refuse to sign up for the new cards and instead demand that you cut all unnecessary spending now before you lose everything.

Your spouse responds by calling you a terrorist, a hostage taker, and an extremist. Your spouse locks you out of the house, and spends money hiring people to wall off not only your driveway, but everyone in the neighborhood.

Who is the reckless individual in this case?

One thing 18-1 left out of that – you offered several different ideas on spending to cut, and your spouse rejected out of hand every single one of them.

As for Sperling, the dirty little secret is no matter what the politicians in DC do, there will be a “technical default” within 15 years. There isn’t enough money in the world to support another doubling of the publicly-held portion of the debt, and there isn’t enough money in the US to support the amount of taxation required to avoid said doubling.

October 6, 2013

Mark Steyn pens the NPS Anthem

by @ 21:28. Filed under Politics - National.

(H/T – Dad29:

Mark Steyn penned this catchy tune, which is a hell of a lot better than the Unionista Singers ever did.

This land is our land, it sure ain’t your land
From downtown DC to the Lake Mead shoreland
From the Arctic Refuge to the Gulf Stream waters
This land is closed to you and yours

I’m hoping for a tape of him singing it on Thursday, mostly so I don’t have to do it myself.

Do go over to NRO for verses 2, 3 and 4.

October 3, 2013

Walker defies Team SCOAMT

This Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on how Scott Walker defied federal diktats to close several state parks that receive a modicum of federal funds, and use a 1961 agreement to reopen a Mississippi River boat launch in a state park but on federal land, has gone viral. I could direct you to, say, the guest bloggers tending to The Gateway Pundit’s place or Hot Air for the macro shutdown take, but instead I’ll tie it to the Medicaid expansion that was part of PlaceboCare.

Over the course of the creation of the current state budget, the Rats and their allies-of-convenience in the health care industry tried to push Walker to accept a temporary federal funding of an expansion of Medicaid, saying it was “free money”. Walker refused, saying that the state would be left holding the bag when that money inevitably dried up.

Well, the federal money for the expansion of some state parks has dried up. Because Walker and the Republicans managed to cobble together a bit of a surplus, rather than be the heartless bastards the Rats and their presstitute organs say he is (and that Team Shutdown Clusterf*ck Of A Malignant Tyrant is), he and DNR secretary Cathy Stepp are able to keep those parks wide open.

Of course, $701,000 in parks revenue is a far cry from the hundreds of millions of dollars that Medicaid expansion is, and the shutdown is temporary.

October 2, 2013

The PlaceboCare national hotline number is…

by @ 19:41. Filed under PlaceboCare, Politics - National.

1-800-F1UCK YOU (or for those of you who can’t spell on a phone handset, 1-800-318-2596, with the 8-for-U not necessary).

What, were 1-800-382-5968 (FUCK-YOU), 1-800-358-5936 (FLUKE YOU, courtesy Myron Falwell in the comments section of Duane Patterson’s piece), and all the 888/877/866/855 variations of those two taken? Then again, Fluke does rhyme with fuck, so HHS might be counting on the low-information voters needing to L33T-spell phonetically.

October 20, 2012

The Final Debate Drunkblog

by @ 13:02. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest.

Don’t confuse this with a full-on Egg return, but since Shoebox is just about out of free time on Cover It Live, I’m doing the post for this one. The usual language warning applies, so bring your favorite beverages over and we’ll start this thing about 7:45 pm Central Monday.

October 14, 2012

Debate Thunderdome!

Two men enter! One man leaves! Two men enter! One man leaves!

Yes, it’s time for the second Presidential debate. With the Dems down 0-2 and going back to the Great Grimacer, they are in desperate need of at least a tie. If the Dems go down 0-3, even my former home state of Minnesota might have a chance of recovering from the Mondale Muff!

Join us Tuesday evening. I should get it going about 7:45 for you Central timers. As usual, the family friendly light will be out so bring your best snark!

October 10, 2012

VP Debate

Yup, it’s another Thursday and that means another debate!

This time we’ve got Joe “gaffe is my middle name” Biden going up against Paul “I’ve got your balanced budget right here” Ryan.

Join Me and hopefully Steve, for another evening of scoffing, snark and derision. I should have us up live about 7:45 y’alls time.

September 30, 2012

First Presidential Debate

by @ 13:02. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest.

Update: In a move that has come to be known in Wisconsin as “The Favre,” it is being reported that Steve Egg will be coming out of his self imposed retirement to join the live debate tonight….let’s see if his aging legs serve him better than Favre’s did!

Come one, come all. Bring your booze and your snark. Leave your thin skins at home!

I’ll try to get things rolling by about 7:45 Central

September 28, 2012

Out With a Bang!

Egg has announced that he will be putting up the closed sign here at NRE in the not too distant future. He’s graciously offered for me to take over here but really, can you imagine someone with my green complexion holding down a blog site for runny eggs? ewwwww!

All that said, there’s no reason to let many years of fun and friends go out with a whimper. We need to take advantage of the upcoming debates and take this baby out in style!

There are currently 4 Presidential/VP debates scheduled:

October 3rd at 8 Central
October 11th at 8 Central
October 16th at 8 Central
October 22nd at 8 Central

I’m a little challenged on the 22nd but think I can find a way to get live blogs going for all 4 events. Put these on your calendar today and plan on joining me and maybe Egg if he hasn’t succumbed to the Obamapacolypse by then. The “Family Friendly light” will definitely be extinguished for these events to plan on liquoring up prior to the start of the debate….you won’t want to be sober or sane for even a minute of these events!

Let’s take NRE out not with a whimper or simply a bang. Help me take NRE out in a fully engulfed in flames!

September 5, 2012

DemocRATs – We like being property of government

I wasn’t going to comment on a line from the DemocRAT National Convention’s opening video that said, “Government is the only thing we all belong to.” Then, an outfit called Revealing Politics decided to go out and ask delegates to the DemocRAT National Convention how it felt to belong to the government. I swear this video was not filmed in Pyongyang, even though the last time I saw something like it, it was:

September 4, 2012

$16,015,769,788,215.80

by @ 21:08. Filed under Politics - National.

Sometime on Friday, the federal government crossed the $16 trillion debt barrier, with the official announcement that it hit $16,015,769,788,215.80 by the end of Friday made today. Less than 4 short years ago, it was $10.6 trillion.

The Republican National Committee decided to quote President Obama extensively for this occasion:

Let’s see; 4 years of $1.1 trillion-plus deficits (none of which qualifies as “cutting the deficit in half”), more publicly-held debt added under Obama ($4.965 trillion) than total debt added by any previous President – yep, Teh SCOAMF is a real success story…if your definition of “success” is “make it nigh impossible to dig out from governmental excess”.

Is it too late to save Social Security?

by @ 20:31. Filed under Social Security crater.

For a long time, it has been argued that Social Security was the easier of the two entitlement “bombs” to defuse. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) infamously said last year that nothing needed to be done to Social Security until the 2030s. Social Security Public Trustee Charles Blahous, author of Social Security: The Unfinished Work, argues that it may already be too late to save Social Security “as we know it”:

Social Security’s future, at least in the form it has existed dating back to FDR, is now greatly imperiled. The last few years of legislative neglect — due to a failure of national policy leadership coming just as the baby boomers have begun to retire — have drastically harmed the program’s future financial prospects. Individuals now planning their financial futures, whether as taxpayers or as beneficiaries, should be pricing in a substantial risk that the federal government will not be able to maintain Social Security as a self-financing, stand-alone program over the long term. If Social Security financing corrections are not enacted in 2013, or at the very latest by 2015, it becomes fairly likely that they will not be enacted at all.

Blahous gave three reasons for a lack of hope for resolving the Social Security crisis – the Baby Boomers starting to retire, the inability of either side to compromise in the face of a lack of one-party domination, and the lack of seriousness of many in power to address the issue. Allow me to add a fourth – the inability to even address the Disability Insurance (DI) portion. Despite outgo in the DI program outstripping taxes since the end of 2005, outgo outstripping both taxes and interest on the trust fund since early 2009, and predictions in each of the last several Trustees’ Reports that the trust fund would zero out sometime this decade (with the 2012 Trustees’ Report putting that year as 2016), nothing has been done to address this. Even the assumed “solution” of chaining it to the larger Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund, which would extend the life of DI roughly 17 years at the cost of shortening the life of OASI roughly 2 years, has not made it to the floor of either House of Congress.

The overall problem is much worse, if not quite as immediate, as the 1983 OASI crisis, or the 1994 DI crisis. In 1983, OASI merely had to weather a short-term storm before running nearly 30 years of surpluses, though it would have collapsed again in the 2020s and, if tethered to DI, collapsed the entire system by 2040. In 1994, the fix for the drain of the DI fund was even simpler because it was merely a short-term fix designed to last 22 years – reallocate a larger portion of the FICA/SECA tax toward DI, possible because the larger OASI fund was projected to run a couple decades of surpluses with or without the reallocation. Now, both programs are in the red, and indeed, about to be deeper in the hole than projected in the mid-1980s as this graph on the projected balances from the 1982 and 2012 Trustees’ Reports from Blahous illustrates:

In 1983, the long-term solutions, which barely made it through Congress, were to delay the COLA adjustment by 6 months, bring federal employees into the system, subject the self-employed to the same total tax rate as “traditional” employees and employers, and subject half (the employer-funded portion) the benefits of the “wealthy” to the income tax (which, thanks to a lack of any adjustment for inflation, is hitting more seniors every year). Blahous notes that the divide now is at least twice as wide as it was then.

Worse, two of the main “solutions” often offered up by those on either side of the “limit benefits vs. tax more” divide, limit benefit growth to price inflation instead of wage inflation for at least the “high-income” earners, and raise the cap on the FICA/SECA tax to an undetermined maximum (up to and including infinity) without allowing any increased benefits, appear to be unable to solve the long-term problem on their own. Indeed, while either of the two most-extreme versions of the “solutions”, indexing all benefits to price inflation and eliminating the cap on the FICA/SECA tax entirely, may have passed the “75-year actuary test” back in 2005, neither alone will work in 2012.

What does continuing to do nothing until it is too late mean for Social Security? Blahous explains:

Upon merging into the general fund, Social Security benefits would be far less secure going forward. Benefit payments would have to compete with other annual spending priorities, and would be limited to those deemed affordable given pressures elsewhere in the budget. They would thus be much more susceptible to sudden reductions, means-tests, and other episodic changes to which general fund financed programs have long been subjected.

If this all happens, and renders tomorrow’s Social Security benefits less secure than today’s, it would be a tragic irony: the outcome would have been brought about largely by supporters of Social Security having countenanced the tactics of delay to the point that the program’s unique political protections could no longer be preserved. Those who care about the Social Security program need to clearly understand the consequence of this ongoing neglect; that time for a realistic financing solution has nearly run out.

Just as a reminder, when the trust funds run out of money, whether it be the DI fund in 2016 should nothing be done, the OASI fund in 2035 should nothing be done, or the combined OASDI funds in 2033 should that combining be the only thing done, the benefits paid out by said fund(s) will be cut by over 20%.

There is also the very real cost of getting DI to the middle of 2016, and OASI barely into 2035 (or if one prefers, the combined programs into 2033); the monetization of the trust funds. The Trustees put the difference between non-trust-fund revenues and expenditures of the combined OASDI programs at $4.993 trillion in current dollars (inflation-adjusted $3.506 trillion in 2012 dollars) through 2032, the last full year of “normal” operations. In 2032, the inflation-adjusted shortfall is projected to be roughly $349 billion in 2012 dollars (non-adjusted $586 trillion), or nearly a third of all the discetionary spending by the federal government this fiscal year, with an ever-increasing shortfall in succeeding years. Unfortunately, that money doesn’t exist outside of a series of IOUs, which means it will have to be borrowed, taxes will have to be increased, other spending will have to be cut, or some combination of the three will need to be done.

Before that, specifically in 2026, total spending on Social Security on an inflation-adjusted basis will exceed what will be spent in federal discretionary outlays this fiscal year. If all that is done is Social Security remains a drag on the larger federal budget by paying out all of the promised benefits, by the time 2070 rolls around and most of the Gen-Xers (including me) die off, in inflation-adjusted terms, spending on Social Security will be more than what either the White House Office of Management and Budget or the Congressional Budget Office expects the federal government to take in next fiscal year, when Taxmageddon hits.

Social Security, in its current form, is doomed. Waiting until the last few months, as was done in both 1983 and 1994, is not exactly an option. The window for an “easy” solution, if it hasn’t already closed, is rapidly closing. The person who is in the White House after January 19, 2013, and those in Congress next year, will have to make hard choices quickly.

June 27, 2012

I wouldn’t want to be Bo tomorrow!

If you blog about politics, it’s hard not to toss a blog up prior to tomorrow’s announcement re: Placebocare.

I’m on vacation in the great northern parts of Minnesota so this won’t be long. I want it down to play against after the decision is revealed and for posterity…it’s too damn easy to say “yeah, I knew that’s what would happen!”

Placebocare is going down in flames. I say this not because I want it to…I do, but because of the signs along the way.

Ginsberg inkled the decision a few weeks back when she said that the decisions would have “sharp disagreement.” I can’t see her making this comment without the single most important case of the session, and arguably of this generation, in mind.

Second, it appears that Chief Justice Roberts himself will be writing the opinion for the case. There is much rumor on this but it makes sense as he is the only justice who has not written one this go around. I think the fact that Roberts writes the opinion makes the mandate a goner.

As to the rest of Placebocare, I think once the mandate is gone, the Supreme Court will also decide that the rest of the bill needs to go. I think there will be two likely arguments for this.

First, the Commerce Clause has been used as an excuse for Congress to pass legislation on damn near anything they wanted to for the past 40 years or so. “The slippery slope” is no longer a theory, it is real. I think that given that the administration argued for the right to do this under the Commerce Clause, the Supremes will take this chance to council Congress on what is and what is not acceptable to slide under the Commerce Clause door. I would expect Roberts to see this decision as his legacy in the court. I don’t seem him passing up this opportunity to put his stamp on the history of the court.

Second, the Administration gave the Supremes the perfect out on shooting the entire bill as they argued that the mandate was essential to make Placebocare work financially. I can’t remember who, it may have been Roberts, made the astute observation that it was somewhat indefensible of the Administration to ask the Supremes to figure out the financial implications of what should stay or go in the Placebocare law if the mandate was struck. Hell, Nancy Pelosi didn’t even know what was in the bill until it was signed but knew it was a good law. How could the Supremes be more omniscient than Nancy P and Harry R?

OK, so Placebocare is dead, then what?

Well, if you thought Obama was petulant after he got slapped on Arizona, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

If this goes as I see it, Obama is a lame duck. Worse, he’s a dead duck politically. Unfortunately, he will still hold the office of President for several more months. I don’t expect Obama to go quietly into that good night. Rather, like post Arizona, I think we could see petulance at a level not seen since the last of the Roman emperors. We are likely to see all kinds of Executive orders made dealing with administration and fund dispersal of various federally supported medical programs. Obama’s sole intent will be to leave office with a great big “I told you so” sign on his bumper. He will attempt to cause chaos in as many medical programs as possible just to be able to say that his plan would have prevented all of that. In fact, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him do this and couch it as things he must now do to be fiscally responsible

Obama has shown himself to be a very sore loser. I wouldn’t want to be Bo his dog, tomorrow night!

June 13, 2012

Your Shrinkage is Showing!

In the science of thermodynamics we learn that as objects are cooled they shrink, as they are heated, they expand.  I remember enough about high school physics to tell you that the reason for this is that as atoms are heated, they get excited, move vibrate more and the item expands.  The opposite effect occurs when the atoms are cooled.

At this point I must warn you that if you are squeamish about subject matter, you may want to skip a few paragraphs as I am known for being perfectly willing to discuss and have viewed, certain body parts that may not be considered “civil” discussion.  I’ll point out where to rejoin us if you skip ahead.

Most males, beyond a certain age, are intimately familiar with the effects of thermal expansion.  Drop a bunch of teenage males into a cold pool and you will hear a noticeable heightening in their voice tones as thermal expansion, or in this case retraction, works on their genitals.  Drop a bunch of 20+ year old guys into the same cold pool and not only will you hear their voices move up in range but you will hear these voices explaining to the other males how they are really much larger than the slight bump in their swimsuits would suggest.  They will argue that the cold water is having an enormous impact on them.  They will further argue that under normal circumstances, they are much more impressive. OK, if you skipped that last paragraph, you can return now. Last Friday during a press conference, President Obama said,

“The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government. “

As a bit of an aside, for any of you that believe that his was just another of Obama’s “Biden moments” because he didn’t work from a teleprompter, you’re wrong. Obama said clearly what he wanted to say. The proof? Listen to Harry Reid from October of last year…same line. This wasn’t a slip, this comes from Obama’s Socialist belief that government is the source of all economic good:

OK, back to topic…

Obama’s statement received an immediate reaction of incredulity from everyone not living in Obama’s big government bubble, and rightly so. Since then, Obama and his surrogates have been attempting to explain, deflect and walk back the statement.

White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, took the media to task for asking about Obama’s statement telling them that they should “do your jobs and report on contexts.” This was a follow up to David Axelrod, who traveled the weekend talk show circuit, using the same “context” explanation. Further, he argued that voters knew what the President meant and wouldn’t be sucked in by the Republican’s misrepresentation.

On Wednesday, James Carville basically told the Obama campaign to quit telling people how much he’s done for the economy…they don’t believe it!

Is it just me or do voices of Carney, Axelrod and Carville all sound like they’ve had a dip in cold water?

Meanwhile, like the 20 something standing in a cold pool, Obama continues to explain to us that it’s not really him, it’s the environment around him that makes him look small and ineffective. Using terms like “headwinds,” Obama blames everything including Buuuuuush, Japan, Europe, Congress and others for his inability to fix the economy.

Today, Reuters/Ipsos shows Obama and Romney in a statistical dead heat among registered voters (likely a Romney lead of likely voters for a variety of reasons) in a poll that was taken largely after the Obama statement. The poll also shows Romney preferred over Obama on economic issues.

Also today, Rasmussen has a poll that shows Romney up 3 among likely voters in Wisconsin. This is the latest poll that shows Romney tied or ahead in virtually every battleground state with momentum on his side in each case.

Obama and his spokespeople can continue to believe that the President should not be held accountable for the mess our economy has become. They can continue to believe that they will be able to fool some of the people all of the time. In fact, they may be able to do that….with some people. But, they won’t fool all of the people. In fact, it looks like fewer and fewer people are being fooled by Obama’s litany of excuses. It looks to me that despite his protests, Obama’s shrinkage is clearly visible. It’s time for him to get out of the deep end before he does himself and us any permanent damage.

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