Saturday, February 22, 2014

Over two-thirds of the contiguous USA covered with snow | Watts Up With That?

"Meretricious Meets Meddlesome"

If the college experience were in fact the tsunami of violence that the feminists proclaim, leading to widespread emotional dysfunction—a dysfunction nowhere in evidence among increasingly dominant female college graduates—there would have been a stampede to create single-sex schools where girls could study in safety. Instead, college applications from girls rise each year, and the chance of admission at selective campuses drops further under the press of eager petitioners. At Yale alone, the target of an Obama administration Title IX probe into alleged indifference to rampant sexual assault, applications rose from 13,000 in 1996 to 27,000 in 2011. Somehow, word about Yale's "unsafe" environment for girls is not getting out.

Do women need the protection of men?  Or are they equal and able to stand on their own two feet, make decisions with regard to their own welfare, and suffer the consequences of their own risk taking?  You know, like adults?  The irony is the "feminists" said "we don't need men's protection, we are good on our own" and now they are saying "we need protection, we can't fend for ourselves, it's a mean cruel world."  It's the same soft bigotry we see with the races, and it is fed by the present obsession with the power of being a victim.

The End of Government | RealClearPolitics

But no one is looking. Budget debates and the media focus on deficits and debt ceilings. This makes people seem engaged when they are actually evading explicit choices of what programs to cut and taxes to raise.
Both liberals and conservatives are complicit in this charade, but liberals are more so because their unwillingness to discuss Social Security and Medicare benefits candidly is the crux of the budget stalemate.
This refusal is rich in irony: The pro-government party in rhetoric has become an anti-government party in practice. 

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Suicide, Government, Veterans

On a discussion of combat veteran suicides:
It is a grievous thing to consider that so many cannot reconcile their pain in another way. I don't know that I have any perspective except that I have no doubt that the govt can do little to impact this. It is unfortunate that care of veterans is left to giant and mostly unaccountable agencies, bound by clunky regulations and people who can do little to make an impact. Here's an easy prediction - politicians will campaign on reform in vet care - not much will change. Politicians will campaign on medicare and SS reform. Not much will change. Politicians will campaign on health care reform - we may see change but we won't see folks getting healthy. If a solution comes, it won't be from the brute force of govt, it will come from someone with passion and purpose and inspiring charisma like Dr. King who will so reshape our perspective that we will fix it instead of pawning it off on the preening idiots we elect to "serve" in public office. 23 years and five deployments (Desert Fox, OEF, OIF), and I am grateful each day to have returned. I feel worse and worse about how shabby our politicians behave. The ridiculous proclamations they make about how much they do "for us" - they give themselves bro reps.

There's a lot of discussion of retiree benefits. The cruel irony of the way the DoD is set up is that money that is paid to those of us who used serve is money that won't be spent to equip and train those who serve now. The promises made via entitlement programs appear by the projections I've seen over the last 7 or more years to be eating the entire federal budget. There's a reasonably complete description of the topic called "the end of government" by Samuelson. The point is the last 40+ years of politics has produced a result which is unsustainable. Interesting where this rubber meets the road. The law said they have to pay veterans a raise equal to inflation on their promised retirement benefits. They made a new law that will change that annual increase to "inflation -1%", until we reach age 60 or so, after which pay will restored to what it would have been. It's not like they promised benefits and made them part of the contract they made with veterans and then violated that contract. They made a law that was above and beyond contractual obligation and then changed that law. Is it right or wrong? That's what your conscience is for. As a veteran that hopes idiot politicians never send the troops out to fight wars that politicians will then quit when it becomes expedient, I want the troops to have the best equipment and training but never need it. I'd also like to have the retirement benefits I had until a couple months ago. I can't have both. And that problem will get worse each year. An easy prediction - the politicians will campaign on solving the budget sustainability problem but won't until we are on the brink of the death spiral. Thus, the price paid will be worse for all, and it will be paid by those who never received a penny of the extravagant promises made via entitlements

How Giving $1,000 to Every Baby in America Could Reduce Income Inequality -
Like it or not, the sharp inequality in the country is a fundamental issue.
The gap between the richest and the rest of us is greater than it has been since 1929—a notable year. The gap between the pay of CEOs and top executives and the average pay of their companies' workers has grown into a yawning chasm compared with the ratio just a couple of decades ago.
One can believe, along with deluded oligarchs such as Tom Perkins, that any criticism of the rich is like Kristallnacht—or, more reasonably, that without the drivers of wealth, the entire society would falter and fail to grow. Or one can believe, as some studies show, that social mobility has not fundamentally changed in several decades—that Americans can still move up the ladder.
Or one can believe that the failure to deal with the stagnant incomes of the lower half of the population will lead to a sag in demand that will itself imperil growth. And one can believe that as our population ages and people live longer—making the ratio of Social Security contributors to Social Security beneficiaries much less favorable—stagnant or lower incomes will undermine the viability of the entire system, much less the ability of those relying solely or mostly on Social Security to get by.

Inequality is a "fundamental issue."  Thank you sir, for not taking more words to say nothing.

Someone, anyone, show one negative impact to anyone from inequality?  It hurts no one.  Live and let live.

This proposal, though, might be the gateway to jettisoning the nastiness of social security.

Whatever combination of those things you believe, one thing should be accepted universally: If Americans lose the sense of the American Dream—that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can rise to the absolute limits of your own abilities—and if Americans gain a sense that the rich get richer while the rest of us get screwed, our national unity will be imperiled, and the opportunities for real demagogues to emerge will grow.
Is there any way to deal with this problem that doesn't get caught in our partisan, ideological, and tribal crosshairs? There is, and I am surprised it has not entered our policy discourse at all as the debate over inequality and adequate living standards has raged.
It is called KidSave, and it was devised in the 1990s by then-Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, with then-Sen. Joe Lieberman as cosponsor. The first iteration of KidSave, in simple terms, was this: Each year, for every one of the 4 million newborns in America, the federal government would put $1,000 in a designated savings account. The payment would be financed by using 1 percent of annual payroll-tax revenues. Then, for the first five years of a child's life, the $500 child tax credit would be added to that account, with a subsidy for poor people who pay no income. The accounts would be administered the same way as the federal employees' Thrift Savings Plan, with three options—low-, medium-, and high-risk—using broad-based stock and bond funds. Under the initial KidSave proposal, the funds could not be withdrawn until age 65, when, through the miracle of compound interest, they would represent a hefty nest egg. At 5 percent annual growth, an individual would have almost $700,000.
The initial idea of KidSave was to provide a retirement supplement to Social Security, making it easier in some ways to reform Social Security to achieve fiscal solvency. But the concept can serve multiple purposes at a very small cost.
Imagine if we adjusted the KidSave rules so that at certain pivot points in life, individuals could withdraw a portion of their nest egg to pay for college expenses or a down payment on a house or a medical or other emergency, or even the creation of a small business, while still making sure that a substantial share of the funds would stay in a retirement account. We could ameliorate many of the problems facing hard-pressed middle-class and working-class families and encourage entrepreneurship, while protecting a major nest egg for retirement years. No doubt, some would squander or misuse the money, but for most, it would provide an opportunity and a lifeline.
More than 65 percent of Americans have a net worth of less than $100,000. The average net worth in the U.S. is about $37,000. But averages disguise another reality: the dramatic differences in net worth between the bottom and the top. The wealth owned by the top 1 percent of the population is more than 37 percent of the total; the top 20 percent own 87.7 percent of the wealth. KidSave would significantly change all those numbers and ratios, and provide a cushion of wealth for those at the bottom of the ladder.
KidSave drew support from liberals and conservatives, from unions and business interests, from the Heritage Foundation and AARP. For conservatives, it meant a universal investor class. For liberals, it meant giving wealth and security to tens of millions of people who have little or nothing. But for reasons I can't explain, it went nowhere.
The same was true of a second iteration of the program, where each child would get an initial $2,000 loan at birth from Social Security, with the money also placed in a retirement account invested through the Thrift Savings Plan; the initial $2,000, as adjusted for inflation, would be paid back in five annual installments starting at age 30, but with the accrued investment growth continuing to build in the individual's account. That plan was cosponsored by Kerrey and fellow Sens. Rick Santorum, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Charles Grassley, and John Breaux, but it still died on the vine.
In his State of the Union message, President Obama proposed a commendable plan for starter retirement accounts, MyRA, providing an incentive for workers to have small amounts automatically withdrawn from their salaries to invest in principal-protected Treasury bonds. Nice, but tiny. KidSave is much more ambitious, with much greater potential. Why not give every American a piece of the pie? If the cost, in the end, were even $20 billion a year, that is chump change in a $17 trillion economy—and, of course, money that would all be invested in America. KidSave is an idea whose time has come.
Any takers?

Most of the Benefits of a Minimum Wage Increase Would Not Go to Poor Households | NCPA

From 2003 to 2009, the federal hourly minimum wage rose in steps from $5.15 to $5.85, and then from $6.55 to $7.25. Between 2003 and 2007, 28 states increased their minimum wages to a level higher than the federal minimum. San Diego State University economics professor Joseph J. Sabia and Cornell University economics professor Richard V. Burkhauser examined the effects of these increases and reported their results in the prestigious Southern Economic Journal.1 They "find no evidence that minimum wage increases between 2003 and 2007 lowered state poverty rates."

It's an informative read and intuitively sensible.  They change these min wage things, but who sees the impact?  

"I'm a Believer"

All the evidence, then, points to substantial positive short-run effects from the Obama stimulus. And there were surely long-term benefits, too: big investments in everything from green energy to electronic medical records.
So why does everyone — or, to be more accurate, everyone except those who have seriously studied the issue — believe that the stimulus was a failure? Because the U.S. economy continued to perform poorly — not disastrously, but poorly — after the stimulus went into effect.

Interesting expression of faith.  By what means could we "know" what would have happened without the stimulus?  Dr. K moves with ease from the role of economist to true believer.

"Big Investments"?  Where the money bro?

Charles Krauthammer: The myth of ‘settled science’ - The Washington Post

How inconvenient. But we've been here before. Hurricane Sandy was made the poster child for the alleged increased frequency and strength of "extreme weather events" like hurricanes.
Nonsense. Sandy wasn't even a hurricanewhen it hit the United States. Indeed, in all of 2012, only a single hurricane made U.S. landfall. And 2013 saw the fewest Atlantic hurricanes in 30 years. In fact, in the last half-century, one-thirdfewer major hurricanes have hit the United States than in the previous half-century.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Drives Success? -
A SEEMINGLY un-American fact about America today is that for some groups, much more than others, upward mobility and the American dream are alive and well. It may be taboo to say it, but certain ethnic, religious and national-origin groups are doing strikingly better than Americans overall.
Indian-Americans earn almost double the national figure (roughly $90,000 per year in median household income versus $50,000). Iranian-, Lebanese- and Chinese-Americans are also top-earners. In the last 30 years, Mormons have become leaders of corporate America, holding top positions in many of America's most recognizable companies. These facts don't make some groups "better" than others, and material success cannot be equated with a well-lived life. But willful blindness to facts is never a good policy.
Jewish success is the most historically fraught and the most broad-based. Although Jews make up only about 2 percent of the United States' adult population, they account for a third of the current Supreme Court; over two-thirds of Tony Award-winning lyricists and composers; and about a third of American Nobel laureates.
The most comforting explanation of these facts is that they are mere artifacts of class — rich parents passing on advantages to their children — or of immigrants arriving in this country with high skill and education levels. Important as these factors are, they explain only a small part of the picture.
Today's wealthy Mormon businessmen often started from humble origins. Although India and China send the most immigrants to the United States through employment-based channels, almost half of all Indian immigrants and over half of Chinese immigrants do not enter the country under those criteria. Many are poor and poorly educated. Comprehensive data published by the Russell Sage Foundation in 2013 showed that the children of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese immigrants experienced exceptional upward mobility regardless of their parents' socioeconomic or educational background.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

TSA Agent Confession - POLITICO Magazine

Dear America, I Saw You Naked

More than a million people saw the video within a few days of its being posted. Finally, the public had a hint of what my colleagues and I already knew. The scanners were useless. The TSA was compelling toddlers, pregnant women, cancer survivors—everyone—to stand inside radiation-emitting machines that didn't work.
Officially, the agency downplayed the Corbett video: "For obvious security reasons, we can't discuss our technology's detection capability in detail, however TSA conducts extensive testing of all screening technologies in the laboratory and at airports prior to rolling them out to the entire field," an agency representative wrote on the TSA's official blog. Behind closed doors, supervisors instructed us to begin patting down the sides of every fifth passenger as a clumsy workaround to the scanners' embarrassing vulnerability.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

11 Facts About The Minimum Wage That President Obama Forgot To Mention

Unfortunately for the White House, many of its claims about the minimum wage are divorced from reality. Here are 11 facts about the minimum wage that Barack Obama forgot to mention during his State of the Union address.
1) Only 1 Percent Of The U.S. Labor Force Earns The Minimum Wage
2) Teenagers Comprise The Single Largest Age Group Of Minimum Wage Workers
3) Most Minimum Wage Workers Are Under The Age Of 25
4) A Majority Of Those Who Earn The Minimum Wage Work In Food Preparation Or Sales
5) Less Than 5 Percent Of People Who Earn The Minimum Wage Work In
6) A Majority Of Them Also Worked Less Than 30 Hours Per Week
7) Less Than One-Third Worked Full-Time
8) A Full-Time Minimum Wage Worker In 2014 Will Make 24 Percent More Than The Federal Poverty Limit
A White House tweet and accompanying infographic from last August said, "It's time to raise the minimum wage because nobody who works full-time should love in poverty." But a little math and a quick look at the 2014 federal poverty guidelines show that a single individual who earns the current federal minimum wage and works full-time will earn $14,500 in a year (50 weeks per year x 40 hours per week x $7.25 per hour). By way of comparison, the federal poverty limit for 2014 for a one-person household is $11,670.
Wage income from a two-earner family with two kids where both adults earned the minimum wage would exceed the federal poverty limit by 22 percent:  $29,000 in income compared to a four-member household federal poverty limit of $23,850. And that's before federal benefits like Medicaid and food stamps are included.
9) One-Third Of Minimum Wage Workers Either Dropped Out Of Or Never Attended High School
10) There Are Nearly Six Times More Minimum Wage Workers Today Than In 2007
11) A Change In The Minimum Wage Often Triggers Union Wage Hikes And Benefit Renegotiations
The famous investment banker J.P. Morgan said something along the lines of, "Every man has two reasons for everything he does:  a good reason and the real reason."
Read the whole article to find out the real reason why the min wage is a political winner for the President.

Will a Fish Swim?

 Is she going to run? Fish have got to swim. Birds have got to fly, and Clintons have to run for office. It's what they do. It's a metabolic urge. That's all they've done their entire life is borrow money from rich people to seek public office. And I think that will continue and "The New York Times" article is a guide to this. The problem is, a problem, nothing is more annoying to voters and infuriating to activists than a candidate that comes cloaked in an aura of inevitability. Because it says, in effect, here they are and you don't matter, and this is a foregone conclusion, and their inclination is to say well, we'll just see about that.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Abortion Rate Hits a 30-Year Low | Mother Jones

The US abortion rate fell by 13 percent from 2008 to 2011, according to a new study.
The study, released by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights think tank, concluded that nearly 1.1 million abortions took place in the United States in 2011, some 700,000 fewer than in 2008. That's the equivalent of 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women between 15 and 44. During the same time, the number of abortion providers fell by 4 percent and the number of abortion clinics fell by 1 percent.
"The national abortion rate appears to have resumed its long-term decline," conclude researchers Rachel K. Jones and Jenna Jerman. The rate of abortions in the United State has decreased almost every year since 1981, when, according to Guttmacher spokeswoman Rebecca Wind, there were 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women. The decline halted from 2005 to 2008. As of 2011, the abortion rate not only began to drop again, it also hit its lowest point since 1973.

Myth-Making About Economic Inequality | RealClearPolitics

Unless you are exceptionally coldblooded, it's hard not to be disturbed by today's huge economic inequality. The gap between the rich and the poor is enormous, wider than most Americans would (almost certainly) wish. But this incontestable reality has made economic inequality a misleading intellectual fad, blamed for many of our problems. Actually, the reverse is true: Economic inequality is usually a consequence of our problems and not a cause.
For starters, the poor are not poor because the rich are rich. The two conditions are generally unrelated.

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Unicorns and Wage Gaps

Consider, for example, how men and women differ in their college majors. Here is a list (PDF) of the ten most remunerative majors compiled by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Men overwhelmingly outnumber women in all but one of them:
1.   Petroleum Engineering: 87% male
2.   Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: 48% male
3.   Mathematics and Computer Science: 67% male
4.   Aerospace Engineering: 88% male
5.   Chemical Engineering: 72% male
6.   Electrical Engineering: 89% male
7.   Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: 97% male
8.   Mechanical Engineering: 90% male
9.   Metallurgical Engineering: 83% male
10. Mining and Mineral Engineering: 90% male

The Mobility Muddle | RealClearPolitics

By the conventional wisdom, American society is becoming more rigid. People's place on the economic ladder ("relative mobility") is increasingly fixed.
Untrue, concludes the NBER study. (The study is NBER Working Paper 19844.)
"We find that children entering the labor market today have the same chances of moving up in the income distribution (relative to their parents) as children born in the 1970s," write the economists. Comparing their results with earlier studies covering 1950 to 1970, they also find little difference. Social mobility "remained remarkably stable over the second half of the 20th century in the United States," the study says.
Moreover, there's significant shifting among classes. About a third of the children born into the wealthiest fifth of Americans stay in the richest fifth as adults -- but two-thirds move down. Among children born to parents in the middle 20 percent by income, about a fifth end up in the richest fifth, as do about 9 percent of children born to the poorest fifth of Americans.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

What Did You Expect?

It seems to me that you are making the error that was the norm in textbooks and the profession fifty years ago, before public choice theory. You are evaluating proposals for government policy on the basis of what they could do if optimally implemented not on what one can expect them to do given the incentives of the people making the decisions—what used to be referred to as the philosopher king model of government. It makes no more sense than evaluating the market alternative on the assumption that all the decision makers in that case will act to maximize social welfare rather than in their own interest. The question is not whether an optimal carbon tax designed and enforced by wise and benevolent economists would produce net benefits—very likely it would. It's whether passing a carbon tax designed and implemented as we can best expect it to be would produce net benefits.