Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cruising the Web

John Podhoretz explains why liberals' victory lap over Obamacare is quite premature. And any politicians who pretend to be excited about the CBO's projections of lower federal deficits this year are also quite premature in their celebration.
But CBO also expects things to get worse in a hurry. In just the next two years, with no more federal budget sequester to limit spending, annual outlays will grow by almost $500 billion, driving federal spending above $4 trillion for the first time. In that fiscal year of 2016, federal deficits will resume their upward march. By 2023 we will be back to the annual trillion-dollar deficits that characterized the Obama first term. The debt subject to limit, now $17.5 trillion, would need to rise to more than $27 trillion by 2024 to cover all the expected spending. Of course a growing economy would be a great help in financing the looming spending increases, but the current White House is more concerned with reallocating wealth than with allowing people to create it.

While we're getting depressed, we should also note that the $17.5 trillion that many people think of as the federal debt only scratches the surface of the future obligations promised by politicians. Last year legendary investor Stanley Druckenmiller calculated the net present value of Beltway commitments and concluded that "the future liabilities are $205 trillion, not 17."

How long the world's investors will continue to finance U.S. debt is a question. But whether a reckoning occurs sooner or later, eventually all of this spending and debt must be paid for with higher tax collections.

So as bad as you feel reviewing this year's tax return, remember that things could be much worse. And they soon will be, unless the next President is committed to reform in Washington and revival in the rest of the country.

Well, isn't this just typical? The Census Bureau is changing how they measure how many people are uninsured just in time so that it won't be possible to measure how many people have gotten health insurance under Obamacare.
The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.

An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.
Coincidence? And what are the chances that Obama supporters will cite the lower numbers as proof that Obamacare is working regardless of what the small print says? As the WSJ writes today,
The FDA would never approve a new drug whose maker completely changed the clinical trial protocol in the middle of the experiment, yet that is what the White House has done. How many people gained or lost insurance under ObamaCare? Did government crowd out individual insurance? What about employer-sponsored insurance? It will be much harder and in some cases impossible to know.

Robert Pear of the New York Times NYT +4.69% obtained internal Census documents that note that the new CPS system produces lower estimates of the uninsured as an artifact of how the questionnaire is structured. One memo refers to the "coincidental and unfortunate timing" and that, "Ideally, the redesign would have had at least a few years to gather base line and trend data."

Ideally, the White House would have provided those years. For changes this substantial, standard procedure would be to ask the new and old questions concurrently. With an overlap, researchers could study changes over time using the long-term historical information without introducing bias, as well as interpret emerging developments with new tools.

The Census says the new CPS is more accurate, and demographers and statisticians of all persuasions have argued for years that the old version overreports the number of uninsured relative to other surveys. But the inflated figures served the politicians who were plugging national health care, and Democrats in 2009 and 2010 used them to exaggerate the problem amid the push to put more of American health care under government direction.

As with the IRS targeting of conservative political groups, this sudden change will undermine public trust in the supposedly nonpartisan institutions of government. Muddying a useful source of information about ObamaCare's results is definitely unfortunate, but our guess is that it wasn't coincidental.

And, of course, Jay Carney says that there are no plans for the administration to release any further information about the people who have signed up for Obamacare on the federal exchanges. They wouldn't want to release any information to indicate how many of those people have actually paid for their insurance or how many were previously uninsured or are now on Medicaid. They'll want to keep those sorts of details as secret as possible.

Wow, look at these poll results from Democratic pollster PPP: Greg Abbot is leading Wendy Davis in the race for Texas governor among women voters. I guess basing your whole campaign on your support for late-term abortions is not the appeal to women voters that Democrats thought it was.

Jeff Jacoby asks a good question: Why aren't feminists angry at Brandeis for rescinding their invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak and receive an honorary degree? After all, she has devoted her life, despite death threats, to the rights of women in the Islamic world.
But it happens routinely. People prepared to label opposition to employer-paid contraceptives a “war on women” are generally much less willing to channel their outrage at the savagery of honor killings or child marriages in non-Western societies. “They fear treading on cultural toes,” says Jasvinder Sanghera, one of the film’s featured advocates. “We’re constantly having to remind them that cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable.”

For Sanghera, who fled a forced marriage as a young teen, this is no abstract theory. She is haunted by the memory of her sister, Ravina, who committed suicide rather than “dishonor” her family by leaving the husband she was forced to marry. Also highlighted in the film is Raquel Saraswati, who embraces Islam as a source of strength and peace in her life, yet feels “afraid all the time” of the backlash against those who challenge “honor-based” violence against women.

Efforts by CAIR and its ilk to squelch honest discussion of such grave human-rights issues — and to demonize as “haters” and “Islamophobes” those who do — encapsulate the very perversity “Honor Diaries” seeks to expose: valuing the honor of a community more than a woman’s life or voice. But does CAIR’s shrill protest reflect what average citizens in Muslim countries think of such a documentary? Or does the “Honor Diaries” Arabic Facebook page, with 95,000 “likes” — and climbing?

Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?

I put that question to Nazie Eftekhari, an immigrant from Iran and another of the women “Honor Diaries” focuses on. A successful Minnesota health care entrepreneur, Eftekhari unhesitatingly describes herself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and a longtime Democratic Party voter, loyalist, and fund-raiser. She is as mystified as I am.

“The biggest human-rights crisis of our generation is the treatment of women in Muslim-majority countries, and we’ve applied a gag order to ourselves,” she replies with unmistakable distress. “We won’t talk about it. Where are my fellow liberals? Where are the feminists?”

And this is also quite typical. President Obama wishes Jews a happy Passover by sending out a picture of...himself and his family.

The contrast between Illinois and its neighbors among the Great Lakes states is quite marked.
Start with Illinois's 8.7% jobless rate, which is the country's second highest after Rhode Island's 9% and has fallen by a mere 0.7 percentage points since Mr. Quinn began his second term in January 2011. That's when Illinois increased its flat income tax to 5% from 3% and the corporate rate to 9.5% from 7.3%.

The nearby chart shows the jobless-rate trend in five Great Lakes states since 2010. Note the sharp decline in Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder and a GOP legislature cut corporate taxes. In the last three years, the rate has fallen to 7.7% from 11% in the Wolverine State, to 6.5% from 9.1% in Ohio, to 6.1% from 9% in Indiana, and to 6.1% from 7.7% in Wisconsin. Only Illinois has raised taxes, while Ohio cut taxes, Michigan and Indiana have passed right-to-work laws and Wisconsin famously reformed collective bargaining.

Illinois has also recorded the slowest personal income growth in the Great Lakes. Between 2012 and 2013, personal income rose by 2.1% in Illinois versus 2.7% in Wisconsin, 2.5% in Michigan, and 2.3% in Ohio and Indiana.

But get this—about a third of Illinois's personal-income growth last year was driven by "transfer receipts" (i.e., food stamps, workers' compensation, disability, welfare, Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, earned income tax credits, unemployment benefits). According to BEA, these payments increased 5.2% in Illinois in 2013, the third most in the U.S., while wages and salaries ticked up only 1%.

Some 31,000 Illinois workers left the state's labor force in 2013, while Michigan's workforce expanded by 2,000 and Indiana's grew by 11,000. Illinois also lost about 9,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year while Michigan gained 17,000 and Ohio and Indiana each added 12,000.
You think that a state's economic policies don't matter? Well, the ongoing laboratory in democracy taking place in those Midwest states says otherwise.
But in the end, Landrieu's much bigger problem is authenticity. Can she succeed by campaigning against a president she has supported so much? Landrieu has many assets in the race -- she has been able to shower Louisiana with federal money and will undoubtedly bring even more pork dollars to the state in coming months. In the final count, that could well mean victory for her. But Landrieu has an authenticity problem she just can't shake -- it's been building for the last six years -- and if she loses, it will be because she couldn't oppose Barack Obama and support him at the same time, and still win the support of Louisiana voters.

Mary Landrieu is including fakery in her campaign ad, but her real problem is how she's trying to separate herself from President Obama and the Democratic Party despite her support for them on every important vote.

Pro-union supporters on the Los Angeles School Board are now aiming to close down two very successful charters that have been achieving great success in educating minority students. It is so shameful.