Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What is a Hoosier?

What is a" Hoosier"?

Credit: Indiana Historical Association

I know that is what you call someone from Indiana. However, what was a "Hoosier" before Indiana became the Hoosier state?

I live 30 minutes from the Indiana state line. I once lived in Indiana. I drove across a good part of Indiana yesterday driving back from Chicago. However, I never knew what a "Hoosier" really was.

It seems that there is no definitive answer to what is a "Hoosier". There is a lot of speculation of where the term came from. Jeffrey Graf of the Reference Desk of the Indiana University Library provided the best summary I could find of the possible theories. These include:

  •  "Who's here?" as a question to unknown visitors or to the inhabitants of a country cabin;
  •  Hussar, from the fiery European mounted troops; "Huzzah!" proclaimed after victory in a fight; 
  • Husher, a brawny man, capable of stilling opponents;
  • Hoosa, an Indian word for corn;
  •  Hoose, an English term for a disease of cattle which gives the animals a wild sort of look; and the evergreen
  •  "Who's ear?" asked while toeing a torn-off ear lying on the bar room floor the morning after a brawl. 

However, Graf believes that a "Hoosier" was most likely used to describe a hick or a hillbilly.
The best evidence, however, suggests that "Hoosier" was a term of contempt and opprobrium common in the upland South and used to denote a rustic, a bumpkin, a countryman, a roughneck, a hick or an awkward, uncouth or unskilled fellow. Although the word's derogatory meaning has faded, it can still be heard in its original sense, albeit less frequently than its cousins "Cracker" and "Redneck."
From the South "Hoosier" moved north and westward with the people into the Ohio Valley, where it was applied at first to the presumably unsophisticated inhabitants of Southern Indiana. Later it expanded to include all residents of the state and gradually lost its original, potent connotation of coarseness in manners, appearance and intellect.
I am not sure any of these is correct based on a recent article I saw in Claims magazine (July, 2014) on the "10 Best and Worst States for Teen Drivers".

After reading that article, I would conclude that "Hoosier" meant bad teenage driver.

Consider these troubling facts if you travel the roads of Indiana:

  • Indiana has the most teen driver fatalities per licensed teen drivers in the U.S.

  • Indiana has the the second highest number (behind New Mexico) of teen "Under the Influence" traffic violations per licensed teen drivers.

On the hand, Indiana has fewer teens with driver's licenses than in any other state and they have some of the most restrictive laws in place for their teen drivers.

  • Indiana has the lowest percent of the teen population with driver's licenses.

  • Indiana is one of only 11 states that has at least five of seven optimal "Graduated Driver License Program Laws (GDL) which are designed to make teenagers better drivers. These include a minimum age of 16 for a learner's permit, 6-month holding period, 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving, nighttime driving restrictions, passenger restrictions, cell phone restrictions, and age 18 for an unrestricted license.

Go figure that one out.

What is a "Hoosier"?

I remain confused.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Redistribution of Ohio

For the first 175 years of our country's history, it was generally accepted that the principal roles of government were to establish and maintain justice, insure that people were safe in their homes and on the streets, provide for a national defense and build and maintain public works such as roads, bridges, schools and libraries for the common good.

The focus was almost entirely on the collective and common good and the general welfare. In effect, doing those things that no one individual or small group could effectively do for themselves.

For example, in 1945 payments to individuals made up less than 3% of federal spending.  In 1970, it was only 33%. As late as 1990 it was still below 50%.

The majority of tax dollars were expended for the benefit of all.

The federal government will spend about $3.7 trillion this year. However, 68% of it will be in direct payments to individuals on spending for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs.

What we would generally consider the traditional functions of government do not make up even one-third of our expenditures at the federal level today.

In effect, the federal government has become nothing more than a giant redistribution system in which money comes in at one end from one group of people and it goes out the other end to another group of people with a lot of bureaucracy and built-in bias in between. After all, you need a lot of both to decide who gets and who gives when you are picking and choosing winners and losers. I call it "The Redistribution of America".

The government we have today is far different than what our Founding Fathers thought they were establishing in 1787.  It is also far removed from the government construct for the American people that stood the test of time rather remarkably well for almost 200 years.

It is no different with state government.

I recently took a detailed look at the state budget of my home state of Ohio. I knew the same forces were in play at the state level, however, I was shocked at how far the role of state government has strayed from where most people expect their tax dollars are being allocated and spent.

When I ask most people what they believe the three most important functions of state government are, I usually get these responses.

Roads and Transportation
General Public Services & Safety (Parks, Water, Sewage Treatment, Public Safety)

Accordingly, I think that most people would believe that the three highest priorities for their tax dollars would be in these three areas.

They would be correct if they lived in Ohio in 1970.

In that year, 60% of the Ohio state budget was allocated to these priorities, all of which are expenditures for the common good. Public schools and universities that are for the benefit of everyone. Roads and rail lines that everyone can take advantage of. Parks, libraries, state police, prisons, water supply and sewage and other public services that serve the entire population.

Welfare spending, health care and pensions, all of which take the form of direct payments to individuals, made up 36% of the budget in 1970.

The remaining 4% of the budget was for general government and interest payments.

What does the picture look like in Ohio in 2014?

Education, roads and transportation, general public services and safety now make up just 19% of total spending in Ohio.

On the other hand, welfare, health care spending (the majority of it going to Medicaid) and pensions consume 79% of the state budget!

Let me do the math for you.

Spending on welfare, health care and pensions has gone from 36% of the budget to 79% of the budget since 1970.

This spending has effectively crowded out all spending on education, roads, public services and safety. Spending on these priorities in state spending have declined from 60% of the budget to a mere 19%.

We used to believe that the principal role of government was to provide public services. Today it is really about the provision of personal services in payments for individuals with pensions, nursing home and medical costs topping the list.

We are not talking about small amounts of dollars either.

In 1970, Ohio's total state budget was $2.6 billion.

In 2014, the state of Ohio will spend $58.1 billion.

That is a compound average increase in total spending of 7.3% per year.  Inflation over the same period has averaged a little over 4% per year.

To put that in perspective, if state spending in Ohio had merely stayed even with inflation, the state budget would be $16 billion today. Therefore, spending in Ohio today has increased by $42 billion over the rate of inflation in real terms since 1970.

The chart below shows the growth in spending of each of the major categories of state spending in Ohio in relation to inflation since 1970.  The blue column shows spending in 1970. The red column shows what that spending would be today if spending merely increased with inflation. The green column depicts what actual spending is in each category in 2014.

Since 1970, $1 adjusted for inflation, would be $6.14. Therefore, a 6.1x increase in spending would be expected to just keep up with inflation.  Spending in excess of that amount are increases in real spending.

Inflation                                      6.1x
Overall Spending                      22.3x
Education                                  14.5x
Transportation                            6.1x
Gen'l Public Svcs & Safety          5.4x
Welfare                                      13.5x
Health Care                               66.7x
Pensions                                    76.0x
General Government                 17.0x
Interest                                       12.0x

It is truly astounding to take a step back and see what has occurred in Ohio and the United States in my lifetime.

Now you know why I also refer to it as "The Redistribution of Ohio".

We have given up the public interest for the sake of personal interests.

We are taking from the private sector and giving the public sector wage and benefits packages that were long ago deemed unaffordable to those paying the taxes that fund those benefits.

Most importantly, we have massively tilted spending towards the older generation and away from the young in state education funding.

I am sure it is not much different in your state.

If you want to find the budget numbers for your state you can go to which has historical data for all states and the federal government.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rockets and Response

Thousands in Europe rally for Palestinians

Peaceful protest held in London while demonstrators in Paris defy ban on protests and clash with riot police

This was an Aljazeera headline to the story that began this way.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have marched across Europe, calling on their governments to condemn Israel's military bombardment of Gaza.

Of course, there was no mention in the story that the Israel's military action against Hamas in Gaza was in response to a continual barrage of rocket attacks from that territory.

How many rocket attacks have there been against Israel from the Gaza Strip over the last 13 years?

Over 16,000!

This is a graphic from the Israel Defense Forces of the number of rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip since 2001. Bear in mind that the 2014 number is the volume of attacks before Israel took any action.

Ask yourself what other country in the world would allow this many rocket attacks and do nothing?

Since Israel responded, Hamas has launched an additional 1,000 rockets at Israel.

The protests in Europe against Israel should not surprise anyone when you consider the fact that there are nearly 44 million Muslims in Europe today compared to 1.1 million Jews. 

In the United States, there are 6.5 million Jews and 5.1 million Muslims. There are actually more Jews in the United States than in Israel. In fact, 88% of all Jews in the world live in the United States (46%) or Israel (42%).

This is a major factor in the animus towards the United States in the Muslim world and why it is so difficult to engage Europe in an even handed approach in discussions about Israel and the Middle East.

It is not likely to get any better in the future. In fact, it is likely to get much, much worse. Although the overall fertility rate is low in Europe, the Muslim birth rate in Europe is three times higher than the non-Muslim rate. This will feed additional cultural and political divisions across Europe going forward.

With all that is going on between Israel and the Palestinians right now, I thought it was a good time to revisit a post I wrote almost three years ago for some perspective and context on the subject.

Palestine and Israel (first published in BeeLine 9/22/11)

We often hear of the plight of the Palestinians and we see the utter hatred of Israel and the Jewish people by Muslims.  Sitting here in the United States it is hard for the average person to figure out what is going on.  I came across three recent stories that provide a little context.

The first is "Debunking the Palestinian Lie" that I found on PowerLine.  We often hear about how Israel has pushed the Palestinian people from their rightful country.  The fact is that they never have had their own country. Their statehood was never even recognized when the Palestinians were part of the Turk's Ottoman Empire.  They were given plenty of opportunities to have their own country over the last 90 years.  They simply refuse to allow the Jews to be anywhere near them and have their statehood as well. They have made it perfectly clear they have no interest if they cannot also obliterate Israel.

View the short video linked in the Powerline story if you are not aware of the history and the multiple times that the Palestinians have been offered their own state.

You might also want to read this story, "A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism" by Fred Siegel, for some historical context.

The third story is a column by Diana West where she writes that "The Jihad is Against the Bible".  Ms. West says make no mistake, it is Israel in which the axis of Islamic Jihad turns.  Why Israel?  West quotes Bat Ye'or's new book "Europe, Globalization and the Coming Universal Caliphate".

Why Israel? Ye'or asks. "Given the immense territories conquered and Islamized over thirteen centuries of expansion and war," she writes, "why would Muslim countries keep plotting to destroy Israel?" And further: "Why does the immense oil wealth of Muslim nations nourish a flood of hatred that poisons the heart of humanity against such a small nation? Why is Israel considered so alarming?"
The well-read global citizen might regurgitate something about land, modern Zionism and the post-1948 "plight of the Palestinians," but these are stock narratives overwriting the age-old reason. "What Israel possesses," Ye'or explains, "is the Bible."
To appreciate the depth and breadth of this perhaps obvious but seldom pondered explanation, it's essential to realize that Jewish and Christian Bible characters, from Abraham to Moses to Jesus, pop up in the Koran as Muslim prophets who actually preach Islam, not Judaism or Christianity. This is the time-wrinkling, religion-morphing way in which Islam repudiates what it regards as falsifications in both the first (old) and second (new) testaments. Given that the Jewish and Christian religious books long predate the Islamic religious book, it's not surprising that in their Koranic guises the biblical characters "wander," as Bat Ye'or writes, "in uncertain space with no geographical or temporal references." Still, Muslims claim that these same "Muslim" characters lived in "Palestine," Bat Ye'or writes, on the basis of the "Jewish and Christian scriptures that they reject."
The land of Israel itself -- whose "every region, town and village is mentioned in the Bible with historical and chronological precision" -- is thus "sacrilegious" to Muslims, she explains. "They observe with destructive rage this unfolding return of history that they claim as their own. ... Any confirmation of the veracity of the Bible is seen as an attack on the Islamic authenticity of the Koranic figures taken from the Bible."
So much for those slivers of real estate as being the driver of war on Israel. It is, in fact, a jihad, a religious war against Judaism and the land of the Bible, root of Christianity. As Ye'or puts it, "Israel, in the land of its history, towns and villages, resuscitates the Bible, the book the Koran must supplant."
The bottom line according to West is that the war on Israel is also a jihad against the Bible and Christianity.  The real story is that Muslims believe that Christians have gone astray by placing themselves in the lineage of the Hebrew Bible when their real origin is Islam.

Getting rid of Israel and the sustaining Jewish roots is seen as necessary to facilitate the Islamization of Christians which is the final goal.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Reckoning

Border Chaos. Benghazi. Bergdahl/Taliban Swap. Ukraine. ISIS. IRS Scandal.VA Scandal.

In normal times any one  of these stories could stoke a media fire that could burn for months with the Washington media. Especially with a Republican in the White House.

All of these headlines are burning at once but there is only so much oxygen in the room and so much room on the front page. The Border Chaos story is burning the brightest right now (although the shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner has pushed that off the headlines today) but there are a lot of fires burning at once in the background.

In my lifetime I have never seen anything like it. It just keeps coming week after week. Scandals. Incompetence. Insouciance. It borders on the surreal as to how one man could create so much havoc.

Of course, with all of this going on it has been easy to forget about Obamacare. However, it is still there even though it has been knocked off the front page for now. It remains the biggest man-caused disaster of them all.

I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at the expectations that were established for Obamacare when it was being lobbied for by the President and the Democrats in Congress and what it has actually delivered in results. You might call it a reckoning. How has Obamacare performed compared to how it was supposed to perform?

When Obamacare was being voted on in the Congress in early 2010 the Congressional Budget Office(CBO) projected that is would reduce the number of uninsured by 19 million in 2014.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that portions of the Medicaid expansion provisions in the law were coercive to the states, the CBO adjusted that number down to 14 million.

In February, 2014, after the disastrous launch of the Obamacare exchanges, the CBO revised the number gaining healthcare coverage down to 13 million.

In April of this year, the CBO took the number down again---to 12 million.

The actual number who have been taken off the rolls of the uninsured, according to studies by the Urban Institute and Gallup---8 million!

All of the data above from this article in The Weekly Standard by Jeffrey H. Anderson.

If you are keeping score, that is about 40% of what we were told was the expectation when the law was passed.

What about the cost?

We were told that we could cover 19 million more people for a ten-year cost of $938 billion.

By 2012, CBO was estimating that it would cost $1.677 trillion to cover 14 million (their revised number of the number of uninsured who would be covered under the law).

The most recent CBO estimate is now $1.383 billion.

However, the fact is that the enrollments are 40% below expectations and the costs are over 40% above projections.

I guess all you can say is "it's good enough for government work".

When you put the two together you get this chart on the cost of providing government-provided healthcare coverage to each of those taken off of the rolls of the uninsured so far.

When the law was passed, CBO projections indicated that the cost to provide health coverage for each uninsured would be $49,368 (over 10 years). The cost has now ballooned to $172,875 per uninsured gaining coverage.

Why are costs so much higher than projected?  Start with the fact that individual-market premiums increased an average of 49% under Obamacare according to a study by the Manhattan Institute. Then consider the fact that an estimated 83% of the people signing up for Obamacare in the health care exchanges are eligible for a subsidy. Finally, understand that the average subsidy offsets 76% of total cost of the coverage.

Therefore, Obamacare had the result of dramatically increasing costs in the individual market and then provided federal subsidies using tax revenues to cover the additional costs in addition to the costs that were already not being covered.

So, by and large, all Obamacare has done is dramatically increase (rather than decrease) health care insurance costs in the individual market while at the same time providing subsidies (using tax dollars) to cover the newly inflated costs to create more people who are dependent on government for their needs.

At the same time, they have made the individual health insurance even more unaffordable for anyone who does not qualify for subsidies. That is the reason that all of the waivers and exclusions to the law have been provided by the Obama administration. That keeps the real facts from the people and out of the headlines until after the next election when those rules will be enforced under the law.

It is just too inconvenient for Democrats for President Obama to enforce the law that he advocated for and signed right before an election right now.

There will be a bigger day of reckoning on Obamacare . When will that be?

Is it going to be when everyone finally realizes what Obamacare is really all about after all the Presidential deferrals, deferments and delays are over?

However, if people are paying attention it should be in this November's election and those that will be subject to the reckoning are the Democrats who created this monstrosity. If not, the hard-working people who have to pay the bills in this country will lose again.

The people's power is absolute in our system.  Unfortunately, too many people don't believe it. Laws that do not have public backing do not survive over the long term. Lawmakers who make laws that people do not support do not stay in office.

Politicians have no power unless the people provide it. It is that simple.

We can complain about Barack Obama, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. Throw in John Boehner or Mitch McConnell as well if you want to. The voters gave them the power they have. Throw out Eric Cantor. The people took away his power. It can and does happen when the people exercise their power.

Are the American people ready to reckon? It is in their power to do so.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Songs and Goldfish

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

"Music makes the world go 'round."

You have heard both of these quotes.

Google now puts the two together with an amazing interactive data visualization tool that shows the popularity of different musical genres since 1950.

This is how the music timeline is described by Google Operating System which is a blog about unofficial news and tips about Google.

Google found a great way to use the data from the people who uploaded songs to Google Play Music. Google Music Timeline "shows genres of music waxing and waning, based on how many Google Play Music users have an artist or album in their music library, and other data (such as album release dates). Each stripe on the graph represents a genre; the thickness of the stripe tells you roughly the popularity of music released in a given year in that genre."

You can visit the interactive timeline here. 

Using the interactive feature in the timeline you can see the ebb and flow of each musical style.

For example, here is the timeline of rock music which shows the emergence of rock music in the 1950's followed by its dramatic rise in popularity in the early 1960's followed by its fragmentation into surf rock (big in the mid-1960's) classic rock, hard rock and other smaller rock categories. over the years.

On the other hand, here is the timeline of jazz music which dominated the 1940's with Big Band and Bop and gave way to the emergence of Rock music in the 1960's.

The early 1980's brought two distinctly different musical genres to popularity--HipHop/Rap and Christian. It is interesting that they both emerged at the same time when their message and lyrics could not be much further apart. This is the timeline for HipHop/Rap.

The Christian/Gospel timeline looks like this. The late 1950's saw some popularity for what was called Country or Southern gospel music but in the 1990's Contemporary Christian music took hold and carried this genre to a lot of popularity. This is the music I am most likely to be listening to today. Mercy Me, Casting Crowns, Third Day, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Mandisa and Matt Redman are all artists that I like.

Country music has probably displayed the most consistency in popularity since 1950.  It had its hey-day in the late 1950's but it has stood the test of time better than most genres.

What is most interesting in looking at where we are today is the broad diversity and variety of music that is popular. No single genre captures more than 20% of the total and there are more music styles than ever before. The music world is as different and diverse as what we find in our own world today. There have been a lot of changes in the world in the last 60 years and music shows how that rhythm has changed through the years.

Speaking of music, I came across another interesting data visualization graph that showed the changes in the length of songs over time.

Before the 1970's songs generally were less than 3 minutes in length. Since the mid-1980's song length has averaged about one minute longer. Why it that?

Technology might be part of the answer. Songs are meant to be heard and until the early 1970's the best way to do that was to listen to it on the radio.  Disc jockeys at radio stations spun 78rpm or 45rpm records that only could hold about a 3 minute song.

DJ Alan Freed in the 1950's
Credit:The Pop History

Songs seemed to get longer with the increased use of cassette tapes in the 1970's that replaced records at radio stations and in homes. And the introduction of 8-track tapes in automobiles let people customize their song lists. Songs got even longer as digital CD's started being introduced in the mid to late 1980's and reached their greatest length in the mid-1990's.

8-track tapes

In the digital age we live in today there is no technological limit to the length of a song. However, over the last 20 years the average song length has slowly declined. This trend seemingly can also be traced back to technology. With the proliferation of digital devices, social media and the like, attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter. People will obviously only listen to a song for so long before they want to move on. Songwriters get it and song lengths have gotten shorter.

If you don't think attention spans are short today, consider this little factoid.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish. That’s right, goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds – 1 second more than you and I.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

By The Book

If you are going to run for President its seems that you have to write a book before you start campaigning.

George W. Bush-A Charge to Keep (1999)

Barack Obama-The Audacity of Hope (2006)

John McCain-Hard Call (2007)

Mitt Romney-No Apology (2010)

Hillary Clinton has followed the same formula as she seems to be preparing for her campaign for the Democrat nomination for President in 2016.

However, Hard Choices has turned out to be a hard sell. It also it must be hard to read. Finally, Hillary has had a hard time of it as she has done interviews promoting the book.

The Washington Post reports just how bad sales have been for Hard Choices.

If you haven't been paying attention, national sales of Clinton's book in hardcover in the first week were well below sales of her biography, Living History (though they exceeded first week sales of other political works). In week two, according to Nielsen BookScan, sales dropped 44 percent. In week three, another 46 percent. And by week four, according to numbers from the Times' Amy Chozick, down another 36 percent, selling only about 17,000 copies.
It also appears that even when people are buying the book they are not reading it.

How would anyone know?  The wonders of modern technology tells us through e-readers.  For example, every time people highlight something in a e-book on a Kindle, Amazon has a record of that.

Jordan Ellenberg, a professor of mathematics a the University of Wisconsin, has developed what he calls a "Hawking Index" which takes that data and correlates them to a page number to estimate when someone stopped reading the book.

The Washington Post took that methodology and applied it to Hard Choices and compared it to other political books.

How far are readers getting when they pick up Hard Choices?  How about page 33?  Of 656 pages. I wonder how good it is as a doorstop?

The worst part of the book for Hillary have been her interviews while promoting the books. She has made a number of comments that indicate a level of detachment and tone-deafness that is amazing.

Here are a few.

In an interview on ABC, multi-millionaire Hillary Clinton complained about being too poor to afford her multiple houses after leaving the White House.“We came out of the White House not only dead-broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education. It was not easy.”
Hillary Clinton, June 9, 2014 

Despite reportedly having $100 million in personal wealth, Hillary Clinton claimed she wasn't truly well off.“But they don't see me as part of the problem because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work.”
Hillary Clinton, June 22, 2014 

Defending her nearly quarter million dollar college speaking fees, Hillary Clinton claimed she was redistributing the money to charity.
“All of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work. So it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation.”
Hillary Clinton, July 4, 2014 

However, my favorite is the one that I saw today from an interview that she had with Der Spiegel in Germany where Hillary Clinton claimed that she and Bill Clinton were so poor after leaving the White House that they could not get a mortgage.

We are very grateful for where we are today. But if you were to go back and look at the amount of money that we owed, we couldn't even get a mortgage on a house by ourselves. In our system he had to make double what he needed in order just to pay off the debt, and then to finance a house and continue to pay for our daughter's education.” (my emphasis)
Hillary Clinton, July 8, 2014 

Did you notice what Hillary said there?

They had to make double the amount they actually needed to pay down debt, save for a downpayment on a house and save for college.

Why would they need to do that?


You know, that money that federal, state and local governments want to take from you to redistribute to others.  The same taxes that she and her fellow liberal Democrats consistently tell us are not high enough already.

I also like the way she refers to it as if this a unique element of the United States "system" that is completely foreign to the Germans and other Europeans.  As if they are not familiar with high taxes of their own.

She acts as if the Clintons have been singled out in this nefarious system that has two elements-pre-tax and after-tax- that no one else is aware of.

I doubt any hard working Americans are sympathetic.  They have to make hard choices with what is left after taxes every day.

There is one other footnote to this story that played out this week that I found interesting.

The lackluster sales of Hillary's book is well-documented as detailed above.  At the same time, Dinesh D'Souza wrote a book titled "America" that was released a week before Hard Choices.  A movie of the same title hit theaters last Friday.

Therefore, I was surprised to hear Costco announce that they were pulling America from their bookhelves for "slow sales" but keeping Hard Choices in their inventory.

I love shopping at Costco.  I know that the founders are hard-core liberals and big Obama supporters but I always thought they were smart business people as well.  I have written about Costco and their contradictions before.

As soon as I saw the report I went to Amazon to see where each book was on the Amazon Top 100 List.

Here is what I found.

Hard Choices #90

America #3

Costco took a barrage of criticism after the story broke and I am happy to report that they have rescinded their order to remove America from their shelves in the wake of what looked like a politically-motivated decision (which Costco totally denies).

As of this writing, Hard Choices is now #95 on the Amazon list. America is  #1.

Thank you, Costco!

As for Hillary, it may be time to start her vacation in the Hamptons a little earlier this year than she planned.  I heard on tv that the place that she is renting on Amagansett will cost about $250,000 for the stay.

That means she has to earn over $500,000 pre-tax to pay for it!  So unfair of our "system".

More hard work will be required. About 4 speeches should do it.

Or a small fraction of a very big book advance (a reported $14 million for Hard Choices).

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It's About The Children

In politics it always pays for it to be "about the children."

No one wants to see a child without food, shelter, healthcare, education or anything else.  You never can be wrong if it is "about the children" in politics.

Just consider a few of the federal programs that have been passed in the name of "the children".

Aid to Families of Dependent Children

No Child Left Behind

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Children

School Lunch Program (and School Breakfast Program)

States Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant

Head Start

Child Abuse and Neglect Program

Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

Child Care Block Grant

Child and Adult Care Food Program

Special Milk Program

Student Loan Program

I am sure I have barely scratched the surface.

Most of these programs are administered somewhere within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

I find all of this very interesting as we observe the massive influx of "children" who seem to have made the dangerous and arduous trip from Central America across our  "secure" Southwest Border with the belief that our President is going to provide them free access and amnesty in our country.


President Obama made a request today for almost $4 billion to address the problem as reported in Politico.

President Barack Obama asked Congress Tuesday for $3.73 billion in emergency appropriations to address the influx of child migrants crossing the Southwest border and Rio Grande from Central America.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, as well as 39,000 adults with children, have been apprehended trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border during this fiscal year, according to the administration.

Of course, "apprehended" must be read here pretty loosely in that a great number of these illegal aliens walked up to Border Security Agents when they crossed the border.  I figure that their first words must have been "take me to your leader".

 $1.8 billion of the Obama request is specifically stated to be for HHS to "house and care for the migrant children".

When it comes to government spending, a billion here and there does not seem to be much money. Let me put that amount of spending in perspective.

  • $1.8 billion spent on 52,000 children works out to about $35,000 per child.  Is the plan to send all of them to a private school? 

  • $1.8 billion is enough to pay for all the tuition, fees, room and board for the coming year for all incoming freshman at all the Ivy League schools and still have $1 billion left over.

  • $1.8 billion is enough to pay for all the costs for every undergraduate student at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth this year.

  • $1.8 billion is enough to pay for 30,000 children to attend Harvard for the 2014-2015 school year.

  • $1.8 billion is enough to pay for 180,000 children to attend South Texas Community College in McAllen, Texas.

  • $1.8 billion is enough to provide a cash payment of almost $500 for every child that will be born in the United States this year. 

On the other hand, $1.8 billion can also pay for a one-way airline ticket (from Dallas to Mexico ($358 on either American Airlines and AeroMexico) for over 5 million passengers.

$1.8 billion can also pay for over 10 million passengers to be transported from El Paso to Mexico City on Greyhound.

When doing all of these calculations also remember that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that it costs $241,080 to raise a child in the United States from birth to age 18.  Where does all of this money come from to care for these children in the future when that $1.8 billion and Barack Obama are long gone from the scene?

Remember, it is "about the children."

However, it's also about much more. Children born here whose parents are struggling in this economy to house and care for them. A federal budget in which we are living on borrowed time and borrowed money. The rule of law.  

And what about the money for the next 50,000 who cross our borders who wanted to be housed and cared for? And the next 50,000? And the next 50,000? And the next 50,000.? Where does that money come from?

It is understandable to feel compassion for these migrant children.  However, our first duty and obligation is to our own children and our own citizens.

How would you choose to spend $1.8 billion?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Interest In Immigration

Immigration is in the news with thousands of people (many young children) pouring over what we have been told by our President is a "secure" border.

We strengthened security at the borders so that we could finally stem the tide of illegal immigrants. We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history. And today, illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent from their peak in 2000.” 
President Obama, January 29, 2013

There is little question that Barack Obama is the primary reason that an immigration reform bill will not pass Congress this year. He simply cannot be trusted to enforce any law that might be passed as he has consistently shown that he is unwilling to enforce laws that are already on the books.

In addition, if the mere rumor or mention of some sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants has produced the current flood of migrants over our southern border can you imagine what it would be like if some type of amnesty was passed into law?

Against this backdrop we also hear a constant refrain from Democrats and those on the left that we have to be more humane and let more people into this country who suffer from oppression, violence or poverty in their home countries.  However, under this standard, 90% of the people in the world would qualify for entry.

Where do you draw the line?  And where does the United States compare to other countries in providing opportunities for immigrants?  The recent news has increased interest in the immigration topic by many.  But how many know some of the facts behind immigration?

This led me to research exactly how the United States stacks up on immigration compared to other countries in the world.

  • Although the United States has less than 5% of the world's population, 20% of all international migrants reside in the United States.
  • 45 million immigrants currently live in the United States. This is 4 times as many who live in any other country in the world.
  • Approximately 1 million immigrants are granted legal permanent residency status in the United States per year. 10.7 million were granted permanent status over the last 10 ten years.
  • In 2012, 15 million people applied for a green card for just 50,000 spots from so-called underrepresented countries in what is called the Diversity Visa Lottery. Generally, these are people from countries that have not sent at least 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years.  The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, UNITED KINGDOM (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, Vietnam are all not eligible for the Diversity Visa Lottery.
  • Immigrants working in the United States of working age (16-65) increased by 5.7 million between 2000 and 2014. However, total employment by working age native-born Americans actually decreased by 157,000 over the same period according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies that was released last month.

If you look at this data you quickly come to the conclusion that the United States has done (and continues to do) more for immigrants than any country on the face of the earth.

What is truly mind boggling in the data above is the fact that all net jobs over the last 14 years in this country have gone to immigrants. It is astounding to think that there are fewer native-born working age Americans in the workforce today than there were 14 years ago.  In all, there are 17 million more working age natives not working today as compared to what there were in 2000.

Of course, if that stat is thrown around in front of a liberal Democrat or Wall Street Republican you will quickly hear the familiar refrain that these are jobs that native-born Americans simply do not want to do.  There is truth to that statement.  When tax-free government assistance for a citizen exceeds the pre-tax wage for working you will clearly get many who will choose welfare over work.  People will do what is in their best interest. I don't blame them as I also don't blame people who want to come to this country by hook or crook.

What I do blame is our inconsistent, incongruous and inane policies government policies that lead to these results.  You begin to see what I am talking about when you look at other numbers in the Center of Immigration Studies analysis.

This is a breakout of the potential labor supply of native-born Americans by educational attainment.

  • 8.7 million college graduates are not working
  • 17 million with some college are not working
  • 25.3 million high school graduates (with no further education) are not working

You have to wonder what is the economic logic of bringing so many immigrants into the country when we have this much labor supply laying idle? And to also think that a significant portion of this labor supply receives government payments to do so.

Perhaps there is a silver lining in all of this bad news? For example, the headline employment numbers from last week looked positive. This is the headline from Forbes.

Jobs Report: U.S. Economy Added 288K Jobs In June, Unemployment Dropped To 6.1%

However, a closer look at the numbers show that it was not what it was cracked up to be.  In fact, full time jobs plunged by 523,000 for the month. The entire net increase is jobs were part-time positions as shown in this chart prepared by Zero Hedge.

Credit:Zero Hedge

What can we take from all of this?

Immigration is not so much an economic issue as it is a political issue. Democrats need the votes. That is all they seem to care about. Corporate interests want to keep wage costs down. The labor unions should be anti-immigration but are more concerned with the success of the Democrat party than their own members. Republicans in Congress are caught between the monied interests who want the cheap labor supply and their rank and file voters who fervently oppose illegal immigration. It is all about political interests and very little to do with the best interests of this country.

I have written before that I am in favor of immigration reform.  However, I firmly believe that it would have been a gigantic mistake for House Republicans to consider any bill in 2014.

Why have an immigration policy at all? The only logical reason is to improve your country by importing human talent that will provide a benefit to the nation.  This is the thinking that drove our immigration policy for most of our history.  Immigrants with illness or who could not support themselves and their families were turned away.  Often this was at Ellis Island after they had already faced an arduous journey here by ship. Those who were willing to work and contribute to our country were welcomed. Others were sent home. Why should it be any different today?

Why don't we just let everyone in that wants in? What would this ultimately do to employment and pay levels of American citizens?  This is why we need to carefully monitor unemployment rates by industry as part of any ongoing immigration policy to insure that immigrants are not taking the jobs of American citizens or are unduly holding down wage costs.  What about public health and pressures on our infrastructure and institutions?  We can't be a refuge for everyone in the world.

Let's hope at some point the interests of the American people can be balanced with the interests of people who want to come here for the best interests of The United States of America. That would be an interesting development.