October 26, 2012 3:23 PM
This morning, data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed third-quarter growth of gross domestic product (GDP) at 2 percent. This beat expectations slightly as, according to Bloomberg, "the median forecast of 86 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 1.8 percent gain."
No one was claiming this growth rate was spectacular. "Nobody expected gangbusters," conceded liberal economist Jared Bernstein, a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden, on CNBC this morning.
The Associated Press piece noted that this "growth remains too weak to rapidly boost hiring, and the 1.74 percent rate for 2012 trails last year's 1.8 percent growth." The Weekly Standard, as well as Mitt Romney in a speech in Iowa today, noted that through 2011 the Obama administration predicted that GDP growth would be around 4 percent at this time.
Still this growth was better-than expected. President Obama and his supporters can find other modest "green shoots" to point to such as housing starts and, until the disappointing earning reports of this week, stock market gains. And next week's jobs report for October may also be better than expected.
No doubt the administration will seize on any slight economic improvement to claim its policies are working, and that the economy would be even better off if "gridlock" hadn't stopped his big spending plans. "We've come to far to turn back now," the president said in a weekly address and elsewhere.
October 25, 2012 4:25 PM
PolitiFact just revised a webpage discussing the Supreme Court's Ledbetter decision that once contained an error that we discussed here and brought to PolitiFact's attention on October 17. The error was the false claim that the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. had declared that employees are barred from suing over pay discrimination even if they did not learn of the discrimination in time to sue, “making it impossible for employees who learned of such discrimination later to get relief, such as back pay.” Today, PolitiFact added a correction that reads:
CORRECTION: A previous version of this item said the Supreme Court's Ledbetter decision made it "impossible for employees who learned of such discrimination later to get relief, such as back pay." In fact, the court declined to address the question of whether employees who learned of discrimination after the statute of limitations expired would be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
October 25, 2012 10:50 AM
JAMES BENNET: "Interview with Michael Bloomberg on Everything From Campaign Money to Circumcision"
"I think it's government's job not to ban things but to give you information and let you make the decision. So calorie counts would do that. Portion control is a graphical or physical way of giving you information in terms of how much sugar you're consuming, and whatever. Prohibiting you from smoking in places is information -- it also, unlike these other things, is required, if you're going to protect other people from the smoker's action."
NICK GILLESPIE: "The Semantics of Benghazi Don't Matter: Obama's Foreign Policy is a Failure"
"The large point of this all is that regardless of what Obama might have might have meant right after the attack (it's not clear that his "acts of terror" comment on September 12 was a specific reference to Benghazi), his adminstration royally screwed up in Libya. It's totally clear why the Obama administration would be slow to acknowledge the truth of the attack - it undercut what they saw as the success of their containment of al Qaeda - but it's just ridiculous for the larger media and voting public to play along with fixation on minor details."
JASON BENDRICK: "Mr. President, Tuition Subsidies Are the Affordability Problem, Not the Solution"
"It should come as no surprise that subsidies raise prices. Fortunately, there are now a growing number of innovative alternatives to traditional four-year colleges that have the potential to dramatically reduce costs while providing a quality education. Instead of subsidizing the expensive, inefficient and too-often ineffective status quo, government should just get out of the way."
October 25, 2012 10:42 AM
Opponents of human movement, also known as “immigration,” argue that if the U.S. government stops forcibly preventing foreign-born people from relocating to the United States, the wages of American workers will suffer dramatically. By appealing to economic terms -- prices, wages, supply and demand -- this argument maintains the illusion of intellectual credibility that merely shouting “they’re-taking-our-jobs” lacks.
The reality is the restrictionist argument -- that more workers will mean lower wages -- never makes it past Econ 101, class 1. This is because the argument ignores the “ceteris paribus” disclaimer, which says if all other things were held constant, wages should fall. But things are never held constant in real life, least of all when dealing with people. The economy is more dynamic than that -- people create, innovate, buy and sell.
To take one example, consider Say’s Law. In his 1803 Treatise on Political Economy, Jean-Baptiste Say, a French economist and businessman, wrote that “a product is no sooner created, than it, from that instant, affords a market for other products to the full extent of its own value.” In other words, when a worker creates something of value, he can sell it (or the company for which he works can sell it and pay him). The money he receives for his efforts, either directly or in wages, creates a market for other goods and services. “Thus, the mere circumstance of the creation of one product immediately opens a vent for other products,” Say concludes.
October 25, 2012 9:00 AM
Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy Myron Ebell discusses his recent PBS Frontline appearance, and how the debate over global warming has shifted in the last few years.
October 24, 2012 10:29 AM
MICHAEL C. OSBORNE: "Michael Shellenberger to climate activists: It’s not the end of the world"
"At the core of the Breakthrough philosophy is the belief that human ingenuity will trump all of the doomsaying, allowing us to survive and adapt to a warmer world. [...] [I]t would be easy to characterize Shellenberger, Nordhaus, & Co. as climate skeptics or deniers — they are certainly quick to criticize those who predict imminent disaster. But to do so would be to oversimplify their arguments. Instead, they are trying to put climate change into a broader context — one that includes other challenges such as hunger, poverty, and access to clean energy, as well as a more realistic (in their opinion) sense of our abilities to innovate our way through sticky circumstances."
DAVID B. RIVKIN Jr. and ELIZABETH PRICE FOLEY: "Plenty of Debates, Not Much About States"
"The idea that the Constitution grants only limited and enumerated powers and leaves the remainder to the states is foreign to those who believe that the national government should or even could address voters' every concern. But contrary to the view widely shared by the political class, Washington—in particular, Congress—does not have the power to pass any law it wants in the name of the 'general welfare.'"
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: "San Bernardino halts pension fund payments"
"The city of San Bernardino filed for bankruptcy protection three months ago, and shortly afterward was reported to be under investigation by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, allegedly for hiding deficits by diverting money intended for sewers, roads and construction to pay ongoing bills instead. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports the Inland Empire city of about 210,000 residents ;has stopped making its regular payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System' and owes $5.3 million toward its employees' pensions."
October 24, 2012 5:00 AM
One of the most basic principles of constitutional law is that the Constitution only binds the government -- not private individuals -- so you can't accuse fellow citizens of violating your constitutional rights just because their actions discourage you from exercising your own constitutional rights (like someone kicking you out of a dinner party at their home because they don't like your viewpoint, which makes you more reluctant to express your views in the future). This is called the "state action" doctrine.
But this basic principle of Constitutional Law 101 seems to have eluded groups like the United Steelworkers Union and Common Cause, which claim that Clear Channel billboards in Ohio and Wisconsin that declare that "Voter Fraud Is A Felony" are "voter intimidation" that violates the “right to vote” and federal voting-rights laws. (Under pressure from these groups, Clear Channel took down the billboards, which had been paid for by an anonymous foundation.)
Even assuming that these billboards (which are factually correct statements of the law) were somehow objectionable, and that they somehow discouraged people from voting, they would still be protected political speech. A billboard that discourages you from voting is protected speech unless it contains "true threats." And no federal "voting rights" laws can reach such protected speech without both violating the First Amendment, and exceeding Congress's enumerated powers. The Fifteenth Amendment, which protects voting rights against state action, does not change this. Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment, authorizing Congress to pass legislation protecting voting rights, does not authorize Congress to regulate private conduct, as opposed to governmental conduct. (See James v. Bowman (1903), involving the 15th Amendment, and United States v. Morrison (2000), involving similar enforcement provisions in Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.)
October 23, 2012 5:28 PM
Talk about having your negotiating adversary over the barrel.
Pepco and the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers' Maryland-based Local 1900 had been in contract gridlock for months. With the old contract set to expire in May, just as the summer storm season would be heating up, the company had to find a way out.
But after they voted down a collective bargaining contract Pepco called its “last, best and final offer" in September, members approved a four-year pact on Oct. 18 that provides wage increases of 2.25 percent the first year and 2.5 percent the next three. The union has received salary increases of at least 2 percent every year since 1999. The union agreed to forego retractive pension and salary increases but members will receive a lump sum payment to cover some of the increase.
James A. Griffin, president of IBEW Local 1900, said the union’s unease with the “last, best and final offer” wasn’t over money but rather changes Pepco sought to make to members' health and welfare package in exchange for a different appeals process. the union’s ability to enact changes to health and welfare plans that Pepco was seeking to eliminate in exchange for a different appeal process.
The quarrel involved Pepco employees who are crucial to restoring service in outages, a fact the union used to its advantage in negotiations. Pepco has been under fire for years for its poor response to storms, particularly the powerful derecho that hit the area last June. It had little choice but to find a way to settle.
In a letter to IBEW members, the negotiation committee boasted about its contract victory:
October 23, 2012 5:25 PM
Externalities, asymmetric information, and monopolies are useful concepts for understanding how regulators should behave. But the important thing is how they do behave.
October 23, 2012 10:23 AM
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: "ObamaCare vs. Women"
"Here’s a sampling of what the Preventive Services Task Force dings: chlamydia screening in most women over 25; cervical-cancer screening in those over 65; breast-cancer screening using digital mammography or MRI instead of the traditional plain film. Screening for ovarian cancer and the genes that raise a women’s risk of breast cancer also don’t make the cut. Same for clinical breast exams in women older than 40. [...] This is what happens when benefits are defined in Washington, rather than by a marketplace of competing plans that cater to patient preferences."
RICHARD FLORIDA: "The New Geography of Finance"
"Greater New York, surprisingly, ranks just 18th of large metros, with 5.8 of its workforce employed in finance-related occupations, up from 5.3 percent in 2006. Also surprising: The top-ranked large metro in the country is greater Washington, D.C., where finance occupations make up nearly ten percent (9.8 percent) of total employment, up from 8 percent in 2006."
DAVID FRUM: "Tonight’s a Reminder of Why So Few Americans Care About Foreign Policy"
"Tonight's debate reminded me of that Saturday Night Live sketch from the 2000 debate in which Darrell Hammond's Al Gore answered, "I agree" to everything said by Will Ferrell's George W. Bush. On Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Romney again and again repudiated any substantial policy difference between himself and the president."