Friday, March 30, 2012

Is Minnesota a very religious state?

The Gallup Poll did a survey of Americans to determine their level of religiosity. They found:
Gallup classifies 40% of Americans nationwide as very religious -- based on their statement that religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Another 32% of Americans are nonreligious, based on their statement that religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 28% of Americans are moderately religious, because they say religion is important but that they do not attend services regularly or because they say religion is not important but still attend services...

More generally, eight of the 10 most religious states in 2011 are in the South (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia), with one straddling the line between the South and the Midwest (Oklahoma), and one in the West (Utah). None of the most religious states are in the Middle Atlantic, New England, or West Coast regions.

By contrast, six of the least religious states in 2011 are in New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) and four are in the West (Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington), with the District of Columbia and New York rounding out the list.
Where does Minnesota fall? Right at the national average. 40% of Minnesotans describe themselves as very religious.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stadium bill stalled and therefore gambling expansion as well.

Though the Minneapolis city council now supports paying for a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, it appears efforts to pass the stadium lacks support where it counts the most - at the state legislature.

Legislators aren't too anxious to move ahead with the idea, partly because there's no clear plan on how to pay for it but there are other reasons as well.
The stadium cleared a large hurdle Monday when Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced that a majority of the City Council now supported the project, but there was little evidence Tuesday that the shift had created new momentum.

The political math for the stadium in Vandeveer's committee remains daunting.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said that four of the panel's six DFL members would support the project, meaning that at least four of the panel's eight Republicans would be needed for approval.

But in interviews Tuesday, four of the Republicans said they were either opposed to the legislation or had major unresolved concerns. Two other Republicans are sponsoring alternative legislation that opposes a direct public subsidy, and would limit any stadium help to a repayable state loan.

Even the one Senate Republican who said her objections were now resolved said she would rather have the House take up the Vikings stadium first. So far, the House has not scheduled a stadium hearing...

Sen. Benjamin Kruse, R-Brooklyn Park, said he did not see where the stadium's Republican support would come from on the panel. "I do not see myself as one of the four votes for the stadium" if gambling money is used for the state's stadium share, Kruse said. "I heard concerns from all of the [Republican panel] members."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Limited government and strong families and marriages - inextricably linked.

Many economic conservatives, libertarians think that social issues aren't important, more a nuisance than anything else. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Strong marriages and families are a prerequisite for limited government. Why? Because when marriages and families breakup, a host of social problems result, e.g. higher poverty rates, crime, education and personal problems, etc. And government is invariably called upon to fill the gap. And that means higher taxes and more government programs and regulations and dependency.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, an economist and President of the Ruth Institute makes this case in a couple of articles. One was printed by the Heritage Foundation here and the other by National Organization for Marriage here.

So the next time your libertarian friend says redefinition of marriage and marriage breakdown are unimportant, you'll have some good responses.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Minneapolis City Council now supports Vikings stadium, but will legislature?

A majority of Minneapolis City Council members have come out in favor of the city paying for a new Vikings stadium. The question now is will a majority of the state legislature. Some don't think stadium voters have the votes to pass it in the remaining weeks of the session. It will have to wait until after the fall elections.
Mayor R. T. Rybak announced Monday that a majority of Minneapolis’ City Council now backed a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, setting up a last ditch effort by Gov. Mark Dayton to persuade reluctant Republican legislators at the state Capitol to back the project.

The surprise announcement, coming after weeks of intense lobbying in Minneapolis, removed a major obstacle to a public subsidy package for the proposed $975 million stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Minneapolis would contribute $150 million to building the stadium, plus an additional $189 million to help operate it.

“Now [the] motion shifts over here to the Legislature,” said Rybak, standing at a state Capitol press conference with four City Council members. “If the Legislature acts, the City Council will act as well.”

But even as Rybak, Dayton and other stadium supporters celebrated the break through Republicans, who hold a majority in the House and Senate, were again lukewarm to the stadium project as the Legislature heads into its final weeks.

The job of convincing seven of the City Council's 13 members spilled into the weekend and ended with City Council members Sandra Colvin Roy and Kevin Reich agreeing to back the project. Rybak said that new computer spreadsheets outlining the city’s financial commitment, and dispelling concerns that there might be a funding gap, were made available during the middle of last week and seemed to sway the final votes.
MFC hasn't taken a position on the stadium per se but does strongly oppose the use of gambling to fund it. The main proposal currently includes legalizing electronic pulltabs to help underwrite the state's share. That would be a disaster. It would mainstream electronic gambling, the most addictive form of gambling, in 2500 sites throughout the state. Tantamount to putting "mini-casinos" in 2500 sites across the state. It no doubt would also open the door to demands for even more gambling in the future.

Why the concern with video gambling? For one, it's predatory business product. It's predicated on encouraging individual indebtedness and addiction. In casinos, 30%-50% of the slot revenues come from 1% of the gamblers who are problem gamblers. To be successful casinos and other users of video gambling have to encourage people to gamble multiple times a week - the problem gamblers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It makes sense. Practicing evangelicals have lower divorce rates.

It's often said, evangelicals have the same divorce rates as the rest of society. The comment is usually said in the context of the impact the broader culture has on evangelicals.

Turns out that's not the case.
Based on the best data available, the divorce rate among Christians is significantly lower than the general population.

Many people who seriously practice a traditional religious faith -- be it Christian or other -- have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes -- attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples -- enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.

Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced ...

W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, finds from his own analysis that "active conservative Protestants" who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce, compared to secular Americans.

Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver, working with an absolute all-star team of leading sociologists on the Oklahoma Marriage Study, explains that couples with a vibrant religious faith had more and higher levels of the qualities couples need to avoid divorce:

"Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction. These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage."
These findings make sense. If a person takes his or her faith seriously and that faith has a high ideal for marriage then their divorce rates should be lower.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Federal deficits, debt, budgets, and politics. Failing to confront a serious situation.

President Obama came out with his budget recently. It would add trillions to the federal government's debt over the next 10 years.

The Republicans in the US House came out with their
budget plan.
The plan offered by Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, cancels the looming deep defense spending cuts that resulted after last year’s deficit supercommittee failed to reach an agreement, and instead slashes other government spending on everything from food stamps to agriculture subsidies to the federal workforce.

Over the next decade, Mr. Ryan’s plan would spend $5.2 trillion less than President Obama’s budget, would tax Americans by $2 trillion less, and would lead to a smaller deficit in each year going forward.

But to get there, Mr. Ryan goes beyond last year’s debt-deal spending limits, cutting an additional $352 billion out of discretionary spending over the next decade — and he challenged Senate Democrats to join him.
While there's certainly room for disagreement with elements of the plan and it's priorities, at least it's a plan, a proposal. What's the US Senate doing? Nothing.
“None of this works if the Senate decides not to budget again,” Mr Ryan said. “The Senate didn’t do a budget in 2010. They didn’t do a budget in 2011. And now they’re saying they’re not going to do a budget again in 2012 at a time when we have the most predictable debt crisis on our horizon.”
And of course, politics will be front and center. The Washington Post notes that Democrats are looking to make it a political issue.
But the document — which pairs deep spending cuts with a reduction in the top tax rate paid by the wealthy — quickly provided new fodder for Democrats, who argued that Republicans would slash the social safety net while protecting the rich.
What's the old expression about "Fiddling while Rome burned." Appropriate to our current situation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Racino bill defeated in MN Senate Committee on 8 to 5 vote.

Here's a link to a story reporting on the hearing in the state Minnesota on the racino bill. It would place casinos at both of the state horseracing tracks. It lost on a 8 to 5 vote.

While it's uncertain, even doubtful, the Vikings stadium bill will be heard again this session, the real danger there is the effort to pay for it with an expansion of electronic pulltabs and bingo in 2500 locations across the state. This would be an unmitigated disaster. It would mainstream electronic gambling across the state.

a link to testimony against the bill from a person who previously suffered from gambling addiction.

The damage from gambling is really the untold story which needs to be told. For most people gambling is out of sight, out of mind. Yet the consequences and costs are very real.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The corruption of our financial system, Wall Street - A case in point is Goldman Sachs. Highlights ethical crisis facing our nation.

Here's an interesting op/ed by a person leaving Goldman Sachs, the big financial brokerage house. The debt, deficits, bankruptcy of major investment banks, bad economy is a multi-faceted problem. Here's one aspect of the problem - greed on Wall Street.

According to Greg Smith, he's leaving Goldman Sachs after 12 years. He's leaving after heading up part of their equity derivatives, trading business. He no doubt leaves after making a pile of money. Despite the almost grandstanding way he does it - publishing an opinion piece in the New York Times the day he's leaving - he does reveal the unseemly side of Wall Street investment banking firms.
TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
The problem? Greed.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.
Why did things change? He says the problem is one of leadership. I think the problem is greed and the loss of a moral conscience, base.
How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

They then promoted people within the firm based on the greed principle.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.
Seems like he has a different sort of pride himself.
My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.
Fundamentally, if his account is accurate, the cancers of moral relativism, radical individualism are infecting Wall Street just like every other area of society. The problem isn't just on Wall Street it's everywhere. The loss of ethics is affecting all areas of society and life. The most obvious is the economic because that's the god of modern society. We had a major warning sign with the 2008 crash, minor heart attack if you will. But there's no sign that we got the message; that we need to change our ways; change our lifestyle. I think there's a more significant one coming because we didn't take the warning signs seriously. We've continued to pile up billions and trillions of dollars of massive debt and larger deficits. Driven by greed rather than ethical principles, we're continuing to head for the economic cliff.

The response of some, the Wall Street protest groups, is they see the problem from a materialist mindset - the free market system is evil; let's replace it with socialism. That will only replace the current corruption with a corrupt economic system. No, the answer resides primarily with a moral, spiritual revolution, revival. The human heart is ultimately the issue here. There are probably steps which need to be taken governmentally, but that's not the primary problem. In fact, ill-advised governmental response often make matters worse.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's a mess -- Obamacare.

First, Obamacare is far more expensive than was originally promoted.
The gross costs of the Obamacare law that Democrats rammed through Congress will cost $1.76 trillion over a decade — about twice the amount originally projected, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released today.Critics had said that the true 10-year cost of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation would wind up being much more than originally advertised at $940 billion. Democrats pushed the legislation through using untraditional accounting methodology, such as delaying full implementation of the law until 2014, The Washington Examiner reported.
This Heritage Foundation posting shows how it's failing in a number of its purported benefits.
On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) updated its score of Obamacare, announcing that the program is $48 billion cheaper than in its previous 2011 score.

The primary reason for this change is that more individuals will lose their employer-provided coverage than originally anticipated, and the government will collect $99 billion more in taxes and penalties. CBO also finds that there are more uninsured individuals.

In short, this new CBO update continues the trend of Obamacare becoming increasingly expensive and decreasingly effective with each new scoring update.

In this round, CBO announced that the individual mandate penalties will increase by one-third, or $11 billion, as more individuals choose not to purchase insurance. This is especially surprising since CBO also estimates that health insurance premiums will be cheaper in the next decade. Thus, even with cheaper premiums, fewer people will choose to acquire insurance.

CBO also finds that more employers will choose not to offer coverage. The mandate penalties on firms will increase by 18.5 percent, or $15 billion, as these firms find it more efficient to pay a penalty. The CBO also realized that small businesses have no interest in offering health care by the government’s rules. The take-up rate for the small businesses offering health care tax credits has been abysmal so far, and as a consequence CBO halved the effect of this provision.

President Obama has also recognized this failure—by doubling down and offering an expansion of this tax credit. As the CBO update shows, not only will small businesses not take up the credit, but more and more businesses will not offer health insurance at all.

Another reason that the CBO score is less is because in the CBO model when businesses no longer offer insurance, they pay employees more in wages. As a consequence, these wages are then taxed, whereas employer provided health insurance is an untaxed benefit. CBO and the Joint Tax Committee almost doubled the amount of revenue collected by the change of compensation from health insurance to taxes. Since employers are no longer offering health insurance coverage or employees no longer buying it, the government is projected to collect $80 billion more in income taxes over the next 10 years.

Higher tax receipts are only half of this story. It also costs more to cover individuals who receive subsidized insurance from the government. CBO says that because the Obama Administration is forcing insurers to cover more provisions—such as birth control—the initial per capita cost of coverage for people on the exchanges will increase.

CBO finds that overall, there are 3 million fewer people receiving employer-provided coverage, as many of these individuals and companies will choose to pay the tax penalties. There will also be 2 million fewer individuals in the exchange as some of these individuals will be covered by Medicaid or CHIP or go uninsured. The slow economic recovery will make more people eligible for Medicaid than originally anticipated.

This new scoring is simply the latest litany in the broken promises of Obamacare. So far, almost every prediction has been worse than originally estimated. Fewer people have signed up for high-risk pools, the CLASS Act was a new unfunded entitlement, and now fewer people will be covered. The legislation needs to be repealed before things get any worse.
And it's been noted one study that Obamacare was a big negative in the 2010 elections when US House Democrats lost a ton of seats and control of the US House.
A new academic study says the answer can likely be reduced to one word: Obamacare. The study, which was conducted by scholars from Dartmouth and elsewhere, finds that “supporters of health care reform paid a significant price.” The authors looked at cap and trade, the economic “stimulus,” and Obamacare, and concluded that the latter had by far the most adverse effect on Democrats’ fortunes—voters were “approximately 5 points less likely to vote for an incumbent who supported health reform than one who opposed it.”

Indeed, if “all Democrats in competitive districts [had] opposed health care reform,” that likely would have swung about 25 seats from the Republican column into the Democratic column and would have given the Democrats “a 62 percent chance of winning enough races to maintain majority control of the House.”
The question is what will happen in 2012. We shall see.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pat Robertson is wrong on pot.

Pat Robertson recently said we should legalize marijuana, because, among other things, we've lost the war on drugs and we'll save billions of dollars as a result.

I strongly disagree with him on this one. You can't expect to win by surrendering and who said it would ever be eradicated. It's like saying we can't get rid of certain crimes, so we should stop prosecuting them.

A good response was made by Joseph Califano, formerly head of HEW during the Carter Administration.
...Contrary to Robertson’s belief that legalizing marijuana will reduce our nation’s incarceration rates, the fact is that only 2 percent of all inmates are incarcerated for marijuana possession as their controlling or only offense.

Indeed, legalizing marijuana will likely increase criminal activity. Some two-thirds of incarcerated felons (1.5 million) meet the medical criteria for addiction and marijuana is commonly one of the first steps on the road to other drug addiction.

Most violent felonies, such as murder, rape and aggravated assault, occur when the perpetrator is high or drunk, and the lion’s share of property crime involves people seeking money to buy drugs. And the legal drug alcohol that Robertson wants marijuana to be treated like is implicated in more violent crime than any other substance.

The notion that taxing sales of marijuana will provide a windfall for our public coffers is another (bong) pipe dream. For every $1 of taxes on tobacco and alcohol, our nation incurs $9 in state and federal health-care, criminal justice and social-service costs. These costs will skyrocket if legalization becomes the norm, increasing the drain on our public coffers.

As with cigarettes, we know a lot more about marijuana today than we did a generation ago. Today’s marijuana is no harmless herb: it is 10 times more potent than the marijuana of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, says, "There is no question marijuana can be addictive; that argument is over. The most important thing right now is to understand the vulnerability of young, developing brains to these increased concentrations of cannabis."...
I don't think the drug and marijuana problem will be solved solely by laws and their enforcement, but the law is part of the response.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Out of control!

The lastest federal government spending numbers are out and the US federal governmenthad the largest public deficit in our nation's history.

According to a news story:
The federal government recorded its worst monthly deficit in history in February, according to a preliminary report Wednesday from the Congressional Budget Office that said the deficit in fiscal year 2012 is already more than half a trillion dollars. We're borrowing 42 cents for every dollar spent.

The figures show that despite repeated efforts to trim spending, the has borrowed 42 cents of every dollar it spent during the first five months of this fiscal year.

The nonpartisan agency projected the will run a deficit of $229 billion in February, the highest monthly figure ever. The previous high was $223 billion a year ago, in February 2011.

It is the 41st straight month the has run a deficit — itself a record streak that dates back to the final months of President George W. Bush’s tenure. Before now, the longest streak on record was 11 months. For all of fiscal year 2012, which began Oct. 1, the budget analysts said the government has raised $869 billion in revenue but spent $1.5 trillion so far...
And it's not supposed to end anything soon.
Mr. Obama last month released a budget that showed the government averaging $1 trillion deficits for the rest of this decade. House Republicans are working to write their own budget now, while Senate Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada has said he doubts his chamber will write a budget this year.
That last comments suggests Democrats in Congress have given up on evening trying to deal with it.

We're broke and don't care. The only question is when other people stop loaning us money. That's when the pain will start.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wealth of policy proposals and research on broad range of issues, including family, from Heritage Foundation.

Here's a link to an issues briefing book from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington DC.

Under the Family and Religion section they start by saying:
Family and religion are foundational to American freedom and the common good. For example, the married family plays an important part in promoting economic opportunity. Children raised by never married mothers are seven times more likely to be poor when compared to children raised in intact married families. Religious institutions and individuals form the backbone of civil society, providing for the welfare of individuals more effectively than government-funded programs can. Yet policy at the federal, state, and local levels, coupled with social developments, has helped to undermine their important contributions. It is essential to build support for policy changes that strengthen marriage and family and advance a robust understanding of religious liberty and the role of religion in society. Family and religion are indispensable, both in our American order and in our conservative philosophy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Is Obamacare Unraveling? And if so, how much damage with it do before it does?

Here's a piece saying Obamacare is unraveling. He points to cost overruns, unpopularity with the public and problems it might be facing at the US Supreme Court. Given our debt problems and the unworkability of the government now controlling more directly our nation's health care system, it's days are ultimately numbered. The only question is how much damage will it cause in the interim. I suspect a lot.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

America - Home of the free and land of the world's highest corporate tax rates?

Americans for Tax Reform reports that the US will soon have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, surpassing Japan which is planning on cutting their corporate rates shortly.

Why is this a big deal? It means the US is less attractive to businesses and corporations which, with advancements in technology and information, can easily relocate to other parts of the world.

It's another sign of America's decline as a place of economic freedom and well-being.

As for those who say corporations should pay their fair share of taxes, just remember - higher corporate taxes are just passed on to consumers. Eventually, we the consumers pay these higher taxes.

Country Corporate Income Tax Rate

United States 39.2%
OECD Average 25%
Canada 27.6%
Mexico 30%
Japan 35%
Germany 30.2%
France 34.4%

Monday, March 5, 2012

Inflation is higher than you think - more like 8%.

While the official inflation numbers are 2 or 3 percent, one study finds they are much higher for most Americans - upwards of 8 percent.

According to a news story:
Forget the modest 3.1 percent rise in the Consumer Price Index, the government's widely used measure of inflation. Everyday prices are up some 8 percent over the past year, according to the American Institute for Economic Research.

The not-for-profit research group measures inflation without looking at the big, one-time purchases that can skew the numbers. That means they don't look at the price of houses, furniture, appliances, cars, or computers. Instead, AIER focuses on Americans' typical daily purchases, such as food, gasoline, child care, prescription drugs, phone and television service, and other household products.

The institute contends that to get a good read on inflation's "sticker shock" effect, you must look at the cost of goods that the average household buys at least once a month and factor in only the kinds of expenses that are subject to change. That, too, eliminates the cost of housing because when you finance your home with a fixed-rate mortgage, that expense remains constant until you refinance or move.

The group maintains that this index better measures the real-world impact of price changes, particularly for people on a budget. And, largely as the result of the recent run-up in gas prices, this "everyday price index" (EPI) suggests that Americans are being pinched far more tightly than the official inflation measure would have you believe.

Over the past year, the EPI is up just over 8 percent, according to the economics group. The biggest factor: Motor fuel and transportation costs are up 21.06 percent from year-ago levels. The cost of food, prescription drugs, and tobacco also have increased faster than the government's inflation measure, rising 3.56 percent, 4.21 percent, and 3.4 percent, respectively.

On the bright side, prices of household fuel (natural gas and electricity) and supplies have increased only 2.74 percent; recreation and personal care products are up less than 1 percent; and telephone or Internet services are down 0.66 percent.

Admittedly, the purchases that the EPI tracks make up slightly less than 40 percent of the average household budget. But Steven Cunningham, research and education director at AIER, says these items are what contribute to the "sticker shock at the gasoline pump and the supermarket check-out line."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Revisited: Santorum, the Devil, and the Gallup Poll

There was a lot of controversy over Santorum's mention of Satan during a talk at a Catholic college in Florida a while back. He was portrayed by some as being out there on the fringe.

In fact, the belief in an evil being called Satan or the Devil is very much an orthodox, Christian belief.

And in fact, the vast majority of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil or Satan. According to a 2007 Gallup Poll, 70% believe in the existence of the Devil; 21% don't and 8% are unsure.

I suspect many of our media elites fall in the 21% of those who don't believe in the Devil's existence so when they hear of a prominent person who does it seems a bit bizarre.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Welfare state is alive and well in the US and Minnesota.

Many think we're moving towards a European like welfare state if we don't turn things around. Well, Chuck Colson points out we're pretty much already there we just don't realize it.

He points to a NY Times story focusing on the money received by residents in Chisago County of all places.
In Hamlet, Polonius, the Chamberlain to the King, gives his son what is probably the most famous piece of fatherly counsel in all of literature: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

Polonius’s exhortation is one that Americans should take to heart — and his famous words came to mind while reading a recent New York Times article. The article was about the residents of Chisago County, Minnesota, who, according to the Times, “describe themselves as self-sufficient members of the American middle class and as opponents of government largess.”

At the same time, they “are drawing more deeply on that government with each passing year.” In 2009, the last year for which data is available, the residents of the county received an average of $6,583 in federal benefits — a 69 percent increase since 2000.

While most of the benefits go to older residents, assistance to younger residents is growing at about the same rate.

To be fair, Chisago County is far from unique – on the contrary, it’s typical. What comes to mind for most Americans when they think of the beneficiaries of “government largess” is an African-American single mother. But a more complete representation requires looking in the mirror.

If this comes as a surprise to you, it’s because the architects of the American welfare state have worked hard to hide that fact.
He cites columnist David Brooks who points out that we do a better job of hiding it than the Europeans.
As David Brooks recently wrote in the New York Times, “the U.S. does not have a significantly smaller welfare state than the European nations. We’re just better at hiding it.” Whereas European countries “provide welfare provisions through direct government payments,” the U.S. does it “through the back door via tax breaks.”

For instance, “European governments offer public childcare. In the U.S., we have child tax credits.” European governments openly “subsidize favored industries.” We provide “special tax deductions and exemptions” for Washington’s favored industries.

This back-door approach allows Americans to indulge in the fantasy of their self-reliance and rugged individualism without actually being self-reliant or rugged.

The back-door approach is also grossly inefficient: Many of the benefits flow to “those who need them least.” It’s a system that rewards those with the best lobbyists instead of protecting those who truly need help or who would put taxpayer’s money to the best use.
But things maybe changing; it's no longer sustainable in Europe and the US.
Even worse, it’s unsustainable. The same day Brooks’ column appeared in the Times, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told the Wall Street Journal that the European “social model” was “already gone.” In other words, it’s a thing of the past – it’s failed – Europe can no longer afford it.

Neither can we. When you include both direct and back-door social spending, our welfare state is bigger than Italy’s. It is “far above average” when compared to other industrialized nations. Unless we intend to leave our children and grandchildren with an unconscionable debt burden, that must change.

That change, as Polonius would tell us, begins with being true to ourselves. Americans say that they are concerned about the deficit, which they propose to close by cutting someone else’s benefits.Well, we are all “someone else.” Nothing will change until we and our leaders admit this fact.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

State of California mailing condoms home to teens in unmarked packages.

In the latest misguided effort to deal with the effects of the sexual revolution, the state of California is sending condoms home to teenagers in unmarked packages.
The California Department of Public Health has begun a program of providing free condoms by mail to children as young as twelve.

The Condom Access Project (CAP) was rolled out the week of February 14th in Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Kern and parts of San Francisco counties under the direction of the California Family Health Council. These areas were chosen, according to the STD Control Branch of the Department of Public Health, because of the high rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections among teens in these counties.

Teenagers are directed to a website,, where, after filling out the request form, they can have a free package of ten condoms along with lubricant and sex-ed literature mailed to their home addresses in a plain yellow envelope.

Supporters of the program admit that while abstinence is the only sure way of preventing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, they believe that providing more free condoms will help to decrease California’s staggering teen pregnancy and STD rates.

“Usually when we see high numbers, there’s a lack of access to comprehensive sex education and reproductive services,” Amy Moy, vice president of public affairs for the Family Health Council, told the Bakersfield Californian. “There may also be a culture in the community where things like comprehensive sex education and related issues aren’t discussed and resources aren’t available.”
Of course they don't realize they're just adding fuel to the fire with the message that having sex outside of marriage is OK, just use a condom. This idea is flawed for several reasons. First, it suggests condoms will prevent STD's. They won't. Many are spread through nonintercourse activity. Second, it suggests that the only problem with casual sex is getting pregnant or contracting a disease. Wrong. The emotional and I dare say moral consequences are enormous. Third, it treats sex like a recreational sport instead of an intimate giving of oneself to another person.

The question I have is: How bad do things have to get before people wake up and understand the damage they're causing.