Friday, December 30, 2011

The Final Five: December 30, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 30, 2011

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Hospital Staff Caught Storing Caviar in Morgue
Two Russian men planned an exquisite New Year's party, complete with caviar, but apparently lacking any other place to store it, they decided to leave it in the morgue refrigerator at the hospital where they worked, right beside the dead bodies.

Topic One: The Republican Race
Iowa's calendar: Saturday-Sunday-Monday-Tuesday-ReturnToNormalDay. Rasmussen has Romney leading Paul 23-22, with Santorum at 16 and Perry/Gingrich tied at 13. Santorum now appears to be taking his turn as the rising star. The timing might be right, but it might also be a few days too late. Perry is also starting to rise again, and his advantage in organization might get some of the Santorum supporters to switch at the caucuses. The Hill takes a look at what we can expect to see in the final 100 hours.

In Virginia, Newt Gingrich has filed a lawsuit to get on the ballot, joining Rick Perry's suit. Meanwhile, the "loyalty oath" is causing quite a backlash (as it should.) Although I will most likely support whoever becomes the Republican candidate, I would refuse to sign it as a matter of principle, even if it meant I could not vote. Human Events makes the case that the pledge violates Virginia law, because state law permits the pledge, but says it must be in effect 90 days before the primary.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
(The late night shows are in reruns this week, so we are running some of the best comments of the year.)
"While shopping at Best Buy, out of force of habit, President Obama put everything on layaway. He told the store, "Don't worry about it; the grandkids will pay for it."
-Jay Leno

Topic Two: Capitalism at Work
Verizon Wireless announced a $2 fee for one-time credit or debit card payments made online or over the phone. It is probably a poor move to announce it now, since the recent Verizon data outages have already left customers of "the world's most reliable network" upset. Customers have taken to the internet to voice their frustrations. Verizon should be free to charge whatever fees they want, but customers are also free to switch to other companies. It's capitalism at work, and it makes me glad we live in a nation where our options are more than just the state-controlled service or no cell phone. However, the FCC has decided to get involved in the decision. I do not know the applicable laws, so I will refrain from further comment for the time being. In a related story, CNN's David Goldman calls 2011 "the year of annoying fees." Update: Just before I scheduled this to post, I saw that Verizon has decided to cancel the fee.

Debt Watch:
On Thursday, the government added an additional $693,202,333.11 to the debt, bringing the total national debt to:

Topic Three: The Arab Spring
The "Arab Spring" seems to be having a different result than the people expected. In Egypt, a court has banned virginity tests on female detainees. Something tells me that virginity tests were not what Egyptians wanted when they flooded Tahrir Square last February. There are also reports that police have raided the offices of human rights groups and the government has shut down US election monitors. Egypt appears well on its way to deserving a seat on the UN's Human Rights Council, where it can join other examples of sterling human rights records, such as Cuba, China, Russia, and Gaddafi-controlled Libya.

In other Middle Eastern nations, Syria continues to use force to stop protests, despite the presence of human rights monitors. Meanwhile, the presence of the Arab League monitors has only increased the size of the protests. Finishing with some good news from the Middle East, Libya's largest oil port is ready to begin exports.

Tweets of the Day:
David Freddoso (@freddoso): TSA is a joke -- security theater. Alert passengers are the only thing that's stopped air terror post 9-11. See shoe & undie bomber.

Topic Four: The Global Economy
WSJ ran an excellent six-part series on the history of the Euro crisis. Meanwhile, Spain raised its deficit forecast in a move reminiscent of Greece. Most analysts seem to see this crisis as the breakup of the Euro and a weakening of the EU; I contend that it is just as (if not more) likely that the problems with the Euro will lead to a stronger EU as its government institutes greater controls over the member nations in order to avoid a currency collapse.

On the US economy, The CATO Institute has a great column about California and job creation. It might help explain the explosion of tech industries in the South. Rich Lowry's column for Real Clear Politics discusses Margaret Thatcher and rejection of British decline as a historical parallel for American decline. Laurence Kotlikoff explains at Bloomberg why saving is the way out of American decline. Finally, Paul Krugman's latest column has the same title as his last 27,000 columns (or so it seems.)

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."
-Thomas Paine

Topic Five: Obama's Legacy
A great American Thinker article discusses what happens when ZerO comes to office. The Denver Post has a great response to Obama's claim that conservatives want to leave everyone to fend for themselves. The American Spectator argues that Obama is not a friend of the middle class. Even the NY Times has started criticizing Obama, contending that he is too distant from lawmakers. Jeffrey Folkes at American Thinker wishes us an "Unhappy New Year", saying that is the only kind of 2012 we will have with Obama in charge. Finally, the Atlantic writes a (rare) excellent piece on the effects of high joblessness under Obama. Just as applicable today as it was when it was first published in 2010.

Tomorrow in History
December 31, 1879 - In Menlo Park, NJ, Thomas Edison holds a demonstration in which he publicly displays the incandescent light bulb for the first time.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
Karl Rove's political predictions for 2012

Capitalism: Good, Socialism: Bad

Is social media a blessing or a curse?

CCW permit holders tend to be law-abiding citizens

Government Motors, neglecting your safety: Chevy recalls cars for missing brake pads

Replace your incandescent light bulbs with Heatballs!

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Final Five: December 29, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 29, 2011

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Female 'Robin Hood' Doles Out Cash to Kids After Robbing Bank
A bank robber jumped into a cab and offered a big tip if he drove her from bank to bank. The driver dropped her off at a nearby park and then called police. The police arrived to find her giving out the cash to children.

Topic Number 1: The Republican Nomination
It's been a busy day in the presidential race, as the candidates are campaigning across Iowa in an attempt to pull off a surprise finish in next Tuesday's caucuses. We'll catch up with the candidates in a little bit. However, one of the new items to the presidential race is the Super PAC, created in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United decision. These super PACs can collect unlimited contributions from corporations, unions, and individuals, but they cannot coordinate with the candidate campaigns. HuffPo's Dominic Carter wrote an analysis of how super PACs are changing elections. FOX News also provided their own analysis.

In Virginia, things just keep getting more insane. Now, prospective republican voters will have to sign a loyalty pledge, indicating that they will support the eventual nominee. Gingrich blamed his failure to get on the Virginia on one person. Apparently 1500 signatures submitted by this one person were ruled as fraudulent. Maybe he shouldn't have waited until the last minute to collect the signatures. Finally, Perry's request for a judge to halt ballot printing in Virginia failed, although the judge did not rule on the merits of the case.

Moving to the candidates, Michele Bachmann's top advisor, Kent Sorenson, defected to the Ron Paul campaign. Bachmann alleges that there was a payoff for the switch, but Sorenson denies it. Santorum has been gaining in the polls, but does he have enough time? Santorum is making his case to Iowa voters. Perry's new ad attacks some of his opponents for the time they spent in Congress. Strangely, it does not attack Romney. Ron Paul declared his support for the Occupy protests. Romney argued that the individual mandate is "conservative." (That's the only way he can claim that he's always been conservative.) RedState's Daniel Horowitz says there's nothing conservative about him. Another great RedState post contends that Ted Kennedy's 1994 Senate campaign already created enough anti-Romney ads for Obama, should Romney win the nomination.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
(The late night shows are in reruns this week, so we are running some of the best comments of the year.)
"President Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, he sent the Navy in to shoot at pirates in the Indian Ocean, and now he's attacking Libya. It's like he took the Nobel Peace Prize as an insult."
-Jimmy Kimmel

Topic Number 2: Obama's Legacy
Hopefully, Obama will leave office at noon on January 21, 2013. What will he leave behind? How will history remember him? An American Thinker article discusses Obama's disconnect from others. "Obama doesn't like people. He likes himself. He appears to have a long-standing pattern of disconnection from others." He also admitted to Barbara Walters that he's lazy. I would contend that it's more apathy than laziness. He's sure not lazy in scheduling his golf outings or vacations. A USA Today poll found that Americans view Obama as a liberal. Dr. Milton Wolf explains why the Obama presidency has been a failure: "He simply does not trust the Americans who entrusted him with the presidency." The Washington Examiner contributor Michael Barone contends that Obama is offering income redistribution, but voters just want economic growth.

Debt Watch:
On Wednesday, the government was able to reduce the debt by $5,377,558,430.82, bringing the total debt to:

Topic Number 3: Iran
Iran states the obvious. (Just another idle Obama administration threat) WaPo contends that Iran would pay a price by closing the strait. Max Boot says it would be suicide. However, Victor Davis Hanson explores the possibility that Iran thinks Obama is bluffing, given his empty deadlines on nuclear development. Meanwhile, the US and Israel are discussing triggers for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, while the US continues to discourage a unilateral attack by Israel.

Tweets of the Day:
Todd Herman (@toddeherman): Latest meme against checking I.D. of voters: "people don't bomb polling places." Sadly, from an apparently gifted man

Topic Number 4: SOPA
GoDaddy's support of the SOPA legislation is leading to an exodus of its customers. I have never used them, but I certainly would not now. It is not surprising that the government wants to barge in and control the internet: it is one of the last bastions of true freedom available. Bloggers are concerned that SOPA will spell the end of blogging. Meanwhile, WND takes a look at what is being illegally downloaded by Congress and its staff.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"Perhaps myself the first, at some expence of popularity, to unfold the true character of Jefferson, it is too late for me to become his apologist. Nor can I have any disposition to do it. I admit that his politics are tinctured with fanaticism, that he is too much in earnest in his democracy, that he has been a mischevous enemy to the principle measures of our past administration, that he is crafty & persevering in his objects, that he is not scrupulous about the means of success, nor very mindful of truth, and that he is a contemptible hypocrite."
-Alexander Hamilton

Topic Number 5: ObamaCare
Paul Rahe explains what is wrong with the individual mandate: "Raising taxes to reward free riders ... does not in and of itself narrow in any significant fashion the sphere of our liberty. It is a question of the proper use of the public purse. The individual mandate sets a new precedent. It extends government control to the private purse." Paul Starr analyzes Obama's miscalculation on the individual mandate. Jonathan Cohn disagrees with Starr. Meanwhile, Oregon is having trouble setting up its insurance exchange.

Tomorrow in History
December 30, 1853 - A small portion of land now part of Arizona and New Mexico is purchased from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase. This purchase facilitated the building of a southern route for the transcontinental railroad.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
NY Times tells people the subscriptions they don't have are expiring

Chavez claims US is behind his cancer.

Russia, a bastion of human rights, slams US human rights record

Marine cited for carrying American flag

The missing day: Samoa and Tokelau to skip December 30

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Final Five: December 28, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 28, 2011

A Couple Items:
Tonight, I'm experimenting with a new format for The Final Five. Instead of five articles, it will cover five topics, giving some of my insight along with several links for each topic. It will be a merging of the News of Note with the Final Five. The News of Note section is being replaced with "Grab Bag", the items that don't fit anywhere else. I am considering switching to this format permanently in the new year, so please let me know what you think. Also, if you are currently subscribed to receive the e-mail updates, please remember that you must click the confirmation link (sent last night) in order to receive updates beginning January 2. If you did not receive a confirmation link, please see below for how to subscribe.

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Fruitcake From 1941 Sells for $525 in Ohio
Fruitcake anyone? A 1941 fruitcake that was still unopened sold for $525 at an online auction.

Topic Number 1: Congress
WaPo's Aaron Blake contends people hate Congress because it is getting richer while the rest of America has struggled. Perhaps the legal insider trading Congress is allowed to do has something to do with Congress's wealth increase. As one comment on the second article stated, "This explains how most of them enter congress as 99%ers and leave as 1%er's." Since they make the laws, they can write them so that the laws benefit themselves at the expense of others. HuffPo's Darren Hutchinson has some additional insight on other factors that may also affect Congress's wealth.

Meanwhile, Congress is also meeting pro forma twice each week in order to prevent Obama recess appointments. One of the areas in need of appointments is the NRLB, but it seems that Obama does not want to send members who can actually be approved. With one of Obama's recess appointments last year about to be forced off without Senate approval, this will leave only two of the five seats filled, which means the board will be unable to meet a quorum. This will greatly upset the union bosses, and it may lead to an attempt to squeeze in an appointment early next year between the pro forma sessions. This could result in a court battle over the definition of a recess and whether the appointment is valid.

A WaPo reoprt by Lori Montgomery says that despite all the drama, Congress has been unable to accomplish much regarding the debt. While I understand the argument and share in some of the frustration, there have been some accomplishments. First, the Republican House made the debt and deficits one of the top issues. Second, they established a precedent that a debt ceiling increase must also cut spending. No longer will a President simply ask for and receive a no-strings-attached increase of the debt ceiling.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
(The late night shows are in reruns this week, so we are running some of the best comments of the year.)
"Finding bin Laden was like finding a needle in a country that swore it didn't have needles."
-Stephen Colbert

Topic Number 2: Economy
European banks are holding on to their money rather than investing it, believing that the Euro--despite its weaknesses--is the safest investment. America already saw this happening during TARP. The Daily Beast argues that indecision is the main problem facing Europe. It is not the main problem (the biggest problems are the welfare society and the debt issues it causes), but decisions delayed will only result in bigger problems and the need for bigger austerity measures in the future. European stocks are dropping as investors realize that the crisis is far from over.

On the domestic economy, consumer confidence is rising but the housing slump is still hurting jobs. WSJ reports that workers are preferring to stay near their current homes rather than take a job that would require selling their homes at a loss. J.T. Young (Washington Times) contends that the government has reached the limit of its ability to improve the economy. Finally, Obama is prepared to ask for the third phase of the debt limit increase approved in August. Only a two-thirds override from both houses can stop this from taking effect. Meanwhile, the government continues to support worthwhile projects such as this.

Debt Watch:
During the weekend (including Monday's federal holiday), the government spent an additional $2,010,072,504.34, bringing the total debt at the end of business on Tuesday to:

Topic Number 3: Republican Primary
We're now within a week of the Iowa caucuses. PPP shows Paul 24, Romney 20, Gingrich 13. Strangely enough, PPP's latest poll is in line with the other polls. The latest trend in the campaign is to appeal to religion. Maybe Perry's 'Strong' ad was just a little ahead of the trend. Occupy is planning to protest at the caucuses. What's new?

In candidate news, Ron Paul's lead has resulted in him becoming the latest "punching bag." Mitt Romney continued his attacks on Newt, using a line from 'I Love Lucy.' Finally, HuffPo's Jeffrey Shaffer says that if Perry drops out of the race, he might be starring in a new version of The Beverly Hillbillies.

The Virginia primary situation is headed to the courts, as Rick Perry is officially filing a suit for ballot access. The real question is whether he will have enough time to get it through the courts before the ballots have to be printed. Moe Lane at RedState contended that Virginia changed their ballot access rules one month before the deadline. Another diarist at RedState provides some analysis that may help Perry's case: According to Virginia law, the signature requirement technically 50, not 10,000. I do not know if there is another statute elsewhere that might affect the Presidential outcome, but if there is not, then his analysis could drastically change the outlook of the race. My personal opinion is that the Virginia ballot rules should be changed to allow write-in candidates, at least for presidential candidates. If they are going to establish one of the strictest access rules in the nation, then they should also make it so that candidates who do not qualify for the ballot can still mount campaigns there.

Tweets of the Day:
Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight): There are 3 tickets out of Iowa, but one of them in a middle seat between two morbidly obese passengers holding screaming babies.

Topic Number 4: Iran
Iran is threatening to put an American on trial for spying. It is certainly not the first time Iran has done this. That time, it ended in bail ("ransom") payments of $500,000 and $1 million. Iran probably figures that they might as well try again for another nice cash delivery.

Meanwhile, Iran is threatening to blo ck oil shipments if sanctions are imposed. WaPo says that Iran has threatened this for years but has never done it. Now they certainly will not go through with it: a US official has said that any disruption 'will not be tolerated.' That's great! Threaten them with...nothing? It's not the first embarrassing statement the administration has made about Iran: remember the begging of "Please give us our drone back" earlier this year?

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood."
-John Adams

Topic Number 5: Education
There were some interesting articles on education published today. HuffPo discussed how digital learning may improve performance for low-income students. The conclusion was right on: "Digital learning won't close the achievement gap, but it will lift the floor." On a similar note, the President of the UK's Girls' School Association says that smartphones may replace textbooks.

Another HuffPo article examines the pros and cons of holding school year-round. While it would minimize the summer learning loss, increasing the number of days school is in session would also increase costs. Some proposals call for small breaks instead of one large one, but school would still be in session during the hottest months and it would make employment with the school system even less enticing than it is (no summer break to work a second job.) Meanwhile, UK has come up with an "innovative" solution to the problem of poor performance: fire headteachers (what we would call principals) whose schools do not perform.

Finally, Greg Voakes debunks the "education is important for success" theory by listing 8 entrepreneurs who never completed a Master's degree.

Tomorrow in History
December 29, 1851 - The first American YMCA opens its doors to the residents of Boston, Massachusetts.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
The year in Obama scandals

Kim Kardashian irks liberals

Obama admits he lies, but only for good reasons

Need to return a gift? Here are some stores' return policies

iPad app for running the United Kingdom? It's coming soon

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Final Five: December 27, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 27, 2011

News of Note:

- Nancy "I-support-the-99%" Pelosi stays in $10,000 per night hotel

- Lawmakers question tax-free AARP profits

- The struggles of the solar-energy sector

- Will payroll tax conference be second supercommittee?

- Hacker group Anonymous releases revolution survival guide

- Ron Paul's record: 482 bills, 1 passed

- Google gets involved in your travel

- Newark TSA employee suspended after security breach

- 80% of all phones vulnerable to hacking

- Obama to ask for another debt ceiling increase

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Bus Passengers Stranded in England as Driver Gets Locked in Bathroom
Passengers on a UK bus were stranded for an hour after their driver was locked inside the bathroom.

The Final Five: Number 5
The Turn of China
American Thinker's Rick Moran explains why hopes for a China bailout have been dashed. "The financial and credit crisis can now be considered truly global. China has joined the list of nations whose banks and thus, government are in trouble. ... Now it's China's turn to kick the can down the road hoping against hope that a solution will present itself in the future."

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a speech urging Arab leaders to enact real reforms. Halfway through the speech, Arab leaders looked at each other and asked, 'Why is a woman talking?"
-Conan O'Brien

The Final Five: Number 4
In Praise of the House
Yuval Levin explains for The Weekly Standard the ways that the Republican-controlled House have pulled Washington to the right. "But, given the fact that they controlled only one house of Congress while Democrats held the other and the presidency, Boehner and his members have a lot to be proud of. They showed that it is not always true that “it is the president who sets the agenda for our government.” Confronted with a very liberal but weak and ineffective president, House Republicans managed to play an outsized role in setting that agenda, and in helping the public to see why electing a new president should top the agenda for 2012."

Debt Watch:
On Friday, December 23, the government added $4,844,832,010.40 to the debt. (Figures for yesterday were unavailable.) The national debt currently stands at:

The Final Five: Number 3
What Did I Get for Christmas? More Taxes!
The Huffington Post's Gene Marks describes the new or increased taxes that will be taking effect in the coming years. "Will this all happen? Right now, it's the law. Sure, there's an election year coming up. If there's a new President there may be some changes. But the mood in Washington now is that the money to pay down our huge deficits has to come from somewhere. So it's likely to come in the form of new taxes. Many business owners are preparing for that fact right now. They're accelerating income where they can, so that they can pay less taxes now than pay higher rates later. And they're spending a little quality time with their accountants this holiday season."

Tweets of the Day:
Aaron Blake (@FixAaron): Alan Grayson just sent an e-mail urging people not to reject Romney because he's a Mormon. Yes, you read that correctly.

The Final Five: Number 2
Obama's Poverty Politics
Ed Lasky at American Thinker describes the politics of poverty that Obama will use in next year's campaign. "Barack Obama's manifold failures over the last three years have left him in a political tough spot as we enter 2012. He will have a challenging time running on a record that has resulted in massive unemployment, stagnant income growth, a record number of people on food stamps, and a gargantuan level of debt that Americans will be paying off for decades after Obama has retired to the golf courses of Hawaii. As was clear from his recent speech calling forth the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, he will campaign on the idea that he will bring "fairness" to struggling Americans. Of course, as was true of Obama's 2008 "hope and change" campaign, "fairness" has the political virtue of meaning whatever one wishes it to mean. However, there is plenty of evidence about what it means to Barack Obama: taking money from one group of Americans and giving it to another on a scale never before seen in America."

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own."
-James Madison

The Final Five: Number 1
Job Creation Is Price for New U.S. Health Law
Bloomberg contributor Andrew Puzder describes why the (Un)Affordable Care Act is stifling job creation. "Our company, CKE Restaurants Inc., employs about 21,000 people (our franchisees employ 49,000 more) in Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants. For months, we have been working with Mercer Health & Benefits LLC, our health-care consultant, to identify Obamacare’s potential financial impact on CKE. Mercer estimated that when the law is fully implemented our health-care costs will increase about $18 million a year. That would put our total health-care costs at $29.8 million, a 150 percent increase from the roughly $12 million we spent last year. ... To offset higher health-care expenses, we will have to cut spending on new restaurant construction, one of our largest discretionary spending areas. But building new restaurants is how we create jobs. An $18 million increase in our costs would more than consume the $8.8 million we spent on new restaurant construction last year, leaving nothing for growth. We will also need to reduce our general capital spending, which also creates jobs and allows us to improve our infrastructure and maintain our business. In summary, our ability to create new jobs could vanish."

Tomorrow in History
December 28, 1945 - The Pledge of Allegiance is officially recognized by the U.S. Congress

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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Final Five: December 26, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 26, 2011

News of Note:

- Cupcake=Security Threat

- Justice department reverses course on online gambling

- Alabama county reaches bankruptcy

- Banks planning for Euro's demise

- Reid's "millionaires don't create jobs" claim debunked

- Congress still can't agree on FAA authorization

- Privacy group sues over DHS social media monitoring

- American cities creating and losing the most jobs

- We know more about Jesus's birth than Obama's

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Service with a Smile: FedEx Worker Caught on Tape Tossing Package Over Fence
A man opened his new monitor, only to discover that it was broken. Even worse, the home's security camera uncovered how it broke: the FedEx delivery man threw the package over the fence instead of taking it to the door. See the video at The Blaze.

The Final Five: Number 5
Demonizing Wal-Mart
Michael Kinsley analyzes the invalidity of the criticism of Walmart for the LA Times. "Big companies make fat targets, but a more deserving target might be small companies. Instead, we have the ever-inflating myth of small business. Small businesses come and go, creating and eliminating jobs along the way. Yes, they are an important part of the economy, and often they come with inspiring tales of hard-working immigrants and so on. But they're in it to make a profit, just like Wal-Mart. And I doubt that many offer healthcare to people working less than 24 hours a week. A successful small-business person is more likely to be in the notorious 1% than is an employee (or even a stockholder) of a big corporation. They don't need to be coddled with special tax breaks. Alice Walton could have put her museum in New York, where this sort of thing belongs. Most of us don't get to Bentonville as often as we'd like. Or she could have decided not to build it at all, for fear that journalists would start comparing her to Marie Antoinette. Would that have been better?"

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"Members of Congress will still get paid if there's a shutdown. So it will be just like it is now. We'll be paying them to do nothing."
-Jay Leno

The Final Five: Number 4
The Danger of a New Medical Care 'Bioethics'
Jerome Arnett, Jr. MD and John Dale Dunn, MD analyze the ethical dilemmas that will be created by the Affordable Care Act. "Embedded in PPACA is a system of mandates and incentives derivative of guidelines for efficient patient care that means some rationing. An example most often raising objections in the public discussion of PPACA is the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a part of the bill intended to address "end of life" resource utilization, but other entities created by the PPACA, such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), will promote care guidelines intended to reduce resource utilization or withhold care for patients based on guidelines composed for promoting resource efficiency. ... Repeal of PPACA prevents the loss of ethical, individually focused medical care, the final step to creating socialized medicine that Ronald Reagan warned against as the step that would make America a socialist society. Ethical, individually focused medical care in a free-market system is still a viable alternative."

Debt Watch:
The government was closed on Friday to observe the Christmas Eve holiday. Although it's difficult to imagine the government not spending money, there is no updated figure available from the treasury. As of Thursday, December 22, the national debt stands at:

The Final Five: Number 3
A Country In Denial About Its Fiscal Future
Robert Samuelson explains our true political problem for Real Clear Markets. "There are moments when our political system, whose essential job is to mediate conflicts in broadly acceptable and desirable ways, is simply not up to the task. It fails. This may be one of those moments. What we learned in 2011 is that the frustrating and confusing budget debate may never reach a workable conclusion. It may continue indefinitely until it's abruptly ended by a severe economic or financial crisis that wrenches control from elected leaders. We are shifting from "giveaway politics" to "takeaway politics." Since World War II, presidents and Congresses have been in the enviable position of distributing more benefits to more people without requiring ever-steeper taxes. Now this governing formula no longer works, and politicians face the opposite: taking away - reducing benefits or raising taxes significantly - to prevent government deficits from destabilizing the economy."

Tweets of the Day:
Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh): Even if Ron Paul didn't write/read his newsletters, did no one in his life say "Hey friend, what is that filth going out in your name?"

The Final Five: Number 2
Obama's Post Recession Job Record in Historical Context
American Thinker's Yossi Gestetner analyzes Obama's campaign spin about jobs. "Yes, President Obama can argue that he had a steep and long recession, but so did Reagan, yet he produced 285,517 jobs per month in the same period that Obama produced only 41,896 jobs per month. More shocking: President Ford created 171,368 jobs per month in the nineteen months after the long 1974-1975 recession through October of 1976; the month before he lost reelection. An argument can be made that the steeper the contraction, the stronger the roar back needs to be. Yet, Obama's post-recession monthly average on jobs is less than half the 89,103 monthly average jobs produced in the 29 months following the short recession that ended in March 1991..."

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."
-Thomas Paine

The Final Five: Number 1
The Way The World - And Free-Market Economics - Works
Forbes' Peter Ferrara analyzes how the economy should work, and why it is not working the way it should. "Obama is locked in an antediluvian, unreconstructed, sophomoric, Keynesian mindset stuck in the delusion that runaway government spending, deficits and debt are the foundation of economic growth and prosperity. That is what he says in his Kansas speech, and what he has been saying since he was elected. But the truth is just the opposite. Minimizing government spending, deficits and debt to the essentials is what maximizes economic growth and prosperity. These pro-growth, free market economic policies are the opposite of trickle down economics. They all involve decentralized markets, with prosperity welling up from the people to create a rich and prosperous nation."

Tomorrow in History
December 27, 1932 - New York City's Radio City Music Hall opens its doors for the first time.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Final Five: December 23, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 23, 2011

Thought of the Day:
The problem with gun control is that it requires everyone to give up their guns, including criminals. But if criminals have no problem breaking the law in other ways, why would they break the law and turn in their guns?

News of Note:

- New car anti-theft system analyzes your bottom

- UK bookseller sorry for promoting 'Mein Kampf' as Christmas present

- Eight states to increase minimum wage next year

- South Carolina Voter ID law blocked

- Gunshot detectors becoming more prevalent

- Go Daddy backs off of support of SOPA after boycott

- Christians being expelled from Laos

- Virginia Presidential ballot down to three

- Obama finally headed for Hawaii (can he just stay there?)

Tonight's Crazy Story:
TSA Agent Finds Pot in Rapper's Luggage, Just Leaves Note
What happens when a TSA agent finds a bag of weed in someone's luggage? Do they call the police? Or do they just leave a simple note?

The Final Five: Number 5
What Does $40,000 Mean to You?
As Obama screams about $40/week possibly being cut from everyone's paycheck, Daniel Horowitz asks at RedState what the $40,000/person that Obama has added to the national debt means to you. "Obama has been running around all day making a fool of himself as he promotes his $40 Social Security tax cut. Yes, the tax plan that will create a new class warfare Social Security Taxable Wage limit in order to accommodate his totally unworkable two-month extension. Obama has even set up a new web page asking people “what $40 per paycheck would mean to you.” Republicans should respond by setting up a web page asking every taxpayer to explain how a $40,000 increase in their share of debt will affect their finances and those of their grandchildren."

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"President Obama bought about $200 worth of Christmas presents at Best Buy. Then it got awkward when he asked the Geek Squad if they fix economies."
-Jimmy Fallon, 12/22/11

The Final Five: Number 4
5 Myths About President Obama's Economic Recovery
John Merline breaks down five myths about the economy for Investor's Business Daily. "Over the past several months, President Obama has spent much time pleading for patience on the sluggish economy and ongoing high unemployment, arguing that the economic hole was so deep and the crisis so monumental that a slow recovery — now in its 30th month — was inevitable. But in making his case, Obama appears to be perpetuating several myths about the recession he inherited and the slow recovery over which he's presided."

Debt Watch:
On Thursday, the government paid off $112,611,410.20 worth of debt, bringing the national debt to:

The Final Five: Number 3
The GOP’s Payroll-tax Debacle
Charles Krauthammer analyzes the fallout from the payroll-tax debate for National Review Online. "Now that Congress appears finally to have reached a compromise on what must be one of the worst pieces of legislation in years — the temporary payroll-tax-holiday extension — let’s survey the damage. To begin with, what even minimally rational government enacts payroll-tax relief for just two months? As a matter of practicality alone, it makes no sense."

Tweets of the Day:
Kathryn Jean Lopez (@kathrynlopez): #onemoredaytostartChristmasshopping!

The Final Five: Number 2
Obamacare and the Ratchet Theory of History
American Thinker's Mike Stopa analyzes the fear of Obamacare's irreversibility. "There are a lot of things that Americans fear about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. They fear that they won't be able to continue to go to the doctor whom they trust. They fear that once a single consumer -- the government -- replaces 300 million consumers of drugs and medical technology and then begins to regulate costs, the spigot of medical miracles will slowly shut off (just such regulation and results are already a reality in Europe). Americans fear the disappearance of choice of treatment as they age and the inevitable appearance of death panels (a prelude to which -- mandatory end-of-life counseling for Medicare beneficiaries -- is already materializing in Massachusetts). But perhaps Americans' greatest fear of all is that Obamacare is a one-way door -- that it has been plainly designed, rammed through, and implemented with an aim to being irreversible."

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a People always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence."
-George Washington

The Final Five: Number 1
Holder's Voter ID Fraud
A Wall Street Journal editorial analyzes the fraud in opposing voter ID laws. "Thirty states now require some form of ID at the polls, and one goal of Mr. Holder's attack is to intimidate other states that want to toughen their laws. He's probably also signaling that Justice will strike down the Texas and South Carolina statutes. This would please the Democratic Party's left while not-so-subtly inventing a threat of Republican racism to drive minority turnout in 2012. Mr. Holder's voter ID alarums are one more reason he's earning a reputation for politicized, partial justice."

Tomorrow in History
December 24, 1943 - General Dwight D. Eisenhower is officially named the Supreme Allied Commander.

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Medicare Cannot Afford the Status Quo

Richard Kirsch wrote a column for the Huffington Post this week titled, "The Last Thing Medicare Needs Is More Privatization". His argument centers around the claim that privatization would shift costs from the government onto seniors because Medicare is better able to control its costs. Kirsch argues,
"Health care costs have increased at a significantly lower rate under Medicare than in private insurance plans, chiefly because Medicare is much better able to limit how much it pays to doctors and hospitals. The private insurance plans that now cover about one out of five Medicare patients do so at a cost that is 13 percent greater than Medicare pays for the same benefits...

Capping the premiums would not result in lower health care costs, but in shifting costs to people on Medicare, which would result in seniors forgoing the care they need, ending up in the hospital with more serious illnesses, and dying sooner."
Yes, it is true that government health insurance has done a better job of controlling costs, but that cost control comes at a price. A survey this past summer showed that if the over $1 trillion in cuts passed as part of the Affordable Care Act and the Budget Control Act take effect, 87% of doctors will stop seeing Medicare patients or will limit the number of patients that are seen. This will limit the ability of our seniors to see a doctor when they become ill, and it will eventually drive prices up as seniors are forced to seek care from an emergency room or urgent care center.

Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act also calls for an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) to assist in cutting costs. However, the law makes hospitals and hospices off-limits for the IPAB until 2020 and laboratories off-limits until 2016. Without changes to prohibit further cuts, payments for doctor visits are most likely to receive further cuts. Even though the Affordable Care Act prohibits the IPAB from authorizing rationing, reducing the number of doctors accepting Medicare will be a form of indirect rationing. Cuts can only be made to a certain point without affecting patient care, and the high number of doctors threatening changes to the way they see Medicare patients shows that we are rapidly approaching that point.

I will reserve the debate over the effect the Ryan-Wyden plan will have on health costs for another article. However, there is a way that Medicare can save money, regardless of whether it stays in its current form or becomes privatized: move to a consumer-driven approach. Currently, consumers only pay 12% of their healthcare costs, down from over 45% in 1960. When 88% of a person's healthcare costs are being covered by someone other than the patient, the patient has little incentive to keep costs down. An article on the blog American Thinker showed how Whole Foods salvaged their medical care system by moving to a plan with a $2500 deductible, but also had an $1800 HSA.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has also brought the consumer-driven model to state employees. Since 2006, Indiana has allowed state employees to use a plan with low premiums and high out-of-pocket expenses, partially reimbursed through a Health Savings Account (HSA). Indiana's plan has been met with great success: 90 percent of state employees have chosen the consumer-driven plan for 2012, and only two percent of employees covered by this plan have opted to switch back to the traditional model. The Indiana plan also allows employees to roll over their HSA balances from year to year, giving employees the opportunity to develop a substantial savings to cover catastrophic events.

When the vast majority of a person's healthcare is being covered by private insurance or the government, there is no incentive to save money. As a result, unnecessary tests and expenditures skyrocket and increase the cost of insurance. However, when the costs are coming from a person's own money, even if it is through money given through the insurance plan, consumers have shown that they are much more likely to be frugal while still receiving necessary care.

Medicare is rapidly approaching insolvency, and it can no longer afford to maintain the status quo that people like Richard Kirsch desire to keep. Instead, we must find solutions that will maintain the quality and availability of care while keeping costs under control. Consumer-driven plans, such as those implemented by Whole Foods and the state of Indiana, have shown the ability to do just that.

Note: I will be taking next week off from writing my daily column in observance of the holiday season. I will continue to post The Final Five and all other regular features of the blog, and I may write one or two columns if a pressing issue arises. My regular columns will resume on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Final Five: December 22, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 22, 2011

Thought of the Day:
House Republicans say they want a one year extension of the payroll tax cut. Obama says he wants a one year extension of the payroll tax cut. However, the Senate passed a two month extension of the payroll tax cut. Answering "Which one is not like the others?" should determine the source of the problem in Washington.

News of Note:

- Holder plays the race card

- Oops! Economic data revised downward

- New pro-union rule approved

- US faces another downgrade in 2013 without debt solution

- Occupy protesters sue over claimed lack of freedom

- Romney: state healthcare mandates are "conservative"

- Ethics confusion around the holidays

- "Peaceful" Islam teaching extremism in Saudi Arabia

- The aftermath of the US withdrawal

- NY Times explains how to get to all 99 Iowa counties in the shortest time

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Utah Man Wins Lamborghini, Crashes It Hours Later
A Utah man won a $380,000 Lamborghini in a contest. However, six hours later, he lost control and put it through a fence.

The Final Five: Number 5
Paul Ryan's Old-Fashioned American Vision
Larry Kudlow explains the vision Paul Ryan has for our nation and why it is important now. "With this vision, and with a pro-growth budget framework called "A Roadmap for America's Future," Ryan's serious ideas have seriously gotten under President Obama's skin. In a White House meeting this year, Ryan's superior knowledge of health care baffled Obama and left him speechless. And the serious Ryan budget, which lowers spending by $6.2 trillion and reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion over ten years, totally outflanked the White House. It embarrassingly exposed the Obama administration's flimsy and inconsequential 2012 budget, which even rejected the findings of Obama's own Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission. (Another Oval Office embarrassment.) And when Ryan unveiled his first Medicare-reform package, which featured patient-centered consumer choice and market competition, the White House went nuts."

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"The Taliban is now on Twitter. So if they start following you, go hide someplace where no one will find you ... like MySpace or Friendster."
-Jimmy Kimmel

The Final Five: Number 4
Obama’s Near Self-Abasement
Peter Wehner analyzes Obama's recent comment about being the fourth-best president in a different light. "Most people took this as proof of the president’s arrogance. I took it as an indication of his growing humility. After all, Obama said as president he would heal the planet, repair the world, and halt the rise of the oceans. Divisions within our country would end. Dictators from every corner of the globe would bow to the power of his reason. For Obama to now say his achievements might rank below those of Lincoln is, I think, a show of near self-abasement..."

Debt Watch:
On Wednesday, the government used $8,138,224,898.44 of its revenues to reduce the national debt, bringing the total amount owed to:

The Final Five: Number 3
Lack of Principle Got Them In This Mess. Principle Gets Them Out.
RedState's Erick Erickson analyzes how the Republicans themselves got themselves into the payroll tax cut mess. "Third, and most importantly, the GOP lost — and they did lose, here being clubbed to death like a baby seal — because they abandoned long held Republican principles. It has been a defining principle of the GOP that drives the left crazy that tax cuts need not be paid for. Tax cuts generate economic grown which then cause the tax cuts to pay for themselves. The GOP abandoned this and instead decided to engage in a tit-for-tat over cuts with the Democrats. The cuts turned into Democrats and Republicans competing to see who could raise fees and taxes to pay for this cut. That is a war that cannot be won right now if not ever."

Tweets of the Day:
Reince Priebus (@ReincePriebus): This entire episode has showed us once again, we have a President who is incapable of offering a long-term roadmap for restoring our economy

The Final Five: Number 2
Tebow and the Left's Religious Bigotry
American Thinker's Peter Heck analyzes the bigotry of the left in their treatment of Tim Tebow. "While resisting the urge to condone and embrace destructive beliefs and behavior is not irrational or hateful, impugning millions of faithful Christians by suggesting that they will torch mosques and exile immigrants just because a football player leads his team to victory is both. What causes it? Given that Tebow has preached no sermon, written no scathing op-ed blasting the practice of abortion, taken no public stand on the issue of gay marriage, nor endorsed the eventual presidential nominee of the Republican Party, the only plausible explanation for such absurdity is that he dares to boldly utter the name of Christ, unreserved and unashamed. If that be not bigotry, the word has no meaning. If liberals want a real reason to despise Tim Tebow, it should be because his mere presence in the national spotlight has pulled the veil off their seething and self-evident anti-Christian bigotry."

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition."
-Thomas Jefferson

The Final Five: Number 1
The Paradox of Merit Pay
Malcolm Unwell at American Thinker analyzes the problem with the idea of merit pay for teachers. "Given that the ideologies and practices which derive from the educational establishment are the root cause of our educational woes, it hardly makes sense to rely on administrators, who are themselves merely products of the educational establishment, to become change agents and reformers. In their evaluations to determine teachers' merit, they will be judging from the prism of dogmatic "progressive" ideas which represent the status quo. Hence, the very notion of merit pay as a solution to teacher quality is quite a paradox."

Tomorrow in History
December 23, 1970 - The top is placed on the North Tower of the World Trade Center, making it the tallest building in the world at the time (1368 feet).

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The Coming Bills

Every doctor knows that in order to effectively treat a patient, the doctor must find the root cause instead of treating the symptoms. For example, if a patient comes into the office complaining of diarrhea, any qualified doctor would try to find the cause of it instead of sending the patient home with prescription-grade version of Imodium. The same is true in psychology: a wise psychologist will attempt to go back through a person's life until that person comes to terms with other issues that are causing the depression or other psychological problems the patient is facing. In fact, we could go through a long list of examples in just about any field of work where an employee must get past the simple list of symptoms and find the root cause.

This is the issue currently facing the United States. Our leaders are focused on trying to solve the symptom of high debt, but both parties are wrong about the root cause. One party says that we can solve the debt problem by raising taxes. However, there are not too many Warren Buffetts in the world who feel they are not paying enough in taxes. The other party says that we can solve the debt problem by cutting spendng. While there are certainly areas where spending needs to be cut, this is also not the real root of the problem. Now you are probably thinking, "If the problem is not taxes and it is not spending, what else can it be?" The answer is simple: bills.

Consider this plausible family scenario. A family of four finds that their income has dropped significantly because everyone at the husband's workplace has been forced to take a salary reduction in order to avoid layoffs. The husband comes home, calls the family together, and tells them that they will have to cut back on their spending. The family does significantly cut back their spending: family trips are kept to a minimum, they eat out once per month instead of once per week, they cut out the cable and internet, husband and wife agree to share one cell phone instead of paying for two phones, and instead of making trips to museums and zoos, they rent educational videos that teach similar topics. However, despite making cuts in just about every area possible, the family finds that it is still a struggle to make ends meet because some of their biggest expenditures just cannot be cut. Their mortgage payment or rent continues to stay at the same rate, the electric bill can be cut a little by conserving energy, but that only reduces the bill by five or ten percent, and their credit card bills only drop significantly when they are able to make significant payments on the principle, which they have not done for some time. Finally, the family comes to the conclusion that they cannot afford to simply cut spending; they must make a major restructuring of their lives and move to a smaller house in order to reduce their bills.

Similar to our fictional family, the government has areas where it can cut back on spending. We can debate the ups and downs of where to cut spending, but the truth is that the so-called discretionary spending amounts to less than one-third of the government's total outlays. The remaining amount comes in the form of bills which must be paid by the government. Some of these bills include the interest on our debt, Social Security payments, Medicare payments, and the public welfare programs the government has established. While an act of Congress could reduce most of these payments (excluding the interest on the debt), it is unlikely that any leader in government would have the courage to propose something like a 10% reduction in Social Security payments, and anyone who did propose such a plan would likely be criticized in the media to such an extent that he or she would never be reelected.

America's entitlement programs are on a path toward bankruptcy. The Social Security program is already paying out more than it brings in, and Medicare will soon reach that point, as well. Other programs are seeing more people added to the rolls, and they are already "underwater" since they do not have a tax that directly supports them. The only way that our nation can deal with its bills is to restructure these programs to guarantee solvency.

However, this restructuring is not a popular idea in Washington. Any time someone proposes changing the way one of the entitlement programs operates, America will be inundated with ads attacking the proposal and its supporters. Furthermore, the "solution" proposed to halt Medicare spending was to cut payments to doctors, a plan that will only serve to reduce the number of doctors accepting Medicare. Instead of implementing measures that hurt Americans, it is time to face the truth and implement real reform.

Without entitlement reform, America will not be able to survive financially. 40% of our spending is already financed through debt instead of taxes, and cutting discretionary spending will do little to solve the debt problem. Mandatory spending (entitlements and interest) almost results in spending all of America's revenue before discretionary spending is even considered, and without reform, this is only going to increase. While America certainly needs to control its spending, the debt problem will not be solved until America fixes its underwater entitlement programs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Final Five: December 21, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 21, 2011

Thought of the Day:
An undercover raid in Washington DC yielded $7.1 million of drugs and guns. I would have thought that the city with the strictest gun control rules would have eradicated guns by now.

News of Note:

- Is Black Friday illegal in Oklahoma?

- Gingrich fighting just to get on ballot in Virginia

- Chavez criticizes Obama

- Europe approves cap-and-trade for airlines

- Hackers hit Chamber of Commerce network

- More young people consider farming

- North Korean military to share power with Kim Jong Un

- Are electric cars fizzling out?

- Touted new bus fails on highway

- New 200-page book describes Obama's economic knowledge

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Will Facebook Sue Mark Zuckerberg?
Rotem Guez was being threatened by Facebook with a lawsuit, so he changed his name to Mark Zuckerberg. His hope is that Facebook will not file a suit against someone with the same name as its founder.

The Final Five: Number 5
Even Before Fast and Furious, They Had Guns on Their Minds
American Thinker's M. Catherine Evans describes that what the administration knew about Fast and Furious does not matter as much as what they should have known. "All four principals -- Obama, Holder, Napolitano, and Clinton -- visited Mexico in March and April of 2009. All four raised the issue of smuggled guns, and each in his or her own way vowed to "take the fight to the Mexican drug cartels." All four supported tightening loopholes in existing gun laws and reinstituting the AWB. All four have denied knowledge of a program named Fast and Furious. All four executives in charge should have known what we citizens now know."

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"I found out my secret Santa was Kim Jong Il. Three days in a row I got sunglasses, then nothing."
-Conan O'Brien, 12/20/11

The Final Five: Number 4
Deflecting Blame for Tax-Cut Logjam
Charles Hurt describes the idiocies of blaming the tea party for the gridlock on the tax cut. "The vast majority of tea partiers in Congress actually voted in favor of extending this tax cut. In the Republican-controlled House, they overwhelmingly supported the bill to extend the tax cut for a year. The Democrat-controlled Senate, meanwhile, approved a bill to extend the tax cut for only two months. So the tea party supports a 12-month extension, Democrats want a two-month extension, therefore the tea party wants to kill this tax cut. Only in Washington and only among liars."

Debt Watch:
On Tuesday, the government spent $27,924,596,597.32 more than it brought in, bringing the national debt at the end of the day to:

The Final Five: Number 3
Obama’s Transparency
Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes describes the one way in which the Obama administration has been transparent. "President Obama has a trait that Republicans should appreciate. He’s utterly transparent. His motives are anything but hidden. No matter what he says, it’s abundantly clear that he has one thing in mind these days: getting reelected."

Tweets of the Day:
David Burge (@iowahawkblog): @nickgillespie @mleewelch Instead of subsidizing each Chevy Volt $250k, why not give each Volt buyer 4 Corvettes instead?

The Final Five: Number 2
Why The Fed Can't Be Counted On To Save The Economy
Forbes contributor Jim Powell describes how the Federal Reserve System has done more harm than good since its inception in 1913. "The Federal Reserve was established in 1913 supposedly to maintain economic stability, but it presided over America’s worst depression (1930s), the worst peacetime inflation (mid-1960s to mid-1980s) and probably the worst asset bubble and bust (early 2000s to the present). In addition, there have been 18 recessions or depressions during the Fed era, generally the result of prior inflations. How could such a problematic track record be possible? The Federal Reserve was billed as an improvement over the gold standard."

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify."
-Alexander Hamilton

The Final Five: Number 1
Obamacare Abominations
FOX Host John Stossel explains the truth about Obamacare and business. "...the law's impenetrable complication does almost as much damage. Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute is right: If you wonder why businesspeople are not investing and reviving the economy, the answer lies in all the question marks that Obamacare and other new regulations confront them with. Higgs calls this "regime uncertainty." It's also what prolonged the Great Depression. No one who understands the nature of government as the wielder of force -- as opposed to the peaceful persuasion of the free market -- is surprised by this."

Tomorrow in History
December 22, 1864 - General William Sherman concludes his "March to the Sea" by capturing Savannah, Georgia.

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Free-Market Economics Is Not a Fraud

Ian Fletcher wrote a column for the Huffington Post this weekend, in which he contended that the free market does not work. Here are some of the highlights (or should I say, lowlights) from his column:
It's time to start getting honest about a very simple fact: Nobody, but nobody, really believes in free markets. That's right. Not the Republican Party, not the libertarians, not the Wall Street Journal, nobody.

Here's why: a truly free market is a perfectly competitive market. Which means that whatever you have to sell in that market, so does your competition. Which means price war. Which means your price gets driven down. Which means little or no profit for you.


Naturally, businesses flee perfectly competitive markets like the plague. In fact, the fine art of doing so is a big part of what they teach in business schools.

That's why businesses use strategies like product differentiation, so their competition is no longer selling the exact same product they are. That's why they use strategies like branding, so their buyers don't think the products are the same.

Businesses will, in fact, do almost anything to get out of the hell of pure head-to-head competition.

They don't do it because they're crooked; they do it because they have an intrinsic economic incentive to. Always.

A few important points here:

First, Fletcher is off in his definition of the free market. His definition is what most men dream about when they walk into a grocery store. The man receives a text from his wife asking him to pick up an item, say detergent. The man walks into the store, goes to the laundry supply aisle, and sees hundreds of identical bottles labeled "laundry detergent." The man grabs one bottle, takes it to the checkout line, pays for it, and brings it home to his happy wife.

However, this is not what happens when the man walks into the store. The man is instantly faced with many different brands, such as Tide, Clorox, Purex, etc. Then, once the man finds the proper brand, he must choose the proper scent. (As a man, don't even ask me to provide examples of scents; I have no idea!) We have these choices available to us because of the free market: any company can create their own formula and scents of detergent and market them. Product differentiation and branding are a result of the free market, not a way around the free market.

Fletcher describes a situation that is the exact opposite, but just as bad, as the circumstances he claims we find ourselves in today. He says that people want free markets when they are buying, because that drives the price down, but they do not want free markets when they are selling, because that maximizes their profit. In Fletcher's supposed free market system, the lack of different brands or product differentiation eliminates the free market for the purchaser. The free market relies on these ideas of brand and differentiation in order to improve competition.

Second, the free market does not necessarily reduce profit. Fletcher's analysis relies on a "per product" idea of profit, and he is correct in his analysis when it is taken on this level. However, lower prices lead to increased sales, which makes up for the loss of "per item" profit. Imagine that 1000 people purchase my product at a $5 profit and 1000 people purchase my competitor's product at a $5 profit, allowing each of us to make $5000 profit. I decide to lower my price by one dollar, and in doing so, I attract 250 of my competitor's customers. I now only make $4 per product, but I am also now selling to 1250 customers, and I still make $5000 profit.

Furthermore, price wars force companies to look at ways to reduce costs. Obama has railed on technological advancements such as ATMs and automatic check-in terminals at airports, but these devices have allowed companies to keep their prices down by reducing expenses. Even computerized scanners at the grocery store allow the employees to check out customers more quickly, improving efficiency and reducing employee costs while still allowing customers to leave in a timely manner. Reducing expenses through innovation allows companies to recoup some of the money that they lost due to price wars.

Third, Fletcher points out government's intervention in our economy as another example of why we do not have a free market. On this point, Fletcher is right, but he is wrong again on the solution. Fletcher points out that politicians intervene on behalf of their supporters, creating free markets (and lower prices) for the things they buy and limited markets (and higher prices) for the things they sell. It is true that this happens, but the subsequent conclusion is wrong.

Fletcher's conclusion is to use this to argue that the free market system is a fraud. The problem is not the free market system; the problem is the corrupt politicians who have sold themselves out for donations. Therefore, the solution is not to interject more government into our current semi-free market system; the solution is to get the government out of the way and allow the free market to work in the way it should. Corrupt politicians and crony capitalism--not free markets--are America's true economic fraud.

Mid-Week Media: Green vs. Unions, Evil Republicans, and Missing Money

It's Wednesday again! That means it's time to take a look at some of the best media put out in the last week.

Dick Morris explains how Republicans have put Obama in the position of having to alienate either the unions or the environmentalists:

Another great video from Bill Whittle, explaining why Republicans are evil.

Now, let's look at some proposed slogans for the Democratic Party:

Next, we have Corzine giving the only plausible explanation of how it is possible to lose $1.2 billion without anyone knowing about it.

Our President has some advice for Santa.

It looks like the reindeer are getting into the spirit of #Occupy.

Finally, Master Sgt. Robert Allen wrote this song and recorded it for his family.

Thank you to Master Sgt. Allen and all the other soldiers who will spend the holiday season away from home so that the rest of us can spend it safe in our homes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Final Five: December 20, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
December 20, 2011

Thought of the Day:
A Congressional Research Service report says that the Obama administration has missed several deadlines specified in Obamacare. If the administration can't even want to implement it, why should it be forced on us?

News of Note:

- Siri hates British, southerners, and Mexicans

- The EPA, doing its part to kill American jobs

- Welcome to your new democracy

- Feds kill the free market

- Israel not prepared for war, even in the face of war

- What do we know about Kim Jong Un, new possessor of a nuclear arsenal?

- Banks get new rules

- Undercover sting in DC nets $7.1 million in drugs and guns

- Coburn releases his annual "Wastebook"

Tonight's Crazy Story:
FTC Fines Santa Claus for Violating Children's Privacy
Jeff Jarvis writes a satirical piece for the Huffington Post describing the FTC's recent action against Santa Claus.

The Final Five: Number 5
The Slow, Agonizing Death of Europeanism
Steven Hayward describes the death of the Euro and European culture for Real Clear Markets. "But British clarity about the shortcomings of "Europeanism" are bipartisan. Back in 2005 Prime Minister Tony Blair recognized the futility of the Kyoto Process, when he said "The truth is no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem. I don't think people are going, at least in the short-term, to start negotiating another major treaty like Kyoto." For this Blair was blasted by environmentalists, even as European unionists are attacking Cameron now. It has been a source of outrage that in the Eurozone negotiations, and in climate negotiations, it is the English-speaking democracies that have been the main dissenters from "Europeanism." It calls to mind another of Thatcher's great observations: "During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or other, from mainland Europe, and the solutions from outside it." She didn't need to say the solutions came from the English-speaking world."

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"The FDA is now warning people not to eat raw cookie dough this holiday season. Is that how fat we're getting in this country? Our ovens are too slow now?"
-Jay Leno, 12/19/11

The Final Five: Number 4
Postal Service Should Adapt, not Angle for a Bailout
Rep. Darrell Issa writes an op-ed describing how the Postal Service needs to change in order to stay solvent without a Congressional bailout. "The reality is the needs of the American people have evolved since the inception of the Postal Service and since the six-day mandate was put into place. The choice the United States Postal Service faces is simple: Adapt or die."

Debt Watch:
On Monday, the government added $4,557,207,333.90 to the debt, which brought it over $15.1 million for the first time. At the close of business yesterday, the debt stood at:

The Final Five: Number 3
Obama's Freeloader Economy
American Thinker's Christopher Chantrill describes why freeloading is the problem with the American economy today. "If you want to understand the deep political philosophy underneath the Obama administration's random-walk economic policy, it is this: freeloading. ... Let's have a national conversation. Let's talk about big government; let's talk about freeloaders; let's talk about crony capitalists. Let's divide the nation. Let's separate the makers from the takers, the freeloaders from the workers, the exploiters from the exploited, the retire-at-55 chaps from the work-till-you-die Walmart greeters, the employment-at-will folks from the lifetime-tenure folks, the rent-seekers from the wealth-creators, the road warriors from the class warriors."

Tweets of the Day:
Ramesh Ponnuru (@Ramesh Ponnuru): Doesn't any reform to a program end the program as we know it?

The Final Five: Number 2
An Energy Crisis Created by Government
An Orange County (CA) Register editorial describes how the federal government has created an energy crisis. "Government's death grip on energy production prevents use of plentiful, affordable resources. Instead, Washington dictates use of hard-to-harness, expensive "alternative" fuels, inadequate to meet ever-growing demand. Alternative energy sources require big taxpayer subsidies and drain money from the economy, where it could be creating jobs and meeting needs without a dime of taxpayer underwriting. Washington's own calculations show vast untapped North American resources of oil, natural gas and coal, their discovery and extraction made possible by recent technological advances."

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"This gave me occasion to observe, that when Men are employ'd they are best contented. For on the Days they work'd they were good-natur'd and chearful; and with the consciousness of having done a good Days work they spent the Evenings jollily; but on the idle Days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their Pork, the Bread, etc. and in continual ill-humour."
-Benjamin Franklin

The Final Five: Number 1
The Ugly Realities Of Socialized Medicine Are Not Going Away
Forbes's Sally Pipes describes the truth about socialized medicine. "[Britons have] foregone cutting-edge medical treatments available in the United States, told by their leaders that these new therapies were no better than the old ones — just more expensive. At least in Britain, they thought, everyone has access to basic health care. That has to be better than the situation in America, where tens of millions of people lack health insurance, right? Hardly. The British healthcare system may “guarantee” access to care — but that doesn’t mean patients actually receive it. ... The law furnishes all Britons — Evans included — with health insurance. But he might as well not have coverage at all — because he’s certainly not getting any care."

Tomorrow in History
December 21, 1913 - The New York World publishes the first the first crossword puzzle, Arthur Wynne's "Word-Cross."

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