Archive for May, 2011

A betting opportunity on human adaptability

The fierce tornadoes that killed hundreds of Americans during the past month have prompted some environmentalists, including Bill McKibben in a recent Washington Post op-ed, to declare that these disasters are related to man-made climate change — and that things are only going to get worse.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, economist Don Boudreaux instead points to data showing that, single-year variances notwithstanding, in fact the “number of weather-related fatalities, especially since 1980, has dropped dramatically”:

For the 30-year span of 1980-2009, the average annual number of Americans killed by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes was 194 — fully one-third fewer deaths each year than during the 1940-1979 period. The average annual number of deaths for the years 1980-2009 falls even further, to 160 from 194, if we exclude the deaths attributed to Hurricane Katrina, most of which were caused by a levee that breached on the day after the storm struck land.

This decline in …

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Should Congress offset disaster relief by cutting other spending? (Poll)

Just a month after a string of terrible tornadoes hit northern Alabama, the northwestern corner of Georgia and several other states across the South, all eyes were on Joplin, Mo., this past week after the deadliest single tornado to hit the U.S. in 60 years.

President Barack Obama, back from a trip to Europe, visited Joplin Sunday and pledged the federal government’s help in the city’s rebuilding. Congress is also on board with helping the city, but with a twist.

Appearing on “Face the Nation” Sunday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Congress would come through with funding for Joplin, but that House Republicans planned to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere in the budget. From CBS News:

“I know that America is just stunned by the scope of devastation and loss and the horrific tragedy that the people of Joplin and other places across the country really are experiencing this tornado season,” Cantor said.

But, he added, comparing the federal government to a family on a …

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Memorial Day: Greet them ever with grateful hearts

My best wishes this Memorial Day to everyone who has served our country, whose family and friends have served our country, or who is simply grateful to all those who have served. Below, I’m republishing a piece I wrote last year about this annual day of remembrance. Wherever you are, whatever your politics, I hope you’ll find a way today to remember our fallen soldiers.

The train trip from Brussels lasted two hours, with a change at Liege. On most days, Welkenraedt was a sign post you blinked past on the way to attractions in Germany: Cologne, Monschau, the only Wal-Mart for 100 miles. On this Memorial Day, it was a place to stop.

A few dozen miles to the south lay the northernmost bulge from Hitler’s Ardennes Offensive in 1944. A couple of miles to the north, in Henri-Chapelle, lie the remains of 7,992 American soldiers who never made it out of Belgium.

A couple of miles was more than my wife and I had anticipated. A young woman sat behind the ticket window. Was there, we …

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What’s really scary? Acting like nothing’s wrong with Medicare

If Medicare reform is on life support, it’s not because of a special election in upstate New York or the Senate’s rejection of the House GOP budget plan.

It’s because one side wants to air TV commercials of a dark-suited Republican pushing grandma off a cliff, while pursuing a path of neglect that would let her die bed-ridden and alone.

There can be no “hands off Medicare” policy. Either your hands are busy trying to fix the indisputably broken program, or your hands are holding it down, helping it collapse under its own unbearable weight.

Left-wing pundits gloated over the news Tuesday from New York’s 26th Congressional District, a longtime Republican stronghold won by a Democratic candidate on the single issue of “GOP’s killing grandma!” Time’s Joe Klein, appearing on MSNBC, called it “a victory for socialism.”

But Margaret Thatcher’s dictum that, with socialism, “eventually you run out of other people’s money” remains true. And with Medicare, …

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Oh-so glad to know Fan, Fred execs are still making millions

Well, this is just fantastic news. From John Solomon, a former ace investigative reporter for the Associated Press and now executive editor of iWatch News at the Center for Public Integrity, writing at the Daily Beast:

Over the last two years, the Obama administration has approved a whopping $34.4 million in compensation to the top six executives of the financially troubled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage giants, and lacks the necessary protections to ensure such compensation is even warranted.

The largesse flowed to the six executives even though the two companies they run struggle to staunch billions of dollars in losses, remain in government conservatorship, and must compensate taxpayers for assuming the companies’ liabilities during the mortgage crisis. To compensate taxpayers, Fannie and Freddie are tapping Treasury Department funds to pay required 10 percent dividends each quarter to the U.S. government.

Where shall we begin? Aside from the dough itself — I’ll get …

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Why the GOP field for 2012 may be stronger than you think

Earlier this week, I asked y’all whether there was a candidate in the current GOP field who could beat President Obama next year. While 60 percent of you so far (in the poll accompanying that post) said a Republican could beat Obama, only 30 percent of you thought that candidate was already in the race.

Writing at the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost tells the less confident 30 percent to buck up. He argues that the primary contest among the three “main contenders” — whom he identifies as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and, most interestingly, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — should produce a highly competitive GOP nominee.

Read the whole thing, as they say, but here are his four reasons:

1. Crossover appeal. Huntsman, Pawlenty, and Romney all won statewide elections by performing better than the party normally does in each state. In 2008 Jon Huntsman won 64 percent of the gubernatorial vote in Utah (an improvement on his performance relative …

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More skilled workers key to Georgia’s economic future

Job creation has been the mantra of voters and politicians for a few years now. One question: If the jobs do come, will we have anyone to fill them?

That might sound like a silly question, given that April was the first month in almost two years that Georgia’s unemployment rate was below 10 percent. But according to Melvin Everson, it’s not a matter of how many Georgians want to be employed, but how many of them are employable.

Everson, who lost the GOP primary for labor commissioner last summer, was named by Gov. Nathan Deal to lead the Office of Workforce Development. After four months on the job, he said Georgia is in danger of having a mismatch between the skills employers need and the skills potential hires have.

“With the downturn of the economy, we saw a lot of jobs eliminated. Unfortunately, a lot of those jobs will not return to the economy,” he told me Monday. “However, they will be replaced with new jobs that will require a new set of skills. …

“My …

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With repayments like Chrysler’s, who needs debts?

All hail Chrysler, which said Tuesday that it had repaid $7.6 billion in loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments! It’s all the money that taxpayers loaned the company!

Um, as long as you don’t count the rest of the money. Where have we heard this before? Oh, that’s right.

Using Government Loan B to repay most of Government Loan A, while rendering the rest of Government Loan A to the memory hole, worked so brilliantly for GM that Chrysler apparently decided it would try the trick as well. And, judging by the fawning reaction from liberals who decry corporate handouts unless they make President Obama look good, the trick worked brilliantly again.

But in case you’re interested in what’s really going on here, Edward Niedermeyer at The Truth About Cars explains:

It was ultimately up to Ron Bloom, the White House’s defacto “car czar” to admit that Chrysler’s “payback” amounted to only 85% of the “total money loaned to Chrysler.” That math works out to the conclusion that …

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More transparency needed in Atlanta airport bidding

This is simply unacceptable for a city that just had to settle a $3.9 million lawsuit stemming from airport contracting procedures that a federal jury determined to have been illegal and discriminatory. From David Pendered at Saporta Report:

Atlanta has decided not to identify the persons who will serve on the selection team that will recommend which companies should be awarded a concesssions contract at the airport.

Paul Brown, the airport’s concessions director, said the names of “experienced airport managers” who are chosen to serve on the selection committee — and even the number who serve on the committee — will remain confidential until after their work is done.

The selection team will review proposals from companies that want a piece of the lucrative food and beverage concession business at the airport. The selection team will recommend which companies should win a contract that will last at least a decade.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” was about all that Brown said he …

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A good explanation of removing spending from the tax code

There is much debate among conservatives about what exactly constitutes a tax increase. Obviously, raising rates qualifies.

But while some people seem to think it’s anything that causes anyone anywhere to pay any more in taxes, there are others of us who recognize that most tax credits and deductions are really government spending by another means. In fact, it’s a more pernicious form of government spending because it favors certain activities and people over others (as opposed to a broader policies that apply to all income and earners) yet is largely hidden and shielded from the annual budgeting process.

I could go on — and have done so in the past — but former Reagan economic adviser Martin Feldstein, in a new piece for the Weekly Standard, does a very good job of making the case:

When the government gives a tax credit to homeowners who buy solar energy panels, it’s just like giving them a cash subsidy to buy those panels. But it’s recorded as a reduction in taxes rather …

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