Category Archives: Economics

Wait! Isn’t that one of my campaign tweets?

One of the many occasions on which we spoke out about this very thing...

One of the many occasions on which we spoke out about this very thing…

Just saw this, which gave me flashbacks:

Man, how many times in the last few months did I say or type — in Tweets, on Facebook, in press releases, in statements to reporters — some variation of “Some of the best jobs in South Carolina are threatened by the tariffs that Henry McMaster refuses to take a stand against?”

More times than I care to remember…

Not gonna say we told you so… not gonna say we told you so…

More about those job-killing tariffs Henry won’t stand up against — but y’all don’t care about that, do you?

beamer

As Levon Helm said as Jack Ridley, All right, y’all — here we go again.

The P&C brings us twin stories today about the continuing ill effects of Trump’s tariffs — up to which McMaster will not stand (I’m nothing if not grammatical). Of course, they’re doing what anyone with any understanding of the way the world works would expect: threatening some of the best jobs in the state:

I’m not going to repeat myself. I’m just going to refer you to this release, and this one and this one and this one, and then stop there, because you’re probably not even following the links to those.

But yeah, we told you so.

And what did reporters keep asking me about? The next ad buy, or when some yahoo who plans to run for president in 2020 might be coming to South Carolina…

Here we go again, y'all...

All right, y’all — here we go again…

Yes, this COULD be the winning formula for Democrats

Can the New Deal Coalition rise again?

Can the New Deal Coalition rise again?

David Leonhardt had a good piece in the NYT last night. He promoted it this way:

There’s a roiling debate about whether Democrats should move to the political center to win back Trump voters or focus on energizing the party’s progressive base. On some issues — like abortion, guns and immigration — Democrats really do face this difficult choice. The policies that excite progressives alienate many of the white working-class voters who swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump, and vice versa.

But there is also one huge area where no such tradeoff exists: economic policy….

In the column itself, he asserted  that economic stagnation and inequality added up to “the defining problem of our age, the one that aggravates every other problem. It has made people anxious and angry. It has served as kindling for bigotry. It is undermining America’s vaunted optimism.”

And people across the political spectrum have lost patient with timid, incremental approaches to the problem. Which helps to explain both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Leonhardt writes:

Some observers remain confused about all of this. They imagine American politics as a simple two-dimensional spectrum on which Democrats must move to the center. But every issue isn’t the same. Yes, there are cultural issues, like abortion and guns, on which the country is classically divided. On these, moving to the center, or at least respectfully acknowledging our differences, can help Democrats. Representative Conor Lamb recently showed how to do it in Pennsylvania.

Economic policy is different. Most voters don’t share the centrist preferences of Washington’s comfortable pundit class. Most voters want to raise taxes on the rich and corporations. They favor generous Medicare and Social Security, expanded Medicaid, more financial aid for college, a higher minimum wage and a bigger government role in job creation. Remember, Trump won the Republican nomination as a populist. A clear majority of Americans wants the government to respond aggressively to our economic problems….

So, the smart thing would be to drop the topics that divide us — the culture war stuff, the Identity Politics, the “pussy hats” and such — and set out a vision for a rising tide for all.

But are national Democrats willing to do that? The occasional Conor Lamb aside, it remains to be seen.

In South Carolina, it’s not such a leap. SC Democrats — those who have actually served in office and understand political realities — have long understood that they have to reach across superficial barriers and appeal to as many voters as possible. You wonder why I like James Smith for governor? One reason is that he manifests that smart, inclusive approach. He’s identified with issues that could benefit all of us, such as trying to liberate renewable energy from artificial caps.

This is underlined when you look at his opposition: Phil Noble hits Smith for not being orthodox enough, for instance for being (allegedly) insufficiently hostile to gun-rights advocates. Noble is one of those Democrats who wants to divide the electorate into sheep and goats. Marguerite Willis seems to be pinning her hopes on getting women to vote for her simply because she’s a woman — despite Smith’s strong support within that largest of demographics.

So, the question is whether Democrats — on the state as well as the national level — are willing to take Leonhardt’s sensible advice, and identify themselves with issues that unite rather than divide. Mind you, he’s not talking about moving to a hypothetical center, but embracing issues with broad support among everyone but the most libertarian folks on the right.

I think they will in South Carolina, but polls tell us that’s far from certain. And nationally? I just don’t know…

Samuelson will tell you the truths you don’t want to hear

Robert J. Samuelson — whom I don’t read as often as I should because of his tendency to write about money and other things one can measure with numbers — is not a guy to read at all if you want him to tell you things you want to hear.

Robert J. Samuelson

Robert J. Samuelson

Well, let me amend that: I think the things he has to say are fine, when I can cut through the numbers and read him. But based on voting patterns I’ve seen in recent years, he’s likely to give a lot of other folks apoplexy.

For instance… not satisfied merely to slice and dice the Republicans’ contemptible tax “reform” plan last month, he strode right past the nonsense to speak a home truth: “Americans aren’t taxed enough.

He didn’t mean it in absolute terms, of course. There is no perfect amount of taxation, and saying “this isn’t enough taxation” in a vacuum would be as idiotic as say, also in a vacuum, that “Americans are taxed too much.” And Samuelson is not an idiot.

No, he means that as long as America means to spend X amount — and there has been no credible effort to reduce the lion’s share of spending — it must have the common sense and maturity to pay X amount in taxes. And it’s been a very long time since we’ve done that.

As he put it:

The truth is that we can’t afford any tax reduction. We need higher, not lower, taxes. What we should be debating is the nature of new taxes (my choice: a carbon tax), how quickly (or slowly) they should be introduced and how much prudent spending cuts could shrink the magnitude of tax increases.

To put this slightly differently: Americans are under-taxed. We are under-taxed not in some principled and philosophical sense that there is an ideal level of taxation that we haven’t yet reached. We are under-taxed in a pragmatic and expedient way. For half a century, we haven’t covered our spending with revenue from taxes…

We resist the discipline of balancing the budget, which is inherently unpopular. It’s what Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute calls “take-away politics.” Some programs would be cut; some taxes would be raised. Americans like big government. They just don’t like paying for it….

But if you think that’ll make some people mad, consider his column today. But first, someone bring the smelling salts for Bud and Doug. The headline is, “Why we must raise defense spending.” An excerpt:

Politically, the vaunted military-industrial complex has been no match for the welfare state’s personal handouts. There has been a historic transformation. In the 1950s and 1960s, defense spending often accounted for half of the federal budget and equaled 8 to 10 percent of gross domestic product (the economy). In 2016, defense spending was 3 percent of GDP and 15 percent of the federal budget, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Meanwhile, welfare programs — called “human resources” by the OMB — accounted for 15 percent of GDP and 73 percent of federal spending….

The result is this:

Here is the assessment of Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense specialist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute:

“The United States now fields a military that could not meet even the requirements of a benign Clinton-era world. The services have watched their relative overmatch and capacity decline in almost every domain of warfare . . . for nearly two decades. As rival nation-states have accelerated their force development, the Department of Defense has stalled out, creating a dangerous window of relative military advantage for potential foes. . . . While the United States continues to field the best military personnel in the world, policy makers have asked them to do too much with too little for too long.”…

So, to summarize, we’re not taxing enough for the spending we’re doing, and we’re not spending enough to adequately perform what was originally the government’s chief responsibility.

And before I get the cliche response — citing numbers showing how much more we spend than other nations is pretty pointless. We emerged from 1945 as the chief guarantor of a security order designed to stave off World War III. And the only nations that have shown any interest in taking that mantle of dominant military power off our hands have been the very last big countries a believer in liberal democracy would want to see do so.

Samuelson may write too much about numbers, but I have to hand it to him: He goes right where the number lead him, regardless of whose ox gets gored, on both the left and the right…

Who can be as foolhardy and reckless as Trump? The Democrats…

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Here’s an excellent example of why it won’t be the Democrats who save us from Trump.

At least, not these Democrats.

Possibly the most foolish thing Trump has done in the last few days (and yeah, I know there are a lot of exciting entries in a crowded field) is this, at the very moment we’re facing an increased threat from North Korea:

President Trump has instructed advisers to prepare to withdraw the United States from a free-trade agreement with South Korea, several people close to the process said, a move that would stoke economic tensions with the U.S. ally as both countries confront a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Withdrawing from the trade deal would back up Trump’s promises to crack down on what he considers unfair trade competition from other countries, but his top national security and economic advisers are pushing him to abandon the plan, arguing it would hamper U.S. economic growth and strain ties with an important ally. Officials including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn oppose withdrawal, said people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

Although it is still possible Trump could decide to stay in the agreement to renegotiate its terms, the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along, and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this week, the people said….

You know why those top aides don’t want him to do this, especially now? Because they have brains. They know that free-trade agreements bind nations closer together, aside from producing more wealth overall.

This is absolutely no time for slapping allies in the face in that part of the world — or anywhere, of course.

But fortunately, there’s a loyal opposition out there poised to the save the country from this nonsense, right?

Uhhhh… no (imagine I said that in a Butthead voice). This was in the Post the same day as the above:

 Democrats facing reelection next year in states President Trump won are seizing on trade at this early stage as a crucial issue and a Republican vulnerability.

But rather than jeer Trump’s protectionist positions, Democrats are echoing them and amplifying them, arguing that Trump has failed to fulfill his dramatic campaign promise to rip apart trade deals.

“When we say renegotiating NAFTA, we mean a transformation, something substantial, not just going through the motions,” Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) told union leaders recently, referring to the administration’s talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

For Democrats, Casey’s pitch signals a wholehearted revival of their labor roots and a sharp departure from the free-trade tilt of the past two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton….

So, according to these Dems, the trouble with Trump is that he’s not Trumpy enough.

Notice how eager they are to repudiate the views of the last two Democrats who won presidential elections?

Brilliant, just brilliant….

Low demand? I don’t like the sound of THAT…

58de7f2b16b4e.image

A lot of folks are reacting in a lot of ways — mostly negative — to the decision by SCANA and Santee Cooper to abandon their nuclear power project.

We’ve heard a good bit about the $9 billion already spent, the $1.4 billion in rate increases, and all the folks whose jobs depended on the continuation of the project.

But I’d like to see more on one aspect of the decision: The explanation that the utilities bailed because power demand isn’t turning out to be as great as projected.

Is it that the original projections were just entirely unrealistic? Or were the projections sensible at the time, but then rendered inaccurate by the economic collapse of 2008? In which case, assuming we ever fully recover from that, maybe we go back to the kind of growth that was originally projected…

Another way to put it: Is weakened demand a temporary condition, or the New Normal?

I don’t know. I just know that when I hear “low demand,” like the characters on “Seinfeld” reacting to the news that their new shower heads were “low-flow,” I don’t like the sound of that.

I mean, that can’t be good, can it? Doesn’t less power demand track closely with less economic growth? A lot of us have had to adjust to lowered economic expectations in the last few years. News like this seems to tell us, Get used to that; it’s not getting better.

Or does it? I’d like to know more about this. In the meantime, I don’t like the sound of it…

low flow

Robert Samuelson reminds us vegetables must be eaten

I wish to call to your attention this piece by Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post Writers Group.

An excerpt:

SamuelsonLet’s be clear: America is an undertaxed society. Our wants and needs from government — the two blur — exceed our willingness to be taxed. This has been true for decades, but it’s especially relevant now because the number of older Americans, who are the largest beneficiaries of federal spending, is rising rapidly. Unless we’re prepared to make sizable spending cuts (and there’s no evidence we are), we need higher taxes.

To the extent that President Trump’s proposed “tax reform” obscures or worsens this inconvenient reality, it is a dangerous distraction. We cannot afford large tax cuts, which are pleasing to propose (“something for nothing”) but involve long-term risks that are not understood by the president or, to be fair, by economists. Piling up massive peacetime deficits is something we haven’t done before. We cannot know the full consequences….

Looks like Samuelson’s bucking to be named patron saint of the Grownup Party, noting matter-of-factly that not only are vegetables good for us, but we must eat them.

By the way that line, “America is an undertaxed society,” goes double — no, triple, nay, 100 times — for South Carolina. I just thought I’d point that out for those still confused, especially the senators who think you can’t raise a tax that badly needs raising — the gas tax — without lowering some other taxes that has nothing to do with it.

The bad news: Our $206 Trillion Fiscal Gap

Laurence Kotlikoff, Joseph Von Nessen and Doug Woodward.

Laurence Kotlikoff, Joseph Von Nessen and Doug Woodward.

There was good news and bad news today at USC’s 36th Annual Economic Conference.

To be more specific, there was mildly, moderately good news, and really Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad news.

I’ll start with the good, which is on the local level. USC economists Doug Woodward and Joseph Von Nessen said that while growth has sort of leveled off in South Carolina, we’re in for a fairly good 2017. Advanced manufacturing remains strong, and things are going really well in construction — particularly along the coast — and retail. Merchants should have a good Christmas. If there’s a concern, it’s that employers are now having trouble finding qualified employees, particularly ones who are up to the challenges of automation — humans who can work with robots, basically.

On the other hand, we’re basically doomed.

That’s the message I got from the conference’s keynote speaker, Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University, who started out noting that few Americans seem to have a clue what a fiscal hole we’re really in. Political leaders don’t speak of it, he said, pausing to complain about the “content-free election season” we just experienced. (Of course, you’d expect him to be dissatisfied with that, since he actually ran for president — unsuccessfully, he added dryly.) Oh, sure, they might speak of the $20 trillion national debt — which he noted isn’t really that, since the Fed has bought back $5 or 6 trillion of it — but they ignore the bigger problem.

That’s the true Fiscal Gap, as he calls it, which includes the liabilities that have been kept off the books. You know, Social Security, Medicare and the like — liabilities that aren’t acknowledged in the federal budget, but which are obligations every bit as binding as if the future recipients held Treasury bonds.

That adds up to $206 trillion.

There’s more bad news.

If we think in terms of what it would take for the nation to deal with that liability, our government is currently 53 percent underfinanced. That means that to meet these obligations, we’d have to have 53 percent across-the-board tax increases.

It gets worse.

If we don’t raise taxes by 53 percent now (or make drastic cuts to current and future spending that might somewhat reduce that need), then they’ll have to be raised a lot more on our children and grandchildren.

Dr. Kotlikoff has been raising the alarm about this for years. Here’s an oped piece he wrote for The New York Times in 2014. As he concluded that piece:

What we confront is not just an economics problem. It’s a moral issue. Will we continue to hide most of the bills we are bequeathing our children? Or will we, at long last, systematically measure all the bills and set about reducing them?

For now, we blithely sail on. But prospects aren’t good. None of the three economists, who spoke at a press conference before the event, had anything good to say about incoming political leadership on the national level. In fact, quite a bit of concern was expressed about 3 a.m. Tweets, any one of which could trigger a trade war with China before the day is out.

I came away feeling a bit like Damocles — or rather, like the nation is Damocles, since the sword fell on my head sometime back. And we just elected a guy who thinks he’s a national hero because he interfered with one business that was going to send some jobs out of the country (an interference in the market that none of the economists think was a good idea).

I’m not holding my breath for any leadership on closing the Fiscal Gap. (Nor would I be had the Democrats swept the elections.) Are you?

"What's THAT hanging up there?" "Oh, that? I call it the Fiscal Gap..."

“What’s THAT hanging up there?” “Oh, that? I call it the Fiscal Gap…”

Why we need each other: ‘The $1,500 Sandwich’

We tend to put those who place their faith in the market economy at the libertarian end of the political spectrum, as far away from us communitarians as you can get.

But… the fact is that the modern marketplace itself, properly understood, starkly demonstrates that no man is an island, and that we are profoundly interdependent in the modern world.

I enjoyed this little demonstration of that fact in this passage from a Cato Institute blog (of all places), quoted by The Wall Street Journal today:

From an online post by Cato Institute researcher and editor Chelsea German, Sept. 25:

What would life be like without exchange or trade? Recently, a man decided to make a sandwich from scratch. He grew the vegetables, gathered salt from seawater, milked a cow, turned the milk into cheese, pickled a cucumber in a jar, ground his own flour from wheat to make the bread, collected his own honey, and personally killed a chicken for its meat. This month, he published the results of his endeavor in an enlightening video: making a sandwich entirely by himself cost him 6 months of his life and set him back $1,500. . . .

The inefficiency of making even something as humble as a sandwich by oneself, without the benefits of market exchange, is simply mind-boggling. There was a time when everyone grew their own food and made their own clothes. It was a time of unimaginable poverty and labor without rest.

We are light years removed from the society of totally independent yeoman farmers that Thomas Jefferson idealized. And personally, I would never have wanted to live that way, anyway.

I liked this parenthetical from the Cato post, which the WSJ left out:

(It should be noted that he used air transportation to get to the ocean to gather salt. If he had taken it upon himself to learn to build and fly a plane, then his endeavor would have proved impossible).

Kind of reminds me of that joke about the hubris of science:

God was once approached by a scientist who said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.”

God replied, “Don’t need me huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being, say, a male human being.”

The scientist agrees, so God declares they should do it like he did in the good old days when he created Adam.

“Fine” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.”

“Whoa!” says God, shaking his head in disapproval. “Not so fast. You get your own dirt.”

Actually, the version I heard was more involved, with the scientist saying something like, “First, I’ll mine for the requisite minerals, and…” But the punchline was the same: “Get your own dirt,” or maybe “Make your own dirt.”

You get the idea.

The majority isn’t always wrong, but it isn’t always right, either

With Scott Walker in town today, I took a moment to read a letter that some New Hampshire Democrats wrote to him upon his visit to that state. An excerpt:

We wanted to welcome you to the First in the Nation Primary. You are a little late to the game, so we decided to help you out with some information about New Hampshire.

Last night, you said that raising the minimum wage was a “lame idea.” Lame idea? Really? Well, it’s an idea that 76% of Granite Staters support

Which got me to thinking about Henrik Ibsen.

That letter — a good example of the kind of letters that partisans send, not meant to communicate with the purported recipient privately, but to taunt him publicly (or in this case, to tell the 76 percent what an awful person Scott Walker is) — got me to thinking of some of my favorite Ibsen quotes back when I was 17, from “An Enemy of the People:”

“The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population — the intelligent ones or the fools?”…

“Oh, yes — you can shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me. The majority has
might on its side–unfortunately; but right it has not.”…

“What sort of truths are they that the majority usually supports? They are truths that are of such advanced age that they are beginning to break up. And if a truth is as old as that, it is also in a fair way to become a lie, gentlemen.”…

I fear that I’m giving you a rather ugly picture of myself when I was 17. Well, I had my share of youthful arrogance and alienation, a bit of a Raskolnikov complex, which is common enough. Some of us outgrow it. Others among us end up like Edward Snowden, convinced that we know better than everyone else, especially established institutions.

I outgrew it, thank God. Which is to say that I’ve come to disagree with almost everything Ibsen seemed to be on about.

All that remains of it, with me, is a belief that the majority is not always right. It can be right, and I think it probably is considerably more often than the proverbial stopped clock. I think there’s really something to the notion of “the wisdom of crowds.” Or as Stephen Maturin said in The Mauritius Command, “whoever heard of the long-matured judgment of a village being wrong?”

Yes, and no. It is very often right, but it can be wrong, I fear.

In any case, it seems unreliable as an indicator of whether an increase in the minimum wage is a good idea, or a “lame” one.

I’ve heard the arguments for and against, and I just don’t know. If anything, I may lean toward the against — the assertions that a mandatory increase in wages could lead to fewer jobs, particularly for the poor, seems to make some sense.

But I don’t know, regardless of what 76 percent of Granite Staters may say…

Hispanic buying power

Shell Suber over at the Felkel Group has been sending out releases on behalf of a business groups pushing for what President Obama (and his predecessor, and John McCain, and Lindsey Graham) has been pressing for — comprehensive immigration reform.

Here’s the latest:

NEW REPORT SHOWS HISPANICS RESPONSIBLE FOR

$605 BILLION IN ANNUAL U.S. SPENDING POWER,

$190 BILLION IN TAX REVENUE

 

One Out of Every Ten Dollars of

Spending Power in U.S. in 2013 Held by Hispanics

 

COLUMBIA, SC — Yesterday the Partnership for a New American Economy released a new report highlighting the important role that both native and foreign-born Hispanics play as consumers, purchasing goods and services that circulate money through the economy and help to grow and sustain businesses. The report also highlights their contributions to tax revenue, Medicare, and Social Security programs.

 

“In South Carolina, we have known for some time the positive and vital impact Hispanics play in our state’s economy,” said Gustavo Nieves of the South Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “This report from PNAE vividly quantifies that positive impact. At the SCHCC, we work with Hispanic businesses throughout South Carolina to promote growth, employment, and profitability. This report demonstrates the contributions of Hispanics as both consumers and entrepreneurs in the economic engine of our state and nation.”

 

Report Key Findings

 

  • Hispanic households, both native and foreign-born, account for a large portion of America’s overall spending power. In 2013, Hispanics had an estimated after-tax income of more than $605 billion. That figure is equivalent to almost one out of every 
10 dollars of disposable income held in the United States that year. Foreign-born Hispanic households made up a sizeable portion of that figure: We estimate their spending power totaled $287 billion that year.

 

  • The growing earnings of Hispanic households have made them major contributors to U.S. tax revenue. In 2013, Hispanic households contributed more than $190 billion to U.S. tax revenues as a whole, including almost $67 billion in state and local tax payments. Of this, foreign-born Hispanics contributed more than $86 billion in tax revenues nationwide. That included almost $32 billion in state and local taxes and more than $54 billion in taxes to the federal government.

 

  • In some states, Hispanics now account for a large percentage of spending power and tax revenues overall. In both Texas and California, Hispanic households had more than $100 billion in after-tax income in 2013, accounting for more than one of every five dollars available to spend in each state that year. In Arizona, a state with a rapidly growing Hispanic population, their earnings after taxes accounted for almost one-sixth of the spending power in the state. In Florida, Hispanics contributed more than one out of every six dollars in tax revenue paid by residents of the state.

 

  • Hispanics, and foreign-born Hispanics in particular, play an important role sustaining America’s Medicare and Social Security programs. In 2013, Hispanic households contributed more than $98 billion to Social Security and almost $23 billion to the Medicare’s core trust fund. Foreign-born Hispanics in particular contributed more than $46 billion to Social Security, while paying in more than $10 billion to the Medicare program. Past studies have indicated that in Medicare in particular, immigrants draw down far less than they put in to the trust fund each year, making such tax contributions particularly valuable.

See the full report, “The Power of the Purse: The Contributions of Hispanics to America’s Spending Power and Tax Revenues in 2013.”

About the South Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

The South Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce promotes the economic growth of Hispanic businesses in South Carolina. We are committed to developing programs and facilitating the resources that help Hispanic businesses reach their full potential. The Chamber is accomplishing its mission in very practical ways. We are committed to making a real, positive impact in the businesses we represent. We accomplish our mission in three ways: Network, Education, Advocate. First, we make sure you have the networking opportunities available to you that help you grow your business. We have also developed a directory for our members as well as a jobs board. Our “Resources” page provides the necessary resources to start, grow, and sustain your business. Our education component is based on the Entrepreneur Empowerment Series. This program gives entrepreneurs the skills necessary to run their business. The EES is offered in English and Spanish throughout the state. You can find the next Empowerment Series event on our “Events” page. Our advocacy initiative starts with our legislative agenda. Each year, the Chamber’s government affairs office meets with local, state and federal elected officials to discuss the issues that affect Hispanic business owners in South Carolina. Learn more at http://schcc.org/.

About the Partnership for a New American Economy

The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic, and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. The Partnership’s members include mayors of more than 35 million people nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech, and Media to Manufacturing. Partnership members understand that immigration is essential to maintaining the productive, diverse, and flexible workforce that America needs to ensure prosperity over the coming generations. Learn more atwww.RenewOurEconomy.org.

 

###

Yeah, I know; it’s kind of a non sequitur — this is ALL Hispanics, not just illegals. But I pass it on…

DCCC tries to show Obama has been a success

Obama numbers

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out the above chart today.

And while I usually have nothing but snarky remarks for these blatant fund-raising emails, I have to say I actually thought the number look pretty good.

So… are we a lot better off than we were when this POTUS took office? I have to say, I am not — but then, I’m no worse off than I was two months after he took office, when I got laid off.

And yeah, I would hope we’d look good when compared to the very low point of the recession. But still, I thought the numbers looked good…

Do the number lie? Are they the right number to be looking at? Thoughts?

How much weight should we give to bad jobs news in SC?

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The state Democratic Party has been sending out a steady stream of bad SC jobs news as a way of undercutting Nikki Haley’s big strength — the narrative that, whatever else you think of her, she’s done a good job of recruiting jobs for the state.

I’ve been inclined to ignore these, because, let’s face it — companies are always going as well as coming, or shrinking as well as growing, and you can’t disprove a trend with anecdotal evidence.

Also, you have to wonder how seriously the party takes these bad-news announcements, since on the “Haley’s Smoke and Mirrors” website, they accompany each one with a cutesy GIF, like the one above. As a guy who’s spent a good bit of time unemployed after being laid off, I find myself wondering what’s so funny about these situations. Even if the overall trend in SC is good, each of these items is very bad news for some individual South Carolinians.

But in the last few days, the sheer volume of these news items has worn away my doubts to the point that I’m wondering whether this is an unusually bad streak of developments.

I don’t know. But you can peruse them at the website. And here are the headlines of the last 11 such releases I’ve received, over just the second half of this month:

  1. PTR Announces Layoffs One Week After Haley Visit
  2. SC’s economy slows, jobless rate jumps
  3. S.C. foreclosure filings above national average despite 11% decrease
  4. Jobless rate now highest in state
  5. S.C.jobless rate up to 6.6 percent in September
  6. Bi-Lo to cut jobs at former Mauldin headquarters
  7. Heinz to close Florence facility employing 200 workers
  8. Truth Check: Is SC’s economy ‘one of fastest growing on East Coast’?
  9. 200 to lose jobs as Orangeburg plant closes
  10. Major Upstate employer announces relocation to NC
  11. GE Prepares Global Layoffs, Some Greenville Jobs Affected

OK, one of those is out of place — Jobless rate now highest in state — since some part of the state will always be the highest in the state, regardless of how good things are. But the other 10 provide a fairly steady drumbeat of actual bad news.

Now, here’s a HUGE grain of salt: These were not real-time announcements. They were from over a much-longer period of time than the dates of the releases would indicate. Some weren’t even from this year. So consider that.

By the way, did you make the connection on that first one? That’s the gun manufacturer that caused our governor’s eyes to light up so…

Nikki gun

Business Insider sees S.C. economy as 5th worst in U.S.

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The South Carolina Democratic Party is touting this story (“Nikki Haley claims South Carolina’s economy is booming, but don’t be fooled by her smoke and mirrors,” etc.), but I found it sort of interesting in its own right.

It’s a list from Business Insider ranking the respective states’ economies from worst to first. We rank 46th, or fifth worst. Here’s the reasoning they gave:

South Carolina’s largest private-sector industries are professional and business services, retail trade, and manufacturing. Here’s how South Carolina did on our variables:

  • South Carolina lost 4,600 nonfarm payroll jobs in July, the third-worst loss in the country.
  • Gross Domestic Product per capita was just $30,728, also the third-lowest.
  • The average annual wage was $39,800.

I was intrigued by the photos chosen to illustrate each state. We were represented by the sand sculpture above. I think I recognize it as being from just before a presidential debate down at the beach, either in 2008 or 2012.

My fave was the New Mexico one, which showed Jesse Pinkman being held prisoner down in the pit by the neoNazis. Which is appropriate, since N.M. ranked three positions below even us (Mississippi, of course, came in last). Maybe they’d be doing better if Mr. White were still alive and cooking, bringing in mad stacks, yo…

49-new-mexico

My son-in-law’s study mentioned by The Atlantic

This morning I happened to be searching for something unrelated and came up with an article that appeared last week in The Atlantic. I skimmed it, and it suddenly started looking very familiar, right at this point:

There are more variables at play than just pronunciation, though. In competitive fields that have classically been dominated by men, such as law and engineering, women with sexually ambiguous names tend to be more successful. This effect is known as the Portia Hypothesis (named for the heroine of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice who disguises herself as a lawyer’s apprentice and takes on the name Balthazar to save the titular merchant, Antonio). A study found that female lawyers with more masculine names—such as Barney, Dale, Leslie, Jan, and Rudell—tend to have better chances of winning judgeships than their more effeminately named female peers. All else being equal, changing a candidate’s name from Sue to Cameron tripled a candidate’s likelihood of becoming a judge; a change from Sue to Bruce quintupled it….

And sure enough, I followed the link and found that the study was one co-authored by my son-in-law, an economist who teaches at USC.

If I recall correctly, the idea for the study grew out of a conversation several years ago between him and my daughter, an attorney, regarding such female federal court judges in South Carolina as Bruce Hendricks and Cameron Currie. The subject was particularly, personally interesting to them both because it was about the time their twins were born. The twins are named for their great-grandmothers. Twin A is called by my wife’s mother’s unmistakably feminine first name. Twin B is known by my mother’s neutral maiden surname.

The twins are six-and-a-half now, so it’s a bit early to see whether Twin B will be a federal judge, while Twin A follows a different path. We’ll see. They’re just precious little girls right now…

What's in a name? The twins last week, trying to get their cousin to smile with them for the camera.

What’s in a name? The twins last week, trying to get their cousin to smile with them for the camera.

How delusional can some liberals be? There’s no limit…

Did you shake your head when you read this, which appeared under the Bizarro-World headline, “Clyburn too conservative?

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn is used to political foes calling him liberal. They’ve been doing it for years. Now, though, prominent liberals are coming after him for being too conservative.

The patron saint of delusional Democrats.

The patron saint of delusional Democrats.

Several left-wing groups are criticizing South Carolina’s Clyburn, the No. 3 Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, for his relationship with one of the party’s influential centrist policy organizations.

The founders of that think tank, Third Way, attacked U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., last week for pushing tax hikes for the rich and increases in Social Security benefits, and for taking other stances that they said represented risky fiscal approaches and bad political strategies.

Allies of Warren, a freshman lawmaker who is a rising star in Washington, struck back quickly.

Four liberal groups asked Clyburn of Columbia and 11 other Democratic members of Congress who are “honorary co-chairs” of Third Way to repudiate the condemnation of Warren and sever their ties with the organization…

Do you recall, back during the Democratic Convention last year, when I highly praised a speech by Bill “Third Way” Clinton? Aside from the fact that it may have been, as I said, the most skilled and powerful political speech yet in this century (and as I noted at the time, that was coming from “the editor who presided over an editorial board that was tied as first in the country to call on him to resign after he admitted lying to us”) — certainly the best I ever heard from Clinton — my positive impression of it was heightened by the fact that it followed an atrocious rant from Elizabeth Warren, which I characterized as follows: “She gave one of those speeches full of resentments and blame, the kind that makes me dislike political parties so much.”

Which is, you know, pretty much par for the course for her. These allies of hers, if anything, tend toward even sillier rhetoric:

“We’re calling on James Clyburn to do the right thing and immediately drop his affiliation with the Wall Street-backed Third Way…”

“Wall Street-backed” being a very powerful epithet among these people. Because, apparently, business is evil by its very nature in their belief system.

Embracing the Third Way.

Embracing the Third Way.

It’s interesting to me that, just as John Boehner is finally reining in the loonies in his party — and they’ve been on quite a rampage for several years now — the left wing of the Democratic Party is going on a delusional tear of its own.

The only way this embrace of Sen. Warren as presidential timber for 2016 makes sense for Democrats is that it would provide Hillary Clinton with a way of looking sensible and mainstream by contrast (which she is, by contrast), putting her in a strong position for the general election.

But I don’t think these folks are thinking that way. I think they actually believe Sen. Warren represents a direction in which they can pull the country. Hence my use of the word, “delusional.”

Tweeting from ULI’s Midlands Reality Check

Here's what the Midlands look like now, translated into ULI's Lego language.

Here’s what the Midlands look like now, translated into ULI’s Lego language.

That’s where I am this morning, so excuse me if I’m not keeping up with y’all for a few hours.

It’s a worthwhile exercise, I believe — 300 community leaders from across eight counties gathering to talk about growing by choice, not by chance.

I’ll catch up with y’all when the exercise is over. If you’re interested in the meantime, follow @BradWarthen on Twitter…

Another rating service considers downgrading U.S. credit

Some people just can’t wait for the U.S. to actually default. From Forbes:

Is history about to repeat itself? As the government squabbles over the debt deal and raising the debt ceiling, the U.S. creditworthiness finds itself at risk of a credit downgrade.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Fitch credit rating service announced that it put the U.S. on credit rating watch negative because of government failure to raise the debt ceiling in a “timely” manner. The ratings service affirmed the U.S. credit rating at AAA — a rating that it retained in the face of the debt ceiling debate in 2011 — but the announcement puts the U.S. credit rating at risk for a downgrade….

The last time there was a debate over the debt ceiling, in July of 2011,  Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time in its history, taking it from a AAA to an AA+ and throwing the markets in turmoil. At that time, Moody’s and Fitch retained a rating of AAA. Earlier in October, Moody’s said that the current debt ceiling debate is less dire than that of 2011 and said that the U.S. creditworthiness would not be at risk this time around. Fitch, however, clearly disagrees….

Following Fitch’s announcement, Dow futures plummeted triple digits. Futures of the S&P and Nasdaq were also in the red.

And here’s the WSJ version

Profile in Courage, 2013 edition: Boehner promises to do the right thing to avoid default

First, I want to applaud Speaker John Boehner for promising to do the right thing, at least with regard to a default that could devastate the world economy:

With a deadline for raising the debt limit fast-approaching, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has been telling colleagues in recent days that he will do whatever necessary to avoid defaulting on the federal debt, including relying on House Democrats to help pass an extension, according to GOP aides familiar with the conversations…

But after I’m done applauding the speaker for his courage, let’s have a moment of silence to mourn how low the “courage” bar is these days.

What that says is that the speaker of the House promises he will work with all of his willing colleagues, regardless of party, for the sake of the nation — to make sure that a terrible, needless thing does not happen to the country and the world.

That should be business as usual. Once upon a time, it would have been (in support of that statement, I submit the fact that the United States has never before defaulted in its 237-year history).

But today — and this just makes me sick — it’s extraordinary. In the U.S. House Republican caucus, it is seen as political suicide to work with Democrats, even on something of critical importance to the country.

So yay, Mr. Speaker. And here’s hoping and praying that we’ll live to see the day when this sort of behavior is once again sufficiently common that we have no reason to take note of it…

Consensus starts to emerge: House GOP is loony

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Even Paul Krugman — who is such a bitter, contemptuous partisan that I avoided running his columns at the newspaper — thought maybe he was going overboard a bit by calling the GOP’s maneuvers on funding Obamacare and the rest of government “crazy:”

In recent months, the G.O.P. seems to have transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party.

I know, I’m being shrill. But as it grows increasingly hard to see how, in the face of Republican hysteria over health reform, we can avoid a government shutdown — and maybe the even more frightening prospect of a debt default — the time for euphemism is past…

But aside from the typically Krugmanesque assertion that the GOP was stupid before it was crazy (everyone who disagrees with Krugman is stupid — just ask him; he’ll tell you), the economist really wasn’t going out on much of a limb in this instance.

He was simply stating something that seems to be emerging as a consensus across the political spectrum. Among people who have clue, that is.

While his language is milder, Gerald Seib, writing in that wild-eyed liberal publication The Wall Street Journal, is similarly dismissive of the sanity of GOP House members’ actions:

The list of conservatives who didn’t want the House to do what it did late last week—that is, pass a bill trying to defund Obamacare, at the risk of shutting down the government—is long and distinguished: Karl Rove, Rep. Pete King, Sen. John McCain, the editorial page of this newspaper, even the House’s own Republican leadership.

But House Republicans went ahead anyway, passing a bill tying the financing of government operations starting Oct. 1 with the removal of money for implementing the new health law. The bill won’t pass the Senate, and it won’t be signed by the president, but it may lead to a partial closure of the government that many believe would be politically disastrous for the Republican Party.

Which raises again the question that animates much of the conversation in the capital: Why do House Republicans do the things they do?..

He goes on to answer himself with a primer on what most of us already understand about House Republicans. Basically, that these people’s experience of government doesn’t precede the existence of the Tea Party, and that they are elected from districts that are so safe for a Republican that a GOP member need only fear a primary challenge. Stuff, as I said, we knew already. Although he reminded me of a fact I had forgotten if I knew it: That these districts are SO grossly gerrymandered that Republican candidates in the aggregate “lost the popular vote for the House in 2012 by more than a million votes nationally, yet kept control of the House by 33 seats.” (Although I see this writer disagrees that redistricting was the culprit.)

Then there is Judd Gregg, a Republican and former senator from New Hampshire, who writes for The Hill:

Most Americans these days are simply ignoring Republicans. And they should.

The self-promotional babble of a few has become the mainstream of Republican political thought. It has marginalized the influence of the party to an appalling degree.

An approach to the debt ceiling that says one will not vote for its extension unless ObamaCare is defunded is the political equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers of the gun loaded. It is the ultimate no-win strategy….

… which almost makes Krugman sound temperate. Gregg continues:

You cannot in politics take a hostage you cannot shoot. That is what the debt ceiling is. At some point, the debt ceiling will have to be increased not because it is a good idea but because it is the only idea.

Defaulting on the nation’s obligations, which is the alternative to not increasing the debt ceiling, is not an option either substantively or politically…

He goes on to write about the destruction that defaulting on our debt would wreak on the world’s economy — something about which the babbling infants in the House (half of the GOP members have been there less than three years) and their fellow loony in the Senate, Ted Cruz, care not at all.

The people who elected them, and who will vote for someone crazier in a GOP primary if these individuals don’t act with gross irresponsibility, don’t know or care what sort of harm their actions could bring about, so they don’t know or care, either. This is apparently regarded, by at least one writer at RedState, as a good thing.

Here’s how James Taranto, whose standard tone in his Best of the Web Today column at the WSJ is every bit as dismissive of the left as Krugman is of the right, characterizes Ted Cruz’s effort to support the House GOP effort to defund Obamacare. After noting the commonsense fact that there is “no realistic prospect of enacting the House resolution,” he writes:

Instead of playing possum, a group of Senate Republicans led by Texas freshman Ted Cruz propose to play Otter: “I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!“…

Taranto then casts Sarah Palin in the role of Bluto, given her op-ed at Breitbart.com in which she essentially said, “We’re just the guys to do it.”

OK, so from the left and the right, we’re seeing such modifiers as “crazy,” “futile,” stupid,” and “appalling.”

To all of those qualities, let us add disingenuousness. Here is the entire text of a release that Joe Wilson, my congressman, sent out on Friday:

Wilson: Senate and President Must Act

 

(Washington, DC) – Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) released the following statement after the House passed the Continuing Resolution which funds the government through December 15, 2013.

“Today, House Republicans have acted responsibly by passing a solution to keep the government’s doors open.  Because of our efforts, American families are protected from the unworkable, unaffordable healthcare law and hardworking taxpayers can rest assured that our nation will stop spending beyond its means.

 

“It’s time for the Senate and the President to act.   Time is ticking. We have ten short days until the federal government’s funding will expire. Senate Democrats should follow our lead and join us in protecting the American people, rather than placing politics over policy and threatening a government shutdown,” Congressman Joe Wilson said.

Note that only a passing reference is made to the actual point of the resolution for House Republicans: “…American families are protected from the unworkable, unaffordable healthcare law…” What an odd choice of words: “protected from.” He avoids saying what the measure does, which is deny funding to a program that is set in place by law — a law which he and his allies have demonstrated, an amazing number of times, that they are utterly incapable of repealing.

Then there is the really, truly cheesy dodge of making like it’s all on the president and the Senate whether the government is funded or not. Who are the children that Joe and the other Republicans who voted for this think will be fooled by that? Who will think, if the government shuts down, that anything other than the GOP obsession with Obamacare is to blame?

These guys are far gone. And everyone, on left and right, except them, seems to know it.