Category Archives: Money

Happy Days! Twinkies to Return Soon!

Hostess_twinkies

Hostess_twinkiesNo need to test the longevity of your Twinkies purchased pre company breakup, your favorite snack may be back on the shelves as soon as July!

A Columbus, Georgia Dolly Madison plant is scheduled to be up and running by July. The reformulated Hostess Brands expects the most popular products to be back on the shelves this summer.

In a bankruptcy forced liquidation Hostess due in part to a lengthy impasse by striking workers, the brand and five of the bakeries were bought in a joint venture by two private equity companies.

The Dolly Madison plant in Columbus, Ga., will be the first to reopen. The ‘new’ bakery is inviting former workers to apply for positions. There has been no talk of unions in the new company.

In its new iteration, the company will hire 200 workers for jobs starting this summer. Another 100 jobs will follow. Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said her town is better off with the opportunities — whether they’re union or not.

“I think we’re very happy to have the jobs back; 300 jobs is better than zero jobs,” she said.

Read more at CNN Money.

Optimizing Your Dollar: It’s Not Used; It’s Retro

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Isn’t it nice when being stylish is also being economical? This week as you look for ways to optimize your dollar think optimize your dollar 1about ‘used’ clothes. Thrift stores and consignment shops have lost their negative connotations, instead becoming the new trendy way to shop. Here are several ideas for your consideration.

When my son was born we had a neighborhood second-hand shop where one could pick up baby clothes for a quarter the original price. My friend, who introduced me to the shop, helped me realize that babies often outgrow their clothes, sometimes even before they’ve been worn. We found many cute outfits for practically nothing.

The timing between my son and my sister’s oldest introduced me to yet another way to save as I was able to pack up many of my son’s outgrown clothes passing them on to my nephew. A few years later, when my daughter was born, sis passed back the hardly worn outfits and a cycle was born. We shared clothes until my daughter finally realized she was wearing ‘boy jeans’ which she didn’t think was appropriate.

vintage

Sporting her most popular vintage dress

Today, used clothes are considered vintage, unique and one of a kind garments. Fortunately for us, my sister switched from sharing the boys hand-me-downs to her own. As my daughter grew she regularly inherited distinctive items from my sister’s closet.  There were many pluses to these classic outfits, key among them to a teenager, that no one else would be wearing the same thing. And more exciting to her is when someone would compliment a dress; wanting to know where she found it…She loved explaining that her outfit was vintage and not available at the local store. Nothing like being a teen fashionista and knowing no one else can copy you.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the down economy but a ‘find’ from a thrift shop has become a trendy bragging point.  Rather than being uncomfortable revealing their shopping habits, family and friends are choosing to share their great deals.  Just last month visiting family divulged they had found much sought after, and generally high dollar, area sports shirts for a super bargain price at the local resale store. Another friend enthusiastically disclosed that she always searched for high dollar brand name jeans at the consignment shop first.

Recently my daughter was noting a cute outfit worn by a friend. The friend was eager to tell her that she and her mom had gone ‘thrift store shopping’ over the weekend. She got her whole coordinated look for just $12. As the friend told my daughter, “They’re not used; they’re retro.”

Employment situation still dicey as more jobs lost than expected

Initial jobless claims come in than economists had forecast showing a still weak jobs climate.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims for the week ending April 13th came in at a seasonally adjusted 352,000 which was slightly higher than expectations of 350,000 and an increase of 4,000 over last week’s numbers.

The employment market has not yet rebounded even four years into the President’s economic recovery plan that included multiple rounds of stimulus, cash-for-clunkers, the auto bailout and more.

The latest reports will likely feed into Federal Reserve considerations of whether to continue massive liquidity dumps including an $85 billion per month bond-buying program intended to keep interest rates low. The Fed has indicated that it will continue stimulus activities until the labor market recovers to acceptable levels.

With labor participation rates at 40 year lows, a recovery is likely far off.

Rand Paul supports amnesty, bilingualism, and open borders, opposes employment verification

In recent weeks, Rand Paul has made a meteoric rise in Republican politics, dramatically raising his name recognition, winning (albeit by a slim margin) a CPAC straw poll, and successfully duping many conservatives (including some of my friends) into believing that he’s more sane and more practical than his nutty father, whom Republican voters rejected overwhelmingly in 2008 and 2012.

Sadly, these people are wrong. Rand Paul, like his father, is a leftist libertarian. His leftist brand of libertarianism is evident on many issues: deep defense cuts, supporting the cretinous “Balanced Budget Amendment”, supporting violations of states’ rights Paul’s pet issues, opposing action against Iran.

But on no issue is it more visible than on illegal immigration. Rand Paul supports a full-throated amnesty for illegal aliens (without calling it that way; he deceptively calls it “a pathway to citizenship”), bilingualism, and open borders, and opposes employment verification, including the very effective E-Verify Program.

Employers, including Big Business, are lobbying hard for amnesty and against E-Verify, because they love to hire illegal aliens; they can pay them much less than Americans and avoid federal and state employment laws.

But doesn’t Rand Paul realise that amnesty and bilingualism will only lead to bigger, more costly government? Don’t his supporters realize that?

Don’t they and their idol Rand Paul realize that amnesty (or “pathway to citizenship”, or whatever you want to call it) is TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE with limited Constitutional government (not to mention that it rewards lawbreaking, and a limited government – Constitutional or otherwise – cannot exist if the law is not obeyed)?

Don’t they and Rand Paul understand that amnesty will create 12-20 million new Democratic voters who will send the political Right (not just the GOP) and all conservatives to the political graveyard and give the Democrats a permanent, unbeatable majority?

As Ann Coulter rightly says, as soon as the nation starts to resemble California demographically, it will also resemble California politically.

To see what amnesty would mean politically, just look at California, where whites are now only 40% of the population – a “majority minority” state. Massive immigration – both legal and illegal – has transformed California into such a liberal state that no Republican can be elected statewide anymore. Taxes are going in only one direction, the state is on the verge of bankruptcy, and there’s no one left to pay the bill anymore, because businesses are fleeing Commiefornia en masse.

Not so long ago, this state gave America such great Republican Senators and Governors as Richard Nixon, S. I. Hayakawa, Ronald Reagan, and Pete Wilson.

But now, California is permanently lost to the GOP. The Dems control the governorship and have 2/3 majorities in the state legislature.

This is what the ENTIRE country will look like if amnesty is passed. The two major parties, as Ann Coulter rightly says, will be the Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Democratic Party and the Chuck Schumer Democratic Party.

Contrary to the popular canard that “Hispanics are natural conservatives/Republicans” and that “the Hispanic vote is winnable for the GOP”, they’re not and it’s not. The converse is the truth: Hispanics are natural liberals.

They are less likely than anyone but Jews to attend religious services and to oppose abortion and gay marriage. They are more likely than anyone else except blacks to be born out of wedlock, do poorly in school, drop out of high school, have children out of wedlock themselves, be poor, be dependent on the federal government for survival, commit crime, and go to prison. They depend on an entire cornucopia of federal programs to survive – from cradle to grave.

As Pat Buchanan points out, most Hispanic households are led by single mothers who, if they work, have no tax liability (due to the high tax-free treshold and the EITC), and if they don’t work, they receive welfare rolls and 99 weeks of unemployment checks. For food, she gets foodstamps and her children receive 2-3 “free” meals at school.

For healthcare, there’s Medicaid and Obamacare.

Her children are educated for “free” K-12 and can apply for Pell Grants and student loans.

Why would these people vote for a party that promises to cut taxes they don’t pay, but pledges to cut government dependency programs they do “benefit” from and use? Doesn’t self-interest dictate voting for the party that pledges to let them keep using these programs and, if anything, promises them more “free” giveaways?

The vast majority of Hispanics are government dependents (i.e. ideal Democratic voters). Republicans will never beat the Democrats at the giveaway offering game.

Have you ever wondered, Dear Readers, why most Latin American countries (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, etc.) have socialist governments? Answer: Because most of their citizens are socialists.

Most Americans don’t know that decades ago, the Democrats began implementing their plan to create an unbeatable Democratic majority by importing millions of immigrants from the Third World while making it harder (nigh impossible) for well-educated, highly-skilled Europeans to immigrate to the US. This plan is close to being completed. Amnesty #2 would be the final step – and the final nail in the GOP’s coffin.

The Democrats did not, and do not, want to change their ideology or their policies; instead, they’ve decided to change the voters, and they’ve done so and continue to do so.

Someone will say, “But in 2004, George W. Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote!” Yes, he did, but that’s not a great result. If repeated at future elections and if amnesty is passed, the GOP will still be doomed. Let’s do simple math.

Assuming that there are 12 million illegal aliens in the US, let’s say 44% of these people vote Republican once naturalized, and “only” 56% vote Democratic. That is, let’s assume they’ll vote Republican in George W. Bush numbers.

OK, here’s the math:

44%*12 million = 5.28 mn new GOP voters

56%*12 million = 6.72 mn new Dem voters

Net gain: 1.44 mn new voters for the Democrats.

 

So on net, the Dems would gain 1.44 mn new voters.

Easy to see why the Democrats are for this. But why would a GOP that were not suicidally inclined support such a policy?

Those who support amnesty, including Rand Paul, need to ask themselves only this question:

If there was ANY chance – even the slightest chance – that amnesty could help Republicans in ANY way whatsoever, do you think the Democrats would’ve supported it?

The answer is obvious. It’s a resounding “no”.

Rand Paul must not be allowed to win a GOP presidential or vice presidential nomination under any circumstances whatsoever. Nominating Rand Paul for President or Vice President would be an electoral suicide for the GOP and would be an utter rejection of all conservative principles the GOP has ever stood for.

Defense Issues Weekly

Defense Budget Unveiled

 

On Wednesday, April 10th, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled the FY2014 defense budget request, to the tune of $526.6 bn for the base defense budget. It optimistically assumes – as the DOD previously did – that sequestration will be repealed. Accordingly, it is $52 bn over the budget cap set by sequestration for the DOD for FY2014: $475 bn.

 

Specifically, the DOD requests $137 billion for personnel, $99.3 billion for procurement, $67.5 billion for R&D, $9.5 billion for construction, and the rest for operations &maintenance, i.e. daily operations, training, the maintenance of existing equipment and bases, administration, etc.

 

In the budget submission, the DOD is requesting authorization for conducting crucial reforms of its personnel programs (most notably, healthcare programs that are eating the Department’s budget alive) and its base infrastructure (which is ca. 24% excess to its needs) through authorizing a BRAC round.

 

According to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, personnel spending alone will consume 100% of the defense budget by FY2039, and, taken together with operations &maintenance spending, will consume all of the defense budget long before then – in FY2024, just 11 years from now. Accordingly, the DOD needs to make serious reforms in both areas. However, the Congress remains knee-jerk opposed to any such reforms, despite imposing a $1.1 trillion cut mandate on the DOD through the Budget Control Act. Congress is essentially telling the DOD “you must cut $1.1 trillion out of your budget per decade, and while doing you, you cannot touch personnel spending or bases in America.”

 

Excess bases cost the DOD billions of dollars per year to maintain. However, so far, parochial members of Congress have prevented BRAC from being authorized since 2005, despite past BRAC rounds now producing annual savings of $12 bn.

 

Critics claim that the 2005 round will not produce net savings until 2018. However, that round was not representative of BRAC, because its purpose was “transformation” and implementing Secretary Rumsfeld’s lofty visions for the military, not saving money like it was for previous four BRAC rounds. The previous four rounds achieved break-even point within 4-6 years at most, as confirmed by DOD Comptroller Robert Hale.

 

North Korea can target the US

 

An unclassified portion of a classified assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency confirms “with moderate confidence” that North Korea can miniaturize nuclear warheads and mate them to ballistic missiles, including ICBMs.

 

That DIA assessment was quoted by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) during an April 11th, 2013, hearing of SECDEF Hagel and General Martin Dempsey. Both were caught off-guard.

 

The assessment says that North Korean missiles probably have “low reliability” for lack of advanced guidance systems as those possessed by Russia and China. However, even a missile with low accuracy can, if armed with a nuclear, chemical, or biological warhead, obliterate a major city, given cities’ large area.

 

The DIA’s assessment is confirmed by the fact that North Korea has twice – in 1998 and 2012 – delivered satellites to the orbit. The technology required to miniaturize satellites and mate them to ballistic missiles (Taepodong missiles delivered both satellites) is the same as that used for nuclear payloads.

 

North Korea currently has two ICBM types: the mobile KN-08, whose range is not exactly clear, and the Taepodong-2 which, according to different sources, has a range anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000 kms. The former would be enough only to reach Alaska, the latter would be enough to reach the US West Coast.

 

The DOD’s spokesman, George Little, later denied that North Korea has learned how to miniaturize nuclear warheads or mate them to missiles. However, his claims are belied by the above-mentioned DIA assessment and satellite launches.

 

It appears the Obama Administration, including the DOD, has now adopted the same policy towards North Korea as that which the US has used for many years towards Russia and China: appease them, downplay the threat they pose, and cut America’s defenses unilaterally.

 

For many years, successive administrations, intelligence bureaucracies, politicians, and leftist think-tanks have dramatically understated the Russian and Chinese military threat, thus providing a false justification for America’s unilateral disarmament and for the appeasement of Moscow and Beijing, a policy supported by both parties and the entire federal bureaucracy, as well as the think-tanks and most senior leaders of the US military (i.e. businessmen wearing uniforms). This policy has allowed Russia and China to build up their militaries and threaten US interests while being unchallenged and ensuring that the US will, one day, have to play catch-up.

 

It now appears the US has adopted the same policy towards North Korea.

 

Navy on track to shrink to 220 ships

 

A recent testimony by Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, before the HASC warned that the Navy will eventually shrink to 220 ships if more vessels are not built.

 

Mr Lehman blamed that only partly on inadequate shipbuilding budgets, and partly on bloated DOD bureaucracies, but mostly on the DOD’s inefficient acquisition process.

 

The process, Mr Lehman reminded, is what causes weapons to be developed in decades, not years or months, while technology progresses quickly, and what causes large cost overruns. Mr Lehman launched a full-scale assault on that system and on the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which largely created that system.

 

Mr Lehman stated that unless many more ships are built every year – compared to just 8 ships per year being built these days – the Navy will shrink to just 220 ships, a woefully inadequate number to meet its missions. (Already, the Navy can meet only 59% of Combatant Commanders’ requests for ships and only 61% of their needs for submarines.) He said that the Navy needs 346 ships, and to have them, it must build 15 ships annually.

 

Having a 313- or 300-ship Navy would require building 12 vessels every year.

 

Mr Lehman also fully endorsed the personnel (including healthcare and benefits) program reforms proposed by the DOD, noting that the last comprehensive reform of these occurred in the 1970s as the US was just beginning to create an All-Volunteer Force.

 

He also criticized the Littoral Combat Ship, which the DOD’s own testing and evaluation czar rates as not being survivable and lacking serious firepower.

 

Mr Lehman’s full testimony is available here.

Rebuttal of Rebecca Griffin’s blatant lies

The leftist Hill magazine has recently published yet another ridiculous op-ed by an anti-defense hack, this time, Rebecca Griffin, the “political director” of “Peace Action West”, a pacifist group. The op-ed is an entire litany of blatant lies. This article will refute them.

 

Titled “Congress has a blind spot for Pentagon spending”, it begins by falsely claiming that defense spending is “out of control” and that even despite sequestration, the Congress has failed to rein it in.

 

This is such a blatant lie, it’s hard to believe such a lie has even been attempted. Congress has passed FIVE rounds of defense cuts in the last 4 years. First were the massive weapon program killings ordered by Secretary Gates in 2009 and 2010. Next was the New START unilateral arms cuts treaty. Third was the Gates Efficiencies Initiative ($178 bn), ratified by Congress in 2011. Next was the first (pre-sequestration) round of Budget Control Act-mandated defense cuts ($487 bn over a decade). Sequestration is the fifth, and it will cut another $550 bn from the defense budget over a decade.

 

To date, the DOD has contributed $900 bn (pre-sequestration) to deficit reduction, while no other federal agency or program has contributed anything meaningful.

 

The author falsely claims “smart, strategic cuts” in defense spending (she doesn’t even use the term – she calls it “Pentagon spending”, which is intended as a pejorative term) on the scale of sequestration (which is $550 bn per decade, $55 bn per year) can be made without harming national security and will actually make the nation stronger by supposedly improving its economic health.

 

That is a blatant lie, just like the rest of that screed. Cutting defense – no matter how deeply – would do little to reduce the budget deficit and thus improve America’s economic health. Even eliminating America’s military budget entirely would fail to even halve the annual budget deficit, which is over $1 trillion, as the below graph by the Heritage Foundation shows.

defense-spending-entitlement-spending-problem-600

The author touts the various studies and reports written by “think-tanks across the political spectrum” as well as proposals by politicians ranging from Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) to the Congressional Progressive Caucus as supposedly proposing “smart, strategic cuts” that would allegedly not weaken the military or hurt national security. But that’s  an utterly false claims.

 

The majority of the cuts proposed by them, including the vast majority of the cuts proposed by POGO, “Taxpayers for Common Sense”, the pro-Russian Center for Defense Misinformation, the Cato Institute, the National Taxpayers Union, PIRG, Sen. Tom Coburn (RINO-OK), the Center for American Progress, and the Congressional Progressive (read: Communist) caucus would target the muscle and bone of the US military: nuclear deterrence, missile defense, air and naval superiority, power projection, and so forth.

 

(Most of these organizations are funded or co-funded by George Soros, by the way.)

 

They would target such vital weapon systems and assets as aircraft carriers, surface combatants, submarines, missile interceptors, bombers, ICBMs, nuclear warheads, V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, air superiority fighters, and so on. They would also deeply cut the force structure (i.e. the size) of all military services, which are already (excepting the Army) too small and too overstretched. (The Navy, for example, can supply only 59% of combatant commanders’ requests for ships.)

 

In other words, they could cut deeply into the muscle, not the fat: the essentials, not the waste.

 

I have personally reviewed all of these proposals, studies, and reports. The vast majority of them target the muscle, not the fat, of the military.

 

Rebecca Griffin demands that spending on “outmoded” weapon systems be cut and that somehow, cutting it deeply can avert sequestration and provide the necessary savings. That is balderdash. Not only does she not specify what she means by that, other than the F-35, that claim is in any case false. Firstly, Secretaries Gates and Panetta have already killed over 50 weapon programs since 2009, and Secretary Hagel has proposed to cancel two others (PTSS and the SM-3 Block 2B).

 

Secondly, acquisition is a small (and increasingly smaller) item in the defense budget. Operations &maintenance (financing current equipment and bases, as well as healthcare programs, training, and daily operations) is the largest, followed by personnel spending. Together, these two categories will consume 100% of the entire defense budget by FY2024 if allowed to grow on autopilot, thus automatically crowding out weapons spending.

 

This means that even if no more weapon programs are killed, personnel, operations, and maintenance costs will consume the ENTIRE defense budget by FY2024 on autopilot. No, weapons programs cannot yield any big savings. That’s not where the money is.

 

And while the F-35 is a badly flawed airplane, the air superiority mission is hugely important. Air superiority is the sine qua non of any successful military operation. And it is and will be contested by America’s adversaries. They (Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Syria) have advanced air defense systems (e.g. the S-300, S-400, S-500, HQ-9, and SA-11/17) as well as advanced, high quality fighters (e.g. the Flanker family, the J-10, JF-17, PAKFA, J-20, J-31, MiG-35) that outmatch every US aircraft except the F-15 and F-22.

 

Indeed, while Griffin falsely claims that there will never again be a war with another conventional adversary, and only small terrorist groups threaten the US, the US actually has two peer competitors (Russia and China) who are very close to matching the US in military strength, having closed most of the gaps that previously separated them from the US military and now working hard on closing the remaining gaps.

 

But it isn’t just Russia and China. Rogue states like Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela are also growing their military power while America is cutting its own, and it’s emboldening them. North Korea now has ICBMs capable of reaching the CONUS – and can miniaturize nuclear warheads to mate them with missiles.

 

The “we have no conventional adversaries, so we can afford to cut defense spending deeply” claim is a blatant lie.

 

But while she makes light of sequestration and denies that leftist think-tanks defense cuts proposals would weaken the military, she makes apocalyptic claims about the sequester’s cut to civilian discretionary programs. She claims that poisoned food will land on your table and children will be starving if sequestration is not resolved. She furthermore claims that this is weaponmaking companies’ and their CEOs’ fault, and claims that under sequestration, American children will be starving while defense companies’ CEOs’ salaries will be protected.

 

This is a blatant lie. In fact, under sequestration, defense companies’ CEOs’ salaries will be cut significantly. Why? Because 100% of the sequester’s cuts will fall on weapon programs as well as operations &maintenance. Personnel spending and base infrastructure in the US are completely exempt from sequestration. So weapons spending will be cut deeply under this mechanism – and with it, the CEOs’ salaries.

 

And it is utterly dishonest and shameful for Rebecca Griffin to claim that the defense companies, their CEOs, or DOD weapon programs are to blame for sequestration or will cause children to starve, when these very companies and programs will actually get hardest hit by sequestration. Demonizing them is utterly dishonest and shameful. (Disclaimer: I do not, and have never worked, for any defense company.)

 

Griffin also falsely claims:

“As the Center for Strategic and International Studies points out, cuts on the level of sequestration would amount to the smallest post-war reduction in defense spending since before the Korean War. We can make smart, strategic reductions on the level of sequestration and still be spending more than the yearly Cold War average.”

This is also utterly false. Sequestration will be the biggest cut in defense spending since the 1950s (the post-Korean-War drawdown) and also the fastest, as it is required to be implemented quickly, starting THIS fiscal year, not in a gradual manner like previous drawdowns. Furthermore, it will cut defense spending this FY to $469 bn, BELOW the annual Cold War average.

“But apparently some people still think we’re locked in a global standoff with the Soviet Union. Remembering what century we’re in provides opportunities for major reductions, such as looking at our outmoded weapons systems.”

This is also a blatant lie. I’ve already addressed the issue of supposedly “outmoded” weapons systems and of weapons spending in general, but I shall also say that the world is now more dangerous than ever since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said this is the most dangerous world he has seen throughout his 38 years of service. While the Afghan war is slowly ending, the world is not getting any safer – it’s getting more dangerous by the day. Therefore, America cannot afford to cut its defense budget.

Griffin’s screed is a litany of blatant lies. Not one claim made therein is true. Shame on the Hill magazine for publishing it, and shame on Congressman Coffman for republishing it on his website solely because it mentions him.

How NOT to promote economic reform in France

Arc_Triomphe

In a recent American Spectator article, the magazine’s Paris correspondent, Joseph Harriss, narrates how American businessman Maurice Taylor was asked by the French government to save the ailing Goodyear company and its tyre factory in Amiens. Taylor visited the factory several times and held talks with the French government and labor unions, but their demands in terms of pay, retirement schemes, and working hours were unacceptable to him (because they’d make it impossible to run the factory at a profit) and consequently, Taylor has refused to buy the factory, not wanting to make a loss.

Unfortunately, instead of stopping there, Taylor decided to write an angry letter to the French minister of “productive redressment”, Arnaud Montebourg, where he denounced the rigid French labor code, high taxes, low working hours, and trade union influence in much stronger words than he should have, thus sparking a backlash and a new souring of Franco-American relations. Outrage was sparked across France in the media, the cafes, and the political arena. Reactions were almost universally along the lines of “Who does this arrogant American think he is? How dare he lecture us Frenchmen? How dare he tell us how to run our country?”

Montebourg shot back, and then, Taylor responded in kind in this tit-for-tat cycle. And economic reform remains completely stalled in France.

Why did Taylor fail in sparking any kind of reform? And how can one engineer it in France?

Taylor failed because, while he’s (mostly) correct on the facts – France does have a very rigid labor code, high taxes, and very influential labor unions, and all of this is stalling France’s economic growth – he tried to communicate them the wrong way: in a manner considered arrogant by the vast majority of the French media and political class writ large.

Instead of going gently and saying politely in so many words that he can’t buy the plant because it would bankrupt him – due to a rigid labor code and high taxes – he shot from the hip like a careless cowboy. That might work in the Midwest, but it won’t work in France. It will earn you more enemies than friends in the Hexagon.

To begin with, no nation on Earth, including the French, likes to be lectured on its domestic affairs by foreigners. Just go to any foreign country and try telling the locals how they should govern their own country. They’ll probably refuse to listen, even if you’re right on the facts. One of the reasons the US has utterly failed to democratize the Middle East is because the peoples of the region resent foreign meddling in their affairs. Likewise, the Chinese don’t like being lectured on human rights because foreign meddling in their country’s affairs is a very sensitive topic there.

The French are no different from other nations in this respect. Who says something makes a lot of difference. If a Frenchman or Frenchwoman makes a case for reform, they’ll listen, but if a foreigner starts lecturing them on the same subject, they’ll react very negatively. In fact, in France, foreigners participating in political demonstrations face deportation and a 3-year reentry ban.

So a foreigner should not try to tell the French how to reform their country. They’ll have to figure it out themselves. And if you really have to tell the French what reforms to implement, you must do it as gently as possible – not shoot straight from the hip.

On top of that, the French are a very proud, ancient people who are trying to defend their culture in an increasingly globalized, Americanized world. The French cherish their culture and their ways of doing things so much that they even have a state institution – L’Academie Francaise – to regulate the French language. Taylor’s kind of lecture, but especially coming from an American, was not well received in France partly for that reason. National pride is important for many nations, and again, the French are no exception.

And let’s be blunt – by speaking “bluntly” and from the hip, Taylor was impolite. That was a mistake if his goal was to convert the French to capitalism. France is not Germany or the US; shooting from the hip doesn’t work there and won’t earn you many friends, no matter how right you are.

From my experience of dealing with the French people, I know that you have to be very polite in France no matter whom you’re dealing with (unless you’re talking to street hoodlums). You have to speak and behave politely. That means not only giving people their proper titles like Madame and Monsieur, but also telling them the facts in polite words. By my experience, the more polite you are, the higher your chances of succeeding in dealing with the French.

If you’re polite towards them, they’ll reciprocate in 99% of cases. If you behave like a jerk or a shooting-from-the-hip cowboy, expect to be treated accordingly. (Did Taylor think that if he said “You Frenchmen are lazy! You work only 3 hours a day!”, the French will fawn over him and say “Oh, dear Mr Taylor, thank you for opening our eyes and allowing us to see our errors”?)

In short, Go Gently on the French. That’s the way business is done – at least in Gaul. The more polite you are, the higher your chances of succeeding. Extra marks for those foreigners who speak French. (If you don’t speak French, hire a tutor or take classes.)

So how to introduce the French to American-style laissez-faire capitalism?

Reform cannot be imposed or coaxed on them from across the Atlantic. It’ll have to be initiated and fully implemented by the French themselves.

The best and brightest among French students should be selected to attend conservative American colleges and to work for some time in conservative American think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation. Then, they should return to France and pass their knowledge – everything they’ve learned – to their fellow Frenchmen/women. They should try to build majority popular consensus for capitalist reform in France: write articles and books, teach at universities and grandes ecoles, convince right-wing politicians to adopt capitalist policies, participate in debates, and do interviews with France’s toughest journalists. They – like any successful salesmen/women – need to be both knowledgeable and good at salesmanship and public relations. They need to know their product well, but also know how to sell it. And they need to do it in a friendly, polite, optimistic manner to pose a stark contrast to the arrogant Hollande administration and the negativist, warlike, impolite, dour Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far left.

In sum, capitalist reform cannot be imposed or coaxed on France from outside by anyone. The French will have to discover the truth themselves. And if reforming their economy, or giving them advice on how to do it – assuming they want such advice – it must be done very politely, as all business is done in France.

In Hot Pursuit Means More in Dubai

lamborghini

lamborghiniGulf News is reporting that the ‘no budget worries’ Dubai Police Department has purchased a Lamborghini ‘squad’ car. The sporty two-seater can reach speeds of 217 miles per hour giving it a definite advantage in most hot pursuits.

Painted in the Dubai police colors of green and white the car is expected to be dispatched to in high tourist areas of the city. The one of a kind car cost the city $550,000.

Dubai is an oil rich city, part of the United Arab Emirates, located on the Persian Gulf.

Read more at GulfNews.com.

 

Obama’s Budget Plan: Raise Taxes on Middle Class, Gut Charities

President's budget

President's budget to fail$800 billion in tax increases form the center of President Obama’s new budget plan with some $1.2 Billion in cuts to future spending growth. Neither side seems to willing to support the plan.

Democrats say that the tax increases don’t go far enough and point to the liberal plan from the Senate that raises taxes by more than twice what Obama’s budget calls for.

Republicans see no spending cuts at all. The budget doesn’t reduce spending year-over-year, only the rate at which spending will increase each year. In fact, Obama’s budget adds $1 billion for 15 manufacturing innovation institutes, additional funds for high-speed rail, and free pre-school for low-to-moderate income families.

Both sides are concerned about the tax increase on the middle class.

The only entitlement reform, the method most economists agree is the only way to save those programs, is to change the way inflation is calculated. Currently, inflation is calculated based on price increases in a set basket of goods. The president’s plan would switch to chained-CPI which takes into account the behavior of switching to alternative, cheaper products as the price of an item increases. The resulting inflation rate is slower. Inflation calculations are used in determining the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for government programs like Social Security and for determining increases in the tax brackets.

Democrats are concerned that using chained-CPI will result in seniors seeing their Social Security checks not keep up with actual cost-of-living. Republicans are concerned that more middle-income earners will be pushed into higher tax brackets or above the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) threshold and forced to pay higher taxes.

Senate Democrats are threatening to give Obama yet another zero-support vote and House Republicans have called the plan “dead on arrival” in the people’s chamber. Since this plan closely resembles the failed “grand bargain” from 20011, there is little hope that it will materialize into an actual budget.

There are also concerns over the supposed spending slow-downs in the budget. Much of it depends on cost savings due to Obamacare.

With this year’s delay of implementing the exchanges, skyrocketing implementation costs, quickly rising premiums and the projected shortfalls in available care, rampant cost overruns are the expectation. Even the Department of Health and Human Services was caught off-guard by the complexity and costs of the President’s marquee health care legislation.

The President’s budget plan also removes charitable deductions and home mortgage deductions for higher earners. Non-profit groups that rely on huge donations from wealthy contributors are understandably concerned that the new budget plan, if enacted, could decimate their efforts to help others. Add in middle-earners being hit with higher taxes and the two groups that mainly fund charitable efforts will be far less likely to do so.

Low-income families are often heavily-dependent upon charity groups for food and clothing. The President’s plan will likely do more harm to lower and middle-income earners than anyone else.

The Obamacare Recession

Obamacare recession

The sequester’s $85 billion dollar slowing of federal spending isn’t what’s going to stall the economy this year – that will come from the President’s healthcare reform.

The White House and congressional Democrats have been hard at-work spinning the March jobs slowdown as an effect of sequestration even though the details of the report show no slowdown in government hiring. As sequestration would first impact government jobs, the correlation is non-existent.

The true culprit in the coming recession is not George Bush, Republican filibusters or slightly slower government spending – its Obamacare.

The President’s marquee healthcare reform law is taking its toll on business owners and families as it is directly causing premiums to skyrocket – some by more than double – and the toll on the economy is just beginning.

An exhaustive study by three congressional committees delivers startling news about the dire effects of Obamacare: President Barack Obama’s signature legislation could increase health insurance premiums by over 200 percent and render insurance coverage unaffordable for millions of Americans.

Insurance companies, states and the federal government have been frantically trying to implement the complicated and costly healthcare law.

Insurance companies have spent millions of dollars installing new software, designing integration with state/federal exchanges and changing their processes to deal with the concept of premium subsidies and premium cost-sharing – two major components of Obamacare. That money has to come from somewhere and its coming in the form of skyrocketing premiums.

States that chose to either implement their own exchanges or work in a state-federal partnership to form exchanges are seeing their costs balloon as well. State taxpayers will bear the brunt of those expenses.

The federal government, realizing that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is too complex, is planning to hire Obamacare Insurance Navigators at a cost of $29-$49.00 per hour. When the government hires, the costs come from taxpayers. Increasing costs mean increasing taxes – just as the President has proposed in his budget plan.

The revenue needed to fund the expense is coming out of the pockets of consumers and going to a massively-expanding federal bureaucracy. More taxpayer money is going to fund Department of Health and Human Services regulation, State and Federal exchanges and now more federal employees – expensive ones.

Consumers are getting hit from another side as premiums affect their paychecks and their employers.

As employers are forced to pay increasing premiums, more revenue must be directed away from pay and hours. Many employers are converting full-time positions to part-time or eliminating them altogether to avoid the overwhelming costs associated with healthcare reform.

Skyrocketing premiums mean less money for workers. As employer-provided health insurance usually splits the cost between the employee and employer, the worker will see a shrinking paycheck as premiums increase.

According to a Milliman Consulting Group study on insurance rates, the pain will be substantial for the middle-class:

the poor are likely to pay significantly less than they do now while middle-class families dig deeper into pocketbooks.

President Obama told the American people that this law would bend the healthcare cost curve down. In just its first few years of implementation it has done the opposite.

Even Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted that “there may be a higher cost associated with getting into that market.” When asked about rapidly-increasing premiums.

Some proponents of the healthcare law have made the case that premiums are rising due to increasing healthcare costs. White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest countered that claim saying that “I would actually point to the results that we’re already seeing from the Affordable Care Act, which is a savings of $2.1 billion.”

So if healthcare costs are not causing insurance premiums to rise – there’s only one culprit left and the drain on the economy will likely push the country back into recession.

WSJ: Our Changing Relationship with Health Care

wsj board

obamacare falloutThis week in the Wall Street Journal there is an interesting ‘on the ground’ look at health care and how it has changed in the past 50 years. The article is particularly worth watching because it is written by ‘former’ physician Dr. Ed Marsh.

Dr. Marsh opened his practice in pediatrics in the early 1960’s, ran a solo practice for many years until he joined a third party group, feeling the growing interaction with insurance and government regulations.

“Preventive care” became the touchstone. The concept is obvious, but the evidence for its value, and especially its potential for savings, is rarely conclusive.

Insurance relationships drove practice relationships. Patients were more likely to come to me because their insurance told them to, and more likely to leave, despite our congeniality, because their insurance required it. Thus our dealings were less personally rewarding, for my patients and for me.

When it became increasingly difficult to work according to my principles, I closed my practice, first joining a “prepaid” group for 15 years, and then leaving patient care altogether. As more physicians leave active practice, it must be appreciated that a focus on the economics of health care is not the only, and perhaps not even the most important, reason for their disillusionment. The glow of the personal relationship one might have with one’s patients is being extinguished.

You can read the full article at the Wall Street Journal. For additional information on the changes in health care the editorial board of the WSJ gives a helpful, yet brief, synopsis explaining our managed care past and where we are today. Board member and Pulitzer Prize winner Joe Rago explains why the big bureaucracy of Obamacare will decrease the relationship between you and your doctor while making it more difficult to get the care you need.

Obama jobs efforts fail – Worst Participation Rate in Decades

Unemployed man
Unemployed man

Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0

The Department of Labor’s monthly Employment Situation Report was released today with disturbingly bad news – the largest percentage of Americans since 1979 have just given up on the idea of ever finding work in the Obama economy.

The civilian labor force declined by 496,000 over the month, and the labor force participation rate decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 63.3 percent.

Economists had expected that 200,000 or more jobs would be created in March, instead only 88,000 jobs were added. A number demonstrative of a declining employment situation and perhaps a receding economy.

Even with the poor fundamentals, the popular statistic – the unemployment rate – dropped to 7.6%. The drop is due to the almost half-million Americans dropping out of the work force and no longer being counted as “unemployed.”

The retail sector took the largest hit with more than 24,000 jobs being lost in March. Most-likely due to the tax increases on Americans put in-place by the Obama administration in January. More money is going to the federal government leaving less for private citizens to utilize.

Average hourly earnings had been increasing until March. Up until then, earners had seen their pay increase by an average of 42 cents over the past year. In this most recent report, earnings slid backwards by a penny showing possible signs of a trend reversal.

Not since Jimmy Carter has the American economy seen such harmful policies come to such a disastrous outcome. Higher taxes, over-regulation, healthcare reform and out-of-control spending are having the effects most on the right have expected – and fought against – for quit some time.

Obama Pushes Banks to Accept Less Qualified for Home Loans

Foreclosedhome

Wait a second! Didn’t we just go through this? Doesn’t this sound like déjà vu all…over again?

Let’s look back. Less than 20 years ago, in order to buy a home one had to meet certain criteria. That is: to have a verifiable job, have saved (yes, scrimped and done without to save) 20% to put down (certain qualified groups like vets could get loans with less down), and to have a history of paying bills in a timely fashion. It was a standard that not everyone could make.

But the government, your congress, in its infinite wisdom said, “Hey, we think everybody should be able to buy a home. After all, it’s the American Dream.” And Presto! They changed the rules. They told banks to accept less than verifiable job information. They told banks that people shouldn’t have to save money to buy a home. And they told banks that paying bills on time was an ideal, not a requirement.

fannie-maeAnd Congress said banks could offer low equity loans, creative financing, including interest only so that everyone could afford  to own a home.

Of course, we’re all for home ownership. But it comes with a price. Our family chose to do with less so that we could save money needed to put down on a home. We knew that there was a limit on what size of home we could afford. Common sense…and the mortgage company…dictated our price range. We bought our home hoping that the value would increase, but realizing that the five year balloon payment meant that we would have to refinance no matter.

But what happened? You know the story. Heck, it isn’t ancient history. The housing bubble burst less than ten years ago. People who couldn’t really afford to be in homes suddenly discovered they couldn’t make the payments when the real loans came due (the interest only and sub-prime loans only lasted so long). The market value of homes dropped and more new homeowners realized they owed way more than their home was worth. Many walked. Leaving banks holding the mortgages until the banks folded leaving, yes, you guessed it, taxpayers footing the bill.

After most banks were bailed out and scolded by the ‘smarter, wiser’ administration they went back to requiring certain criteria before they would loan money. A lesson learned. Or so we thought.

This week President Obama came out with a new proposal wanting banks to accept less than qualified people for home loans. After all, it’s the American Dream. You can read about it in the Washington Post.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

 

Rebuttal of Joe Cirincione and Jenna Lee’s blatant lies

Center for Security President Frank Gaffney recently appeared on Fox News to debate Obama’s planned further cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent with Joe Cirincione, a strident liberal who leads the treasonous, extremely leftist Ploughshares Fund, which lies about nuclear weapons and advocates America’s nuclear disarmament. During that short, 8-minute debate, Cirincione and the Fox News anchor who was supposed to be a neutral moderator, Jenna Lee, made a number of utterly false claims.

What follows is my rebuttal of these claims.

1) The US military is NOT saying that the US has too many nuclear weapons. None of America’s current military leaders have said that. On the contrary, the current commander of the Strategic Command, Gen. Bob Kehler, and his predecessor, Gen. Kevin Chilton, have said that the current US nuclear arsenal is “exactly what we need” (Gen. Kehler’s words, not mine). Both of them, moreover, have utterly rejected proposals of groups like “Global Zero” to cut the US nuclear arsenal deeply.

2) The US nuclear arsenal is NOT expensive to maintain and is NOT siphoning money away from “the troops” and the military. It costs only $32 bn to $36 bn per year to maintain (all of it plus its supporting infrastructure). That’s about 6% of the total FY2013 US military budget ($613 bn). Nor is it causing defense budget cuts (the Budget Control Act and the Congress’ inability to rein in nondefense spending is causing that). Cutting the US nuclear arsenal, no matter how deeply, would not save more than a pittance. Eliminating the entire ICBM leg of the nuclear triad would save only $1.1 bn per year; eliminating the bomber leg, only $2.5 bn per year. So deeply cutting the US nuclear arsenal would save only a pittance. Peanuts. There would be NO significant savings.

3) While Cirincione has listed the deep cuts that have been made in the US nuclear arsenal since the 1980s, those are only cuts in AMERICA’s arsenal – not in those of other countries. They have made America WEAKER and LESS SECURE, not more. These deep cuts in America’s atomic arsenal have utterly failed to convince countries “around North Korea” and “around Iran” to step up the pressure on North Korea and Iran.

(Besides, America’s East Asian and Middle Eastern allies are in full agreement with the US on the necessity of stopping NK and Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. It’s China and Russia who are the problem, and they won’t be convinced to “pressure” North Korea or Iran no matter how deeply the US cuts its nuclear arsenal. For them, their lucrative business deals with Tehran and Pyongyang are far more important than American disarmament gestures.)

Cutting America’s nuclear deterrent by over 75% since 1991 has therefore UTTERLY FAILED to increase the pressure on North Korea and Iran and has UTTERLY FAILED to stop or even slow down nuclear proliferation. Thus, it has made America much less secure.

Doing this further will only make America LESS SECURE and WEAKER while UTTERLY failing to convince anyone to increase pressure on North Korea and Iran – just like all past cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal have utterly failed to do so.

Doing more of the same and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.

4) Since the end of the Cold War, the number of nuclear weapon states has INCREASED, not shrank. The US, Britain, France, Russia, China, India, and Israel retain nuclear weapons; Pakistan and North Korea have joined the nuclear club; and Iran is well on its way there.

5) The number of nuclear weapons that the US has DOES matter. A small nuclear arsenal of just 50 or 500 nuclear warheads and their delivery systems would be laughably easy for any enemy to destroy – precisely because of its small size. A nuclear arsenal HAS to be large in order to be survivable. Otherwise, it will be easily destroyed in a first strike by Russia or China. Moreover, a small nuclear arsenal of just a few hundred warheads would be way too small to target Russia’s, China’s, NK’s, or Iran’s military assets (bases, factories, etc.) and could target only their civilian populations – an immoral targeting policy that no sane person would ever endorse. Moreover, such “minimal deterrence” policy would not deter these enemies, because they don’t value their civilian citizens’ lives. The only effective way to deter them is to target their military assets – and for that, thousands of nuclear warheads are needed.

6) Nuclear weapons cannot be un-invented or eliminated from the world. That a number of US presidents, from JFK to Ronald Reagan, dreamed of eliminating them from the world, is completely irrelevant. US defense and foreign policy need to be guided by realistic assumptions and the brutal truth about the world, NOT by idealistic, lofty, unrealistic notions of a world without nuclear weapons that are neither achievable nor desirable. North Korea, Pakistan, China, and Russia will never give up their nuclear weapons.

7) Since Putin came to power, Russia has begun REBUILDING its nuclear arsenal and continues to increase it. And recently, it declared straightforward that it will NOT agree to any further cuts in its arsenal.

Cirincione’s claim that the US needs only a few hundred nuclear weapons and that no one has a bigger arsenal is a blatant lie, like the rest of his claims. Russia has 2,800 strategic and up to 4,000 tactical nuclear warheads – deployed and nondeployed – and the means to deliver all of them. Russia’s ICBM fleet alone can deliver 1,684 warheads to the CONUS, while its SSBN fleet can deliver 2,200 warheads to the US homeland. China has at least 1,800, and possibly up to 3,000, nuclear warheads and 3,000 miles of tunnels to hide them and their delivery systems. The claim that the US can safely cut its nuclear arsenal to just 50-500 warheads is a despicable lie.

9) And to Jenna Lee, who falsely claimed that the US nuclear arsenal has failed to slow down nuclear proliferation: it has not. It acts, and ahs acted, as a protective umbrella for over 30 allies of the US, thus convincing them that they don’t need their own nuclear weapons, since America’s umbrella protects them. But should that umbrella be cut further, or eliminated, they will have no choice but to “go nuclear”. They cannot bet their security and their very existence on America’s kool-aid notions that “nuclear disarmament will make the world safer”, or on America breaking free of those notions in 2016.

Frank Gaffney made, IMHO, a good case for retaining America’s nuclear deterrent and against cuts in it, but he could’ve made a stronger one by refuting Joe Cirincione’s and Jenna Lee’s blatant lies (about supposed savings, about US military leaders supposedly saying they have too many nukes, etc.) directly.

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