Thursday, April 29, 2010

Want to get rich? Work for feds

Data shows the pay gap between state and local government and private sector workers. (Chris Edwards/Cato Institute)

For decades, public sector unions have peddled the fantasy that government employees were paid less than their counterparts in the private sector. In fact, the pay disparity is the other way around. Government workers, especially at the federal level, make salaries that are scandalously higher than those paid to private sector workers. And let's not forget private sector workers not only have to be sufficiently productive to earn their paychecks, they also must pay the taxes that support the more generous jobs in the public sector.

Data compiled by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis reveals the extent of the pay gap between federal and private workers. As of 2008, the average federal salary was $119,982, compared with $59,909 for the average private sector employee. In other words, the average federal bureaucrat makes twice as much as the average working taxpayer. Add the value of benefits like health care and pensions, and the gap grows even bigger. The average federal employee's benefits add $40,785 to his annual total compensation, whereas the average working taxpayer's benefits increase his total compensation by only $9,881. In other words, federal workers are paid on average salaries that are twice as generous as those in the private sector, and they receive benefits that are four times greater.

The situation is the same when state and local government compensation data is compared with that of the private sector. As the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards notes in the current issue of the Cato Journal, "The public sector pay advantage is most pronounced in benefits. Bureau of Economic Analysis data show that average compensation in the private sector was $59,909 in 2008, including $50,028 in wages and $9,881 in benefits. Average compensation in the public sector was $67,812, including $52,051 in wages and $15,761 in benefits." Those figures likely underestimate the true gap on the benefits side because the typical government employee gets a guaranteed defined benefit pension under very generous terms, while the private sector norm is a 401(K) defined contribution plan that is subject to the ups and downs of the economy.

With the federal deficit and national debt heading into the stratosphere, taxpayers can no longer afford to support such lucrative government compensation. Public sector pay and benefits at all levels should be reduced to make it comparable to the wages and benefits earned by the average working taxpayer. The first politician to propose a five-year plan for this purpose is likely to be cheered mightily by taxpayers.!

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

In 2014, IRS will become health insurance enforcer...

IRS lacks clout to enforce mandatory health insurance

By Sandra Block, USA TODAY

The IRS processed more than 230 million tax returns last year, paid 127 million refunds and received about 68 million phone calls. The agency is responsible for enforcing a tax code that, at 71,000 pages, makes Anna Karenina look like a comic book.

Starting in 2014, the agency will have another task: making sure all Americans have health insurance. Under the law, Americans who can afford health insurance but refuse to buy it will face a fine of up to $695 or 2.5% of their income, whichever is higher. More than 4 million Americans could be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 by 2016 if they fail to obtain health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office said last week.

The IRS will be the enforcer — sort of.

HEALTH CARE LAW: Some trapped in pricey state plans

While the IRS can impose liens or levies, seize property or seek jail time against people who don't pay taxes, it's barred from taking such actions against taxpayers who ignore the insurance mandate. In the arsenal instead: the ability to withhold refunds from taxpayers who decline to pay the penalty, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said this month.

Still, compliance with the health reform law will be largely voluntary, says Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University. "By taking criminal sanctions and liens and levies off the table, the IRS' hands are tied, to a considerable extent."

The IRS is "being put in a position where it will be sending notices that will annoy people" and not much else, says James Maule, professor of law at Villanova University and author of the tax blog MauledAgain. "It's basically designed for failure."

Shulman said he believes most Americans will comply with the law. The experience of Massachusetts, which has required residents to have health insurance since 2006, would appear to support that view. In 2008, 98% of state tax filers who were required to provide health insurance information with their state tax returns met that filing requirement, and 96% had coverage, according to a preliminary report issued in December by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

But Massachusetts' health care law gives the Department of Revenue the authority to use its regular tax-collection powers to enforce the insurance mandate, says spokesman Robert Bliss. Through September 2009, the state had collected $12.9 million of the $16.4 million in penalties assessed in 2008.

'A dangerous expansion of the IRS' power'

In this political environment, even a defanged IRS stirs up powerful emotions. Among the concerns about the IRS' role in the health care reform law:

•The law will lead to a dramatic expansion of the IRS. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the IRS will need an additional $5 billion to $10 billion over the next 10 years to administer the health care law. That projection has fired up activists who believe the IRS should be downsized, or abolished.

Some Republican lawmakers have extrapolated from that estimate that the IRS will need to hire an additional 16,500 agents to enforce the health insurance mandate. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means Committee, called the law "a dangerous expansion of the IRS' power and reach into the lives of virtually every American."

The CBO report refers to the $10 billion figure as "administrative costs" and makes no reference to the number of employees the agency will need to hire. And enforcement is only one part of the IRS' responsibilities under the law. The agency will also be in charge of providing tax credits to small businesses, along with refundable tax credits to individuals who can't afford health insurance.

"The IRS is going to need additional resources, but in terms of health reform, probably the main focus is going to be on processing" the credits, Jost says.

The IRS has already started some of its administrative tasks. Last week, it began mailing postcards to more than 4 million small businesses and tax-exempt groups with information about a provision in the law that provides tax credits for small businesses. The tax credit, which takes effect this year, is designed to encourage small businesses to offer health insurance to their employees or keep the coverage they already have.

•The law will make it more difficult for the IRS to carry out its primary job of collecting taxes. Only 64% of taxpayers who called the IRS during last year's tax-filing season reached an IRS representative, according to a report by the IRS' national taxpayer advocate. The IRS' modest goal for this year was to answer 71% of taxpayer calls. Even more callers could have trouble getting through when the IRS takes on its obligations under the health care law, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said at an April 15 Senate Finance Committee hearing.

"Taxpayers trying to do the right thing regarding their tax responsibilities shouldn't have to be put on hold — or have to call back — because the IRS is now answering questions about health insurance," Grassley said.

The new responsibilities could also force the IRS to cut back on complex audits of sophisticated tax-avoidance schemes, such as illegal offshore accounts, Maule says. To handle the administrative tasks associated with the law, the IRS may need to divert experienced IRS agents who typically conduct these audits, he says. "This is going to make it easier for people who want to play the audit lottery game to get away with it."

Another potential problem: Administering the health care law will strain the IRS' already outdated computer and data-storage systems, says Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, an advocacy group that supports lower taxes. "The IRS customer-service front end is already sagging, and the back end is not looking so hot, either," he says.

•The IRS does a poor job of managing social programs. Critics of the legislation say problems with the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal program that provides tax rebates to low-income working families, illustrate the pitfalls of putting the IRS in charge of administering health care reform. The EITC program "has one of the highest fraud and abuse rates of any tax provision out there," Grassley said at the April 15 hearing. In tax year 2006, the latest year available, IRS made $10 billion to $12 billion in erroneous EITC payments, according to a study by the Treasury Department's inspector general.

IRS officials argue that the two programs are vastly different. The health care subsidies will go directly to insurers, not taxpayers, giving individuals little incentive to cheat, says IRS spokesman Frank Keith.

Jost maintains that the tax credits could encourage compliance, because taxpayers who refuse to provide information about their health care coverage will be ineligible for federal health insurance subsidies. That subsidy "is going to be pretty significant for lower-income people," he says.

Under the law, millions of middle- and low-income taxpayers will be eligible for subsidies to help pay for their health insurance. Taxpayers with incomes of up to four times the poverty level — currently $43,320 for an individual and $88,200 for a family of four — would qualify.

Matching documents

Starting in 2014, insurers will be required to send the IRS a document showing that the taxpayer has insurance coverage. The IRS will match taxpayers' returns with information it receives from insurers, and individuals who don't have insurance will receive a letter explaining how much they owe in penalties.

Those who ignore the letter could have the penalty withheld from their refunds — but that will only be effective if they're due a refund. Self-employed taxpayers, who are among the individuals most likely to go without insurance, often don't get refunds because their wages aren't subject to withholding.

Still, Jost believes the actual number of insurance scofflaws will be relatively small. People who receive health insurance through their jobs — about 57% of workers — won't be affected. Taxpayers older than 65 won't be subject to the new requirement because they're covered by Medicare. And many self-employed people, along with workers who don't have employer-provided coverage, meet the income requirements for tax credits, so they'll have an incentive to get insurance, he says.

That leaves doctors, lawyers, accountants and other self-employed people with high incomes, Jost says. Many of these taxpayers have complex tax returns that include numerous tax deductions and credits, Jost says. "Unless they are just deeply principled people who think this is the greatest offense in the history of this country, they are not going to want to mix it up with the IRS," he says.

And what will happen to taxpayers who defy the mandate? Not much, Jost predicts:

"I think it's going to be a small number of wealthy people who are going to be determined to fight this, and the IRS will just ignore them."

Keith disputes the notion that taxpayers who disregard the law will get a free pass. The IRS will have up to 10 years to withhold refunds from individuals who owe penalties, he says. Even if they aren't ordinarily due a refund, he says, "any time they overpay, those monies will be available."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Economists: The stimulus didn't help

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporterApril 26, 2010: 3:56 AM ET

NEW YORK ( -- The recovery is picking up steam as employers boost payrolls, but economists think the government's stimulus package and jobs bill had little to do with the rebound, according to a survey released Monday.

In latest quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economics, the index that measures employment showed job growth for the first time in two years -- but a majority of respondents felt the fiscal stimulus had no impact.

NABE conducted the study by polling 68 of its members who work in economic roles at private-sector firms. About 73% of those surveyed said employment at their company is neither higher nor lower as a result of the $787 billion Recovery Act, which the White House's Council of Economic Advisers says is on track to create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year.

That sentiment is shared for the recently passed $17.7 billion jobs bill that calls for tax breaks for businesses that hire and additional infrastructure spending. More than two-thirds of those polled believe the measure won't affect payrolls, while 30% expect it to boost hiring "moderately."

But the economists see conditions improving. More than half of respondents -- 57% -- say industrial demand is rising, while just 6% see it declining. A growing number also said their firms are increasing spending and profit margins are widening.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed forecast that gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, will grow more than 3% in 2010, and 70% of NABE's respondents expect it to grow more than 2%.

Still, the survey suggested that tight lending conditions remain a concern. Almost half of those polled said the credit crunch hurts their business.

Obama Asst Secretary of Energy has huge financial stake in companies likely to profit from 'green' policies...

More Global Warming Profiteering by Obama Energy Official

Posted By Christopher Horner On April 26, 2010 @ 12:00 am

Surprising documents [1] made available to this author reveal that Assistant Secretary of Energy Cathy Zoi has a huge financial stake in companies likely to profit from the Obama administration’s “green” policies.

Zoi, who left her position as CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection — founded by Al Gore — to serve as assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, now manages billions in “green jobs” funding. But the disclosure documents show that Zoi not only is in a position to affect the fortunes of her previous employer, ex-Vice President Al Gore, but that she herself has large holdings in two firms that could directly profit from policies proposed by the Department of Energy.

Among Zoi’s holdings are shares in Serious Materials, Inc., the previously sleepy, now bustling, friend of the Obama White House [2] whose public policy operation is headed by her husband. Between them, Zoi and her husband hold 120,000 shares in Serious Materials, as well as stock options. Reporter John Stossel has already explored what he sees as the “crony capitalism [3]” implied by Zoi being so able to influence the fortunes of a company to which she is so closely associated.

In addition, the disclosure forms reflect that Zoi holds between $250,000 and $500,000 in “founders shares” in Landis+Gyr, a Swiss “smart meter” firm. She also still owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in ordinary shares.

“Smart meters,” put simply, are electric meters that return information about customer power usage to the power company immediately and allow a power company to control the amount of power a customer can consume. These smart meters are a central component of the Obama administration’s plans to reduce electricity consumption as part of the “smart grid.”

In a rare moment of candor, Obama “Energy Czar” Carol Browner said to US News & World Report [4] last year: “We need to make sure that …[e]ventually, we can get to a system where an electric company will be able [sic] to hold back some of the power so that maybe your air conditioner won’t operate at its peak, you’ll still be able to cool your house, but that’ll be a savings to the consumer.” (emphasis added)

Clearly, DoE funding to encourage the adoption of “smart meters” would very likely lead to much increased sales by Landis+Gyr — and a potential windfall for Zoi. But surely Zoi doesn’t participate in the relevant “energy efficiency” policy?

In fact, as a condition of her employment with the Obama administration, while Ms. Zoi maintained significant security holdings in Serious Materials and Landis+Gyr, she promised to “not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on the[ir] financial interest” without obtaining a waiver first.

But then, if she doesn’t participate in decisions that could have a “direct and predictable effect” on her Landis+Gyr holdings and she doesn’t participate in decisions that could have a “direct and predictable effect” on her holdings in Serious Materials, it seems worth asking in which decisions she can participate.

Doesn’t Zoi’s involvement in these issues raise serious ethical [5] or legal [5] issues?

Given her position and the breadth of the decisions and duties from which she would have to recuse herself if someone with the rather glaring conflicts as Ms. Zoi has follows through on her promises to avoid participating in decisions that would impact companies in which she oddly has retained a substantial financial interest — what decisions and policies is she participating in? Has she obtained waivers? If so, on what; if not, why not? Re-read her title. Re-review her investments. What, precisely, is she doing on our dime and how come she is permitted to carry such obvious conflicts of interest that either preclude her from working on nearly any matter of substance under her purview, or trigger automatically serious ethical and other considerations? And, what happened to that whole ethical, transparency thing?


Warren Buffett brands derivatives, "financial weapons of mass destruction.", then asks the White House to make an exception for his company! (through his stooge Sen. Ben Nelson). Another Cornhusker Kickback anyone?!

APRIL 26, 2010

Deal Near on Derivatives
Berkshire Presses Lawmakers to Roll Back Proposed Curbs, Avoiding Potential Hit


WASHINGTON—Democrats took a step toward their goal of overhauling financial regulation, reaching a tentative deal to set restrictions on trading in exotic financial instruments known as derivatives.

Among the considerations still in the balance: A big provision being sought by Warren Buffett in recent weeks. A key Senate committee had changed its proposed overhaul of derivatives regulation after lobbying by Mr. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., potentially helping the famed investor avoid a financial hit, congressional aides say.

A key Senate committee had changed its proposed overhaul of derivatives regulation after lobbying by Mr. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. John Bussey and David Weidner discuss.
Sunday night's deal, hammered out by Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) and Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.) reflects the populist, anti-bank sentiments simmering on Capitol Hill. A Senate Democratic official said the two have "worked out a deal," which is expected to be folded into a broader Democratic measure that revamps the U.S. system of financial regulation in the wake of the catastrophic financial collapse that occurred in 2008. The agreement includes a proposal that could force banks to spin off their lucrative derivative trading operations, reshaping Wall Street.

The fate of Berkshire's effort to influence the legislation remains uncertain. Senate officials said Sunday night that most of the details of the agreement haven't yet been finalized.

The provision, sought by Berkshire and pushed by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson in the Senate Agriculture Committee, would largely exempt existing derivatives contracts from the proposed rules. Previously, the legislation could have allowed regulators to require that companies such as Nebraska-based Berkshire put aside large sums to cover potential losses. The change thus would aid Berkshire, which has a $63 billion derivatives portfolio, according to Barclays Capital.

Mr. Buffett's push is especially notable because he has warned of the potential dangers of derivatives, famously branding them "financial weapons of mass destruction."

The White House has been trying to kill the Berkshire provision on the grounds that it would weaken the government's ability to regulate the enormous market for derivatives. Berkshire Hathaway argued that it shouldn't be made to redo existing contracts and that it is already healthy enough to cover its obligations. The battle over the provision shows how lobbying by businesses and lawmakers to insert just a few words into a complex bill can have a major impact on the country's biggest companies.

President Barack Obama is close to securing his revamp of financial-market rules, a package aimed at preventing a repeat of the financial crisis. Tightening the regulation of derivatives—complex financial instruments used across finance and business—is a central element. The Senate could begin debate on Democrats' broader package of changes to financial regulation Monday.

Related Article
Deal May Affect Banks' Trading Desks The change Mr. Buffett has sought would apply only to existing contracts, assuming the bill becomes law. It would apply broadly, not just to Berkshire. Many newly written derivatives contracts, including Berkshire's, would have to post collateral.

Mr. Buffett has been a vocal critic of how some in the financial markets use derivatives. In making his case for regulation, Mr. Obama in a New York speech last week quoted Mr. Buffett's "financial weapons of mass destruction" remark, which was made in Berkshire's 2002 annual report. In his letter to investors this year, Mr. Buffett, an Obama supporter, wrote that while Berkshire has "long invested in derivatives," the contracts "can be dynamite."

A fracas over the measure could hurt Democrats. The Obama administration wants to avoid the home-state horse-trading that almost sank its health-care overhaul. Berkshire is based in Omaha, Neb., and has longstanding ties to the state's Sen. Nelson.

Derivatives are bets between two parties on the future price of a good, such as oil or mortgages. They are typically used by companies to manage risks; airlines use derivatives to lock in future fuel prices. In addition, investors trade them for profit.

In the financial crisis, American International Group Inc. was nearly felled by trading in derivatives related to mortgage securities. The company wasn't required to hold significant cash in reserve for the deals and couldn't meet its obligations when the housing market tanked, threatening to kill its trading partners and prompting a federal bailout.

The legislation under consideration would require certain companies to put up a chunk of cash, known as collateral, when they enter such contracts to cover possible losses. The legislation could require that derivatives trade more like stocks or bonds—on exchanges, instead of in private deals.

Berkshire has argued Congress doesn't have authority to make it redo existing contracts, especially since the company is sitting on about $20 billion in cash. Mr. Buffett has said he rarely has to post collateral, which is why for Berkshire the new rules could hurt.

Berkshire representatives declined to comment. But the company's position, said a person close to Berkshire, is that the new language will aid the majority of companies that legitimately use derivatives to insure against risks. Under the original wording, hundreds of major U.S. businesses, not just Berkshire, might have been hurt by the requirement that collateral be posted for existing contracts, said the person close to Berkshire. If the language isn't amended, the big beneficiaries would be Wall Street firms that create the derivatives. That's because if the businesses have to post collateral, the Wall Street firms can dispense with buying their own insurance against a default on the instruments.

Lawmakers began considering the Berkshire proposal after Sen. Nelson relayed concerns raised by David Sokol, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Sokol is a close lieutenant of Mr. Buffett and is considered the investor's likely successor.

A representative for Mr. Sokol didn't respond to telephone calls and written messages seeking comment.

Mr. Buffett has accumulated huge positions in derivatives through Berkshire. MidAmerican, one of the nation's largest utility operators, uses derivatives to hedge against changes in the price of energy.

Capitol Hill aides from both parties said Berkshire's lobbying campaign has been forceful. Mr. Sokol often invoked his boss's name, saying how important the issue was to Mr. Buffett, aides say.

Mr. Sokol told lawmakers the Senate bill would force Berkshire to post collateral against good-faith contracts into which it had already entered, for a total congressional aides put in the billions of dollars. Renegotiating those contracts would be a logistical headache, people familiar with his arguments said.

He met scores of lawmakers, aides and government officials, including the offices of Sens. Dodd, Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), Judd Gregg (R., N.H.) and Mike Johanns (R., Neb.).

In March, Nebraska's other senator, Mr. Johanns, pushed a similar amendment in the Senate Banking Committee. It wasn't formally offered after Republican lawmakers decided to pull all their amendments. "There is bipartisan agreement that changing the requirements of existing contracts midstream is wrong and unreasonable," Mr. Johanns said in a statement.

The Senate Agriculture Committee shares jurisdiction over derivatives because it oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Berkshire officials approached Mr. Nelson, a member of that committee, to press their concerns.

Berkshire officials have long supported Mr. Nelson. Berkshire employees, including Mr. Buffett, have given Sen. Nelson $75,550 over his political career, more than any other company, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks such data.

The derivatives bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on a 13-8 vote last week with Mr. Nelson in favor. Mr. Johanns opposed, citing the potential impact on farmers.

Jake Thompson, a spokesman for Mr. Nelson, said arguments made by Berkshire officials are consistent with the senator's philosophy: New rules shouldn't apply retroactively.

Mr. Thompson said political contributions had no bearing on the matter. "There might be a perception of a big company having some effect, but I think it's more the argument and the principle they were making that had the effect," he said.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Lincoln, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the change was a "technical correction to the legal certainty issue" after "a number of parties" raised concerns about the impact on such long-term contracts.

Berkshire often isn't required to post collateral on derivatives because of its strong financial position. That means the company can use the upfront cash it gets from these deals for other investments. At the end of 2009, that capital totaled $6.3 billion.

Analysts say Berkshire may deserve an exemption. In the financial crisis, the company's strength allowed it to invest in shaky firms such as Goldman Sachs, bolstering the financial system. The new regulations would punish Berkshire for the bad behavior of others, they say. "Claiming Berkshire poses a risk to the financial system is a difficult case to make," says Morningstar analyst Bill Bergman.

—Susan Pulliam contributed to this article.
Write to Damian Paletta at and Scott Patterson at

1970 Predictions From 1st Earth Day...

These are Predictions from the 1st Earth Day, made in 1970

"We have about five more years at the outside to do something."
- Kenneth Watt, ecologist

"Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind."
- George Wald, Harvard Biologist

"We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation."
- Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

"Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction."
- New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

"Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years."
- Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

"By...[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s."
- Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

"It is already too late to avoid mass starvation."
- Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

"Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India ; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India , Pakistan , China and the Near East, Africa . By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions....By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine."
- Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

"Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support...the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half...."
- Life Magazine, January 1970

"At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it's only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable."
- Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

"Air certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone."
- Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

"We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones."
- Martin Litton, Sierra Club director

"By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate...that there won't be any more crude oil. You'll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill 'er up, buddy,' and he'll say, `I am very sorry, there isn't any.'"
- Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

"Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct." (even this was said in 1970)
- Sen. Gaylord Nelson (Al Gore must have read his book)

"The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." - Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

I guess by now we are all supposed to be dead or at least gasping for breath. . “are we there yet?”

PS Challenge everything you read and half of that which you are told, irrespective of the source. In fact, the more credible the source, the more suspicious one should become. And yes, ride your bicycle more, turn off unused lights and don’t waste water. Oh, and one more thing, cut your toilet paper usage to one sheet per bowl movement. Now the smell will kill us.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Value Added Tax (VAT) For USA From Obama

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer Charles Babington, Associated Press Writer – Wed Apr 21, 7:14 pm ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama suggested Wednesday that a new value-added tax on Americans is still on the table, seeming to show more openness to the idea than his aides have expressed in recent days.

Before deciding what revenue options are best for dealing with the deficit and the economy, Obama said in an interview with CNBC, "I want to get a better picture of what our options are."

After Obama adviser Paul Volcker recently raised the prospect of a value-added tax, or VAT, the Senate voted 85-13 last week for a nonbinding "sense of the Senate" resolution that calls the such a tax "a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America's economic recovery."

For days, White House spokesmen have said the president has not proposed and is not considering a VAT.

"I think I directly answered this the other day by saying that it wasn't something that the president had under consideration," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters shortly before Obama spoke with CNBC.

After the interview, White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki said nothing has changed and the White House is "not considering" a VAT.

Many European countries impose a VAT, which taxes the value that is added at each stage of production of certain commodities. It could apply, for instance, to raw products delivered to a mill, the mill's production work and so on up the line to the retailer.

In the CNBC interview, Obama said he was waiting for recommendations from a bipartisan fiscal advisory commission on ways to tackle the deficit and other problems.

When asked if he could see a potential VAT in this nation, the president said: "I know that there's been a lot of talk around town lately about the value-added tax. That is something that has worked for some countries. It's something that would be novel for the United States."

"And before, you know, I start saying 'this makes sense or that makes sense,' I want to get a better picture of what our options are," Obama said.

He said his first priority "is to figure out how can we reduce wasteful spending so that, you know, we have a baseline of the core services that we need and the government should provide. And then we decide how do we pay for that."

Volcker has said taxes might have to be raised to slow the deficit's growth. He said a value-added tax "was not as toxic an idea" as it had been in the past.

Since then, some GOP lawmakers and conservative commentators have said the Obama administration is edging toward a VAT.

Iran boosts troops in Venezuela

Originally published 04:00 a.m., April 21, 2010,

Bill Gertz

Iran is increasing its paramilitary Qods force operatives in Venezuela while covertly continuing supplies of weapons and explosives to Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Pentagon's first report to Congress on Tehran's military.

The report on Iranian military power provides new details on the group known formally as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), the Islamist shock troops deployed around the world to advance Iranian interests. The unit is aligned with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, North Africa and Latin America, and the report warns that U.S. forces are likely to battle the Iranian paramilitaries in the future.

The Qods force "maintains operational capabilities around the world," the report says, adding that "it is well established in the Middle East and North Africa and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela."

"If U.S. involvement in conflict in these regions deepens, contact with the IRGC-QF, directly or through extremist groups it supports, will be more frequent and consequential," the report says.

The report provides the first warning in an official U.S. government report about Iranian paramilitary activities in the Western Hemisphere. It also highlights links between Iran and the anti-U.S. government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been accused of backing Marxist terrorists in Colombia.

The report gives no details on the activities of the Iranians in Venezuela and Latin America. Iranian-backed terrorists have conducted few attacks in the region. However, U.S. intelligence officials say Qods operatives are developing networks of terrorists in the region who could be called to attack the United States in the event of a conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

Qods force support for extremists includes providing arms, funding and paramilitary training and is not constrained by Islamist ideology. "Many of the groups it supports do not share, and sometimes openly oppose, Iranian revolutionary principles, but Iran supports them because they share common interests or enemies," the report says.

Qods force commandos are posted in Iranian embassies, charities and religious and cultural institutions that support Shi'ite Muslims. While providing some humanitarian support, Qods forces also engage in "paramilitary operations to support extremists and destabilize unfriendly regimes," the report says.

The report links Qods force operatives and the larger IRGC to some of the deadliest terrorist attacks of the past 30 years: the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983, the bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina in 1994, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and many insurgent attacks in Iraq since 2003.

Qods forces in Afghanistan are working through nongovernmental organizations and political opposition groups, the report says. Tehran also is backing insurgent leaders Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ismail Khan.

"Arms caches have been recently uncovered [in Afghanistan] with large amounts of Iranian-manufactured weapons, to include 107 millimeter rockets, which we assess IRGC-QF delivered to Afghan militants," the report says, noting that recent manufacture dates on the weapons suggest the support is "ongoing."

"Tehran's support to the Taliban is inconsistent with their historic enmity, but fits with Iran's strategy of backing many groups to ensure that it will have a positive relationship with the eventual leaders," the report says.

In Iraq, Qods forces are supporting terrorists through Iranian embassies. The report says the outgoing Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, is a member, as well as the new ambassador in Baghdad, Hassan Danafar.

Iranian support for Shi'ite militants in Iraq has included the supply of armor-piercing explosively formed projectiles, as well as other homemade bombs, anti-aircraft weapons, rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives.

The report says the elite Iranian fighters are controlled by Iran's government, despite efforts by the group to mask Tehran's control.

"Although its operations sometimes appear at odds with the public voice of the Iranian regime, it is not a rogue outfit," the report says. "It receives direction from the highest levels of the government and its leaders report directly, albeit informally, to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei," the report says.

Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East specialist with the Congressional Research Service, said the report's identification of Qods force operatives in Venezuela is significant.

"The new information on an increased Qods Force presence in Venezuela … amplifies the warnings of some experts about an increasingly close, anti-U.S. relationship between Iran and the government of Hugo Chavez," Mr. Katzman said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently played down the growing Iranian influence in the Chavez government. Asked about Iran's ties to Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, Mr. Gates said, "I think it makes for interesting public relations on the part of the Iranians, the Venezuelans."

"I certainly don't see Venezuela at this point as a military challenge or threat," Mr. Gates said during a visit to the region.

The report also states that Iran could conduct a test of a long-range missile by 2015 and now has missiles that can strike all of Israel.

"Iran continues to develop a ballistic missile that can (reach) regional adversaries, Israel and central Europe, including Iranian claims of an extended range variant of the [620-mile-range] Shahab-3 and a [1,242-mile] medium-range ballistic missile, the Ashura," the report says.

The report notes that Iran has the largest missile force in the Middle East, with about 1,000 missiles with ranges of between 90 miles and 1,200 miles. The missile program was developed and expanded with extensive help from North Korea and China, the report says.

The missiles have grown in sophistication with increased accuracy, warhead lethality and advanced technology that includes solid propellent for quick launches and anti-missile-defense capabilities for warheads.

The report says Iran is developing its military forces with some asymmetric weapons, including armed unmanned aircraft and coastal anti-ship missiles that can hit targets throughout the Strait of Hormuz, where up to 40 percent of the world's crude oil passes.

Iran's military is growing but "would be relatively ineffective against a direct assault by well-trained, sophisticated military such as that of the United States or its allies," the report says.

However, Iranian special forces, like the Qods force, "would present a formidable force on Iranian territory," the report says.

The report provides no new details on Iran's covert nuclear program that was described as geared toward developing nuclear weapons. Iran's purchase of advanced Russian S-300 air defense missiles, which so far have not been delivered, are for use at nuclear sites, the report says.

The U.S. is leading a U.N. Security Council effort to sanction Iran for its presumed attempts to develop an atomic weapon in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Chavez: China to devote $20B to Venezuela projects

Apr 18, 12:10 AM (ET)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez has announced an agreement with China that would have the Asian economic giant devote $20 billion to financing long-term development projects in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan president says the financing would go toward industrial and infrastructure projects, among other development plans.

He spoke Saturday during a televised appearance attended by China's natural resources minister.

Chavez is providing few other details about the investments.

U.N.'s Ballooning $732 Million Haiti Peacekeeping Budget Goes Mostly to Its Own Personnel

By George Russell

The United Nations has quietly upped this year's peacekeeping budget for earthquake-shattered Haiti to $732.4 million, with two-thirds of that amount going for the salary, perks and upkeep of its own personnel, not residents of the devastated island.

The United Nations has quietly upped this year's peacekeeping budget for earthquake-shattered Haiti to $732.4 million, with two-thirds of that amount going for the salary, perks and upkeep of its own personnel, not residents of the devastated island.

The world organization plans to spend the money on an expanded force of some 12,675 soldiers and police, plus some 479 international staffers, 669 international contract personnel, and 1,300 local workers, just for the 12 months ending June 30, 2010.

Some $495.8 million goes for salaries, benefits, hazard pay, mandatory R&R allowances and upkeep for the peacekeepers and their international staff support. Only about $33.9 million, or 4.6 percent, of that salary total is going to what the U.N. calls "national staff" attached to the peacekeeping effort.

Presumably, the budget also includes at least part of some $10 million that the U.N. has spent on renting two passenger vessels, the Sea Voyager (known to some U.N. staffers as the "Love Boat") and the Ola Esmeralda, for a minimum of 90 days each, as highly subsidized housing for some of its peacekeepers and humanitarian staff. The tab for the two vessels, which offer catered food, linen service and comfortable staterooms and lounges, is about $112,500 per day.

Under a cost-sharing formula, the U.S. pays a 27 percent share of the entire $732.4 million peacekeeping tab for Haiti during this 12 month period, or about $197.7 million.

The ultimate size of the peacekeeping bill for Haiti this year has been a source of much concern among the three dozen or so of the U.N.'s 192 members who pick up roughly 96 percent of the U.N.'s overall peacekeeping bill.

That concern rose sharply about a month ago, when U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office issued an updated peacekeeping estimate that used a $700 million figure strictly as a placeholder for the final Haiti post-quake number.

The new figures take some of the uncertainty out of that estimate, but even so, the U.N. was taking no chances of raising concerns higher with its new tally; rather than take a new vote on the expanded peacekeeper budget, the U.N. Secretariat simply issued its revised tally as an extension of the previous $611 million allotment it had voted for Haiti.

The Haitian peacekeeping budget is relatively unique among U.N. efforts, because there was no civil war or widespread bloodletting to inspire the original peacekeeping force, which arrived in 2004. Instead, the mission has mainly been intended to bolster political order in a society crushed by hurricanes, political turbulence, and grinding misery.

The revised peacekeeping tab is over and above the roughly $15 billion in short- and long-term aid that the international community — led by the U.S. and European Union — pledged to Haiti at an international donor's conference last month.

It is also over and above the $773 million in humanitarian aid raised from donor nations and private citizens in a "flash" appeal in the days after the Jan. 12 earthquake — which is about half the total hoped for by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs when it raised the appeal.

Moreover, the revised Haiti peacekeeping budget only covers a period that ends in about 10 more weeks — on June 30, 2010 — at which time, Ban's office will have to formulate another peacekeeping estimate for the stricken island, not to mention the remainder of its global peacekeeping effort.

Given the temporary nature of this year's sudden 20 percent boost in Haiti peacekeeping costs, there is some possibility that next year's budget will mark a decrease from the $732.4 million figure.

Since the U.N. installed peacekeepers on the island in 2004, however, the budgeted cost of peacekeeping has roughly doubled, from an original $372.8 million.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News.

President Obama’s Wall Street Friends All Benefit From The Democrats’ Bailout Bill

Washington, Apr 20 -

Follow @GOPLeader on Twitter for updates.

President Obama likes to say we need to clean up Wall Street. But let’s be clear: He is pushing a job-killing bailout bill for Wall Street that benefits his top financial contributor from the 2008 campaign – a firm that just happens to be under investigation by the SEC for defrauding investors.

Despite the President’s rhetoric, his support for the Democrats’ bailout bills gives big Wall Street banks a permanent, taxpayer-funded safety net by designating them “too big to fail.” Just whose side is President Obama on? Here are the facts:


• Goldman Sachs, recently charged with defrauding investors, was President Obama’s top Wall Street contributor during the 2008 election cycle, donating nearly $1 million to his campaign.
• Securities & investment firms in general were the fifth largest contributor to President Obama’s 2008 campaign, donating nearly $15 million.
• Big banks also donated more than $3 million to Obama during the 2008 election cycle.


“We will hold Wall Street accountable. We will protect and empower consumers in our financial system. That’s what reform is all about. That’s what we’re fighting for.” (Weekly Address, 4/17/10)


• The Dodd Gives Wall Street a Pre-Existing $50 Billion Bailout Slush Fund. Sen. Dodd’s financial bailout bill would create a $50 billion ‘orderly resolution fund’ ($150 billion in Rep. Barney Frank’s bill) that could be repeatedly replenished from industry assessment.
• The Dodd Bill Gives Wall Street a Treasury-Backed Credit Line. The FDIC would be authorized to borrow from Treasury up to the amount of cash left in the ‘resolution fund’ plus 90 percent of the value of the assets of any and all too-big-to-fail firms in its control.
• The Dodd Bill Provides a Government-Guaranteed to Wall Street Debt. The FDIC would be authorized to guarantee the debt of any solvent bank, bank holding company, or affiliate in any amount subject only to an aggregate debt limit set by the Treasury Department.
• The Dodd Bill Institutionalizes Unlimited Wall Street Bailouts. The FDIC, as the resolution agency for too-big-to-fail firms, would be given wide latitude to use resources to make payments to anyone in any amounts, at their own discretion.
• The Dodd Bill Gives Wall Street Bridge Bank Authority. The FDIC would be authorized to create a bridge institution as part of resolving a covered institution and vest the FDIC with broad authority to use the orderly resolution fund in connection with the bridge institution.

While President Obama and congressional Democrats push job-killing legislation that gives permanent bailouts to their top campaign contributors, Republicans are fighting to end the bailouts and create jobs for families and small businesses. Republicans believe the best way to protect taxpayers is by reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that sparked the meltdown by giving high-risk loans to people who couldn’t afford it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Top Contributors
This table lists the top donors to this candidate in the 2008 election cycle. The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization's members or employees (and their families). The organization may support one candidate, or hedge its bets by supporting multiple candidates. Groups with national networks of donors - like EMILY's List and Club for Growth - make for particularly big bundlers.

Iranian missile may be able to hit USA by 2015

Mon, Apr 19 2010
By Phil Stewart and Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran may be able to build a missile capable of striking the United States by 2015, according to an unclassified Defense Department report on Iran's military sent to Congress and released on Monday.

"With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015," said the April report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

A classified version was also submitted to Congress.

The timing of advances in Iran's long-range missile technology is being closely watched in Washington, which accuses Tehran of pursuing nuclear weapons and is pushing for a new round of sanctions. Iran denies the charges and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

"Iran's nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy," the report said.

The U.S. military tried and failed to shoot down a simulated Iranian missile strike on the United States in January, in a botched $150 million exercise over the Pacific Ocean. That attempt failed because of a malfunction in a radar built by Raytheon Co.

It was not immediately clear whether the latest estimate on Iran's missile technology was a departure from a May 2009 National Intelligence Estimate, which deemed Tehran unlikely to have a long-range missile until between 2015 and 2020, according to U.S. officials who saw the report at the time.

The 2009 estimate was revised from an earlier range of between 2012 to 2015.

Representative Ike Skelton, chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, called the report a "comprehensive view of the military situation in Iran."


The report also included an assessment of Iran's broader military capabilities and support for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as groups like Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

With Iranian support, Hezbollah has replenished its arsenal beyond levels it had in the 2006 war with Israel, the report said, without offering specifics.

"Iran, through its long-standing relationship with Lebanese (Hezbollah), maintains a capability to strike Israel directly and threatens Israeli and U.S. interests worldwide," it said.

The report cited recently uncovered caches of weapons that Iran's Qods Force gave to Afghan militants. They contained "large amounts of Iranian-manufactured weapons," including 107 mm rockets.

It estimated the size of Iran's "Ground Force" at 220,000 personnel and the Revolutionary Guard Corps's "Ground Resistance Forces" at 130,000 personnel. It said Iran had between 1,800 and 1,900 tanks.

President Barack Obama's national security advisers are considering a broad range of options to curb Iran's nuclear program, among them military strikes, if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday the military options available to Obama would go "a long way" to delaying Iran's nuclear progress but may not set the country back long-term.

He called a military strike his "last option" right now and has repeatedly warned of potential, unintended consequences of any action against Iran.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)


Ariz House: Check Obama's Citizenship

POSTED: 7:15 pm MST April 19, 2010
UPDATED: 10:23 pm MST April 19, 2010

PHOENIX -- The Arizona House on Monday voted for a provision that would require President Barack Obama to show his birth certificate if he hopes to be on the state's ballot when he runs for reelection.

The House voted 31-22 to add the provision to a separate bill. The measure still faces a formal vote.

It would require U.S. presidential candidates who want to appear on the ballot in Arizona to submit documents proving they meet the constitutional requirements to be president.

Phoenix Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said the bill is one of several measures that are making Arizona "the laughing stock of the nation."

Mesa Republican Rep. Cecil Ash said he has no reason to doubt Obama's citizenship but supports the measure because it could help end doubt.


President Obama’s Wall Street Friends All Benefit From The Democrats’ Bailout Bill

Washington, Apr 20 -

Follow @GOPLeader on Twitter for updates.

President Obama likes to say we need to clean up Wall Street. But let’s be clear: He is pushing a job-killing bailout bill for Wall Street that benefits his top financial contributor from the 2008 campaign – a firm that just happens to be under investigation by the SEC for defrauding investors.

Despite the President’s rhetoric, his support for the Democrats’ bailout bills gives big Wall Street banks a permanent, taxpayer-funded safety net by designating them “too big to fail.” Just whose side is President Obama on? Here are the facts:


• Goldman Sachs, recently charged with defrauding investors, was President Obama’s top Wall Street contributor during the 2008 election cycle, donating nearly $1 million to his campaign.
• Securities & investment firms in general were the fifth largest contributor to President Obama’s 2008 campaign, donating nearly $15 million.
• Big banks also donated more than $3 million to Obama during the 2008 election cycle.


“We will hold Wall Street accountable. We will protect and empower consumers in our financial system. That’s what reform is all about. That’s what we’re fighting for.” (Weekly Address, 4/17/10)


• The Dodd Gives Wall Street a Pre-Existing $50 Billion Bailout Slush Fund. Sen. Dodd’s financial bailout bill would create a $50 billion ‘orderly resolution fund’ ($150 billion in Rep. Barney Frank’s bill) that could be repeatedly replenished from industry assessment.
• The Dodd Bill Gives Wall Street a Treasury-Backed Credit Line. The FDIC would be authorized to borrow from Treasury up to the amount of cash left in the ‘resolution fund’ plus 90 percent of the value of the assets of any and all too-big-to-fail firms in its control.
• The Dodd Bill Provides a Government-Guaranteed to Wall Street Debt. The FDIC would be authorized to guarantee the debt of any solvent bank, bank holding company, or affiliate in any amount subject only to an aggregate debt limit set by the Treasury Department.
• The Dodd Bill Institutionalizes Unlimited Wall Street Bailouts. The FDIC, as the resolution agency for too-big-to-fail firms, would be given wide latitude to use resources to make payments to anyone in any amounts, at their own discretion.
• The Dodd Bill Gives Wall Street Bridge Bank Authority. The FDIC would be authorized to create a bridge institution as part of resolving a covered institution and vest the FDIC with broad authority to use the orderly resolution fund in connection with the bridge institution.

While President Obama and congressional Democrats push job-killing legislation that gives permanent bailouts to their top campaign contributors, Republicans are fighting to end the bailouts and create jobs for families and small businesses. Republicans believe the best way to protect taxpayers is by reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that sparked the meltdown by giving high-risk loans to people who couldn’t afford it.

Wall Street suspects Goldman charges 'not coincidental' to financial reform effort

2:16 PM, April 16, 2010 ι By KAJA WHITEHOUSE

Wall Street is more than a little suspicious of today’s charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has accused Goldman Sachs of lying to investors about who was really behind junk mortgages securities it sold to clients.

Barclays banking analyst Roger Freeman comes right out and blasts the SEC effort as “a well-timed, and perhaps not coincidental, effort to sway some on-the-fence Republicans” to get tough on financial reform.

“Targeting GS, given the flurry of anti-Wall Street press that has centered around that firm, offers the publicity that the administration needs at this critical juncture,” Freeman says in a note to clients today.

He says Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chris Dodd has targeted a vote on the Senate bill for April 26, “and given the short span of time between now and the end of the month, we are not surprised to see the stepped up support for the bill.”

Bryan Baumgart Unemployment encouraged! Incentives NOT to Work!!

APRIL 13, 2010.

Incentives Not to Work

Larry Summers v. Senate Democrats on jobless benefits.

"The second way government assistance programs contribute to long-term unemployment is by providing an incentive, and the means, not to work. Each unemployed person has a 'reservation wage'—the minimum wage he or she insists on getting before accepting a job. Unemployment insurance and other social assistance programs increase [the] reservation wage, causing an unemployed person to remain unemployed longer."

Any guess who wrote that? Milton Friedman, perhaps. Simon Legree? Sorry.

Full credit goes to Lawrence H. Summers, the current White House economic adviser, who wrote those sensible words in his chapter on "Unemployment" in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, first published in 1999.

Mr. Summers should give a tutorial to the U.S. Senate, which is debating whether to extend unemployment benefits for the fourth time since the recession began in early 2008. The bill pushed by Democrats would extend jobless payments to 99 weeks, or nearly two full years, at a cost of between $7 billion and $10 billion. As Mr. Summers suggests, rarely has there been a clearer case of false policy compassion.

View Full Image
Associated Press Larry Summers
Mr. Summers is merely reflecting what numerous economic studies have shown. Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute has found that the average unemployment episode rose from 10 weeks before the recession to 19 weeks after Congress twice previously extended jobless benefits—to 79 from 26 weeks. Even as initial unemployment claims have fallen in recent months, the length of unemployment has risen. Mr. Reynolds estimates that the extensions of unemployment insurance and other federal policies have raised the official jobless rate by nearly two percentage points.

Or consider the Brookings Institution, whose panel on economic activity reported this March that jobless insurance extensions "correspond to between 0.7 and 1.8 percentage points of the 5.5 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate witnessed in the current recession."

Or perhaps the Senate should listen to another Obama Administration economist, Alan Krueger of the Treasury Department, who concluded in a 2008 study that "job search increases sharply in the weeks prior to benefit exhaustion." In other words, many unemployed workers don't start seriously looking for a job until they are about to lose their benefits.

And, sure enough, the share of unemployed workers who don't have a job for more than 26 weeks has steadily increased, reaching a record 44.1% in March. The average spell of unemployment is now 31 weeks, even though the economy is once again creating more new jobs than it is losing. Democrats are slowly converting unemployment insurance into a welfare program.

Despite all of this evidence, Democrats seem to think that extending jobless benefits for another 20 weeks is a big political winner. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin recently roared, "Is there any compassion at all left with Republicans for people whose checks are going to run out?" New York's Chuck Schumer calls Republicans "inhumane."

But do these Senators really think it's compassionate to give people an additional incentive to stay out of the job market, losing crucial skills and contacts? And how politically smart is it for Democrats to embrace policies that keep the jobless rate higher than it would otherwise be? How many Democrats share Mr. Harkin's apparent desire to defend a jobless rate near 9% (today it is 9.7%) in the fall election campaign.

We should add that Republicans would rather not fight on these incentive grounds and are instead opposing the new benefits only because Democrats refuse to pay for them and want to add to the deficit. In other words, the GOP is merely asking Democrats to live up to their own "pay as you go" fiscal promises, since the total bill for these jobless benefits has now hit nearly $90 billion.

If Republicans were really cynical, they'd let the new benefits pass and run against the higher jobless rate in the fall. In any case, no one should be surprised that when you subsidize people for not working, more people will choose not to work.

An earlier version of this editorial contained a quote from the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee's January minutes that was accurate but taken out of context. It was removed during the editing process and wasn't published in the print version of the Wall Street Journal. However, due to a production error, the quote made it into the initial online version of the editorial.

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US Faces Sever Shortage Of Doctors!

APRIL 12, 2010.
Medical Schools Can't Keep Up

As Ranks of Insured Expand, Nation Faces Shortage of 150,000 Doctors in 15 Years.


The new federal health-care law has raised the stakes for hospitals and schools already scrambling to train more doctors.

Experts warn there won't be enough doctors to treat the millions of people newly insured under the law. At current graduation and training rates, the nation could face a shortage of as many as 150,000 doctors in the next 15 years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

That shortfall is predicted despite a push by teaching hospitals and medical schools to boost the number of U.S. doctors, which now totals about 954,000.

The greatest demand will be for primary-care physicians. These general practitioners, internists, family physicians and pediatricians will have a larger role under the new law, coordinating care for each patient.

The U.S. has 352,908 primary-care doctors now, and the college association estimates that 45,000 more will be needed by 2020. But the number of medical-school students entering family medicine fell more than a quarter between 2002 and 2007.

Related VideoMedical Training in Second Life (04/12/10)Getting Doctors, Hospitals to Use Electronic Medical Records (01/26/09)Faces of Health Care: A Doctor is in the House (12/22/09).
A shortage of primary-care and other physicians could mean more-limited access to health care and longer wait times for patients.

Proponents of the new health-care law say it does attempt to address the physician shortage. The law offers sweeteners to encourage more people to enter medical professions, and a 10% Medicare pay boost for primary-care doctors.

Meanwhile, a number of new medical schools have opened around the country recently. As of last October, four new medical schools enrolled a total of about 190 students, and 12 medical schools raised the enrollment of first-year students by a total of 150 slots, according to the AAMC. Some 18,000 students entered U.S. medical schools in the fall of 2009, the AAMC says.

But medical colleges and hospitals warn that these efforts will hit a big bottleneck: There is a shortage of medical resident positions. The residency is the minimum three-year period when medical-school graduates train in hospitals and clinics.

There are about 110,000 resident positions in the U.S., according to the AAMC. Teaching hospitals rely heavily on Medicare funding to pay for these slots. In 1997, Congress imposed a cap on funding for medical residencies, which hospitals say has increasingly hurt their ability to expand the number of positions.

Medicare pays $9.1 billion a year to teaching hospitals, which goes toward resident salaries and direct teaching costs, as well as the higher operating costs associated with teaching hospitals, which tend to see the sickest and most costly patients.

Doctors' groups and medical schools had hoped that the new health-care law, passed in March, would increase the number of funded residency slots, but such a provision didn't make it into the final bill.

"It will probably take 10 years to even make a dent into the number of doctors that we need out there," said Atul Grover, the AAMC's chief advocacy officer.

While doctors trained in other countries could theoretically help the primary-care shortage, they hit the same bottleneck with resident slots, because they must still complete a U.S. residency in order to get a license to practice medicine independently in the U.S. In the 2010 class of residents, some 13% of slots are filled by non-U.S. citizens who completed medical school outside the U.S.

One provision in the law attempts to address residencies. Since some residency slots go unfilled each year, the law will pool the funding for unused slots and redistribute it to other institutions, with the majority of these slots going to primary-care or general-surgery residencies. The slot redistribution, in effect, will create additional residencies, because previously unfilled positions will now be used, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

From the ArchiveOpinion: How to Fix the Doctor Shortage (01/04/10)Health Blog: Would Adding Residency Slots Solve the Primary-Care Shortage? (11/27/09)Opinion: The Coming Shortage of Doctors (11/06/09)Health Blog: Obama: 'Severe Shortage' of Primary Care Doctors (08/11/09).
Some efforts by educators are focused on boosting the number of primary-care doctors. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences anticipates the state will need 350 more primary-care doctors in the next five years. So it raised its class size by 24 students last year, beyond the 150 previous annual admissions.

In addition, the university opened a satellite medical campus in Fayetteville to give six third-year students additional clinical-training opportunities, said Richard Wheeler, executive associate dean for academic affairs. The school asks students to commit to entering rural medicine, and the school has 73 people in the program.

Journal Communitydiscuss..“ As a specialist physician I will suggest that until primary care physicians can earn 70-80% of what most specialists make without killing themselves, there will be no incentive for the best and the brightest to go into primary care. ”
.—Michael Brennan.
"We've tried to make sure the attitude of students going into primary care has changed," said Dr. Wheeler. "To make sure primary care is a respected specialty to go into."

Montefiore Medical Center, the university hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has 1,220 residency slots. Since the 1970s, Montefiore has encouraged residents to work a few days a week in community clinics in New York's Bronx borough, where about 64 Montefiore residents a year care for pregnant women, deliver children and provide vaccines. There has been a slight increase in the number of residents who ask to join the program, said Peter Selwyn, chairman of Montefiore's department of family and social medicine.

One is Justin Sanders, a 2007 graduate of the University of Vermont College of Medicine who is a second-year resident at Montefiore. In recent weeks, he has been caring for children he helped deliver. He said more doctors are needed in his area, but acknowledged that "primary-care residencies are not in the sexier end. A lot of these [specialty] fields are a lot sexier to students with high debt burdens."

Bryan Baumgart REPORT: 60 Hospitals Cancelled Due to New Health Law...

Health Law Bans New Doctor-Owned Hospitals, Blocks Expansion of Existing Ones

Monday, April 12, 2010
By Fred Lucas, Staff Writer

( – The new health care overhaul law, which promised increased access and efficiency in health care, will prevent doctor-owned hospitals from adding more rooms and more beds, says a group that advocates physician involvement in every aspect of health care delivery.

Physician-owned hospitals are advertised as less bureaucratic and more focused on doctor-patient decision making. However, larger corporate hospitals say doctor-owned facilities discriminate in favor of high-income patients and refer business to themselves.

The new health care rules single out such hospitals, making new physician-owned projects ineligible to receive payments for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Existing doctor-owned hospitals will be grandfathered in to get government funds for patients but must seek permission from the Department of Health and Human Services to expand.

To get the department’s permission, a doctor-owned hospital must be in a county where population growth is 150 percent of the population growth of the state in the last five years; inpatient admissions must be equal to all hospitals located in the county; the bed-occupancy rate must not be greater than the state average, and the hospital must be located in a state where hospital bed capacity is less than the national average.

The rules fall under Title VI, Section 6001 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The provision is titled “Physician Ownership and Other Transparency – Limitations on Medicare Exceptions to the Prohibition on Certain Physician Referral for Hospitals.”

More than 60 doctor-owned hospitals across the country that were in the development stage will be canceled, said Molly Sandvig, executive director of Physician Hospitals of America (PHA).

“That’s a lot of access to communities that will be denied,” Sandvig told “The existing hospitals are greatly affected. They can’t grow. They can’t add beds. They can’t add rooms. Basically, it stifles their ability to change and meet market needs. This is really an unfortunate thing as well, because we are talking about some of the best hospitals in the country.”

The organization says physician-owned hospitals have higher patient satisfaction, greater control over medical decisions for patients and doctor, better quality care and lower costs. Further, physician-owned hospitals have an average 4-1 patient-to-nurse ratio, compared to the national average of 8-1 for general hospitals.

Further, these 260 doctor-owned hospitals in 38 states provide 55,000 jobs, $2.4 billion in payroll and pay $509 million in federal taxes, according to the PHA.

In one ironic aspect, President Barack Obama’s two largest legislative achievements clashed. The Hammond Community Hospital in North Hammond, Ind., got $7 million in bond money from the federal stimulus act in 2009. It will likely be scrapped because of the new rules on physician-owned hospitals, according to the Post-Tribune newspaper in Merrillville, Ind.

Doctor-owned hospitals have long been a target of the American Hospital Association, which represents corporate-owned hospitals as well as non-profit hospitals.

An AHA study from 2008 says that physician-owned hospitals “lessen patient access to emergency and trauma care;” “damage the financial health of full-service hospitals and lead to cutbacks in service;” “are not more efficient than full service community hospitals;” “use physician-owners to steer patients;” “cherry pick the most profitable patients;” and “provide limited or no emergency services.”

One AHA fact sheet asserts that physician-owned orthopedic and surgical hospitals costs are 20-30 percent higher than average hospitals. Further, these hospitals lead to higher profits just for doctors, the AHA asserts.

“We don’t cherry pick patients, period, end of story. We take patients based on their need for care, not on their ability to pay,” Sandvig said. “It [the health care reform] puts control outside the hand of physicians and patients and into bureaucrats’ hands really.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is one of many organizations suing to have the law declared unconstitutional on the grounds that the federal government cannot compel someone to buy a product.

While the provision on physician hospitals is not part of the lawsuit, it will affect it, said Dr. Jane Orient, AAPS executive director.

“If the law is declared unconstitutional, then the prohibition is part of the bill,” Orient told “There are vested interests in getting rid of physician-owned hospitals because they do a better job and are more affordable.”

The provision in the legislation and efforts opposing these hospitals can be simply explained from Sandvig’s view.

“It’s anti-competitive. I think it’s pretty clear,” Sandvig said. “We’re a model that makes sense that’s affecting innovation. We’re trying to do something better than it has been done. Anytime you do that, there’s going to be a clash between the existing and the new. Unfortunately, it’s a real David and Goliath battle."

Top 10 Reasons To Vote Democrat!

10. I voted Democrat because I believe oil companies' profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn't.

9. I voted Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.

8. I voted Democrat because Freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

7. I voted Democrat because I'm way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves.

6. I voted Democrat because I believe that people who can't tell us if it will rain on Friday can tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don't start driving a Prius.

5. I voted Democrat because I'm not concerned about the slaughter of millions of babies through abortion so long as we keep all death row inmates alive.

4. I voted Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits.

3. I voted Democrat because I believe that business should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the democrats see fit.

2. I voted Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.

1. I voted Democrat because my head is so firmly planted up my ass it's unlikely that I'll ever have another point of view.


Recession, new tax credits have nearly half of US households paying no federal income tax

.Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer, On Wednesday April 7, 2010, 5:38 pm EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tax Day is a dreaded deadline for millions, but for nearly half of U.S. households it's simply somebody else's problem.

About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization.

Most people still are required to file returns by the April 15 deadline. The penalty for skipping it is limited to the amount of taxes owed, but it's still almost always better to file: That's the only way to get a refund of all the income taxes withheld by employers.

In recent years, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17, according to a separate analysis by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax.

Tax cuts enacted in the past decade have been generous to wealthy taxpayers, too, making them a target for President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. Less noticed were tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, which were expanded when Obama signed the massive economic recovery package last year.

The result is a tax system that exempts almost half the country from paying for programs that benefit everyone, including national defense, public safety, infrastructure and education. It is a system in which the top 10 percent of earners -- households making an average of $366,400 in 2006 -- paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.

The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.

"We have 50 percent of people who are getting something for nothing," said Curtis Dubay, senior tax policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

The vast majority of people who escape federal income taxes still pay other taxes, including federal payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, and excise taxes on gasoline, aviation, alcohol and cigarettes. Many also pay state or local taxes on sales, income and property.

That helps explain the country's aversion to taxes, said Clint Stretch, a tax policy expert Deloitte Tax. He said many people simply look at the difference between their gross pay and their take-home pay and blame the government for the disparity.

"It's not uncommon for people to think that their Social Security taxes, their 401(k) contributions, their share of employer health premiums, all of that stuff in their mind gets lumped into income taxes," Stretch said.

The federal income tax is the government's largest source of revenue, raising more than $900 billion -- or a little less than half of all government receipts -- in the budget year that ended last Sept. 30. But with deductions and credits, especially for families with children, there have long been people who don't pay it, mainly lower-income families.

The number of households that don't pay federal income taxes increased substantially in 2008, when the poor economy reduced incomes and Congress cut taxes in an attempt to help recovery.

In 2007, about 38 percent of households paid no federal income tax, a figure that jumped to 49 percent in 2008, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center.

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a law providing most families with rebate checks of $300 to $1,200. Last year, Obama signed the economic recovery law that expanded some tax credits and created others. Most targeted low- and middle-income families.

Obama's Making Work Pay credit provides as much as $800 to couples and $400 to individuals. The expanded child tax credit provides $1,000 for each child under 17. The Earned Income Tax Credit provides up to $5,657 to low-income families with at least three children.

There are also tax credits for college expenses, buying a new home and upgrading an existing home with energy-efficient doors, windows, furnaces and other appliances. Many of the credits are refundable, meaning if the credits exceed the amount of income taxes owed, the taxpayer gets a payment from the government for the difference.

"All these things are ways the government says, if you do this, we'll reduce your tax bill by some amount," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

The government could provide the same benefits through spending programs, with the same effect on the federal budget, Williams said. But it sounds better for politicians to say they cut taxes rather than they started a new spending program, he added.

Obama has pushed tax cuts for low- and middle-income families and tax increases for the wealthy, arguing that wealthier taxpayers fared well in the past decade, so it's time to pay up. The nation's wealthiest taxpayers did get big tax breaks under Bush, with the top marginal tax rate reduced from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, and the second-highest rate reduced from 36 percent to 33 percent.

But income tax rates were lowered at every income level. The changes made it relatively easy for families of four making $50,000 to eliminate their income tax liability.

Here's how they did it, according to Deloitte Tax:

The family was entitled to a standard deduction of $11,400 and four personal exemptions of $3,650 apiece, leaving a taxable income of $24,000. The federal income tax on $24,000 is $2,769.

With two children younger than 17, the family qualified for two $1,000 child tax credits. Its Making Work Pay credit was $800 because the parents were married filing jointly.

The $2,800 in credits exceeds the $2,769 in taxes, so the family makes a $31 profit from the federal income tax. That ought to take the sting out of April 15.

Internal Revenue Service:

Tax Policy Center:

Doctor tells Obama supporters: Go elsewhere for health care

MOUNT DORA — A doctor who considers the national health-care overhaul to be bad medicine for the country posted a sign on his office door telling patients who voted for President Barack Obama to seek care "elsewhere."

"I'm not turning anybody away — that would be unethical," Dr. Jack Cassell, 56, a Mount Dora urologist and a registered Republican opposed to the health plan, told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday. "But if they read the sign and turn the other way, so be it."

The sign reads: "If you voted for Obama … seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now, not in four years."

Estella Chatman, 67, of Eustis, whose daughter snapped a photo of the typewritten sign, sent the picture to U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the Orlando Democrat who riled Republicans last year when he characterized the GOP's idea of health care as, "If you get sick, America … Die quickly."

Chatman said she heard about the sign from a friend referred to Cassell after his physician recently died. She said her friend did not want to speak to a reporter but was dismayed by Cassell's sign.

"He's going to find another doctor," she said.

Cassell may be walking a thin line between his right to free speech and his professional obligation, said William Allen, professor of bioethics, law and medical professionalism at the University of Florida's College of Medicine.

Allen said doctors cannot refuse patients on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability, but political preference is not one of the legally protected categories specified in civil-rights law. By insisting he does not quiz his patients about their politics and has not turned away patients based on their vote, the doctor is "trying to hold onto the nub of his ethical obligation," Allen said.

"But this is pushing the limit," he said.

Cassell, who has practiced medicine in GOP-dominated Lake County since 1988, said he doesn't quiz his patients about their politics, but he also won't hide his disdain for the bill Obama signed and the lawmakers who passed it.

In his waiting room, Cassell also has provided his patients with photocopies of a health-care timeline produced by Republican leaders that outlines "major provisions" in the health-care package. The doctor put a sign above the stack of copies that reads: "This is what the morons in Washington have done to your health care. Take one, read it and vote out anyone who voted for it."

Cassell, whose lawyer wife, Leslie Campione, has declared herself a Republican candidate for Lake County commissioner, said three patients have complained, but most have been "overwhelmingly supportive" of his position.

"They know it's not good for them," he said.

Cassell, who previously served as chief of surgery at Florida Hospital Waterman in Tavares, said a patient's politics would not affect his care for them, although he said he would prefer not to treat people who support the president.

"I can at least make a point," he said.

The notice on Cassell's office door could cause some patients to question his judgment or fret about the care they might receive if they don't share his political views, Allen said. He said doctors are wise to avoid public expressions that can affect the physician-patient relationship.

Erin VanSickle, spokeswoman for the Florida Medical Association, would not comment specifically.

But she noted in an e-mail to the Sentinel that "physicians are extended the same rights to free speech as every other citizen in the United States."

The outspoken Grayson described Cassell's sign as "ridiculous."

"I'm disgusted," he said. "Maybe he thinks the Hippocratic Oath says, ‘Do no good.' If this is the face of the right wing in America, it's the face of cruelty. … Why don't they change the name of the Republican Party to the Sore Loser Party?"

Stephen Hudak can be reached at or 352-742-5930.
Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel

Bryan thinks Civil War Looming...(my likely scenarios)

Millitias with WMD's planning assaults. Bricks and threats and assaults on Congressman! It is clear there are MANY more examples of movement toward a looming civil war.

Gov. Perry of Texas claims succession is a possibility he is considering. 17 other states follow Texas by declaring sovereignty! Over 30 states file lawsuits against federal gov't. regarding the healthcare bill. Many soldiers including officers refuse deployment based on Obama's citizenship (or lack of proof thereof). The extreme division Obama has brought...proof in the polls, tea party movement, etc. I'm telling you...and I've been saying it for quite some time...I'm pretty confident we are heading to a civil war. Not like the one in the history books. The millitary is too powerful for our militias and I highly doubt the fed. gov't. is dumb enough to attempt to go door to door (it's been tough cranking in Iraq and would be FAR tougher here). But I see no reason why self sufficient states such as Texas and Alaska couldn't succeed and refuse federal taxes and lead the way for 30-40 more red states. For the most part it could be done without too much bloodshed but it would leave our country split in two!  Then the "blue" country would attempt to keep businesses there and tax the crap out of them to provide entitlements and handouts for all the moochers that would come a runnin to the state for free food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education, cell phones, abortions, etc. And the "RED" country would go back to what our forefathers intended and you better believe all the businesses and doctors, etc. would relocate there! The "RED" country could drill for it's own oil off the coast of Texas and Alaska and LA., etc. It would THRIVE and DOMINATE and the "blue" country would fall to it's own liberal policies pretty quickly kind of like the USSR in the cold war. It probably wouldn't be long before they would be asking to join the "RED" country again!

Bryan Baumgart Report: Democratic Stimulus Haul is Almost Double Republicans

by Veronique de Rugy

Yesterday The Hill reported that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that “keeping a Democratic majority in the House is ‘too important to the country,’” which is why “she had no intention of ceding control of the House in this fall’s elections, despite Republican optimism that they can win control of the chamber.” Appearing on PBS, Pelosi addressed potential Democratic losses due to Sunday’s health care vote, “I’ve said if passing this bill means I have to walk out of my office that night, it would be with the greatest pride.” However, she cautioned, “I haven’t any intention of losing the Democratic majority.”

Sure. Here is another reason Mrs. Pelosi might want to keep a democratic majority. That’s because, as it turns out, based on my new analysis of the data, Democratic districts are getting 1.8 times more money on average than Republican districts. Using data, and cleaning it up seriously to be able to use it, we find that Republican districts are getting on average $260.6 million in stimulus awards while democratic districts are getting on average $471.5 million. The average is award per district is $385.9 million.

Interestingly, my data also confirms that the stimulus funds are not allocated based on unemployment rates or even variations in unemployment rates. So basically, if the administration believes that government spending can create jobs, the allocation of the funds doesn’t show it.