Is the recession over yet? – II

“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” — Winston Churchill

Statisticians say the recession ended mid-2009, four and a half years ago. But what do you think? Does it feel like the recession ended or does it feel like we are still in a recession? In a recent poll, 74% said we are still in a recession.

It’s no wonder most people feel that the recession never ended. Employment is miserable. GDP growth is pathetic. Median family income is down for four straight years. Almost 50 million Americans live below the federal poverty line. A record 47 million people are on food stamps. One pundit declared that “More people in the United States are poor, unemployed, underemployed, looking for work, disgusted and quit looking for work, on food stamps, and on disability than anytime in our history.”

If those words look familiar it is because I first wrote them three months ago. In that column, the focus was on the worst employment picture in more than 30 years. Three recent pieces of economic news make this a good time to look more broadly at the economy.

1) On April 22, the New York Times reported that the U.S. no longer has the highest Median Family Income in the world. Canada is now #1.
2) April 30, the headline news was that in the first quarter of 2014, the U.S. economy grew at an almost non-existent rate of 0.1%.
3) That same day other headlines stated that China would soon pass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy.

Our economy stinks and we will have more such headlines if we don’t fix it. So, how do we fix it? The first step is to replace all the politicians who don’t even realize there is a problem, who do the same wrong things year after year expecting different results.

For decades, probably for more than a century, the U.S. has had the richest middle class in the world. Not just the richest middle class, but also the richest lower class, the richest upper class, and even the richest poor people. Those in the bottom 10% were much better off than the bottom 10% in any other country.

U.S. median family income is now down for five years in a row. In Canada, median family income is up for four of the last five years. Is it pure coincidence that Canada has been governed by Conservatives in recent years, the U.S. by Progressives?

The Index of Economic Freedom is an annual scoring of some 180 nations by ten measures of economic freedom. As the Index states, “The ideals of economic freedom are strongly associated with healthier societies, cleaner environments, greater per capita wealth, human development, democracy, and poverty elimination.”

The U.S. was rated economically “free” in 2006. Since then, its freedom score has dropped 6 points, it has fallen out of the top 10 to now #12 and is ranked only “mostly free”. The U.S. has lost economic freedom for seven years in a row, particularly in the areas of property rights, and freedom from corruption.

Conversely, Canada has increased its freedom score by more than 10 points over the last 20 years. It is currently ranked #6, and is rated “free”.

Hmm, is there a pattern here? The U.S. loses economic freedom seven years in a row and median family income goes down for five years in a row. Canada increases its economic freedom and median family income goes up four of the last five years. It now has the world’s highest median family income.

GDP growth in this so-called “recovery” has been pathetic. For four years it has been around 1.5% to 2%. That is the slowest by far of all the recoveries in 65 years. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has a nice interactive chart of all postwar recoveries. The current recovery amounts to merely an 11.1% increase in GDP over the almost five years since the recovery began. Many of the previous recoveries had double or almost triple that growth. This recovery is barely half the average of the ten previous recoveries.

Imagine if we had had as much as average growth in the last five years. Investor’s Business Daily estimates that we would now have $1.3 trillion higher income. That is about $10,000 higher per household. That is the cost of bad economic policies.

Apologists for the Obama “recovery” say that the recession was especially severe. Historically, the more severe the recession, the stronger the recovery. It should have been easy to produce better than average numbers. They now say that financial recessions take longer to recover. But that’s not what they said back in 2009 and into 2010. Back then they forecast a strong recovery. It was only after their economic plans failed that they started spouting the “financial recession” excuse.

The Democrat Party would be wise to heed the words of one of its Presidential candidates from some 20 years ago, the late Senator Paul Tsongas, who said, “You cannot redistribute wealth that you never created. You cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers.”

Oh, the Shame!

“This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.” — Will Rogers

According to a recent report, “Taxachusetts” now has a lower business tax burden than NH. For decades, we have ridiculed Massachusetts for its high taxes. Now it seems that our business tax rates are even higher than theirs. Among the six New England states, NH is outranked by both Connecticut and Massachusetts for low business taxes.

Did you know that the share of state taxes paid by businesses is almost 60%? In Massachusetts, businesses pay about 35% of the state’s taxes. NH businesses pay the fourth highest percentage of state taxes in the entire country.

With businesses paying so much of our taxes and employing most of our people, shouldn’t we want more businesses, hiring more employees, paying more taxes? Sadly, Governor Hassan and House Democrats have done nothing to encourage businesses to move to or expand in NH. Of the 180 Democrat bills passed by the House, not a single one makes NH more attractive for business.

Some 20 years ago a Democratic Presidential candidate remarked that “You cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers.” Today’s Democratic politicians often seem to be anti-business and to hate employers.

NH House Democrats this year have passed some 30 bills that make life a little more difficult, a little more expensive for businesses. None of those bills alone will kill a business, but together they will make some businesses decide, “It’s just not worth it. Too much hassle, too much risk.” Collectively, they create a “Closed for Business” sign around NH.

There were some bills that were ever so slightly pro-business. Democrats sponsored some; Republicans sponsored many more. But all of those pro-business bills were killed. 

Did you know that a convenience store that sells beer and wine is mandated to keep $3,000 of groceries in stock? A bipartisan proposal would have removed the mandate and let stores stock what their customers wanted rather than what politicians wanted. That bill was killed. A few days later a seacoast paper reported that a gas station was fined $250 for not having the requisite amount of groceries on hand.

I can’t help wondering how many inspectors we taxpayers are funding to travel around from store to store counting how much groceries each has in stock. Is that really a good use of taxpayers’ dollars? How about letting the business owner stock what he thinks his customers want? If he thinks they want to buy hamburgers and hot dogs along with beer, then let him stock those items. If he thinks his customers want nothing more than wine and cigars, then so be it. Let the customer be king, not the politicians.

In a recent poll, 74% said we are still in a recession. It’s no wonder: Employment is miserable. GDP growth is pathetic. Median family income is down for four straight years. If you are like most people, you think our representatives should be working to help the economy grow and create more jobs. The Democrats down in Concord have not been doing that, nor have they made any effort to fix the problems with ObamaCare such as people losing their hospitals, their doctors, their plans, and seeing 35% increases in their premiums and deductibles.

So just how have the Do-nothing Democrats been spending their time? You might say they have been rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They have no concept of the big problems ordinary people are facing, so they have made piddling little changes to our laws. They have passed bills to establish thirteen new committees, to add members to some advisory councils, and even to support voting rights in Washington, DC.

The Democratic House passed a bill to tax paint $0.75 per gallon. They tried to ban children under 18 from using tanning facilities even with permission of their parents. That bill seemed headed for passage until members realized the absurdity that young girls would be able to get an abortion without parental consent but would not be able to get a tan even with parental consent.

What else have the Democrats spent time on? Two social issues come to mind. They tried twice to restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners, while doing nothing about criminals. The first bill took more than an hour of debate but in the end was decisively killed by more than 2:1. The second bill also took more than an hour of debate. The vote was closer but the measure was again defeated.

Another hot button for Democrats is voter identification. They offered four separate bills that would make it easier for out-of-state persons to vote fraudulently in NH. They like to claim that there is no voter fraud but how can you find fraud if you don’t look for it? Last year, North Carolina strengthened its voter ID laws; this year they are investigating some 800 cases of apparent fraud, and another 35,000 cases of possible fraud. 

Come November could we please elect representatives (and a Governor) who will work on the economy and jobs?

ObamaCare problems and solutions

“A government which robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul.” — George Bernard Shaw

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” Do you remember that promise? President Obama spoke those words dozens of times. Well, it wasn’t true – and he knew it. His own Department of HHS estimated and published in the Federal Register in 2010 that 93 million Americans would have their policies canceled in order to meet the requirements of ObamaCare. For the next three years, Obama continued to tell people they could keep their plans, even though he knew it was not true.

The fact checking organization, PolitiFact, rated Obama’s statement as “Lie of the Year” for 2013. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave it four Pinocchios and also ranked it “Lie of the Year.”

New Hampshire’s Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter joined in Obama’s lie of the year, repeating it many times. It is possible that they did not know it was a lie, but they certainly should have known it.

Then last year, cancellation letters went out to some 4 million Americans. Millions of people were perfectly happy with their plans, but the ObamaCare law did not allow them to keep their plans. Virtually every major NH newspaper has run stories about the turmoil caused by ObamaCare-mandated cancellations.

People lost the plans they liked, may have lost their nearby hospital, may have lost the doctor they’d been visiting for decades. In New Hampshire, the one and only insurer on the ObamaCare exchange nixed 10 of the 26 New Hampshire hospitals. In parts of the state, you may have to drive 2 or 3 hours, halfway across the state to go to a new hospital, driving right by your old, much closer hospital. Some people had to give up the doctor they have been seeing for decades and find a new doctor perhaps hours away.

Even worse is that the new ObamaCare policies don’t cover care in hospitals outside NH. Some of the best doctors and hospitals in the country are in Boston, but NH citizens cannot go there. The Union Leader reported about a woman who was told by her Nashua hospital that her cancer was untreatable. Under her old insurance she was allowed to go to a Massachusetts hospital for treatment and now three years later she is doing well. Under her new ObamaCare insurance she would be dead.

And then there are the premiums and deductibles. I have talked with people who say the combination of higher premiums and higher deductibles is costing them an extra $1,000 per month. I asked an insurance agent if her clients were seeing increases like that. She responded that most were not quite that high, but she could believe that some were paying that much extra. Another insurance agent told me that his clients were seeing up to a 100% increase but the average was about 20% to 40% increase. 

Nationally, Aetna’s CEO reported that premiums have increased an average of 30% to 40%. He also reported seeing lower employment overall and more part-time employment. A large union similarly reported seeing a shift to part-time work by companies seeking to avoid ObamaCare’s requirements. The Congressional Budget Office recently predicted that ObamaCare during the next ten years will cause job losses equivalent to 2.5 million people.
 
It’s no surprise that a recent Gallup poll found that more than twice as many Americans say that ObamaCare has hurt them or their families compared to the number it has helped. It might be a surprise that most (63%) say it has made little difference but that is only a matter of time. Most people get their insurance via their employer and that part of ObamaCare has been delayed and delayed – for political reasons.

As the New York Times reported, “[The recent change] is designed to provide political cover for Democratic senators facing tough re-election campaigns.” The law as written would have had millions more cancellation notices going out a month or two before Election Day. So with a stroke of his pen, without any authority granted to him, Obama decided to change the law so that the cancellation notices would go out AFTER the election.

The Wall Street Journal notes that “if [ObamaCare] were really working the way it should, senators who voted for it wouldn’t be running away from it, and the administration wouldn’t be forced to choose between enforcing its provisions and protecting the Democratic majority.”

As much as nervous politicians are shying away from ObamaCare, so also are the uninsured. The Washington Post reports that “The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway in signing up Americans who lack insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal, according to a pair of new surveys. Only one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private plans through the new marketplaces enrolled as of last month.”

The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. NH Democratic leadership seems oblivious to any problems with ObamaCare, jobs, and the economy. NH Republicans know that there are problems and that we can help solve those problems. The guiding principle is that people should be able to choose what they want, not what some politicians in Washington tell them they should want.

Democrats Are the Out-of-Touch Extremists

The public overwhelmingly believes the country is headed in the wrong direction, that current economic policies aren’t working, that President Obama is doing a bad job, that government should be smaller and that ObamaCare should be repealed. But not Democrats.

Those are findings from a new poll by Investor’s Business Daily. On issue after issue, large majorities of the public tilt one way, but the Democrats tilt the other way.

Is the country headed in the right direction? 64% say no. Among Independents, 71% say we are headed in the wrong direction along with 92% of Republicans. But 66% of Democrats think we are headed in the right direction.

On all of the poll’s questions, Independents aligned with Republicans and against Democrats.

Democrats have their own intra-party divide

If there is a division in the Republican party, there is also one among Democrats.

a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party already looking ahead to the next presidential election. The push from the left represents both a critique of Obama’s tenure and a clear challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential front-runner, who carries a more centrist banner.
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But the push from the left carries political risks for Democrats, who could be accused of being reckless about the national debt or insensitive to the demands of business and economic growth. What’s more, many Americans are uncomfortable with the notion of the government redistributing income far beyond what happens today in order to accomplish basic elements of the populist agenda. Liberal congressional or presidential candidates could pressure more moderate candidates to veer to the left, perhaps reducing their electability.
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At the same time, many on the left view Clinton suspiciously, arguing that longtime advisers to her and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, are too close to Wall Street.
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“I personally have Clinton fatigue, noting that it was a Clinton team that has been running Obama’s economics,”

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Liberals, however, are fawning over Warren, who was the brains behind the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and focused on the economic condition of the working class when she was a professor at Harvard. In addition to calling for breaking up the big banks and expanding Social Security, she has proposed a range of new policies to cut student debt.
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Another potential source of pressure building on the left is Sen. Bernard Sanders (Vt.), an independent who caucuses with Democrats. He has said he might run for president if no liberal he considers adequate steps up.
 The comments tell even more of the story, e.g.
  • Warren or Sanders yes, Hillary or Biden and I go fishing. And for those critics who respond with how bad the Republican alternative is, my response is “really”?
  • I can’t think of a more attractive candidate for the status quo and gray establishment than Hillary, just look at her record.

The death of liberalism?