Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Welfare reform worked and still does

President Clinton vetoed welfare reform passed by Congress - twice. Then the Republicans passed it again and he signed it and claimed credit for it. Ten years later it has been a rare Washington success. Poverty among black dropped over 1/3 after being about the same for over 25 years. Poverty among children dropped substantially for all racial groups. The economic boom gets some credit, but not all. Washington really changed the rules and people responded. Robert Samuelsom reports at RealClearPolitics:
The 1996 law replaced Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) -- traditional welfare -- with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Congress created AFDC in 1935 as part of the landmark Social Security Act, which also included unemployment insurance and old-age assistance. In an era when few women worked, AFDC was intended to provide modest income support for widows and their children. By the 1980s, it had evolved into something else: guaranteed payments for single, often never-married mothers. Critics argued that the program bred dependence, weakened self-reliance and rewarded out-of-wedlock births. TANF set new rules. It eliminated the automatic entitlement to benefits. To qualify, mothers had to look for work, take job training or both (states set exact requirements). There was a general five-year lifetime limit on receiving benefits.
In a new book, "Work Over Welfare,'' Brookings Institution senior fellow Ron Haskins -- a Republican congressional staffer during the welfare debate -- cites much evidence of success.
Welfare caseloads have plunged. From August 1996 to June 2005, the number of people on welfare dropped from 12.2 million to 4.5 million. About 60 percent of mothers who left welfare got work. Their incomes generally rose. Many qualified for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which subsidizes low-income workers. Finally, there were intangible benefits: work connections, self-respect. One lesson is that what people do for themselves often overshadows what government does for them. Since 1991, for example, the teen birthrate has dropped by a third. The mothers least capable of supporting children have had fewer of them. Welfare reform didn't single-handedly cause this. But it reinforced a broader shift in the social climate -- one emphasizing personal responsibility over victimhood.
Good for Congress! (with minor assistance by Bill.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Rumor - US-Canada-Mexico Super State

Has President Bush committed to end the sovereignty of the US and to enable Mexico and Canada to join to form a single "super state"? Some people are convinced. Anthony Wile says he was doing research for a book and found this:
After a year “in the trenches” researching a number of such issues for my new book “High Alert” (High Alert Publishing,) I can tell you in all sincerity that it actually boils down to this: Believe it or not, America’s lawfully elected government is trying to effect the dissolution of the United States of America via a merger with Canada and Mexico. Hard to believe. Imagine if the New York Times carried a front page news article entitled Administration Seeks Merger of the United States with Mexico and Canada to Form SuperState – U.S. constitution abolished, new super government to be formed. Wouldn’t there be an outcry? Well, that’s what’s happening – all except the outcry.
News sources have covered the stories that make the pieces. Wile says he put the pieces together and found the "super state" picture. For example:
2001: Robert Pastor’s 2001 book, “Toward a North American Community,” calls for the creation of a North American Union — “Much of Pastor’s thinking appears aimed at limiting the power and sovereignty of the United States as we enter this new super-regional entity. Pastor has also called for the creation of a new currency which he has coined the ‘Amero,’ a currency that is proposed to replace the U.S. dollar, the Canadian dollar, and the Mexican peso.” The Plan to Replace the Dollar With the 'Amero' by Jerome R. Corsi, May 2006, April 2001: President George W. Bush signs Declaration of Quebec City — “This is a ‘commitment to hemispheric integration’ larded with favorite United Nations doubletalk such as ‘interdependent,’ ‘greater economic integration,’ and ‘sustainable development.’” Plan to Integrate the U.S., Mexico and Canada, July 2005,
To his discredit his "links" do not point to each story, but to the top level of the source. Phylis Schlafly is covering this here is one story. I don't know. I will have to follow this.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Generals' Children

Hebert Meyer at American Thinker 3/18/2005:
With each passing year, it becomes less likely that the order to shoot will be obeyed – which means it’s becoming more likely that revolutions against dictatorships will succeed. This is precisely what has already happened in Georgia and Ukraine. The question now is whether this also will happen in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iran, and in suddenly-volatile Kyrgyzstan. And will it happen – down the road a bit – in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and – still further down the road – perhaps in Russia, China and even in North Korea. There are several reasons why the generals are growing ever more reluctant to shoot into the crowds, including the presence of television cameras and the very real fear of one day being hauled before the International Court of Justice as a war criminal. But the overriding reason why the generals are growing reluctant to shoot is this: they don’t want to shoot their own children
It is late at night in Damascus, or Teheran, or Cairo, or maybe even Moscow, and the general is sitting in his easy chair with his tie loosened, his shoes off and perhaps with a drink in his hand. He is exhausted, but he cannot sleep. All day he has been reading reports of growing unrest, of strikes, of demonstrations against the regime he is sworn to defend. It is getting out of hand, and sooner rather than later he will be given the order to shoot. Scenes of the resulting carnage will be played and re-played on televisions around the world – including the one in his wife’s bedroom. And even if the revolution is stopped, surely it will start again before long and even more blood will flow through the streets. The general finishes his drink, turns out the lamp beside his chair, walks slowly toward his bedroom – and realizes that his two teen-agers aren’t home…..

The perfect system has them waiting

The ideal of the government-can-do-anything crowd is Canada's socialized medicine system. Surely the Canadians agree. Not. The Globe and Mail reports:
Canadians feel they're waiting too long for health care: poll Canadian Press OTTAWA — A new survey suggests more than a third of Canadian households feel they were denied timely access to health care in the last three months. The exhaustive poll by Decima Research says 37 per cent of respondents feel someone in their household didn't get prompt treatment. The survey was wide-ranging — 3,000 respondents were asked whether someone in their home needed care, what kind of care they needed, and whether they felt they waited too long. About three-quarters of Canadian households needed some form of care in the last three months — and half of those reported they couldn't get it fast enough, the survey suggests.
OK. No system appears perfect to the people who rely on it. But 37% is substantial. And this summer, while on our annual vacation in Canada, a woman eagerly collected the contact information for the surgeon who operated on my wife's back. She is willing to travel to the US and pay out of her pocket, because she can't get the care she needs from Canada's system.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

If you like high taxes

If you like high taxes then don't wait. Pay more today. Don't wait until tomorrow, double the taxes you pay today. Send your check to:

Gifts to the United States U.S. Department of the Treasury Credit Accounting Branch 3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D37 Hyattsville, MD 20782

Despite the millions who like high taxes they don't receive much. $2 million last year. Tim Worstall has more encouragement at TCS Daily.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Great News Hidden

You don't hear about the booming US economy. Because President Bush would get credit; the news media won't ever do that. Lawrence Kudlow reports:
Following a meeting with his economic advisors at Camp David, the president let 'er rip, stating that, "The foundation of our economy is solid, and it's strong. Because of the tax cuts we passed, American workers and families and small businesses are keeping more of the money they earn. And they're using that money to drive this economy of ours forward." Could he be any clearer?
And how about the distinguished economists? There's no counting how many recessions Times columnist Paul Krugman has predicted, but Mr. Bush was exactly right to point out 4% real GDP growth during the first half of 2006, brisk productivity rates, 5.5 million new jobs over the past three years, and a historically low 4.8% unemployment rate. Mr. Bush's critics say he's whistling past the graveyard. But the president rightly insists that, "The entrepreneurial spirit in the country is strong, and that's good for America."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bureaucratic Princes Not Civil Servants

Myth: Civil Servants work to serve the public, but receive less pay and benefits than us private-sector workers. Fact: Public-sector work is much more secure than private. Life-time job security is available in many areas of work, not all. Fact: They receive much higher pay - much higher. Paul Jacob reports at
Average compensation for federal civilian workers last year came to $106,579 — which Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute notes is "exactly twice the average compensation paid in the U.S. private sector." Throw out the benefits and the difference is less, but still a whopping 62 percent more for the federal worker. Of course, past figures used to bolster up the "underpaid civil servant" notion ignore benefits and consider just the nominal wage rate. But today's 62 percent difference is hard to ignore, isn't it? But face it: nominal wages aren't real wages; for a true comparison we must add on all the benefits, as Edwards does: "Federal workers receive generous health benefits during work and retirement, a pension plan with inflation protection, a retirement savings plan with generous matching contributions, large disability benefits, and union protections." Let me put a stop to transcribing here. There's a lot more, and I don't get paid enough to risk carpal tunnel.
His source is Chris Edwards of Cato Institute writing in the Washington Post.
Figuring in all the benefits, Edwards suggests that government employees should be paid less than private sector employees, not more.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis is the source for the original data.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alaska Oil Production

Good news. New oil drilling and production areas are being opened in Alaska. This is opposed by the people who want the price of oil to keep climbing. The same people who talk about the US being self sufficient in energy. 2,000,000,000 barrels of oil: Lake Teshekpuk is on Alaska's remote North Slope. The Guardian (UK):
Government geologists believe at least 2 billion barrels of oil and huge amounts of natural gas lie beneath the coastal lagoons, river deltas and sedge grass meadows - an area also where caribou give birth to their calves and thousands of geese migrate each summer to molt. Within days, the Interior Department will open tracts in the lake area for leasing, with the winning bids to be announced in late September. The lake and its surrounding wetlands are within the federal National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), a vast area of 22 million acres set aside in 1923 by the federal government for its oil and gas resources. Unlike the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge farther to the east, the NPRA is acknowledged by all sides to be an area for energy development.
The area is limited:
Interior's Bureau of Land Management said that in its upcoming lease offering it will limit the surface areas within the nearly 500,000 acres to protect geese molting and caribou calving areas. The restrictions apply to roads and drilling pads, but not to elevated 30-inch pipelines.
All those opposed sell your car and cut off electricity where you live. Lake Teshekouk is at 70.35 N, 135.30 W. I have to learn how to include a link to Google Earth for it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Encouraging investment for Retirement

The New York Times is against you receiving investment advice. Huh? The recently passed pension reform bill among many thing has several items aimed at encouraging individuals to save for retirement. Employers will be able to automatically enroll employees in the 401(k) plan. But the NYT discovered the Republican dirty trick. The managers of the 401(k)s will be able to give advice on investment. Good, I mean, bad, says the Times. Most people could use some advice. My observation in the 25 or so years my employer has had the 401(k) is that too many people park their money in a fixed-rate fund that is outperformed by the stock market in the long run. Not every year, but saving for retirement is the long run. They could use some investment advice. But the NYT warns:
But the bill also imperils savers by allowing for potentially biased investment advice. Previous law quite sensibly banned mutual fund companies from offering advice if their funds were among an employee’s 401(k) options, but it did not give employers a legally sanctioned way to provide such advice. For the new bill, some senators had proposed protections for employers to hire qualified independent advisers. Unfortunately, at the behest of securities industry campaign donors, the House majority leader, John Boehner, fought hard for basically lifting the ban, and won.
Donald Luskin's anonymous friend warns about investing in the NYT:
Here are three pieces of solid and unconflicted advice: 1. Don't buy the New York Times; the fools give it away online for free. 2. Do not take their advice -- it is bad and conflicted (meaning: it will fail you and they only have their political interests in mind) 3. Don't buy their stock; let Sulzberger throw inherited money down his drain.
And he has a good question:
Can the New York Times promote...the New York Times? Or, is that a conflict?
"Well, that's different," says Pinch Sulzberger. Sure is, it impacts his fortune. Let's play it straight. Novice investors receiving investment advice will result in more savings. This is good. Anonymous friend again:
If a company which sells investment products and services is free to promote them, more investment products and services will be sold. If this catches on, more individuals will invest in their own futures. Individually and collectively, this could be good. No guarantees, of course, because investments can fail. Some investments, such as shares of the New York Times Company, can perform very poorly. Losing more than half of your investment is worse even than risking a potential conflict from an advisor. Duh.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Who we are fighting

President Bush finally said it - Islamic fascists:
The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.
From the White House. It is hard to focus your energy when you won't admit who you are fighting. We were not attacked by Islam; we were attacked by fascists within Islam. Fascist? That's terrible. Consider how defines fascist: a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism. Yes, centralized authority. Under a dictator. Stringent socioeconomic controls. Suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship. That is Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Iran, Ghaddafi's Libya (current signs of improvement), Syria and North Korea. And it is what the British bombing conspiritors want to force on the United States. via Neal Boortz. He also describes the irresponsible response of the US Muslim PR machine. They pounce on President Bush. But they have nothing to say against terrorism.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Investing in oil exploration

Oil companies are investing in exploration and new technologies for extracting oil. You didn't see this on the TV news. They are investing MORE than the amount of their record profits. The Washington Times reports.
Big Oil's record profits attract attention and outrage, but an independent study has found that oil companies do exactly what economic textbooks say they should do with all that money: They invest it in oil exploration and development efforts that eventually should relieve pressure on prices. The top 20 U.S. and Canadian oil companies actually invested 50 percent more than they earned in the past 10 years in efforts to produce more oil ...
Wouldn't you try to perpetuate the business you managed? But they are challenged because the cheap opportunities are gone, so the costs are much higher.

... but adverse geopolitical developments conspired to give them fewer opportunities to expand production while fading oil fields in the U.S. and elsewhere forced them to spend substantially more just to maintain current production, according to the study by the Ernst & Young accounting firm.

"Reinvestment is under way, and it's strong," said Charles Swanson, an energy analyst at the firm, but "average costs to find and develop oil and gas reserves have tripled since 1997, while total reserve-replacement costs have more than doubled."

They invested more than their profits? Yes. 50% more:
The study found that the top companies -- including Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron, among others -- took in a mind-numbing $5 trillion in revenue from sales of oil and related products between 1995 and 2005. After subtracting the cost of equipment, leases, labor and other operating expenses, the companies posted whopping profits of $336 billion. Over the same time span, however, the companies spent even more than they earned -- $550 billion -- on oil exploration and development. Some of them went deeply into debt to finance new ventures, especially during times of lean profits. Despite the massive sums of money oil companies spent trying to find more oil for the world's fuel-thirsty consumers, returns on investment over the past 10 years declined sharply because most existing oil fields in the West are in decline and the most promising new discoveries are not available for development, Ernst & Young found.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

History for the Global-Warming Fundamentalists - 1930

Yes, this has been a hot summer. Cool Seattle had 3 days over 95F. That's proof that the Earth has heated up. And it's your fault and you have to get out of your car. And watch Albert Gore, Jr. race by in his limousine. If you ignore history, then go ahead and walk a mile or two to the bus. But history has other lessons for us. The hottest year since weather records have been kept in the United States was 1930. CNS News reports.
"From June 1 to August 31, 1930, 21 days had high temperatures that were 100 degrees or above" in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, Patrick Michaels, senior fellow for environmental studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, told Cybercast News Service. "That summer has never been approached, and it's not going to be approached this year." Between July 19 and Aug. 9 of that year, heat records were set on nine days and they remain unbroken more than three-quarters of a century later. "That's hot," added Michaels, who also serves as professor of natural resources at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.
And has AlGore fotten the Dustbowl of the 1930s?
The summer of 1930 also marked the beginning of the longest drought of the 20th century. In 1934, dry regions stretched from New York and Pennsylvania across the Great Plains to California. A "dust bowl" covered about 50 million acres in the south-central plains during the winter of 1935-1936.
The Earth might be getting warmer, but it is not conclusive. My complaint with Prince Albert is that he wants to blame me for it. And he wants to shut down the US economy while he keeps all the privileges he was born to. The Earth goes through cycles of warmer/cooler. There once were farms in Greenland. If we are now on a warmer cycle we cannot conclude that we caused it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Trade - Signs of Life

Thomas Barnett is convinced that the failure of the Doha round of WTO talks is not fatal. As is often the case, when governments get all wrapped around and do nothing but pose and spend billions, the private sector and individual countries come through. On his blog:
... signs of Doha's revival already here (wow, that took long!). Not surprisingly, the private sector comes to the rescue (an underlying logic of Globalization IV (2001 and counting) is that the private sector is way ahead of the public sector (economics racing ahead of politics, technology races ahead of security)). Doha ultimately succeeds, just like Kyoto ultimately happens, thanks largely to companies and local governments and not national gov's. Now more than ever we live in a world in which the government's main challenge is getting out of the way of markets and sub-national and trans-national actors (the good ones that vastly outnumber and outperform the baddies--corps and NGOs/PVOs rule, terrorists and narcos and rebels drool!) that are doing God's work of spreading the connectivity and rules of globalization (leaving govs mostly to protect the weak and constrain the powerful on the margins, trusting people to do the right thing). So chin up.
I am watching.