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September 30, 2013

Taxes and Arlington County Employment

Yesterday's Arlington Sun Gazette reported on the "the good and the bad" of the county's employment picture. Although workers in Arlington County earn among the highest salaries in the nation, the Sun Gazette reports "the trend for more than a year has been not only lower average wages in the county, but fewer overall jobs, as well." Here's the conundrum for the county's masterminds and their bureaucrats:

"The average weekly wage in the first quarter of 2013 was $1,621 in Arlington, nearly 65 percent higher than the national average of $989 and healthy enough to place the county eighth among the nation’s 334 largest counties, according to figures reported Sept. 26 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"But dig deeper, and the news is not so rosy."

When the Sun Gazette dug deeper, here is what they found:

  • "Total countywide employment as tracked by the federal government stood at 164,700 in March, down 1.6 percent from a year before. The decline compares to increases in Virginia’s other large counties (as well as the city of Alexandria), and ranked Arlington 327th out of 334 counties across the nation. The national employment increase for the period stood at 1.6 percent.
  • "The average weekly wage in the county was down 0.3 percent in the first quarter from a year before, even as most – but not all – other major jurisdictions in Virginia posted increases. Nationally, the average increase in wages rose 0.6 percent from year to year; Arlington ranked 254th out of 334 in salary change."

Here is what I consider the 'take away' according to the Sun Gazette's news story:

"The mixed results for Arlington are in line with where they have been for the past year or more, and have spurred county officials to reach out to the business community for advice and support. County Manager Barbara Donnellan recently met with both a group of entrepreneurs and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s government affairs and economic development committee, all in an effort to brainstorm and gather feedback."

The story is packed with statistical data about Arlington County in comparison to its peers so read the entire article. Kudos to the Sun Gazette.

September 29, 2013

ObamaCare and an ObamaCare Slush Fund

The staff of Americans for Tax Reform posted two stories on Wednesday of last week. First, John Kartch and Ryan Ellis report on an audit report released by TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration). TIGTA reports, "The IRS is unable to account for $67 million spent from a slush fund established for Obamacare implementation." Kartch and Ellis write:

"The IRS is unable to account for $67 million spent from a slush fund established for Obamacare implementation, according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report released today.

"The “Health Insurance Reform Implementation Fund” (HIRIF) was tucked into Obamacare in order to give the IRS money to enforce the tax provisions of the healthcare law.  The fund, totaling some $1 billion of taxpayer money, was used to roll out enforcement mechanisms for the approximately 50 tax provisions of Obamacare.

"According to the report:  “Specifically, the IRS did not account for or attempt to quantify approximately $67 million [from the slush fund] of indirect ACA costs incurred for Fiscal Years 2010 through 2012.” (emphasis in the original)

TIGTA also reported that travel for 38 employees was charged to the HIRIF, but "no portion of their salary and related benefits was charged to the HIRIF.

In their reporting on the ObamaCare (technically the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) slush fund, Kartch and Ellis note that "The report estimates that total slush fund spending cost taxpayers the equivalent of 1,272 new full time IRS agents." Their observation is interesting because on Fox News that evening, Greta van Sustern complained that in Washington, D.C., $67 million is very often sloughed-off as too small to matter in a $3.6 trillion federal budget. However, pointing out the ObamaCare slush fund is equivalent to 1,272 ObamaCare enforcement agents makes even a small dollar amount meaningful.

In the second ATR news item, John Kartch writes:

"During his Tuesday remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Obama admitted that his health care law raises taxes:  “So what we did — it’s paid for by a combination of things. We did raise taxes on some things.” (emphasis in the original)

“Some things” is an understatement. Below is just a partial list of Obamacare’s new or higher taxes on Americans."

Kartch then goes on to identify a number of the taxes that begin in 2013, 2014 or 2018. One such tax includes the medical device tax. According to Kartch, "Medical device manufacturers employ 409,000 people in 12,000 plants across the country. Obamacare imposes a new 2.3 percent excise tax on gross sales – even if the company does not earn a profit in a given year.  In addition to killing small business jobs and impacting research and development budgets, this will make everything from pacemakers to artificial hips more expensive." Other taxes that will be raised include:
  • High Medical Bills
  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Surtax on Investment Income
  • Payroll Taxes
  • Individual and Employer Mandate Non-Compliance Taxes
  • "Cadillac" Health Plan Tax
Will all these taxes be enough to pay for the burgeoning health care entitlements. Not if you believe what Robert Bartley, retired editor of the Wall Street Journal said in his book about the prosperity of the Reagan years, "The Seven Fat Years." According to Bartley, "(It is) absolutely true that in the long term we will be unable to control government expenditure if the government keeps assuming new responsibilities." (HT Investor's Business Daily editorial)

September 28, 2013

A Thought on "Common Core" and Public Education

"America’s downfall doesn’t begin with the “low-information voter.” It starts with the no-knowledge student.

"For decades, collectivist agitators in our schools have chipped away at academic excellence in the name of fairness, diversity, and social justice. “Progressive” reformers denounced Western-civilization requirements, the Founding Fathers, and the Great Books as racist. They attacked traditional grammar classes as irrelevant in modern life. They deemed grouping students by ability to be bad for self-esteem. They replaced time-tested rote techniques and standard algorithms with fuzzy math, inventive spelling, and multicultural claptrap."

~ Michelle Malkin

HT  Her January 23, 2013 National Review Online "Common Core Corrupts" Column

September 23, 2013

El Growler Grande will be away for a few more days

My apologies. I'll do some extra growling when I return.

September 22, 2013

'Median Income' for DC and the Rest of America

Thanks to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air's Green Room for the following chart, which compares median income in the DC area versus the rest of America. The chart comes from the economic research folks at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Ed urges his readers in the rest of America to "burnish up" their resumes," and adds, "There’s gold in them thar Capitol Hill and its environs." Read all of his short post to learn what happened in 2007.

UPDATE (9/22/13). In this well-worth reading in its entirety op-ed in Friday's Orange County Register by Joel Kotkin -- professor of urban studies at Chapman University and executive editor of NewGeography.com -- he writes there is a "bipartisan distrust" of the Beltway" crowd. Fully supporting the Federal Reserve of St. Louis chart above, Kotkin writes:

"This has been a golden era for the nation's capital, perhaps the one place that never really felt the recession. Of the nation's 10 richest counties, seven are in the Washington area. In 1969, notes liberal journalist Dylan Matthews, wages in the D.C. region were 12 percent higher than the national average; today, they are 36 percent higher. Matthews ascribes this differential not so much to government per se, but on the huge increase in lobbying, which has nearly doubled over the past decade.

"Matthews draws a liberal conclusion, not much different than one a conservative would make, that “Washington's economic gain may be coming at the rest of the country's expense.” Washington may see itself as the new role model for dense American cities but this reflects the fact that it's one of the few places where educated young people the past five years have been able to get a job that pays well.

"This is intolerable to Americans of differing political persuasions. It is not just a detestation of government but also of the Washington-centered media, which has sent some 20 of its top luminaries into an Obama administration that, at least until recently, has managed to spin them better than any of its predecessors. Not surprisingly, along with that of Congress, the media's credibility has been crashing to historic lows, with 60 percent expressing little trust in the fourth estate."

UPDATE (9/23/13): Paul Mirengoff also comments on "the wealth of Washington" at the inimitable Power Line blog. He leads off by saying:

"During the tourist season here in Washington, D.C., it sometimes occurs to me that if our tourists drove around the many wealthy neighbors in the D.C. area, the reaction would cause the Tea Party movement of 2010 to look like an ordinary tea party. Such is the wealth of Washington.

"I had the same thought when I read this post by John Gabriel at Ricochet called “D.C. Incomes Boom While U.S. Incomes Fall.” Gabriel relies on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, as cited in the Wall Street Journal. It shows that the income of the typical D.C. household rose 23.3% between 2000 and 2012 to an inflation-adjusted $66,583."

September 17, 2013

El Growler will be away for a few days.

I hope to return by the weekend.

September 16, 2013

When $1.29 Billion is a "Small Payment Error"

Once more your federal government fritters away your hard-earned tax dollars. At the Washington Free Beacon, Elizabeth Harrington writes:

"The Social Security Administration (SSA) gave $1.29 billion in payments to individuals who were not considered disabled, a mistake the agency says is a “small payment error.”

"The SSA made improper payments to roughly 36,000 individuals who were able to earn more than $1,000 per month, rendering them ineligible for the Disability Insurance (DI) program, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Friday.

"The cost to the taxpayers was nearly $1.3 billion.

"The SSA said that the overall rate of overpayment is low, but the sheer number of people involved in the program leads to large totals."

Oh, and did you know that federal employees earn more than private sector employees? (For an explanation, see our August 17, 2013 Growls.)

Kudos to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), who Harrington quoted as saying, "This report demonstrates just how little importance the Social Security Administration places on policing its disability rolls.” Sen. Coburn, who is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs said:

“SSA has known for years that it could prevent millions of dollars in improper disability payments using quarterly wage records, but chose not to."

Will Virginia's two senators -- Mark Warner and Tim Kaine -- join with Sen Coburn in reforming the Social Security Disability Insurance program? Ask them! If you live in Arlington, your Congressional representatives are:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376
UPDATE (9/17/13): At CNS News, Allissa Tabirian reports, "Since January, the Social Security Administration (SSA) sent disability insurance (SSDI) checks worth $1.29 billion to an estimated 36,000 people who were still on the job and thus ineligible for benefits, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Friday. (See GAO -13-635.pdf).

September 14, 2013

Al Gore and His Global Warmists Are Wrong, Again

At CNS News, Barbara Hollingsworth begins a report about about dire global warming predictions made by former Vice President Al Gore by writing:

"A 2007 prediction that summer in the North Pole could be “ice-free by 2013” that was cited by former Vice President Al Gore in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech has proven to be off… by 920,000 square miles.

"In his Dec. 10, 2007 “Earth has a fever” speech, Gore referred to a prediction by U.S. climate scientist Wieslaw Maslowski that the Arctic’s summer ice could “completely disappear” by 2013 due to global warming caused by carbon emissions. - See more at: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-hollingsworth/wrong-al-gore-predicted-arctic-summer-ice-could-disappear-2013#sthash.SHgkk7Kp.dpuf

"Gore said that on Sept. 21, 2007, "scientists reported with unprecedented alarm that the North Polar icecap is, in their words, 'falling off a cliff.' One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week warns that it could happen in as little as seven years, seven years from now."

"Maslowski told members of the American Geophysical Union in 2007 that the Arctic’s summer ice could completely disappear within the decade. “If anything,” he said, “our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer… is already too conservative.”

"The former vice president also warned that rising temperatures were “a planetary emergency and a threat to the survival of our civilization.”

"However, instead of completely melting away, the polar icecap is at now at its highest level for this time of year since 2006."

Hollingsworth also reports, "Satellite photos of the Arctic taken by NASA in August 2012 and August 2013 show a 60 percent increase in the polar ice sheet, more than half the size of Europe, despite “realistic” predictions by climate scientists six years ago that the North Pole would be completely melted by now."

Looking at the growth in sea ice another way, the Real Science blog writes, "Earth has gained 19,000 Manhattans of sea ice since this date last year, the largest increase on record. There is more sea ice now than there was on this date in 2002."

When are the global warmmongers going to realize that global temperatures change much like the title of Dr. Fred Singer's book, "Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 years."

Ms. Hollingsworth's report includes a nearly two-minute video of Mr. Gore's December 10, 2007 remarks as well as well as two satellite photos of the Arctic ice.

September 13, 2013

A Thought on Education and Prosperity

"How can U.S. student achievement be boosted? Notably, the average number of years students are in school has little impact on economic growth, once student test-score performance is taken into account. If you aren't learning anything at your desk, it doesn't matter how long you sit there.

"Nor is more money the answer. The U.S. spends on average $12,000 per pupil in grades K-12, one of the highest amounts in the world. Among U. S. states, increments in spending per pupil between 1990 and 2010 show no correlation with changes in student performance.

"In Wyoming and New York, spending levels per pupil climbed at one of the fastest rates without getting any extra gains in student achievement over this time period. Florida was among the most rapidly improving states, even though inflation-adjusted state expenditures per pupil hardly changed. It matters more how the money is spent than how much is spent. Expensive but ineffective policies such as class size reduction, while valued by current school personnel, have not raised achievement. Better accountability, more school choice, market-based teacher compensation and retention policies can on the other hand boost achievement without adding materially to school costs.

"Nationwide, the biggest economic gains will come many years after school improvement takes place, a fact that probably helps to explain the reluctance of the political class to commit itself to genuine school reform. Confronting the power of teacher unions and other vested interests is politically costly. But the failure to improve the education system is more costly still."

~  Paul Peterson and Eric Hanushek, Op-Ed, "The Vital Link of Education and Prosperity" Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2013

HT Their Wall Street Journal op-ed ($ - pay wall)

September 04, 2013

Possibly Light Blogging Next Few Days

El Growler Grande will be out of town for a few days, and so, blogging may be light.

September 03, 2013

A Further Thought on the Media

"Have you ever noticed the media's dirty trick about multimillionaires in politics? If you're a Democrat named Kennedy or Rockefeller, who inherited millions or have a habit of marrying women with millions (think John Kerry), or made your millions chasing ambulances (Edwards), it couldn't possibly put a wrinkle in your populist image. As long as you favor every redistributionist scheme that the Ivy League economists can muster, your riches aren't disqualifying. They can even add glamour to your aura.

"But if you're a Republican with a gleam in your eye toward tax cuts and deregulation, then it doesn't matter whether you're Old Money or New Money or No Money. You will be deemed an "economic royalist" as Franklin Roosevelt put it.

"When ABC anchor Diane Sawyer interviewed Mitt Romney on April 17, 2012, she casually announced "the Obama campaign is working overtime to paint the portrait of a man whose riches have put him out of touch." She then offered Romney the Obama spin: "The speaking fees, the Cadillacs, the story out now that there's an elevator for your cars in the new house you're planning in La Jolla. Are you too rich to relate?"

"There's an obvious answer that Romney did not give, "Diane, you make $12 million a year. The ritzy Manhattan penthouse, the wealthy movie director husband, the estate on Martha's Vineyard. Does that make you too rich and elitist to relate to your audience?"

~ L. Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham, "Collusion: How the Media Stole the 2012 Election and How to Stop Them from Doing it in 2016," pages 79-80

HT Barnes & Noble

September 02, 2013

Jobs, the Economy, Household Income and Labor Day

In an op-ed at CNN, Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute begins by writing:

"On Labor Day, we celebrate the American worker. And more than four years since the Great Recession ended in June 2009, the unemployment rate is 7.4%, a big improvement from the high of 10% in the fall of 2009. Unfortunately, the rate is hugely misleading: Most of that improvement was for all the wrong reasons.

"Remember, jobless workers are not counted as being part of the labor force unless they are actively looking for work, and the decline in the unemployment rate since its peak has mostly been the result of workers dropping out of -- or not entering -- the labor force.

"According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, if the labor market were healthy, the labor force would number about 159.2 million. But the actual labor force numbers just 155.8 million. That means about 3.4 million "missing workers" are out there -- jobless people who would be in the labor force if job opportunities were strong."

So things couldn't be worse, or could they? At Pajamas Media, Tom Blumer, who owns a training and development company, looked at how household income fared for whites, blacks and Hispanics. According to Blumer:

"The frightening data recently published by Sentier Research, a group of former Census Bureau employees who have been tracking monthly household income since the turn of the century, make it obvious that it is economically devastated African-Americans who should be absolutely furious with Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in Washington."

< . . . >

"Sentier’s report shows that since the recession officially ended in June 2009, African-American household income, defined as “before-tax money income,” has plunged by three times as much as everyone else’s (dollar amounts are current)."

Blumer justifies that statement with the following chart:

Blumer also writes, "Combining Sentier’s work with Census Bureau data through 2011, the most recent available, shows that African-Americans’ real household income has dropped by over 16 percent since 2007, and by over 20 percent since the statistic’s high-water mark in 2000 (for the table, I conservatively used a drop of 10 percent during the past four years instead of 10.9 percent for blacks, did not change the declines in other groups at all, and assumed that Sentier’s June readings will be the same as the overall results for all of 2013)," and then includes the following chart:

Both Shierholz and Blumer include economic prescriptions in their analyses. It won't surprise frequent readers of Growls that we easily lean towards those of Tom Blumer. However, it's welcome news to know that progressives no longer argue that the economy is better than it really is.

UPDATE (9/4/13): In an op-ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore, a member of the Journal's editorial board, also focuses on the analysis of Census data by Sentier Research, and says, "Obama's economy hits his voters hardest." According to Moore, "The finding that grabbed headlines was that real median household income "has fallen by 4.4 percent since the 'economic recovery' began in June 2009." In dollar terms, median household income fell to $52,098 from $54,478, a loss of $2,380." Moore then then continues with these two salient paragraphs:

"What was largely overlooked, however, is that those who were most likely to vote for Barack Obama in 2012 were members of demographic groups most likely to have suffered the steepest income declines. Mr. Obama was re-elected with 51% of the vote. Five demographic groups were crucial to his victory: young voters, single women, those with only a high-school diploma or less, blacks and Hispanics. He cleaned up with 60% of the youth vote, 67% of single women, 93% of blacks, 71% of Hispanics, and 64% of those without a high-school diploma, according to exit polls.

"According to the Sentier research, households headed by single women, with and without children present, saw their incomes fall by roughly 7%. Those under age 25 experienced an income decline of 9.6%. Black heads of households saw their income tumble by 10.9%, while Hispanic heads-of-households' income fell 4.5%, slightly more than the national average. The incomes of workers with a high-school diploma or less fell by about 8% (-6.9% for those with less than a high-school diploma and -9.3% for those with only a high-school diploma)"

September 01, 2013

A Thought on America's Military Might

" . . . The problem with the American way of war is that, technologically, it can’t lose, but, in every other sense, it can’t win. No one in his right mind wants to get into a tank battle or a naval bombardment with the guys responsible for over 40 percent of the planet’s military expenditures. Which is why these days there aren’t a lot of tank battles. The consummate interventionist Robert Kagan wrote in his recent book that the American military “remains unmatched.” It’s unmatched in the sense that the only guy in town with a tennis racket isn’t going to be playing a lot of tennis matches. But the object of war, in Liddell Hart’s famous distillation, is not to destroy the enemy’s tanks (or Russian helicopters) but his will. And on that front America loses, always. The “unmatched” superpower cannot impose its will on Kabul kleptocrats, Pashtun goatherds, Egyptian generals, or Benghazi militia. There is no reason to believe Syria would be an exception to this rule. America’s inability to win ought to be a burning national question, but it’s not even being asked."

~ Mark Steyn

HT His "An Accidental War" Column at National Review Online