October 06, 2014
He Just Can't Stop Himself, Can He?
Vice President Biden apologized on Sunday for the second time in two days, in this instance to the United Arab Emirates, for comments he made suggesting that the United States’ Arab allies armed and funded terrorists in Syria.
The furor over the comments, made during a foreign policy address at Harvard University last week, have exposed deep rifts between the United States and its regional allies over who is to blame for the rise of the Islamic State and how to go about confronting it, underscoring the fragility of the coalition formed to fight the extremist group.
The White House said Biden telephoned Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the most prominent Emirate leader, to say that the vice president did not intend to imply that the UAE supported terrorists.
The call followed an angry statement from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry earlier in the day expressing “astonishment” at Biden’s remarks and demanding a “formal clarification.”
Biden had described the United States’ allies as the “biggest problem” in the fight against terrorism, then went on to name Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Turkey was the first to complain, about a different remark made on the same occasion in which Biden claimed that Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan had told him that Turkey was wrong to let foreign fighters cross the Turkish border into Syria.
Erdogan responded with a furious outburst, calling his relationship with Biden “history,” demanding an apology and denying that he had either made the comment to Biden or that Turkey had allowed foreign fighters to cross its borders.
Biden called Erdogan on Saturday to apologize, and the White House issued a separate statement in which the vice president said that Biden did not intend to imply that any of those allies had “intentionally” facilitated terrorists.
All we can say is that we're awfully glad The Smart People are back in charge. From the White House website transcript of the Biden foreign policy speech (yes, the same one that resulted in Vice Presidential apologies to Turkey and Saudi Arabia):
On energy, North America is literally -- not figuratively -- the epicenter of energy in the world today. There are more rigs, gas and oil rigs in the United States pumping today than every other nation in the world combined. Combined. North America will account -- meaning Mexico, China and Canada -- for two-thirds of the growth of global energy supply over the next 20 years. By 2018, the United States will be a net exporter of natural gas, and most projections show North America will be totally energy independent by 2020, and the United States shortly thereafter.
Do these people not have proofreaders? Fortunately, because this is Joe Biden and not, say, George W. Bush, we can all dismiss three major gaffes in a single speech as random-but-completely-understandable-verbal-miscues-that-mean-absolutely-nothing-and-should-not-be-interpreted-by-petty, partisan-journalists-as-suggesting-anything-about-the-speaker's-intelligence,-command-of-the-facts,-or-competence.
July 07, 2014
Unexpectedly (!): Minimum Wage Edition
Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) is anticipating major cuts in student employment opportunities after budgeting for state mandated increases in Michigan’s minimum wage.
In an interview with The Valley Vanguard, Jim Muladore, SVSU executive vice president of administration and business affairs, estimated that Michigan’s minimum wage increase will cost the university approximately $760,000 annually by 2018.
"[D]epartments will likely be pressed to hire less students or decrease the amount of hours student employees are able to work." Tweet This
The problem is that the university, which is facing depressed fall enrollment numbers and diminishing housing and dining revenue, cannot fund these additional costs within departments.
“In order to maintain their budgets, departments will likely be pressed to hire less [isn't that 'fewer'???] students or decrease the amount of hours student employees are able to work,” the Vanguard reports.
However, Saginaw Valley State University is not the only Michigan university amending their budget.
Central Michigan University (CMU), the fifth largest university in the state, is preparing departments for a $691,000 wage increase for the anticipated 5,400 student hires.
It's almost as though some invisible force were at work here.
March 30, 2014
Supes Buzzy, Totes Amaze
Needs more Miley Cyrus:
December 20, 2013
Smart Power Alert, Extreme Hardship Edition
Sacre bleu! So, this cannot be!
This month, Barack Obama gave a speech vowing to make curbing income and wealth inequality a top priority for the remainder of his time in office. He better get to work. As of 2011, he was headed in the opposite direction.
New data is out from the IRS, showing the share of federal income taxes paid by those in each economic strata. Bruce Bartlett points out that the richest Americans have seen their share of taxes declining rather significantly under Obama. Specifically, the richest 1% paid 37.5% of taxes in (recession-damaged) 2008; in 2011, their share was down to 35%. (Their share peaked in 2007, during the boom times—and the Bush administration.) The top 5% of earners also saw their share of taxes decline by a similar margin. So, under the first three years of the Obama administration, the very rich saw their share of taxes go down.
It's almost as though The Smartest President Evah is making this whole inequality thing worse instead of better! Quote of the day (from Ezra Klein, no less!):
1. The individual mandate includes a "hardship exemption." People who qualify can either ignore the individual mandate altogether or purchase a cheap, bare-bones catastrophic insurance plan that's typically only available to people under 30.
2. According to HHS, the exemption covers people who "experienced financial or domestic circumstances, including an unexpected natural or human-caused event, such that he or she had a significant, unexpected increase in essential expenses that prevented him or her from obtaining coverage under a qualified health plan."
3. Today, the administration agreed with a group of senators, led by Mark Warner of Virginia, who argued that having your insurance plan canceled counted as "an unexpected natural or human-caused event." For these people, in other words, Obamacare itself is the hardship.
There's a pleasing circularity to this last observation. It takes real talent to create a law that - in turn - creates a hardship that is then used to circumvent the law that caused the problem in the first place.
Thank Goddess the Smart Folks are finally in charge. Otherwise, we really don't know what we'd do with our time....
November 18, 2013
The 5 Percent Lie
Unexpectedly (!), all those unexpected and unforeseeable problems with ObamaCare turn out to have been expected all along:
Unable to deny that millions of Americans have lost the coverage he vowed they could keep, Obama and other Democrats are now peddling what we might call the “5 percent” con job. The president asserts that these victims, whom he feels so terribly about, nevertheless constitute a tiny, insignificant minority in the greater scheme of things (“scheme” is used advisedly). They are limited, he maintains, to consumers in the individual health-insurance market, as opposed to the vastly greater number of Americans who get insurance through their employers. According to Obama, these individual-market consumers whose policies are being canceled make up only 5 percent of all health-insurance consumers.
Even this 5 percent figure is a deception. As Avik Roy points out, the individual market actually accounts for 8 percent of health-insurance consumers. Obama can’t help himself: He even minimizes his minimizations. So, if Obama were telling the truth in rationalizing that his broken promises affect only consumers in the individual-insurance market, we’d still be talking about up to 25 million Americans. While the president shrugs these victims off, 25 million exceeds the number of Americans who do not have health insurance because of poverty or preexisting conditions (as opposed to those who could, but choose not to, purchase insurance). Of course, far from cavalierly shrugging off that smaller number of people, Obama and Democrats used them to justify nationalizing a sixth of the U.S. economy.
But that’s not the half of it. Obama’s claim that unwelcome cancellations are confined to the individual-insurance market is another brazen lie. In the weekend column, I link to the excellent work of Powerline’s John Hinderaker, who has demonstrated that, for over three years, the Obama administration’s internal estimates have shown that most Americans who are covered by “employer plans” will also lose their coverage under Obamacare. Mind you, 156 million Americans get health coverage through their jobs.
John cites the Federal Register, dated June 17, 2010, beginning at page 34,552 (Vol. 75, No. 116). It includes a chart that outlines the Obama administration’s projections. The chart indicates that somewhere between 39 and 69 percent of employer plans would lose their “grandfather” protection by 2013. In fact, for small-business employers, the high-end estimate is a staggering 80 percent (and even on the low end, it’s just a shade under half — 49 percent).
That is to say: During all these years, while Obama was repeatedly assuring Americans, “If you like your health-insurance plan, you can keep your health-insurance plan,” he actually expected as many as seven out of every ten Americans covered by employer plans to lose their coverage. For small business, he expected at least one out of every two Americans, or as many as four out of every five, to lose their coverage.
...while the president has been telling us that, under the vaunted grandfathering provision, all Americans who like their health-insurance plans will be able to keep them, “period,” his administration has been representing in federal court that most health plans would lose their “grandfather status” by the end of this year. Not just the “5 percent” of individual-market consumers, but close to all consumers — including well over 100 million American workers who get coverage through their jobs — have been expected by the president swiftly to “transition to the requirements under the [Obamacare] regulations.” That is, their health-insurance plans would be eliminated. They would be forced into Obamacare-compliant plans, with all the prohibitive price hikes and coercive mandates that “transition” portends.
A million here, a million there. After a while, all these isolated millions start affecting someone who matters.
September 27, 2013
Worried about all those computer glitches and delayed provisions? Don't be.
Here's a cute mouse on a swing.
July 31, 2013
Smart Power Alert
If the Brain Trust at 1600 Pennsylvania execute this plan as deftly as they've implemented everything else they've tried, the next few years should be highly entertaining:
When does a nudge become a shove?
Americans may find out in coming years, as the federal government is setting up a 'behavioral insights team' to tinker with the way we accomplish everything from saving money and staying in school to losing weight and becoming more energy-efficient.
A document from Maya Shankar, a late-20s Yale graduate and former violin prodigy, sketches out the Obama administration's grand plans for behavioral science.
Shankar joined the Obama administration in April as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.
Update: Possibly related story - an Important Economic Study that claims to prove McDonald's could double the salaries of its employees without raising prices much turns out to have been written by ... [wait for it] a college student:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misrepresented Arnobio Morelix as a researcher for the University of Kansas. Morelix is registered as a[n] undergraduate student at the university, according to University of Kansas School of Business Communications Director Austin Falley
But wait! There's more unintentional comedy on offer! Tom Maguire reads the report so
The HuffPo and ThinkProgress you don't have to, and finds a rather sizeable math error.
A wise man once observed that we're all entitled to our own opinions, but we're not entitled to our own math.... or words to that effect. Or.... are we?
“A social justice approach to math is the appropriate type of math for these unjust times,” they write. “Other, traditional forms of math are often too abstract, promote student failure and self-doubt, and, frankly, are immoral in a world as unjust as ours. Traditional math is bad for students and bad for society.”
Explains a lot, doesn't it? The country's in the very best of hands...