Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Memorial Day, from Senator Scott Brown

Top 10 Reads of the Week - May 25, 2012

Why they Serve: 'If Not Me, Then Who?' - Tom Manion [Wall Street Journal]
I served in the military for 30 years. But it was impossible to fully understand the sacrifices of our troops and their families until April 29, 2007, the day my son, First Lt. Travis Manion, was killed in Iraq.
Travis was just 26 years old when an enemy sniper's bullet pierced his heart after he had just helped save two wounded comrades. Even though our family knew the risks of Travis fighting on the violent streets of Fallujah, being notified of his death on a warm Sunday afternoon in Doylestown, Pa., was the worst moment of our lives.
While my son's life was relatively short, I spend every day marveling at his courage and wisdom. Before his second and final combat deployment, Travis said he wanted to go back to Iraq in order to spare a less-experienced Marine from going in his place. His words—"If not me, then who . . . "—continue to inspire me... Read the Rest
Obama Pursues Higher Tax Rates, Growth Be Damned - Michael Barone [Real Clear Politics]
In the run-up to this weekend's G-8 summit at Camp David, journalists have unfavorably compared European "austerity" with Barack Obama's economic policies.
European spending cuts, the argument goes, have hurt people and are arousing political opposition, while Obama's proposals to keep federal spending at 24 percent of gross domestic product indefinitely are likely to succeed.
Evil Republican spending cuts, in contrast, would deny the economy needed stimulus and wreak havoc on ordinary people.
But the facts undermine the storyline. Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University took a look at what "austerity" in Europe actually means... Read the Rest

No More Mister Nice Guy - Fred Barnes [Weekly Standard]
By the time he took office in 2009, President Obama had fashioned a reputation as an idealist committed to reforming the way business is done in Washington. But as president, he’s allowed this reputation to fritter away. And what’s left of it is now being destroyed by his harsh and misguided campaign for reelection.
Obama has become his own worst political enemy. Even when his job approval first began to fade, his poll numbers for being well-liked personally remained high. Now those are fading too. He’s on the road to defeat... Read the Rest
The Worst Union In America - Troy Senik [City Journal]
In 1962, as tensions ran high between school districts and unions across the country, members of the National Education Association gathered in Denver for the organization’s 100th annual convention. Among the speakers was Arthur F. Corey, executive director of the California Teachers Association (CTA). “The strike as a weapon for teachers is inappropriate, unprofessional, illegal, outmoded, and ineffective,” Corey told the crowd. “You can’t go out on an illegal strike one day and expect to go back to your classroom and teach good citizenship the next.”
Fast-forward nearly 50 years to May 2011, when the CTA—now the single most powerful special interest in California—organized a “State of Emergency” week to agitate for higher taxes in one of the most overtaxed states in the nation. A CTA document suggested dozens of ways for teachers to protest, including following state legislators incessantly, attempting to close major transportation arteries, and boycotting companies, such as Microsoft, that backed education reform. The week’s centerpiece was an occupation of the state capitol by hundreds of teachers and student sympathizers from the Cal State University system, who clogged the building’s hallways and refused to leave. Police arrested nearly 100 demonstrators for trespassing, including then–CTA president David Sanchez. The protesting teachers had left their jobs behind, even though their students were undergoing important statewide tests that week. With the passage of 50 years, the CTA’s notions of “good citizenship” had vanished... Read the Rest
The Beltway Establishment Still Doesn't Get It - Jay Cost [Weekly Standard Blog]
...The American political process is starting to break down because of major changes to the political economy of this country. For half a century after World War II, the economy grew at such an incredible pace that we could have low taxes, high social welfare benefits, and a low deficit. This was one of the major reasons why there could be bipartisanship. Economic growth bankrolled these “great” compromises. It had very little to do with the foresight, courage, or moderation of the pols in Washington. They were just riding the wave generated by the private sector.
But all that seems to be over now. For more than a decade (not just the Great Recession but going back to 2000), economic growth has been far below its postwar average, and too low to keep the old regime afloat. You can’t have low taxes, high spending, and low deficits when the economy can’t break 3 percent growth... Read the Rest
How the Recovery Went Wrong - Harvey Golub [Wall Street Journal]
...Fiscal policy, under the control of the president and his party, increased expenditures by about $700 billion per year since 2008 and launched a spending package of about $800 billion (along with various "targeted" temporary tax reductions), all of which resulted in an increase in national debt of over $5 trillion. In other words, we borrowed $5 trillion, for which we will pay interest for who knows how long, in order to stimulate the economy now.
There's little doubt that this level of spending—$5 trillion in an economy with an annual GDP of about $15 trillion—has a temporary stimulative effect. The question is, was it a good investment? For the most part the money was spent poorly and we will get very little future value from it. Billions were spent to reward favored constituencies like government employees and the auto industry. Billions more were spent on training programs that don't work and unemployment insurance that reduces incentives to actually find work. Little went toward building infrastructure or other assets that will help the nation create wealth over time... Read the Rest
Uncomfortable, Cringe-Inducing Video Of The Week

The East Is Crimson - William J. Dobson [Slate]
Harvard and China have one thing in common: They both consider themselves to be the center of the world. So, it was always inevitable that when the scandal that brought down Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai broke, the repercussions would be felt, somehow, in Cambridge. The connection, it turned out, was Bo Guagua, the son of the disgraced Communist official. The younger Bo was a graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In April, he stopped attending classes and was seen leaving his off-campus apartment with what appeared to be a security detail.
The fact that Bo Guagua was a couple months from his Harvard degree has sparked interest in the number of so-called princelings—the offspring of powerful Chinese Communist Party officials—attending elite U.S. universities. It’s actually not very rare. Xi Jinping, China’s vice president, is expected to become China’s top leader this fall. His daughter is a Harvard undergrad. Two recent top party leaders—Zhao Ziyang and Jiang Zemin—had grandchildren who attended Harvard. Jia Qinglin , one of China’s most senior officials, has a granddaughter at Stanford. In fact, according to Andrew Higgins and Maureen Fan, at least five of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body, have children or grandchildren who have studied in the United States... Read the Rest
Info-Graphic Of The Week

It's worth visiting the original, here, for some additional explanation and sourcing.

Senate Dems Betray Lilly - Andrew Stiles [Washington Free Beacon]
A group of Democratic female senators on Wednesday declared war on the so-called “gender pay gap,” urging their colleagues to pass the aptly named Paycheck Fairness Act when Congress returns from recess next month. However, a substantial gender pay gap exists in their own offices, a Washington Free Beacon analysis of Senate salary data reveals.
Of the five senators who participated in Wednesday’s press conference—Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.), Patty Murray (D., Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.)—three pay their female staff members significantly less than male staffers.
Murray, who has repeatedly accused Republicans of waging a “war a women,” is one of the worst offenders. Female members of Murray’s staff made about $21,000 less per year than male staffers in 2011, a difference of 35.2 percent... Read the Rest
Mitt Romney's Moment - Peggy Noonan [Wall Street Journal]
It's been a good week for Mitt Romney. The polls are up, he's just off a two-day swing through Connecticut and New York, where he hauled in big donors and hard money, and he swept the GOP primaries in Kentucky and Arkansas. On Tuesday Texas will put him over the top and make him, formally and officially, the Republican nominee for president.
Not everything worked—his big education speech Wednesday was wan and pallid—but he's having a moment. In a telephone interview, he reflected on the campaign, tracing his candidacy's upward momentum to an increased sense among voters that the country is on the wrong path and, perhaps, a growing sense that he's proved himself: "I can tell you that we went through those 37 or 38 contests and won the must-win states, and in some cases we started off 10 points behind. And we hustled, worked hard, and convinced the voters." This produced "the kind of track record that people say, 'You know, I think if Mitt can keep that up, in November we're going to see a new president.'"... Read the Rest
Big-Spending Obama Frames Himself As Scrooge - Editors [Washington Examiner]
"Do not buy into the B.S. that you hear about spending and fiscal constraint with regard to this administration," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday. Carney went on to cite a MarketWatch column by Rex Nutting, purporting to show that "under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s."
Is this true? Is Obama, contrary to all conventional wisdom, actually the most fiscally restrained president since the 1950s? No. It is Nutting's analysis, which, in Carney's words, is "B.S."... Read the Rest
The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Massachusetts Casinos: Another Reality Check

The first few paragraphs of an article in today's Globe are pregnant with implications for the Commonwealth's gaming future:
The worldwide casino company run by billionaire Boston native Sheldon Adelson will bypass the chance to build a casino in Massachusetts, saying the state’s plan to license up to three casinos and a slot parlor is going to dilute the market, according to a spokesman.
Adelson, who had spent nearly $500,000 lobbying lawmakers on the casino bill approved last November, is known for building lavish gambling resorts, some costing several billion dollars.
“With multiple facilities being proposed, it didn’t synch with our business model,’’ Ron Reese, a spokesman for Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., said Monday.
Let that sink in. This man spent half a million dollars lobbying for passage of a casino bill in Massachusetts, and now he has decided not to bother even trying to reap the fruits of those labors because the market is too crowded to make the effort worth his while. Golly. Who ever would have thunk it? (See here and here and here  for starters).

Plan your next vacation to... this place?
Mr. Adelson's calculus here is quite simple. Connecticut has a couple of mega-casinos ("destination resort casinos," as our Governor is wont to call them) that are both struggling to stay afloat, as are Rhode Island's less ambitious gaming establishments closer to our border. Un-vexed by that bit of unfortunate reality, we're about to throw up three of our own. New Hampshire is moving to grab a slice of the shrinking casino pie. As is New York State. The already-anemic market for "destination resort casinos," in other words, is already stretched so thin as to make one of the world's most successful (and aggressive) developers of "destination resort casinos" throw up his hands and seek opportunity elsewhere.

It's the same all over, which is why states that have gone down the casino road before us are populated not with glimmering "destination resort casinos," but with seedy strip-mall slots parlors and ramshackle mini-casinos looming over highway rest stops. Our own race to that particular bottom started the instant Governor Patrick touched pen to casino bill paper.

But never fear. The newly-minted Massachusetts Gaming Commission is aware of the problem. A bit further down in that same Globe article we find this:
Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said the panel is thinking carefully about how much casino gambling the Massachusetts market can handle. The commission will tackle the question at a forum it is hosting in June.
“One of the things we have to do is re-look at what the market could bear, and see what is the economic prognosis for the model in the legislation [three resorts and a slot parlor] in today’s environment,’’ said Crosby. “We’re going to reconvene all of the people who have done projections and we’re going to say, ‘What do you think of your projections now?’ I think the casino legislation gives us the room to think carefully about the competitive environment and the size of the market and to act accordingly.’’
Now flash back to September 14 of last year, as the casino bill worked its way through the House of Representatives, and find this headline in the State House News: "House Rejects Cost-Benefit Analysis, Speeds Through Casino Bill Amendments."

It isn't hard to understand why the casino caucus in the legislature refused to hit pause long enough to conduct the cost-benefit analysis that the chair of the gaming commission now deems necessary fewer than nine months later. Such an analysis last year would have shown precisely the same things that the analysis will show this year: the New England gaming market is already saturated.

This truth - obvious even without a new analysis - has a number of serious implications: Developers are not going to be willing to pay the licensing fees our legislature predicted we'd collect.  The establishments that eventually do go up will fall far short of the "destination resort" standard. And most importantly, both jobs and revenues will come in woefully short of the pie-in-the-sky promises made by Governor Patrick and his allies in the legislature.

None of this is news. Mr. Adelson's decision this week only underscores what plenty of people have known all along. "Economic development" based on casinos is a fool's game.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pioneer Event Tonight

A quick plug:

The invaluable Pioneer Institute is hosting a very affordable ($35) event tonight at the Hyatt Regency Boston, as part of its new "New Leaders" program. The speaker is David Paleologos of Suffolk polling. David, you may recall, was among the first to catch the scent of the Scott Brown upset over Martha Coakley, and (much to my personal consternation) his 2010 polls most accurately predicted the outcome of the Massachusetts gubernatorial election. David's thoughts on the state of the 2012 campaign will be interesting. If you are in the area this evening at 6:00, the event will be worth your time.

It goes without saying that the cause - supporting Pioneer in its work as the absolute fact-based reality check of last resort in Massachusetts and beyond, on issues from health care to education to transportation to state budgeting - is well worth $35 out of your wallet.

Here's the info from Pioneer:
Pioneer Institute New Leaders Event
Please join us for networking and cocktails on the patio, followed by an inside look at the polling process and a presentation on the latest polling numbers in the Presidential and Massachusetts Senate Races by David Paleologos.
David Paleologos is the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, where in partnership with WHDH-TV Boston (NBC News) and WSVN-TV Miami (FOX News), he conducts statewide polls and bellwether survey analyses in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

Tickets: $35; Free for Pioneer Members

To RSVP you must purchase tickets in advance here: Questions to:

Pioneer's New Leaders group is a network of individuals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are committed to ensuring that Massachusetts has world-class schools and health care, effective and limited government, and a business climate conducive to innovation and prosperity.

Tickets: $35; Free for Pioneer Members 
To RSVP you must purchase tickets in advance here: Questions to: 
Pioneer's New Leaders group is a network of individuals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are committed to ensuring that Massachusetts has world-class schools and health care, effective and limited government, and a business climate conducive to innovation and prosperity.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 10 Reads of the Week - May 18, 2012

His Fulltime Job - Fred Barnes [Weekly Standard]
President Obama is breaking new ground in his campaign for reelection. He is going where incumbent presidents have never gone before. He is doing things for which President George W. Bush would have been pilloried. And Obama is doing all this in plain view.
Yet the media have rarely found the new ploys and gambits of Obama’s campaign worth mentioning, much less spotlighting. For instance, in his address at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, Obama treated his agenda and Jesus Christ’s as one and the same. Since the media didn’t raise any flags, one might have concluded a comment such as Obama’s was normal for that event. It wasn’t.
Obama offered his own version of the WWJD question—what would Jesus do?—on the issue of raising taxes on the rich. Obama wants to, arguing that seniors, young people, and the middle class shouldn’t be forced to “shoulder the burden alone.”... Read the Rest

President Obama Is No Bill Clinton, But He Should Be - Bernie Marcus [Investors Business Daily]
Since the financial crisis and throughout the sluggish economic recovery, working families and small-business owners have watched as the federal government has engaged in a grand experiment in government-led economic engineering. That experiment has failed.
The latest jobs report underscores the need to change our country's direction. April's unemployment rate was 8.1%, but if you include those who are underemployed, that rate shoots to 14.5%.
The unemployment rate has now persisted at over 8% for three years, longer than any period in modern history. Not to mention that there are nearly 4 million "missing workers" who have disappeared from the work force altogether... Read the Rest
 Jerry Brown vs. Chris Christie - William McGurn [Wall Street Journal]
In his January 2011 inaugural address, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared it a "time to honestly assess our financial condition and make the tough choices." Plainly the choices weren't tough enough: Mr. Brown has just announced that he faces a state budget deficit of $16 billion—nearly twice the $9.2 billion he predicted in January. In Sacramento Monday, he coupled a new round of spending cuts with a call for some hefty new tax hikes.
In his own inaugural address back in January 2010, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also spoke of making tough choices for the people of his state. For his first full budget, Mr. Christie faced a deficit of $10.7 billion—one-third of projected revenues. Not only did Mr. Christie close that deficit without raising taxes, he is now plumping for a 10% across-the-board tax cut.
It's not just looks that make Mr. Brown Laurel to Mr. Christie's Hardy. It's also their political choices... Read the Rest
Discouraged Democrat Voters May Mean Historic Sweep for GOP - Bruce Walker [American Thinker]
Most polls, Rasmussen excepted, continue to show that neither presidential candidate is pulling away from the other and that close Senate races have shifting leads. Primary elections, however, are showing a very different situation -- and it is voters who turn out in elections, not random Americans called by pollsters, who determine the winners and losers in politics. If the latest news can be believed -- and we have every reason to believe it -- there is a conservative voting trend building, and its momentum is going to make it truly terrifying for liberals come November.
Let's start at the beginning. In the first place, Rasmussen, which polls likely voters, has shown for years now that a huge chunk of Americans "strongly disapprove" of the job Obama is doing. On May 10, for example, more than twice as many Americans strongly disapproved of Obama's job performance as "strongly approve" of the job he is doing... Read the Rest
Obama and GM Cook The Books - John Lott [National Review Online]
Would you hire President Obama as your financial adviser? Three years ago his administration invested more than $100 billion in taxpayer money to bail out General Motors. On Tuesday, the entire company, not just what the government owns, was worth less than $34 billion. By anyone’s definition, that investment is a glaring failure. Yet over the last few days the Obama campaign, in a $25 million marketing blitz, has flooded the airwaves with ads in battleground states, claiming the bailout should be counted a rousing success.
Unfortunately, assertions that “all loans have been repaid to the federal government,” that the bailout “saved more than one million American jobs,” that “U.S. automakers are hiring hundreds of thousands of new workers,” that GM is again the “number-one automaker” — all are based on creative accounting... Read the Rest

New Crossroads GPS Ad

Massachusetts Health Care Cost Reform Bill - The Simple Story

For those who prefer just a little more substance in their policy analysis, click here and here for some must-reads on exactly what Beacon Hill's latest stab at top-down cost controls will mean for a huge (and growing) sector of the Commonwealth's economy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hard-hitting new web vid attacks every single thing Barack Obama has ever done in the private sector

So simple, and yet so comprehensive...

...Next They Came For The Soft-Serve...

Honestly. When our state government deploys armed officers to indefinitely shut down (and guard!) an ice cream stand for the egregious sin of doing a little bit of construction without a state permit, can there be any hope left for us?
Proof that the Google can find most anything
The park's popular ice-cream stand was unexpectedly shut down by state officials over the weekend, after the stand's operator made building improvements at the site without getting permission first.
Mark Duffy, who has operated the dairy farm at the state-owned park for 26 years and has a lease with the state to run the stand, said armed Environmental Police officers showed up at stand on Friday evening and stood guard throughout the weekend, turning away customers craving delectable sundaes and frappes.
 Two weeks ago  I would have answered my own question with an emphatic "no." The fact that first the legislature and then even the Patrick Administration managed to self-correct earlier this month on the nationally-mocked effort to end the scourge of charity bake sales, however, provides just a glimmer of hope.

Governor Patrick, bring the troops home!

I tripped over this story (from the Lowell Sun) by way of the Drudge Report, by the way... which means that's twice now in less than a month that our resident corps of Nanny-Statists have made us a national laughingstock with their on-going War on Sweet And Tasty Goodness.

Two videos that go together.

In 2009 the President set his own standard. A lot of people would say he has fallen far short of living up to it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

This Is Going To Be Awesome

I haven't had such high expectations since Rocky IV.

Top 10 Reads of the Week - May 11, 2012

Composite Americans - Mark Steyn [National Review Online]
Have you dated a composite woman? They’re America’s hottest new demographic. As with all the really cool stuff, Barack Obama was doing it years before the rest of us. In Dreams from My Father, the world’s all-time most unread bestseller, he spills the inside dope on his composite white girlfriend: “When we got back to the car she started crying. She couldn’t be black, she said. She would if she could, but she couldn’t. She could only be herself, and wasn’t that enough . . . ”
But being yourself is never going to be enough in the new composite America. Last week, in an election campaign ad, Barack revealed his latest composite girlfriend — “Julia.” She’s worse than the old New York girlfriend. She can’t even be herself. In fact, she can’t be anything without massive assistance from Barack every step of the way, from his “Head Start” program at the age of three through to his Social Security benefits at the age of 67. Everything good in her life she owes to him. When she writes her memoir, it will be thanks to a subvention from the Federal Publishing Assistance Program for Chronically Dependent Women but you’ll love it: Sweet Dreams from My Sugar Daddy. She’s what the lawyers would call “non composite mentis.” She’s not competent to do a single thing for herself — and, from Barack’s point of view, that’s exactly what he’s looking for in a woman, if only for a one-night stand on a Tuesday in early November... Read the Rest

President Obama Is Running Out of Jobs Excuses - Louis Woodhill [Real Clear Markets]
Friday's Employment Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was so bad that the Obama administration didn't even bother to tout the reported 0.1 percentage point decline in the "headline" (U-3) unemployment rate. They knew that to do so would just make them look completely out of touch.
How bad was it? The number of people with jobs (BLS Household Survey) declined for the second month in a row, falling by 169,000 in April after easing by 31,000 in March. This means that there were 200,000 fewer Americans with jobs in April than there were in February... Read the Rest
Romney and Race - Harry Stein [City Journal]
If the Trayvon Martin case reminds us that race remains the great unresolved issue in our national life, it reminds us, too, of how illusory was the hope that Barack Obama might serve as a one-man antidote to America’s long history of racial division. More than three years into Obama’s presidency, ill feeling between the races is more prevalent than at any time in recent memory—a clear result of his style and the substance of his governance.
The question is whether the opposition party and its candidate will dare say so... Read the Rest
To the Class of 2012 - Bret Stephens [Wall Street Journal]
Allow me to be the first one not to congratulate you. Through exertions that—let's be honest—were probably less than heroic, most of you have spent the last few years getting inflated grades in useless subjects in order to obtain a debased degree. Now you're entering a lousy economy, courtesy of the very president whom you, as freshmen, voted for with such enthusiasm. Please spare us the self-pity about how tough it is to look for a job while living with your parents. They're the ones who spent a fortune on your education only to get you back— return-to-sender, forwarding address unknown.
No doubt some of you have overcome real hardships or taken real degrees. A couple of years ago I hired a summer intern from West Point. She came to the office directly from weeks of field exercises in which she kept a bulletproof vest on at all times, even while sleeping. She writes brilliantly and is as self-effacing as she is accomplished. Now she's in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.
If you're like that intern, please feel free to feel sorry for yourself. Just remember she doesn't... Read the Rest

'Ad That Wrote Itself' Of The Week

Elizabeth Warren and the Tragedy of Modern Liberalism - Seth Mandel [Commentary]
...Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate challenging Scott Brown in Massachusetts, was the subject of a rather bizarre controversy this week when it was revealed she claimed Native American heritage as her career in academia proceeded, only to drop the dubious claim once she reached the pinnacle of her academic career track: Harvard Law faculty. She has not handled the controversy well, to say the least. And the wreckage of her campaign’s attempts at spinning this make you want to look away.
But don’t. Because Warren is playing an important role in our political discourse: she is the ghost of liberalism future. Warren’s alleged use of affirmative action, if true, would have to be the most egregious abuse of the system at the expense of minorities we’ve seen yet. Elizabeth Warren is, as a white woman, statistically speaking very much a member of this country’s majority. The only category in which she is a true minority is wealth: Elizabeth Warren is very, very rich.... Read the Rest

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Independent" - Scott Brown's first TV ad of the cycle is up

The months of negative bombardment by outside groups failed to significantly undermine Senator Brown's approval numbers in Massachusetts. Why? Because the portrait this ad paints of him is an accurate one.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Raise taxes - or the puppy gets it!

This illustration perfectly captures the nature of the Democrats' apparent strategy for challenging Republican incumbents in Congress this cycle: gin up bogus tax hike votes tied to universally popular (in the abstract) initiatives, and then scream bloody murder when the incumbents refuse to play along with the con. "Raise taxes or the puppy gets it!" followed by "Today Scott Brown (or whomever) voted to kill the puppy."

This week's version of the game substitutes "student loan rates" for the puppy, but the dynamic is otherwise exactly the same. Having deliberately ginned up student loan rates to revert to their previous levels (way back in 2009 when, as I recall, former students somehow managed to pay them) just prior to this year's election, Democrats are now proposing to maintain rates at current levels - and to pay for the extension in the cut rates by increasing taxes.

Republicans, no fools they, loudly agree that the rates ought to remain low, but they (we!) would prefer that the revenue loss be off-set by - can you guess? - spending cuts. And so there you have it. When the Democrats tee up a bill to increase taxes and keep student loan rates low, most Republicans vote against it - as they should. Congressional Democrats and the White House have a seemingly endless bag of tricks for increasing taxes in the midst of a painfully slow and erratic economic recovery.  Each and every one of them is an equally bad idea. Senator Brown and his colleagues are to be commended for sticking to their guns (and not pointing them at any puppies).

Unfortunately for the Republican targets of this repetitive ploy, the press is only too happy to play along. Google "federal student loan rates" today and on the very first results page you'll find, "Senate Republicans Block Bill On Student Loan Rates" (New York Times), "US Senate Republicans Block Student Loan Rate Freeze Plan" (San Francisco Chronicle), "and "Senate Republicans Block Vote On Student Loan Rate Plan" (CNN). The Democratic National Committee could probably just lay off its communications shop. Save itself some dough.

Closer to home both the Herald and the Globe carry versions of the same Associated Press blurb, which starts with a line that might as well have emanated from Rachel Maddow: "Republican Sen. Scott Brown has voted to derail a Democratic bill aimed at keeping interest rates on federal college loans from doubling July 1."  Read a little deeper into each article and one learns that Republicans support a rate freeze funded without a tax increase and Senator Brown has even filed his own legislation to keep rates where they are. But most people don't read beyond the lede - a fact that the Democrats gleefully pulling the media's strings well know.

Not that this is an exclusively Democrat tactic. Both parties pull the same gag against incumbents of the other party - ginning up votes pre-destined to fail for the sole purpose of setting up the opposition's incumbents for criticism. Republican outrage over the tactic is no less contrived than Democratic outrage over the votes.  The difference, as in many things, is that generally Republicans cannot count on the same level of cooperation from the media that the Democrats get.

In any event, it is up to voters to pay enough attention to see through the ruse.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Must-Read on the Fallacy of Casino-Based Economic Development


I have been waiting for two months for this must-read by National Review's inestimable Kevin Williamson to come out from behind the subscribers-only firewall so that I could share it with the rest of the casino-averse folk out there in our fair Commonwealth...

"Play to Extinction" is the title. That's also a term of art in the casino industry; "extinction" being the point at which a patron has played to the absolute end of his/her available resources and is reduced economically to an empty husk (and personally, more likely than not, to a desperate shell of a human being). It is also shorthand for the point to which the good folk who operate the gaming establishments that our wise and beneficent political overlords hope to salt soon across Massachusetts endeavor to bring each and every patron who darkens their gaming parlor doors.

Here are a few choice excerpts from a piece that you need to read and then pass on to everyone you know.  The point, by the way, isn't that gambling is "wrong" per se.  The point is that anyone who pretends (as our Governor and much of our Legislature did last year in passing the casino bill) that gaming is a form of economic development is completely and totally full of crap...
Funny thing about Atlantic City: Nobody feels really obviously lucky to live there. Its population is declining (it has lost 40 percent since its peak), and among the foot soldiers of the gambling industry — blackjack dealers, scantily clad cocktail waitresses, cab drivers — it is difficult to find anybody who actually lives in it. One lightly clothed entertainer working at a particularly gamey establishment along a row of empty commercial buildings, video stores, and the occasional storefront mosque, all within a couple minutes’ walk of the casino district, snorted derisively at the notion of living in the city. “Oh, hell no. Too dangerous.”...
...Nobody who looks seriously at the nexus between politics and gambling could possibly conclude that what is happening in Atlantic City, in Pennsylvania, on the Indian reservations, or in the lottery racket represents the operation of the free market. It is a cartel in most cases and a monopoly in many, all with the blessings of the state. The arrangement, in the words of one scholarly study of casinos in Montana, leaves government “a dependent partner in the business of gambling.” If gambling advocates were simply making a principled case that putative adults have the right to entertain themselves with their own money according to their own tastes (or, let’s be serious, lack thereof), then their argument would be persuasive. But what is in fact happening is that politicians smell money, and so government itself is getting into the game, taking gambling to be a fruitful model of economic development...
 ...Governments, always eager to out-Enron Enron in the accounting-shenanigans olympics, earmark gambling proceeds for popular programs, then reduce general-revenue support for those programs and use the extra money to increase spending elsewhere. It’s a lot like slot machines: The house exploits the occasional jackpot to distract the schmucks from the fact that losses are a statistical inevitability. And while the accounting gets pretty hairy, it’s not too hard to find entries on the losing side of the ledger: In one study of Atlantic City, 22 percent of the local homeless reported that gambling was the proximate cause of their condition...
Then comes the question - always ignored by casino boosters - of market saturation. Already since Massachusetts passed its casino bill, neighbors Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York State have moved to liberalize their own gaming policies. All believe, apparently, that the market for casino gamblers is infinite. Or, more likely, all hope to grab a slice of the inevitably-diminishing pie before it is all consumed.
...There’s only so much play at the top of the market, but that’s not where all the action resides, and the question that is seldom asked is: If New Jersey is successful in increasing its casino revenues, and Pennsylvania is successful, and Indiana is successful, and Mississippi is successful, and the Indians are successful, and Connecticut is successful — where exactly does the money come from? The money will come from the Silver Horde. Casinos have long loved the high rollers, the whales who still rule in Vegas, but the low rollers are the new bread and butter for casinos in the rest of the country. If the politicians have their way, the Silver Horde will not have to hop on the Lucky Streak and go to Atlantic City: Atlantic City is coming to them...
The industry term of art that denotes success vis-à-vis any individual gambler is: Play To Extinction. The mandate is to keep gamblers tied to the machines until they have handed over all the money they have to hand over. There are a great many ways to do this, but one way to keep the grannies tethered to the “Sex and the City: Change of a Dress” video slot machine is to keep them literally tethered: Casinos have begun offering rewards cards that give gamblers points based on their volume of play. The cards are affixed to neck lanyards and have to be kept plugged in to the machine to accrue points, producing a strangely umbilical sight...
And here's the worst part about the fiction that gaming equals "economic development": it makes government - all of us, in other words - complicit in the con.
...[W]hile there is a great deal of debate about gambling addiction and its role in the casino industry’s business model, a government study found that “disordered gambling” rates are double for populations living within 50 miles of a casino. If cancer rates were double in the 50 miles surrounding a bubblegum factory, you can bet that the bubblegum factory would get the full Erin Brockovich treatment. And it’s not just the gambling rates: In the years after the first casinos were built, Atlantic City went from having the 50th-highest per capita crime rate in the United States to being No. 1 on the list. That’s a big price to pay, but many in government are willing to pay it — for a big enough cut of the action. “The nanny state is bad news,” Davies says. “But when you start looking into gambling and what the companies do, they’re not just running a business. The more problematic part is the government’s role. It’s a joint venture between the government and the casinos, and gaming pays a higher tax rate than do other businesses. In Pennsylvania, slot-machine revenue is taxed at 55 percent rate — 55 percent of the cut. Government is not a minority partner, but a majority partner.”
Here's the capper to Williamson's excellent piece: "Call gambling a vice, call it an addiction, call it a harmless diversion, call it anything you fancy — but don’t call it economic development."

That, of course, is just the point. Casino gaming was sold to Massachusetts last year not as a harmless diversion (much less an addiction or a vice), but as "economic development". It beggars belief to think that so ludicrous a proposition must be refuted, but such are the times in which we live. Pass Williamson's piece around. No casino has yet to break ground in Massachusetts. It isn't too late... quite yet.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Top 10 Reads of the Week - May 4, 2012

How Retirement Benefits May Sink The States - Steven Malanga [Wall Street Journal]
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently offered a stark assessment of the threat to his state's future that is posed by mounting pension and retiree health-care bills for government workers. Unless Illinois enacts reform quickly, he said, the costs of these programs will force taxes so high that, "You won't recruit a business, you won't recruit a family to live here."
We're likely to hear more such worries in coming years. That's because state and local governments across the country have accumulated several trillion dollars in unfunded retirement promises to public-sector workers, the costs of which will increasingly force taxes higher and crowd out other spending. Already businesses and residents are slowly starting to sit up and notice... Read the Rest

The Path to Bin Laden's Death Didn't Start With Obama - Jose Rodriguez, Jr. [Washington Post]
As we mark the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, President Obama deserves credit for making the right choice on taking out Public Enemy No. 1.
But his administration never would have had the opportunity to do the right thing had it not been for some extraordinary work during the George W. Bush administration. Much of that work has been denigrated by Obama as unproductive and contrary to American principles... Read the Rest
Elizabeth Warren Has Lost Her Standing As Chief Female Savior - Margery Egan [Boston Herald]
...I just can’t shake the ridiculous image of you, Liz — a blue-eyed blonde almost as pasty white as me — letting yourself be described as a minority professor, a Native American, for years.
You’ve played the Indian card. You’ve grabbed for minority cred without enduring the minority grief. It’s poached diversity. It’s glommed onto, what, five generations removed, assuming there were some facts way, way back when, as your campaign aides claimed last night... Read the Rest
The Hypothetical President - David Haranyi [Real Clear Politics]
Plenty of Americans believe that the president's rhetoric runs counter to facts, but actually, it's the president's own counterfactual arguments that matter most.
Which is to say, nearly the entire case for President Barack Obama's second term is based on not what has happened but what could, would or might under different circumstances. Things, as you've surely heard from one official after the next, would have been a whole lot worse without the president's guidance... Read the Rest
A Cynical Process - Thomas Sowell [Real Clear Politics]
Labor unions, like the United Nations, are all too often judged by what they are envisioned as being -- not by what they actually are or what they actually do.
Many people, who do not look beyond the vision or the rhetoric to the reality, still think of labor unions as protectors of working people from their employers. And union bosses still employ that kind of rhetoric. However, someone once said, "When I speak I put on a mask, but when I act I must take it off."
That mask has been coming off, more and more, especially during the Obama administration, and what is revealed underneath is very ugly, very cynical and very dangerous... Read the Rest

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What to Expect From Casinos...?

State House News headline: "Experts Brief Mass Gaming Commissioners On What To Expect."

We at CriticalMASS have managed to get our hands on a copy of the expert briefing (Warning!  Language, violence, tobacco):

"Heroes Don't Spike the Football"

The inherent danger in spiking a football is that occasionally it bounces straight back up and hits you in the, um, chin.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Look Ma, it's the bottom! - MA drops near the cellar in annual CEO survey

So let me get this out of the way: the "out-party" is always going to be susceptible to the charge that its members are "rooting for failure". It is only natural, when the opposition is in power and constantly chanting, sometimes against all evidence, that things are hunky-dory and getting better, to point to contrary evidence when it arises with barely- disguised enthusiasm. This isn't enthusiasm for the state if affairs - it is hope that maybe, just maybe this will be the thing that finally exposes the other side's purported tray of brownies for the cow pies that "we" have always known it to be.

So anyhow, go ahead and accuse me of rooting for failure if you must. This is what it is.

Chief Executive Magazine is out with its annual survey of "The Best and Worst States for Business". This year around 650 CEOs of our nation's major employers participated in the survey, and their collective judgement was... that our fair Commonwealth is a comparatively crappy place to do business. Worse than every other state, in fact, besides Illinois, New York, and California. Número 47, with a tumbling bullet (down from 45 last year).

I know, I know, this flies in the face of everything you read in the Globe, and everything the Governor says. But step back and consider the source. Government employment and economic growth figures can be (and are) manipulated to say pretty much anything anyone wants them to say. That is not a cut on the current party in power - both parties do it. Likewise, each side of the ideological divide has its pet think tanks, always with impartial, credible, academic sounding names, that in truth are little more than repositories for former government and/or party officials singing their old songs into a different microphone.

This is a survey of 650 of the people in this country who every day make decisions about where to invest, where to expand, and where to avoid. And they are saying that there are 46 other states where they'd go to do business before coming to Massachusetts. That is a piss-poor result (and that is an understatement).

Worse, look at the MA explanation page. We get great marks for our "human capital" (we always do). But contra the self-serving over-valuation that our pols always ascribe to that particular advantage, it seems "human capital" just doesn't buy what it used to before the world became so danged mobile.

Look at these comments:
“California and Massachusetts in league of their own for anti-business regulatory environment.”
“California, Massachusetts and Vermont have enacted anti-business policies that are detrimental, especially to the medical device industry.”
Now where have I heard that before? Oh, right. EVERYWHERE. Except in government, where elected officials and career bureaucrats deliberately ignore the impact of their policy decisions on our employers.

I am not celebrating failure here... I'm saying told you so. And wake up!