Thursday, August 28, 2008

As Obama Speaks, the Rich Start Sheltering

Rich folks are starting to plow into munis, like I suggested here, in anticipation of losing the favorable Bush era tax rates. Expect to see alot more signs of voluntary and perfectly legal income sheltering, shrinking the tax base.

Second Stimulus

A while back I said that gas prices could moderate, maybe not to low levels, but to merely reasonable levels. I just got back from a vacation in which I, the lovely Mrs. Baseball, and our adorable Baseball munchins took the family roadster on a 1,800 mile jaunt to points south and back. Of course, here in New York gas prices stink but as we travelled south the pain at the pump was, well, not really all that painful. We got into $3.40 territory and I think I paid an average of $3.65. Not great, but that won't land you in a Hooverville. So what happens if we hold the line at a reasonable level or even slide a bit lower? The demise of the big truck era might be a bit overblown. In fact, this story hints that I may have been on to something. Most likely, price cutting and sub-$3.50 gas are working in combination. Obviously no one is talking about it, but the impact of this slide in gas prices could be that second stimulus package that our betters in Congress were talking about for a spell. For every month that gas is at $3.50 instead of $4.00 it is roughly equivalent to a $6 billion stimulus.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Don't Legislate Someone's Grief

Here is an example of bad policy that emanates from an individual tragedy that spurs the mournful into political action. I just received my monthly healthcare insurance bill and it contained a flyer informing me that certain mental health benefits required under "Timothy's Law" will cost me $8.84 per month. OK. So I checked out "Timothy's Law". You can too, here. It's a sad story and, as parent, I can understand the O'Clair's heartache, but this is a bad law. Stripped of the emotional context of Timothy's awful death, this is simply another typical coverage mandate that is a key culprit in driving up healthcare costs for everybody. There's alot to discuss here but let's put aside the theoretical case and start simply with the cost. From what I can gather, the law was passed under the premise that it would cost insured New Yorkers $1.26 per month. Would this law have been passed if the initial cost premise was closer to the reality of $8.84? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? (Check out the picture here.) But nearly 7x the cost is significant and you can't ignore the possibility that the outcome would have been different. Legislators signed up their constituents for $1.26 per month and that may have been OK, but the bill has just arrived and it is seven times that amount. If you were buying almost any other product or service and you expected to pay $1 and the bill came in at $7, you'd be outraged and most likely refuse to pay or litigate. Unfortunately, insurance consumers have little recourse here but to drop coverage or suck it up.

There are numerous other obvious economic criticisms, i.e. here and here, but I would like to point out the inherent unfairness of foisting costs upon people who have no risk to certain healthcare needs. Timothy's Law is unfair to people who have no risk to child mental illness, like the childless, in the same way that mandating prostate cancer care costs to women is unfair or mandating lupus costs to men is unfair.

I grant that this is all a matter upon which good people can disagree, but unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. The most disturbing aspect seems to be Timothy O'Clair remains a poster child of sorts and it looks like his memory is being abused. It appears the Timothy's Law coalition has caught a case of mission creep. Perhaps imbued with a conquering spirit, having effected a change to our laws, they are seeking more changes that have little to do with their original mission, namely advocating for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It doesn't appear that PTSD had anything to do with Timothy O'Clair's tragic death and there is little logical connection to sufferers of PTSD and children like Timothy O'Clair. It seems that the Timothy's Law coalition is simply an advocacy group for increasing mental healthcare coverage mandates that is using - perhaps misappropriating - the "Timothy's Law" brand. Put less charitably, this coalition is fraudulently using the emotional power of this boy's tragic death to advance a universalist healthcare policy agenda. If you can find a reason why Timothy's death ought to animate us to socialize the treatment of a disease that affects people very much unlike Timothy, I would love to hear it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Miscellanous Stuff In Re Our Enemies

I've maintained that we don't need to bomb Iran because, with the mullah's economic mismanagement, we only need to apply some smart squeezing here and there to their economy to elicit the Farsi word for "uncle." Therefore I find this berry berry eenturesting.

Also, when you contemplate what Russia's next move might be in Georgia as time passes, remember Russia's economy is the size of New Jersey's. Russia will pick on the pipsqueak Georgia only until such time as the US makes an appearance on the playground.

Phony Obama Tax Rhetoric

I've been on vacation and quite rightly let my brain turn to mush by consuming almost no news and attending entirely to the needs and diversion of 2 six year olds, 2 four year olds, and an eighteen month old. Thus it is that I don't understand why anyone thinks Obama's softening of his tax policy is a hopeful sign. Obama's economic team now says he's only going to raise the dividend and capital gain tax rate on people earning over $200k or $250k per year. Really? The current 15% tax rate on dividends and capital gains expires at the end of this year unless the Great Sausage Factory takes action to extend it. So, one month before Obama takes office, if he takes office, tax rates on investors will be raised automatically. That means that a newly installed President Obama has to actively draft and send to the Pelosi/Reid Sausage Factory a tax cut (back to 15%) for investors, albeit not all investors. Um, does anybody in their right mind think that a) Obama will get right on this, b) it has even the remotest chance of passage in Nancy Reid's Congress? I doubt such a proposal will ever see the light of day, but if it does, an Obama administration will offer up a world-beating "Aw shucks. Our bill didn't pass. Darn. Next."

Supply-siders like Kudlow are being snowed. This is a costless piece of moderating rhetoric. Obama can't and will never have to deliver on it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just Wondering...

Is Sergei Brin's house and Larry Page's house viewable on Street View...?  Knowing how how a liberal's brain works, I'd wager not.  

Bela Karolyi Gives Bob Costas Fits

We don't do YouTube clips here at NBfPB because we ain't that sophisticated, but I hope that someone somewhere posts Bela Karolyi accusing the gold-medal winning Chinese girls, er sorry, women's gymnastics team of cheating in his commentary with a visibly nervous Bob Costas.  The first exchange went something like this...

Karolyi:  "The Chinese react differently to the pressure because they are 14 year old girls and the Americans are, comparatively, women."
Costas: "Yes, but all the Chinese gymnasts' passports say they meet the age requirement of 16, so it is cool."
Karolyi:  (in his irrepressible, 'I know how Communist governments work Bob' way) "Well, of course their passports say that, they're issued by the government, but nobody with a brain thinks those Chinese girls are a day over 14."

Then the hand.  Costas reaches over and lays a hand on Karolyi's shoulder as if to say, "OK, old man, you've said enough."  The camera fades just enough to make it not so obvious, but the body language was unmistakable, Costas was hard pressed to administer his ultimate responsibility to not dare insult NBC's host/overlords, the Chinese government.

Then, imagine my amazement when, in the wrap-up segment, they let Karolyi speak again, where he continued to go after the Chinese.  Basically, he said, they won but they cheated and shame on them.  Costas seemed helpless to stop it.  I wonder if Karolyi promised to play nice after the first go 'round and reneged or what, but it was comical.  Costas rarely gets rattled, but you could see his discomfort.  Don't worry Bob, the Chinese won't send you to re-education camp!

More here and here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Don't Candy Coat It With the Russians

I will be ashamed and embarassed if Bush doesn't say, essentially, the following:

"Any Russian army personnel or military equipment that is not withdrawn to Russian territory, exclusive of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, by Tuesday at midnight will meet the working end of several B2 bombers. Diplomacy can resume when Russian military assets are on Russia's side of the border. End of story."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Economic Stimulus Hits New York Just In Time

Was the Brett Favre trade actually an economic stimulus package? Hmmm. Is Tiger next?

Also note, defense may win championships, but it doesn't move merchandise. Not one defensive player in the top 10 best selling jerseys.

Infuriating, Assinine Jerkoff of the Day

Reyna Armendariz, cousin of convicted and now thankfully dead rapist/murderer Jose Medellin. "Only God has the right to take a life," so says Armendariz, whose cousin wasn't so theologically grounded when he encountered Elizabeth Pena and Jennifer Ertman on that day in 1993.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Russia to Exxon: "Bend Over Please"

The above title is an apt alternative title to this article.

There is a very good chance that Exxon is going to get the regulatory equivalent of the Bulgarian umbrella. Russia steals and Exxon is there for the robbing, plain and simple, yet Exxon CEO Tillerson probably sealed the deal recently with his honesty about the legal environment in Russia. Stay tuned.

More here.

UPDATE: Rupert Murdoch gets it.


Bloomberg wants you to feel slightly sorry for the poor in Mexico because they have to rely on a robust US economy because the entire nation has been in thrall to socialist drivel for decades and doesn't seem to know how to hold its politicians accountable for corruption.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Typo Correction

Did I say short oil and buy Ford? I meant short oil and buy a Ford, they're giving away F-150s. I heard this weekend about a guy who picked one up for less than $17,000.

Childless Bliss

Like I said, the surveys seem to be asking people in their 40s what life is like without children, not people in their 60s or 70s.

Your Periodic Reminder That Science Isn't that Advanced

Whoops. Those endangered African gorillas? Not so endangered. Beware the cult of scientific absolutism. These guys get it wrong all the time. They can't count gorillas but they can predict the temperature and sea levels 100 years hence.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Canada Becomes Key Player in the Tobacco Biz

Just like its neighbor to the south (us, the U.S.), the Canadian government is now officially in the tobacco cigarette business. Canada has chosen itself a fine joint venture partner and this endeavor promises to be very profitable.

We Need Volcker-Reagan

You can take all the sophisticated economic mumbo-jumbo and toss it. Our predicament is simply diagnosed and simply corrected. We are stagflating. We need higher interest rates (Fed funds around 5%) and lower taxes (Bush '03 tax cuts made permanent and corporate rate cut to 25%). We need them now. Will we get them? Doubtfully.