Vermont’s Useful Idiots: Patrick Leahy and Peter Welch

A week ago, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter Welch traveled with President Obama’s entourage to visit Cuba.  While

Chicks dig the beret.

Chicks dig the beret.

there, they called for an end to the 54-year embargo of the country – which is a call for free trade, incidentally, and since Cuba is one of the final, dying vestiges of communism still barely kicking on the planet, you’d think the inherent irony in these calls would be enough to create some kind of sub-atomic irony explosion, ending all life on the planet as we know it.

Instead, we get two tired, pampered old men, acting as useful idiots, parading publicly for the benefit of dictators:

President Barack Obama also called for an end to the 54-year ban, in a joint news conference Monday with Cuban President Raul Castro. Obama added that how Cuba addresses human-rights concerns will influence how quickly Congress ends the sanctions.

In case Barry’s missed it, the US has asked Cuba to address human rights concerns for 54 years.  That’s why the embargo has been in place and hasn’t been lifted.

Welch said the House would vote overwhelmingly to lift the blockade if the issue were to come to the floor. Leahy said the Senate would do the same.

Well.  Considering Leahy has been in the Senate for, oh, eleventy gazillion years, why hasn’t he made that happen yet?  The issue of the blockade has come to the floor of both houses, repeatedly, for decades.  It’s like Leahy’s a bystander of history on this subject.

What Leahy doesn’t note is that despite the embargo, the US is one of Cuba’s largest exporters.  Despite Leahy’s and Welch’s rhetoric, trade has been happening between Cuba and the US, along specific, designated lines, so as not to enrich the dictatorship, and to benefit the Cuban people.

At present, the embargo, which limits American businesses from conducting business with Cuban interests, is still in effect and is the most enduring trade embargo in modern history. Despite the existence of the embargo, the United States is the fifth largest exporter to Cuba (6.6% of Cuba’s imports are from the US).  However, Cuba must pay cash for all imports, as credit is not allowed.

As an example, Cuba imports 6.2% of its X-ray equipment from the United States:

X-ray machines benefits Cubans, not a dictatorship.

X-ray machines benefits Cubans, not the dictatorship.

But let’s not let facts get in the way of simpering obeisance to dictators and murderers:

Leahy and Welch, in a conference call with reporters, said ending the embargo would help improve human rights in Cuba.

“The impact of this embargo is on average Cubans,” Welch said, adding that sanctions have failed to pressure Castro to improve his human-rights record.

Human rights won’t be improved by an embargo or a lack of one.  Cuba is free to trade with any other country on the planet, and does so, and that trade still has not stopped the Castro regime from murdering, imprisoning, torturing, and shattering Cuban lives for decades.  The US is not the only country on the block, and to hang Cuba’s horrifying human rights record around the US embargo is not only wrong factually, financially, and economically, it gives cover to the Cuban regime to keep right on what they’ve been so successfully doing since 1960 – staying in power.

But the Leahy and Welch lunacy doesn’t stop there.  Of course it doesn’t.  You see, they both think that we could actually learn from dictators:

Both Vermont lawmakers said there is a lot that America can learn from Cuba, citing the country’s medical system, low infant mortality rate and high literacy rate.

Cuba’s medical system?  Are Leahy and Welch flying there for their own medical care?

Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States.  But note that Cuba is a country of 11 million people.  The United States has cities that large, with a total population over 300 million people, and has millions immigrating into the United States annually.  Comparing infant mortality rates (as reported by a Cuban regime very interested in propaganda) is laughable; it’s like comparing tacos and oranges.  If you ask a pregnant woman in the United States if she’d like to fly to Cuba to deliver her baby, what kind of response would you be likely to hear?

A literate Cuban with permanent restrictions as to what he or she can read is not an accomplishment; it’s an insult to human rights, and to cite literacy statistics from dictators is being complicit in their repression.  What good is literacy if all you can read is communist propaganda, internet access is severely restricted, and books are burned publicly, by the regime?

I guess we do have a lot to learn from Cuba.  Where even the literature on human rights gets trampled by the state, along with the rights

This is what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights looks like, on fire.

This is what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights looks like, on fire.

themselves.

But wait:  There’s still more exciting opportunities in idiotic usefulness to be gleaned from two-thirds of our congressional delegation.  To wit:  Let’s introduce crony capitalism to Cuba!

Leahy also spoke about the economic possibilities that ending the embargo could bring Americans. Vermont’s renewable-energy industry could see significant opportunities in Cuba, and the senator said he planned to bring a trade mission of Vermonters to Cuba early next year.

Well, if it’s not working here in the US, let’s just export the fail to Cuba!  Problem solved.  What’s next, we’ll ship some type of blight to Cuba?  City tap water from Flint, Michigan, perhaps?

Considering the rampant failures of renewable-energy “initiatives” – which are more like cattle-calls to the public trough (I’m looking at you here, Solyndra) – I would think the Senator would want to introduce successful and productive initiatives to the Cuban people, instead of just more of what Castro, et al, have done for decade at the cost of Cuban freedom and human rights.

But any ode to Castro would be incomplete without some romantic re-writing of history, and ignoring the deaths of thousands who’ve died trying to escape that low mortality rate and high literacy rate:

Leahy has long advocated for the opening of relations with Cuba. Both he and Welch have sponsored legislation to lift the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba. Leahy has visited about eight times. This is Welch’s third trip.

The Vermont senator said he was excited to be on the historic trip and see something he has wanted for so long finally happen.

"Your scuba-diving adventure boat is ready for you, Senator Leahy!"

“Your scuba-diving adventure boat is ready for you, Senator Leahy!”

“When I went to bed last night, I was about as happy as I’d been in a long long time,” he said. Leahy added that he and his wife, Marcelle, were hoping to visit Cuba to go scuba diving.  

I hope Leahy doesn’t see any sunken Cuban rafts during his scuba adventures off the shores of Castroland.  And the potentially unfortunate viewing of, perhaps, the remains of a Cuban seeking freedom from oppression.  Might spoil his trip.

 

 

 

 

 

What A Difference A Year Makes!

Nothing succeeds like success!  Or, it does if you’re Annie Noonan, the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor, and your job is to cheerlead mediocrity.  Since Vermont has such a low unemployment number, even when bad weather (from the ski industry’s point of view) makes for fewer of those high-paying seasonal service jobs, Annie’s here to tell that there’s a silver lining to the unemployment cloud:

January 26, 2016:  “The lack of snow directly impacted the number of jobs in Vermont in December.  People who had been hired by employers in the leisure and hospitality sector were laid off when the snow didn’t arrive as expected, and ski lifts were idled, hotel rooms weren’t booked, and restaurants weren’t serving the winter-season visitors.  As such, the December employment data had notable employment loss; fortunately, the situation is turning around, and many of those laid off workers are now back to work.  Vermont employers are still hiring, and job training programs and internships are available for many Vermonters.  The Department of Labor encourages anyone looking for work or a career change to visit one of our 12 regional career centers.”

Well.  Vermont employers are still hiring.  Great news!  So what kind of jobs are they hiring for?  Before answering that question, let’s look at Vermont’s 2015 economic performance from an employee point of view.  Meaning someone who’s actively looking for work:

Hey, unemployment's lower! But, um, so are the employed. Oh.

Hey, unemployment’s lower! But, um, so are the employed. Oh.

Hm.  The Total column represents Vermont’s burgeoning labor force.  So there’s roughly 5,000 fewer people actively seeking employment in Vermont in December 2015 than there was in January 2015.

As the unemployment column shows, about 5,000 fewer people were unemployed in December 2015 than there were in January 2015.  So how can the unemployment number drop from 4.6% to 3.1% in 12 months, if those two numbers are the same?

Answer:  Because the overall employment number is almost exactly the same.  330,000 people were employed in January 2015, and 330,000 people were employed in December 2015.  Net new employment is all of 100 people.

That’s it.  That’s the Shumlin administration’s 2015 job creation record.  100 net new jobs.

What industries were able to reap this whirlwind harvest of jobs?  What businesses could absorb this upwelling of employment?  Well, government, mostly, and health care & social assistance.  In other words, taxpayer-supported jobs, not private-sector jobs, the jobs that provide the tax revenues to support the public sector.

Feel the economic...burn?

Feel the economic…burn?

And how is Annie Noonan’s boss, Peter Shumlin, addressing this massive job crisis in the Green Mountain State?  Oh, he’s telling businesses to divest from the coal and gas industries:

MONTPELIER – February 3, 2016 – Gov. Peter Shumlin stood with Vermont business and education leaders today who support his call for Vermont to use divestment as a tool to help combat global warming. The Governor made the call in his State of the State address earlier this year for Vermont to follow California’s lead in divesting state pension funds from coal assets. The Governor also urged that the state go further and divest from ExxonMobil assets.

So, in short, the governor manages to eke out 100 new jobs in 12 months, and then he’s telling businesses how they should run their asset portfolio.  This from the same guy who’s crashing the state’s budget on an annual basis before slinking out of office at the end of 2016.  As others have noted, submitting revenue estimates with 6% growth rates – when the historical trends are half that number – seems like a less

If only the governor's budgets were this accurate.

If only the governor’s budgets were this accurate.

than intelligent way to formulate next-year budgets.

The first consensus revenue forecast Shumlin saw as governor in January 2011 predicted that general fund revenues would grow by close to 6 percent in the following two years. In general, forecasts have fallen since then.

This was catastrophically bad financial planning, and only a fool would assume doubled growth rates based on no reason whatsoever.

Which leaves me one question:  I wonder if Shumlin will have another 100 jobs to take credit for in 11 months, on his way out the door?

18 Trillion Oughta Do It

Bernie Sanders, a man whose entire existence has been funded by the earnings of people who work for a living, has famously proposed to spend even more of other peoples’ money, to the tune of $18 trillion or so, over the next 10 years.  This is in addition to what the USG is

In Bernie's mind, this is far too little spending. Wait. Did I say "mind"?

In Bernie’s mind, this is far too little spending. Wait. Did I say “mind”?

currently spending, which, as a percentage of GDP, is at WW2-era levels of spending, and last I saw, we weren’t driving Shermans through the Ardennes on the way to Berlin.  Call it an additional $1.8 trillion per year, over and above the 2015 benchmark spending level of $3.69 trillion per year.

A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon we’re talking serious money.

Well.  Where are all these massively underutilized dollars going to come from, anyway, so the federal government can correctly spend them for us?  Is $18 trillion sitting under a really large number of mattresses?

As it turns out, the answer to the mattress question is “No”, and even an economic simple Simon like Sanders (apologies to Simons everywhere, simple or otherwise, excluding an apology to Sanders) can look at the data and understand that, but he doesn’t want to.  Why?  Because he doesn’t have to, that’s why – he can easily peddle “free” to people who still believe in such things as, well, things not having a cost, to them or others, because there’s never a shortage of people who will line up for something they did not earn.

Bernie’s selling point is that The Rich ™ can and will pay for it, a canard that has been used by such other lovely humanitarians like Lenin and Mao, whose actions resulted in the deaths of tens of millions.  But instead of pointing out history to a reality denier like Sanders, let’s look at the actual income paid into the IRS at all income levels, and see what’s actually there to be taxed.  All data courtesy of the IRS.

In 2013, the modified taxable personal income total was $6.4 trillion.  Total taxes generated were $1.265 trillion.  But take a look at where the Taxable Incomes and taxes paid 2013 v2bulk of those tax revenues came from – they came directly from the middle class, not the “rich”.  Any plan of Sanders that involves increasing taxes to pay for additional spending will come directly out of middle-income pockets.

Why?  Because the “rich” often don’t earn a salary, they earn income off investments, which is taxed at a different rate, and is money actually risked in the economy.  Secondly, if someone has a million dollar home, they might be considered rich in assets, but you can’t install an ATM on the side of your house to give you cash from the asset on your way to the supermarket.  That asset can be converted to dollars (through a loan against the asset) or sold, but it’s not income that can be taxed.

In fact as a percentage of total taxes paid, the $100,000 to $200,000 bracket bears the biggest federal income tax smack of anybody.  Now, in Sanders’ world, $200,000 might sound like a “rich” person, but a married couple earning $75,000 apiece, for $150,000 in total household income, would probably not be perceived as rich by anyone who knows what a mortgage payment on a simple $200,000 home is, and if a child comes along, well, those incomes start looking even smaller.

The income brackets from $50,000 through $500,000 constitute 66% of all income taxes collected.  These brackets are the ones that are currently the hardest hit in terms of tax burden.  It’s where the potential income is to be taxed in the first place.

Soak the middle! Er, the rich!

Soak the middle! Er, the rich!

So anything Sanders proposes in terms of new taxes will be disproportionately burdened on the very families he preaches he’s going to take care of.

Where would Sanders get that additional $1.8 trillion of annual spending?  In order to generate that additional $1.8 from the $50K-$500K brackets, he would have to double the effective income tax rate.  Double it.  Raise your hand if you’ve seen Bernie mention doubling the middle-class income tax rates.

Now, Bernie wants a blend of additional tax increases and revenues, so it would not fall entirely on the middle-class, but since income taxes constitute about half the USG’s tax revenues, that’s where the biggest hit will have to come from.  It’s not a choice.

But to make it worse, half the country pays no net income taxes.  Yet they get to vote in the economic duferati like Bernie Sanders, who has promised to give that half something for nothing, again, and has ridden that mantra all the way through Iowa.  Greed sells, it seems, but only Bernie seems to think it’s corporations that are greedy.  When the people who are apparently not too busy to be working at an actual job rush out to see him on the campaign

Or the true cost of dependency, but go Bernie!

Or the true cost of dependency, but go Bernie!

trail, waving “Free College!” signs, it’s fair to ask:  Who’s the greedy one here?

Bernie’s Economic Babbling: Trotsky Style!

Bernie Sanders, Brooklynite-In-Exile in Vermont, has a long series of errors on his campaign website, mostly related to economics.

And you can start thanking Bernie now by voting in 2016!

And you can start thanking Bernie now by voting in 2016!

It’s unclear as to whether or not anyone in Bernie’s camp has had the time to point out the stupidity of these errors, so as a service to the aging comrade, I’ll do that work for him.  Because he seems almost purposefully incapable of understanding the errors himself.

Where to begin?  Oh, inequality, of course, because if big government was created to do one thing, it’s to assure the right to life, liberty….oh, wait.   It’s to make everything equal for everybody.  Got it.  To wit:

  1.  Today, we live in the richest country in the history of the world, but that reality means little because much of that wealth is controlled
Bernie charts: We tell almost half the story!

Bernie charts: We tell almost half the story!

by a tiny handful of individuals.

The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.

Well, actually, we’re not the richest country in the history of the world, depending on how you measure it.  In fact, by GDP on a per-person basis, the US ranges from 10th to 14th in several versions of this metric.  Since Bernie loves to separate the classes by income, he’s already missing the point, and making a mistake – we’re not the richest country in the world by standard comparative metrics.  If one family makes $200,000 per year with 5 people in the house ($40K/person), and a second family makes $100,000 per year with 2 people in the house ($50K/person), the first family is “richer” in aggregate, but on a per-person basis they’re poorer. And they likely have much larger expenses than the 2-person family.

Having the biggest pile of money in your house (or your country) doesn’t mean you’re rich.  Especially if you consider that unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare are over $100 trillion dollars.

2.  The reality is that since the mid-1980s there has been an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country. That is the Robin Hood principle in reverse. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.

Thieves! Well, not really.

Thieves! Well, not really.

 

Here Bernie seems to miss the point entirely about wealth creation, and that the wealth “pie” is not a finite box of dollars, and the wealthy have somehow been sneaking in at night to take money out of the middle-class’s wallets without their knowing about it.  The dollars aren’t “transferring” from the middle-class to the 1%.  The economy has grown larger, and with it, incomes.  In fact, middle-incomes have grown in that same timeline, but so have incomes at the upper levels, just at a faster rate.

But massive and historically unprecedented increases in federal entitlement spending haven’t increased incomes.  In fact, incomes dropped,

Hmm - the govt spends more, yet people earn less? That's un-possible!

Hmm – the govt spends more, yet people earn less? That’s un-possible!

even prior to the federal spending expansion.  Why?  Because when you encourage people not to work, by providing enough support through entitlements so you don’t have to work, you will see a massive reduction in the workforce.

In this scenario, if the government is providing enough income to live without working, then whatever capital is owned and invested, risked in the marketplace, will inevitably grow larger as a larger share of a growing economy.  So those who work and invest will inevitably have more than those who choose not to.  Is it “fair” that I work two jobs at 60 hours per week to earn more income, only to have those additional hours be taxed at a higher rate because I then make too much money, as deemed by a politician who gets paid off the sweat of my labor?

So people leave the workforce and incomes drop? Shocking.

So people leave the workforce and incomes drop? Shocking.

The other piece Bernie seems to so easily forget is that money invested is money risked, which is something he never asks his followers to do – risk their own time, their own money, and their own futures, on investing in an idea, a stock, a project, that might pay dividends somewhere down the line.  Instead, he wants to take earnings from those who will willing to take risks, and be successful through hard work, and give it to those who risk nothing other than a mild hand-cramp when automatically pulling voting levers for people like Bernie who have sold them a bill of class warfare goods, and want to be paid for it, in votes, every few years.

There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

What’s wrong?  If you’re poor, and extremely poor, then obviously you’re not going to own a lot of assets.  It’s very likely that you own much less than zero assets, and are receiving entitlements of one kind or another, which would make you a net negative wealth “owner”.

In case Bernie missed it – half the country pays no net income taxes.  That’s the bottom of the bottom 90%.  Secondly, the top 50% of income earners pay 97% of all income taxes collected.  That means the biggest earners carried the biggest burden of wealth transferred since the history of these efforts has been kept.  We live in record-setting times, in that wealth is being transferred from the productive sector to the non-productive sector at larger and larger rates, every year.

There is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.  

You can't win if you don't play.

You can’t win if you don’t play.

Actually, it makes complete sense that new income goes to those who risk their own money in the markets.  Would Bernie expect people to risk their money in order to earn less money?  Take a look at the labor force participation rate, Bernie – it’s gone down, dramatically, as people have shifted to consuming available entitlements.  Then Bernie complains that those who shifted to getting something from the government don’t earn as much as people who work for a living?  Really?  That’s like complaining about dinner without paying for the ingredients, and not making dinner.  See how that flies at the dinner table in your own home.

 

How’s re-distribution working out, historically?  Not so well.

People make less when the government takes in more tax dollars? Gasp! I repeat: Gasp!

People make less when the government takes in more tax dollars? Gasp! I repeat: Gasp!

In fact, the more money the government spends, the lower median incomes are.

Hm.  I wonder why?  The facts seem to fly in the fact of Bernie’s claim that the more government spends, the better off its citizens are.  The facts show that the opposite is true.  If taxes increase, and federal income goes up, how would those dollars translate, even on a one for one basis, to people earning the median incomes?  They’re working, so they don’t receive direct federal assistance.  In fact, you can make the claim that raising taxes, even on the wealthy alone (which won’t, in fact, be enough to cover annual federal expenditures), would have the opposite effect of increasing incomes – because you will have placed an increased tax burden on those earning the incomes in the first place.

As has been demonstrated, you would have to start raising the federal tax rate on middle-class earners in order to support any additional federal spending.  There just isn’t enough income lying around the country to feed the yawning chasm that is the federal maw, one that Bernie wants to continue to feed in order to keep his cushy lifestyle telling workers how much of their money he needs to re-distribute to buy votes.

Finally, Bernie tries conflating two things, on two different timelines, and tries to call that an argument:

Despite huge advancements in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. The real median income of male workers is $783 less than it was 42 years ago; while the real median income of female workers is over $1,300 less than it was in 2007. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.

First, median household income, even inflation adjusted, has increased by $5,000 from 1976 to 2012.  This includes a massive increase in the labor force by women that began in the 1970’s and is still increasing today.  So no, median incomes aren’t decreasing, they are increasing.

Secondly, for female workers, Bernie chooses 2007 as a comparison, which was the highest female rate of earnings, ever.  He doesn’t go

Hey look! Women earn less now than their peak in 2007 - but more than they did in 2000! Now explain to me how that's bad, again?

Hey look! Women earn less now than their peak in 2007 – but more than they did in 2000! Now explain to me how that’s bad, again?

back 42 years for this metric, does he?  No, because he wants it to look worse than it is – but it’s going to look bad, regardless, due to the recession.  Incomes generally don’t go up much during recessions, but both male and female earnings did, after the bottoming-out of the recession trough.

Male earners followed the exact same pattern – their earnings dropped in the same fashion.  Why?  Because recession.

Did the increase in federal spending (as shown above) increase incomes?  No, because people who work for a living are rarely in line waiting for a handout.  So that wealth transfer has only a negative impact on them, via tax increases.

Finally, how would raising taxes, on the wealthy, on corporations, or anybody, increase incomes?  History has shown that incomes have actually decreased while federal spending increased, so why would even the simplest of dullards double down on a demonstrably losing bet?

Answer:  Because Bernie is not in it for incomes.  He’s in it for power, and for filling the empty spot where his soul used to be, before he sold it

This is Bernie's idealized world.

This is Bernie’s idealized world.

to a class warfare paradigm in order to live a life he could never have earned on his own dime.  He can only enjoy his lifestyle off the earnings, the work, of others.  A lifestyle, as Bernie should know, is what caused the Russian revolution in the first place, and put its 20th-century

heroes into power – and caused the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th century.

But hey – let’s raise taxes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolina Dreamin’

Vermont:  A shining economic city on the hill.  Well, after you’re done laughing, all that’s left is to mop up the tears and the patchouli, and

If you're on the road to nowhere, do you need another highway to get there?

If you’re on the road to nowhere, do you need another highway to get there?

either move on, or move out.

The sad part of Vermont’s slow-rolling economic demise is that its politicians, its heroes of Progressivism ™ like Peter Shumlin, point to certain statistics as proof that policies are working, that Vermont is a “great” place for jobs, and that inaccurate reporting makes Vermonters leave Vermont to seek their fortunes.  Vermont makes frequent appearances on the annual Worst Economic Indicators surveys, while other states like North Carolina, which have different points of view about the size and scope of government, and make frequent appearances in surveys of Fastest Growing States, Fastest Growing Cities, or 3rd Fastest-Growing State for Women-Owned Businesses.  It’s not an accident.

Let’s check in on the realities of that Shumlin premise , and compare 10-year snapshots of economic data comparing Vermont to North Carolina, using January as the annual snapshot date.

First up:  Labor Force.  Vermont’s labor force is now sporting its lowest total number since 2005 – which, as we’ll show below, is the one and only thing keeping the state’s unemployment percentage rate low.  In fact, Vermont’s labor force is in a 5-year nosedive:

Hmm. Compare and contrast.

Hmm. One of these things is not like the other.

Next, let’s look at Employment.  The comparison below seems to run counter to Peter Shumlin’s continuing, well, exaggerations about what a “great” place Vermont is to work.  How can you claim that the state has jobs when the total number of employed is continually going down?

Only in Shumlin's world does a negative growth trend = "great"

Only in Shumlin’s world does a negative growth trend = “great”

 

How do the two states compare in Unemployment?  As you might expect, both states were smacked around by the recession.  But where Vermont and North Carolina part ways is that both Vermont’s unemployment and employment decreased.  North Carolina’s unemployment decreased, and its employment (above) increased.  That means that North Carolina’s residents found work, and went back to work.

Vermont’s residents?  Well, not so much.

 

Both states spiked during the recession, and trend south afterwards.

Both states’ unemployment spiked during the recession, and trend south afterwards.  But which state would you rather be in, if you actually want a job?

Finally, the Unemployment Rate itself is just a reflection of the total number of unemployed and the labor force, so it follows a similar trend to the above.  Vermont’s low rate, though, does not reflect a thriving economy – the rate itself hides the fact that the labor force is declining.

 

Similar to above

Similar to above – the rates of decline in unemployment are the same, but the number of people with jobs goes up in North Carolina, and goes down in Vermont.

Yet Vermont’s Vermont Dept Labor Nov 2015 Release, even with the data showing that the 3.7% rate is entirely dependent on people leaving the workforce:

Keep comparing yourself to the national UE rate as more and more Vermonters leave the workforce, if it helps you sleep at night.

Keep comparing yourself to the national UE rate as more and more Vermonters leave the workforce, if it helps you sleep at night.

In fact, if you look at the November 2014 to November 2015 employment by category, 30% of the job gains made YOY were in Government (with the biggest gains in State government).  The same public sector that can only take from the private private sector, the sector where fewer and fewer people are employed.

In fact, in the private sector, 2,000 of the 2,800 jobs gained were in Education and Health Services, and the bulk of those 2,000 jobs (1,700) were in Health Care and Social Assistance.  All other private sector categories are either negative or virtually flat.

Not good news for job hunters in the private sector.

Not good news for job hunters in the private sector.

Vermont’s next governor has what might be turning into an insurmountable task:  Righting Vermont’s economic ship of state, one that has decades of negative “progressive” momentum built up behind it, such as:

7th highest income tax rate  calm-pathological-liars

5th-highest minimum wage rate (and the higher this rate goes, the higher the unemployment rate for those at the worst end of the economic stick).

9th worst state for business.

39th for fiscal condition/solvency.

9th worst state for young adults.

After a certain point, Vermonters might start asking themselves why their political leaders paint such a rosy economic picture, when the reality for Vermonters, on the ground, is something entirely different.  Especially when the people telling them everything’s great are the ones who are paid in the Government category of decreasingly employed Vermonters.

 

 

Bernie Sanders: Federal Spending Hawk

In a shocking turn of events, Sen. Barry, er, Bernie Sanders (current whereabouts unknown, but might be found in a server storage facility at DNC headquarters, or apologizing spasmodically at the last debate to his Probably Pantsuit Overlord) recently decided that he opposes federal spending!  In the interests of saving digital space, I omitted any additional exclamation marks at the end of the previous sentence.

Bernie has taken this bold stance as a result of the House and Senate passing the omnibus spending bill, just in under the wire to continue funding the federal government, and just a few weeks from the New Year:

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Friday in favor a $1.8 trillion package of spending bills and tax breaks, sending the legislation to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

(As an aside, out in the real world, if you’re finally getting around to authorizing your next year spend two weeks before it starts, you get fired.)

Bernie’s response to this record-setting spend?  Billionaires are evil.  Insert shocked meme here.

I guess I'm shocked he's still peddling this idea.

I guess I’m shocked he’s still peddling this idea.

Millions of Americans are unemployed and working longer hours for lower wages, yet this spending package gives more tax breaks to billionaires, encourages large corporations to ship jobs overseas and makes worse an already corrupt campaign finance system.

First of all, unemployed Americans are not going to become more employed by doing the opposite of what Bernie’s complaining about here – raising taxes will reduce employment, as more money flows to the federal, state, and local governments rather than being invested in businesses, which leads to hiring.  The fact that federal spending has exploded in the last 8 years (with Bernie cheering the way on much of that increase in spending) while employment and incomes have remained stagnant seems to escape the reality of a man who’s literally fed himself off the labor of other people.  Taking money from the productive sector of the economy will in no way create a job.

Government spends more, incomes stay flat. Another economics lesson that Bernie hasn't bothered to wrap his receding hairstyle around.

Government spends more, income drop or stay flat. Another economics lesson that Bernie hasn’t bothered to wrap his receding hairstyle around.  That’s a *doubling* of federal expenditures in 15 years.  Federal spending does not improve incomes.  Period.

Oh, and “shipping jobs overseas”?  Don’t worry about the budget or spending bills, Bernie – our corporate tax rate is enough to do that as it is.  And since Bernie loves to tout European countries as being more progressive than the knuckle-draggers here in the states, maybe he can explain why, say, Sweden has a lower corporate tax rate than the United States?  In fact, why does the US have the highest rate out of all these countries?  Are those countries also shipping jobs overseas?  I guarantee that they’re not shipping them to the US with a higher corporate tax bite.

Can't wait for Bernie's platform to call for European-level corporate tax rates. How long will I have to wait for that to come out of Bernie's mouth?

Can’t wait for Bernie’s platform to call for European-level corporate tax rates. How long will I have to wait for that to come out of Bernie’s mouth?

Oh, and as for corruption in campaign finance – who are some of Bernie’s biggest campaign contributors?  Public-sector employees.  So tax dollars collected from the private sector are paid to those employees, a portion of which is also paid to their union, then the union lobbies Congress – and Bernie Sanders – to increase their rates of pay and benefits.  It’s a circular kickback scheme.

Yes, by all means - let's end campaign contribution corruption, starting with unions.

Yes, by all means – let’s end campaign contribution corruption, starting with unions.

Still, Bernie is by no means finished; he’s still going to take a swing at industries that produce that hated result – jobs:

Scientists tell us that we must act immediately to combat climate change, but this bill will lift the crude oil export ban and encourage the burning of more fossil fuels.

Scientists also tell us that climate change is directly correlated to solar activity, and that the cooling period that’s occurring now (prompting a change from the “global warming” nomenclature to “climate change”) is part of normal solar activity.  Scientists also tell us that smoking tobacco will kill us, yet Congress hasn’t banned tobacco.  Or banned cancer.  What’s Bernie waiting for?

Now, lest we forget the children, Bernie reminds us how evil Republicans are, again, in case anyone’s missed his earlier messaging on this issue:

And 16 million children are living in poverty in this country, but Congress has decided to cut food and nutrition services for our most vulnerable and increase the already bloated defense budget.

Yes, but by the measures used to define “poverty”, Bernie ignores the one trillion or so spent annually in the US on welfare programs, of all kinds.  From the article:

The government’s own data show that the actual living conditions of the more than 45 million people who are deemed “poor” by the Census Bureau differ greatly from popular conceptions of poverty.[18] Consider these facts taken from various government reports:[19]

  • Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, at the beginning of the War on Poverty, only about 12 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • Nearly three-quarters have a car or truck; 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.[20]
  • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television.
  • Half have a personal computer; one in seven has two or more computers.
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
  • Forty-three percent have Internet access.
  • Forty percent have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
  • A quarter have a digital video recorder system such as a TIVO.

Only in Bernie’s America do poor people have 2 cars and a plasma TV, and get to be categorized as “poor”.  Since the War on Poverty began,  $19.8 trillion has been spent on it – triple the total spent on military wars for the entire history of the US.

Since the beginning of the War on Poverty, government has spent $19.8 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars) on means-tested welfare. In comparison, the cost of all military wars in U.S. history from the Revolutionary War through the current war in Afghanistan has been $6.98 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars).[3] The War on Poverty has cost three times as much as all other wars combined.

But Bernie complaints continue:

While there are some important and positive provisions in this bill like the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, the truth is we cannot afford another spending package that expands the power and wealth of the billionaire class at the expense of everyone else. Congress must pass legislation that make our rigged political and economic systems work once again for the vast majority of Americans not just the 1 percent.

As Bernie fails to note, again and again, is that the 1 percent, the 10 percent, the 50 percent – those are the only people in the country paying taxes.  So if you’re going to create tax incentives or cut rates, it will of course impact the people actually paying the taxes, not the net recipients of those taxes collected.

If the 1% are so powerful, why are they the ones always stuck with paying the bills?

And to keep Bernie somewhere in the vicinity of Honesty, USA, the top 10% of income earners in the US pay 68% of taxes.  The top 50% of taxpayers pay 97% of all income taxes collected.

I guess coughing up 6-7 times your earnings in taxes paid relative to everyone else isn't enough in BernieLand.

I guess coughing up 6-7 times your earnings in taxes paid relative to everyone else isn’t enough in BernieLand.

If there’s something unfair in that tax scheme, it’s that half the country has almost no skin in the game whatsoever in paying taxes – so of

In his defense, though, it's not like it's *his* money.

In his defense, though, it’s not like it’s *his* money.

course they’re going to vote for tax increases on the wealthy, because it nets them more government stuff.

And that, in its entirety, is why Bernie Sanders is a presidential candidate.  His supporters’ votes have been bought and paid for by the 1% he so routinely demonizes.

Infrastructure, Schminfrastructure: Bernie Sanders – The Anti-Jobs Candidate

Recently, the politician who recently demanded the minimum wage be raised to $15/hour, has, um, come out against a pipeline project that would

"Hey, don't ask me about jobs - I'm a Socialist."

“Hey, don’t ask me about jobs – I’m a Socialist.”

create jobs at hourly rates much higher than $15.

“I believe the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas for 400 miles through 17 communities is a bad idea – and should be opposed,” the Vermont senator said.

Looks like Sen. Sanders has his list of environmental trigger warnings at hand, making sure that “fracked” is the qualifier for “natural gas”, which somehow indicates that the natural gas has been tainted in the fracking process, and is now worthy of scorn and derision.  No word yet as to which Vermont families are equally horrified to find that natural gas – WHICH IS CARRIED IN PIPES IN NEIGHBORHOODS NEAR YOU, OH MY GOD THE EVIL OF FRACKING IS CALLING FROM INSIDE YOUR HOUSE! – is available when they want to heat their homes when it’s three degrees in January.  And oh, I don’t know, what families might question their prior Bernie votes when gas is unavailable when they turn on their aptly-named gas stoves to cook and grimly digest the thin gruel that only Vermonters can afford in their $15/hour jobs.

Thanks Bernie!

Here’s a couple of hideous natural gas facts for Bernie to digest, in between his economics classes he must surely be taking now (courtesy of Vermont Gas):

Vermont’s natural gas is transported from Canada via the TransCanada Pipe Line and enters at Highgate, on the Vermont/Canada border. Vermont Gas serves customers through a network of more than 750 miles of underground transmission and distribution lines.

What?  There’s already 750 miles of underground transmission lines?  And the state of Vermont hasn’t exploded?  But wait:  Could there be even more good news about (gasp!) gas?

Vermont Gas Systems provides clean, affordable natural gas to almost 50,000 families, businesses, and institutions in Chittenden and Franklin counties. Through energy efficiency and prevented emissions from heating oil and propane, the company’s customers annually avoid carbon emissions equivalent to almost 10% of the emissions of Vermont’s cars and trucks.

So:  We already have longstanding proven gas infrastructure, as if we needed more evidence of pipeline reliability.  Secondly, natural gas is

One assumes that Bernie wants more natural gas transported via roads, then. Got it. Understood.

One assumes that Bernie wants more natural gas transported via roads, then. Got it. Understood.

less of an emissions sinner than other energy sources, if that’s a significant concern to you.  Third, once the pipeline is built (if it is built), you reduce the need to haul natural gas via trucks on carbon-infused roads.  Or via non-solar-powered trains.

One can see why Vermont’s most upstanding Senator and job-creating genius is against such ghastly efforts.  Why, it’s almost as if he’s arguing to keep the cost of energy high in Vermont, in a state that is supremely reliant on having affordable and on-demand energy sources so its citizens don’t freeze to death.  It’s almost as if he’s arguing that Vermonters should pay more for and have less access to heating fuels.

But that can’t be what he’s arguing, can it?  A Senator arguing against both the financial and health prospects of its constituencies?  Oh, wait, never mind – I forgot.  He also voted for Obamacare, and claims to have partially written the ACAwhen he’s not too busy campaigning to miss a vote on its repeal, that is.  The ACA does the same thing as his opposition to the pipeline – reduces the financial and health prospects of the constituencies he purports to represent.

So don’t worry, Vermont – Bernie’s got your back.  He’s got your back, that is, if you work in Government or Education & Health Services (which includes Social Services), because according to the most recent employment data, those are the two sectors that incurred the most job growth between October 2014 and October 2015 in Vermont.  Of the roughly 2,600 jobs created between those two dates, these two sectors claimed all of that net growth:

And what Vermonter doesn't dream, as a child, to grow up one day and become a state employee?

In other words, don’t worry about critical infrastructure like energy sources.  After all, if you shut down the state’s most reliable and cheapest form of energy, and block natural gas pipelines from being built, the only logical result is that businesses will flock to Vermont in order to set up shop in the country’s most business-friendly state in the nation.

 

 

 

 

 

Bernie Sanders: Wrong On Everything

Just because you surge in the polls doesn’t make you right, which means, I’m sorry to say, that what Bernie regularly posts on his taxpayer-

Yeah, ok, but he really knows what to do with the money.

Yeah, ok, but he really knows what to do with the money.

funded Senate site is filled with the wrong ideas, the wrong policies, and the wrong fixes to problems that would not have been wrought had the government not intervened in the first place.

Oh, and in case Bernie’s supporters want to tout his lead in the laughable Democratic race for the nomination:  Bernie is competing against someone with more baggage than the 3rd-largest airline in the US.  And on the Republican side, Trump is still holding a lead in many polls.  So let’s hope Bernie’s supporters don’t count their allocated, government-issued Freedom Chickens before they hatch.

Since Bernie’s site is “dynamic”, a quick snap of the page, as I expect it to change and be filled with other topics such as “Sanders Questions Need for Soldiers to Have Ammo” and “Sanders Quiet on Vets Dying in VA Hospitals While He Was On the Senate Veterans Affairs Oversight Committee”.

Sanders: How I'm Wrong In Eleven Easy-to-Read Articles

Sanders: How I’m Wrong In Eleven Easy-to-Read Articles

Let’s start with jobs, since unlike a lot of Sanders supporters, most Americans want to work for a living.  What’s Big Bernie’s take on jobs?

Easy.  Let’s ban energy production in the US!

11.4:  Sanders, Merkley, Leahy Introduce Bill to Ban New Drilling on Public Land

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation today to help accelerate the transition to clean energy by ending all new federal leases for oil, gas or coal extraction on public lands and waters.

As others have noted, since the Obama administration has already drastically reduced the leasing of public lands for commercial oil drilling, to a 3-decade low, what, exactly, does Bernie expect to accomplish?  Other than make it harder and more expensive, in the long run, for people who work for a living to put gas in their cars?

Here’s where Bernie really sticks it to those evil energy-producers:

“Worry less about your campaign contributions and worry more about your children and grandchildren,” Sanders told Republicans who continue to deny the science on climate change. “We are taking on the Koch brothers and some of the most powerful political forces in the world who are more concerned with short-term profits than the future of the planet. I’ve got four kids, and I’ve got seven beautiful grandchildren. We have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and inhabitable.”

Sanders doesn’t, however, apparently want to leave them a planet where when they turn on the light switch a light comes on.  First of all, there is no “clean” energy.  A wind turbine isn’t made from daisies and cow dung.  It’s made from steel, carbon, and many are routinely backed up by gas-fired energy when the wind doesn’t blow.  You need a gazillion of them to even hope to start matching current energy demands.

Also, Sanders seems to avoid mentioning those companies with their hands out for federal dollars that seek short-term profits rather than the future of the planet.  I guess not everyone is as saintly as Bernie when it comes to what power they choose to consume on a daily basis.

Look at that great federal solution that satisfies future energy needs, cleanly!

Look at that great federal solution that satisfies future energy needs, cleanly!

Oh, and since the national infrastructure won’t be divested of cars anytime soon, Bernie creates more dependency on Middle East oil – which is something no “leader” in American politics should be supporting.  Ever.

And how does restricting oil/gas drilling in the US help out those middle-class people who want a job, say, working for a company that drills for oil?

But enough about Americans wanting to do the jobs the government won’t let them do.  Let’s cut defense spending!

11.10:  Sanders Votes Against Increasing Defense Spending

Not three days before the Paris massacre, the ever-reliable Bernie Sanders took out his favorite whipping boy, and whipped him, just days before yet another massacre perpetrated by the insane might, just might, mean we shouldn’t be cutting defense spending even lower than it has been under Obama.

Timing, as always, is irrelevant when the dictatorship of the proletariat must be overthrown to make way for the pan-utopian Socialist future that awaits us, or whatever garbage is being peddled by Sanders and the mindless ilk that support an ideology responsible for 100 million deaths in the 20th century.

“If we are serious about ending waste, fraud, abuse and excessive spending, we have got to focus on all agencies – including the Department of Defense.”

Although Bernie fails to mention even one other agency that he wants to take a look at.  Like the Department of Energy, maybe?  Or maybe entitlements as a whole?  Nope.

But hey, are we really entitled to a defense here?

But hey, are we really entitled to a defense here?

“This bloated Pentagon budget continues to pour money into outdated weapons systems that don’t function properly.”

The bloated Senate payroll continues to pour money into outdated anachronisms that don’t function properly, but Bernie still takes his paycheck.

Oh, and the outdated systems?  They’re outdated because new systems won’t be authorized by Barack Obama’s signature on the budget.  Secondly, if by “don’t function probably” Bernie means “able to strike with unmatched power anywhere in the world”, then he might be slightly confused about what the word “function” means.  Granted, he was barely an apprentice carpenter four decades ago, so what does he know about the design and function of weapons systems?  Other than that they don’t fire low-information votes into the ballot box for him?

“The Department of Defense is the only federal agency that cannot pass a clean audit.”

The Fed isn’t audited and 40% of every dollar spent, under budgets Bernie votes for, is paid for by borrowed funds.  Secondly, apparently Bernie’s never heard of DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) and DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency), two huuuuuuuge federal agencies that audit all DoD contracts, and if defense contractors fail the audit or have anything wrong in their estimates, the contractors are fined, and they eat the cost overruns if necessary.

Does Bernie know what an audit actually is?  Does Bernie know his budgets include funding these two agencies?

“Many of its major acquisition programs suffer from chronic cost overruns.”

As does nearly every government contract.  Bernie is silent on the Obamacare website’s cost overruns.  Why isn’t he crying out for an audit of HHS?  Nearly a trillion dollars spent on a website.  One.  Trillion.  Dollars.   That’s huuuuuuge money.  Did that “work properly”?  But hey, it’s health care, so whatever.

“Virtually every defense contractor has been found guilty or has reached a settlement with the government because of fraudulent and illegal activities. This has got to change.”

This is an enormous accusation, since the DFAR is so complex it is virtually impossible not to screw something up in terms of meeting the massive and frequently conflicting regulatory requirements.  So “settlements” are often small and routine fines for failure to comply with the DFAR.

And considering there are thousands of defense contractors and sub-contractors, Bernie is claiming that the hard-working Americans that work for these firms, and some of them are small, family-owned machining shops, are actively seeking to commit fraud.  Does any business model start with “How can we defraud the US Government”?

What Bernie really wants is the DoD budget to be spent on entitlements, not defense.  He figures there are more retired people than people working in the defense industry, and he can count votes.  It’s that simple.

And, finally, after trashing the Department that employed them, Bernie has a tribute to veterans. No word yet as to which side of his mouth he’s delivering this message from:

11.11:  Sanders Statement on Veterans Day

“Today, we honor the sacrifice of our nation’s veterans and their families. The truth is that we can never repay the debt that we owe to those men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our country. Our commitment to care for our veterans must extend to every day of the year – not just Veterans Day. We have a moral obligation to keep our promise to provide for the wounded and their families and ensure that all veterans receive every benefit they have earned and deserve.”

Oh, and look at how Captain Oversight honored veterans – by ignoring the facts of the outrages occurring in  VA hospitals that were plainly available to him.  Bernie was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (2013 – 2015).  This occurred on his watch.

Bernie has all the qualities one looks for in a leader:  Hubris, an amazing ability to ignore innate contradictions in his policy positions, and

Hey, who needs consistency when you've got Marx behind you?

Hey, who needs consistency when you’ve got Marx behind you?

an uncanny ability to ignore the deaths that he had the power and responsibility to prevent.  He doubles down on these massive, apoplexy-inducing failures, by now making trite statements regarding the sanctity of veterans on his website.

These are just a few samplings of how wrong Bernie is, but with a full head of steam (and taxpayer dollars, and “big” union dollars behind him), it’s hard to keep up with the Most Disingenuous Man In The World.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gleaming The Bern

If there’s one thing Bernie Sanders knows, is that when the going gets tough, the tough – or in this case, the Bernie – simply doubles down on

We would be wise to listen to The Slater.

We would be wise to listen to The Slater.

the stupid, and goes even further into the Realm of the Unbelievably Economically Illiterate.

In his most recent iteration of this Bernie Behavior ™, he uncorked the idea of spending another $18 trillion on new, um, spending – in addition to the record spending, deficits, and debt we’ve already enjoyed under Barack “Deficit spending is unpatriotic unless I’m the one doing it” Obama.  Because the last stimulus worked out so well.  ($650 million for Digital-to-analog television converter box program?)

Bernie’s taxpayer-funded meme generator has this graphic all over the internet of late, and it would be hilarious in its unintended comedy if it weren’t also hideously obscene in what it means to promulgate, much less support, this level of lunacy:

Why not make it 36 trillion?

If it’s such a great idea, why not make it 36 trillion?

But let’s take Bernie one disaster at a time.  It’s the only way I can get through it.

1.  Medicare for All – $15 trillion

First of all, covering everyone under Medicare means that what’s currently happening with Medicare – that the true costs of care are shifted onto commercial rate-payers – means that an entire system of payments that don’t cover hospital or provider costs results in hospitals and providers that will have to cut back on the care they can offer.  In other words, by covering everyone with the same plan, you actually decrease access to care.  You can’t ignore costs of providing care by only looking at what you’re willing to pay.  Try that at an auto mechanic’s shop and see how that works out for you.

Note that this has been happening for years now under Medicare, and is also happening now, as predicted, with the other aspects of centralized health care, in that Obamacare co-ops are folding like the cheap financial tents they are.  In what should come as a surprise to

Oh, so I've got at least through the next few weekends not to worry about this consuming 100% of my paycheck? Cool.

Oh, so I’ve got at least through the next few weekends not to worry about this consuming 100% of my paycheck? Cool.

Bernie, wishing things to be true does not make them so, so quadrupling down on Medicare is like stomping on the accelerator after you realize you’re headed for a cliff.

Oh, and where’s that $15 trillion going to come from?

2.  Social Security – $1.2 trillion

Touted as a way to increase benefits and shore up its looming insolvency – a pairing of phrases that should give even a 6th-grader mathematical pause – Bernie figures why not throw a big money bomb at the problem and hope it goes away.

First, let’s do a little envelope math here:  $1.2 trillion of $13.4 trillion in unfunded liabilities (as of 2014) is 9% of the total unfunded liability.  That’s not even a dent in it.  It’s not even a scratch.

Worse, the unfunded obligation seems to go up by that same $1.2 trillion amount – annually:

Social Security ran a $71 billion deficit in 2013, closing out four years of consecutive cash-flow deficits as the program’s unfunded obligations continue to grow.[1]According to the 2014 annual report from the programs’ trustees, the combined 75-year unfunded obligation of the Social Security and Disability Insurance Trust Funds (referred to collectively as the OASDI Trust Fund) is $13.4 trillion, a $1.1 trillion increase from last year’s unfunded obligation of $12.3 trillion.[2]

So the spend won’t even touch the unfunded liability, only changing the benefits and raising the retirement age will do that.  Which is not on Bernie’s table of offerings here to “fix” the problem.

Oh, and where’s that $1.2 trillion going to come from?

3.  Rebuild roads, bridges, and airports:  $1.0 trillion

Apparently the existing (near) $1 trillion “stimulus” wasn’t enough to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, although, as reality kicked in on a massive spend of that scale, it turns out that the bulk of it went to nothing at all like rebuilding roads, bridges, and airports.  It was sold as a means to reduce unemployment, with guarantees of a return to a “new normal” U3 rate of 5% back in 2009 – and with tales of horrific unemployment if we didn’t spend a trillion now, immediately.

Which, as it turns out, had little to no effect on unemployment, as the prime driver for the unemployment rate decrease was people leaving the workforce, a good percentage of which were doing so under extended unemployment benefits and lax disability requirements for SSDI, which made it much easier to do nothing and get paid for it.  The stimulus has largely been classified as a bust, but Bernie wants more of the same.

Why?  Why would he want to do something that has been shown to fail, again and again?  That transferring wealth from one sector (the private) to the other (the public) does not necessarily result in a net positive?  Considering that the federal government scrapes off its operating costs, and that the dollars become political playthings for politicians to use to enhance re-election results, why would an aging Socialist believe that the state knows better than the individual what to spend a dollar on?

Because Socialism.  That’s why.

Oh, and where’s that $1.0 trillion going to come from?

4.  College affordability:  $750 billion

One of the reasons college tuition goes up 2x-3x the rate of inflation is because tuition is subsidized by our loving godparents, the federal government, under the guaranteed student loan program.  So now, spending what’s close to the 2009 “stimulus” total on colleges is going to do what, exactly?  Make colleges reduce their tuition rates?  Make students smarter?  Reduce loan debt by shifting the cost of what would have been the loan onto taxpayers, which, in effect, raises taxes on people most likely to be paying off their own student loans to pay for the schooling of current undergrads?

Even I can’t distill this lunacy into its purest form.  It’s like trying to gaze into a singularity.  I might glimpse it, once, but then I’d go insane.

As others have noted, repeatedly, if you make money available to pay for something, the price of it will go up to match the availability:

Federal student aid, whether in the form of grants or loans, is the main factor behind the runaway cost of higher education. As Cato Institute economist Neal McCluskey explained in an April 2012 article for U.S. World & News Report:

“The basic problem is simple: Give everyone $100 to pay for higher education and colleges will raise their prices by $100, negating the value of the aid. And inflation-adjusted aid–most of it federal–has certainly gone up, ballooning from $4,602 per undergraduate in 1990-91 to $12,455 in 2010-11.”

Bernie wants to increase this lunacy, which will only a) drive up the tuition prices, b) incentivize an even larger student loan debt, and c) make the problem he purports to solve worse by enabling the educational industry to happily raise its own spending on the backs of students, all under the guise of making education more “affordable” for all.

Oh, and where’s that $750 billion going to come from?

5.  Paid family and medical leave:  $319 billion

This is simply another labor cost in the form of regulatory requirements that, despite what it sounds like, in terms of a cute-and-fuzzy-who-could-argue-against-this statement, is just another cost of labor, like the Medicare deduction.  This is yet another way to fund a federal program that will net payments to those who choose to have a family (in part).  Which is essentially asking people who do not have children to help subsidize the costs of those who do, which is another form of federal re-distribution and policy-making hiding behind the fig leaf of health care.

In thinking about this purely in terms of benefits, the cost of this paycheck deduction would come directly out of gross pay for the individual, and/or the costs to the employer – but essentially those costs will be borne by the consumer that buys the product or service the company provides, resulting in less demand for that product or service as costs go up.

Which might mean some people get fired for having increased benefits.  Funny how wishing for something nice in one hand might leave you with something else less nice in the other hand.

So where, exactly, is that $319 billion going to come from?

6.  Bolster private pension funds:  $29 billion

Here’s a place to start:  Where’s the $29 billion going to come from?  Taxpayers?  And to what end?  The federal government is going to essentially give a grant to private pension funds to cover potential losses?  What could possibly go wrong here?

7.  (Yuuuuge) Youth Jobs Initiative:  $5.5 billion  

The real "stimulus".

The real “stimulus”.

1 million jobs for disadvantaged youth.  This price tag results in a $5,500 per person subsidy.

Sanders’s bill, which he introduced in a D.C. neighborhood with relatively high unemployment and crime rates, would send $5.5 billion to local and state governments to fund job-training programs. Much of the money would go to helping unemployed African Americans. Sanders suggested the investment could pay for itself if it keeps more young black men out of jail.

Sanders seems to be living in a dream world where a jobs program would magically return its investment if it kept more young black men out of jail.  It’s being done right now, in terms of spending, and that hasn’t seem to have done a thing in terms of minority unemployment rates, incarceration rates, or the future prospects of the disadvantaged.  In fact, $18 trillion has been spent on Great Society programs since the 1960’s, and how’s that working out?  In short:

The best thing we can say for the Great Society economic programs as a whole is that they amounted to a gigantic waste of the taxpayers’ money. Many, however, were worse than wastes; they actually caused harm.

Bernie’s fix for this problem?  Spend more.

And yes, I have to ask, once again:  Where is that $5.5 billion going to come from?

All that said, I can tell you where the money for Bernie’s spending won’t be coming from:  Bernie’s pockets.  He’ll just be making even more money if enough people vote for him for President.

 

 

Slaughterhouse EB-5

Further evidence that Peter Shumlin is right to let Vermont college graduates know that Vermont has good, high-paying jobs available, Seldon

Hey, it worked for Grenada!

Hey, it worked for Grenada!

Industries, a small water-purification maker in Windsor, recently shut its doors unexpectedly, leaving all 32 employees without a job.  A few weeks ago, Shumlin actually went so far as to almost beg St. Michael’s College graduates to stay in Vermont, saying:

“We’re trying to tell the story,” Shumlin said. “It’s a myth that we do not have jobs for young people in Vermont. The facts are that we have jobs.”

Just 32 less of them now, it seems.  Now it’s true that Vermont does have jobs, but when Shumlin says this, one wonders which Vermont he thinks he’s living in:

Shumlin said there are thousands of open jobs in Vermont at dozens of employers who are “clamoring” for graduates, and that many of the jobs available are high-paying. Some starting salaries are in the $90,000 to $100,000 range, he said.

The actual data on job expectations provided by his own Department of Labor tell a completely different story, as has been discussed at some length.  In terms of short-term job prospects, 9 of the top 10 jobs in terms of growth for 2013-2015 (the report is from 2014) do not require a college degree.  In fact, the one occupation that does, nursing, is not a degree offered by St. Mike’s, which might be a bit of a kick in the shins to the Purple Knights, courtesy of outgoing governor Peter Shumlin.

Seldon Industries, however, is a more unique story, in that its existence, and subsequent closing, were made possible by the EB-5 program.  A

Leahy: So you're telling me 32 Vermonters can lose their jobs with no warning in a program I support? Ha ha ha ha! Ahem.

Leahy: So you’re telling me 32 Vermonters can lose their jobs with no warning in a program I support? Ha ha ha ha! Ahem.

significant piece of its EB-5 funding was paid for by foreign nationals who “invest” in US companies, to the tune of $500,000 or $1,000,000, and in return acquire a green card.  It’s essentially allowing wealthy foreigners to jump the immigration queue, and since the dollars come from these individuals, the investments are viewed as not coming out of taxpayer pockets.  That said, Vermont’s EB-5 Regional Center is run and  administered by the State of Vermont, the only state in the country to do so.  Clearly Vermont’s politicians are involved, so there is a cost and an impact being borne, in taxes and in policies being put forward – especially for those now out of a job at Seldon.  The 6 investors (there was a $3 million investment by EB5 investors at $500,000 per) are still likely to see their green cards, but the dollars and “investment” are another thing entirely.  Meaning entirely gone.

Even as recently as June, 2015, Seldon was to land a huge contract with Senator Leahy’s “help”, although now I’m sure the Senator won’t be knocking down doors finding jobs for 32 people:

Just three months ago, Seldon Technologies was celebrating a new contract to provide water purification devices to Mexican public schools. The deal, arranged with Senator Patrick Leahy’s help, was to mean production of a half million units, and Seldon officials expected to expand their 37-person workforce.

Seldon’s closing begs the question:  If they were on the verge of an enormous contract, why did they shutter the facility three months later?  Why would a US Senator pose for a photo op at a facility that had to know they were about to go under?

Other Vermont EB5 ventures, like Jay Peak, have run into controversy.  Jay Peak converted the EB-5 investments into loans, without the investors’ knowledge.  So much for the state’s oversight in running the EB-5 Regional Center:

Vermont strong? Only if foreign 1%er checks don't bounce.

Vermont strong? Only if foreign 1%-er checks don’t bounce.

The management of Jay Peak Resort is defending its right to convert $17.5 million in equity stakes held by immigrant investors into unsecured, nine-year loans. The conversion was implemented on Aug. 31, 2013, without the knowledge or consent of 35 immigrant investors who each put up $500,000 toward the construction of Tram Haus Lodge, which is part of the Jay Peak Resort. The deal was disclosed to reporters and the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center last year, but investors were not sent a copy of paperwork for the original loan until May of this year. Jay Peak has since offered a second IOU to investors that shortens the repayment period to five years. The promissory note is secured by the value of Jay Peak Resort, says company president Bill Stenger. But a group of 20 disgruntled investors question the value of the guarantee. Several say they expected to receive the principal on their investments at the end of a five-year period.

The Tram Haus Lodge, which was constructed in 2008, is the first phase of $312 million in EB-5 investments in Jay Peak Resort, located in the Northeast Kingdom.

But don’t worry, there was nothing illegal or unethical about completely re-structuring the “investment”:

The company and the state’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development say the decision to convert the equity investments into loans was entirely within the company’s rights.

Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros said the transaction was “200 percent” ethical.

Oh, it’s 200% ethical.  That’s different.  I’m sure that’s twice as re-assuring to the investors who ponied up big piles of cash to have their investment re-structured without their knowledge, at the whim of Jay Peak, all done under the guidance and oversight of the State of Vermont.

One of the selling points of EB-5 is that the money is an investment, with a return – but the reality is that there is no guarantee on the funds, on re-payment, on ROI, nothing.  But those facts are clearly not emphasized to foreign investors, who were completely taken by surprise by Jay Peak’s actions.

Another EB5 project in Vermont, AnC/Bio, a medical company specializing in stem-cell technology, plans to build a brand-new manufacturing and research facility in that well-known, high-tech, Silicon Valley East corridor of northern Vermont known as “Newport”.  Clearly, if you’re thinking about building a cutting-edge technology center, anywhere in the US, you’d first think “Newport, Vermont.  Obviously!”.  The project’s developer, Bill Stenger – the same Jay Peak developer – says it will create about 400-450 jobs:

And he says Vermont is a good place for those 400-450 jobs to be created. About half will be local workers trained to make devices, and the rest will be scientists.

“Because we’re close to major colleges and universities. There are a tremendous number of reasons why living and working in our part of Vermont has value. Safe, clean, environmentally beautiful, a facility that’s state of the art and debt-free,” Stenger said.

Vermont’s major colleges and universities are located in Burlington – at least those that offer significant degrees in STEM fields.  I didn’t realize Vermont had an extra 200 scientists just lazing around coffeehouses in Burlington.  Burlington to Newport is 2 hours by car.  Is Stenger assuming PhD candidates at UVM will move to Newport to work at AnC/Bio?

Investors will seize an opportunity, whether it comes from the private or the public sector.  In this case, it’s politicians seizing the opportunity by looking for investments that are completely outside of the normal taxation realm, trading cash from the foreign 1% for US citizenship, just as long as they can make it look like the money is going to create jobs.  In fact, if indirect jobs are claimed to be created, that also helps sell the EB-5 “investment”, meaning if a local deli gets more customers because a new factory went up outside of town from an EB-5 investment, then that indirect job counts.  Except that estimating what jobs might be created isn’t an empirical matter; it’s completely guesswork, and open to spurious claims of job creation, by both the EB-5 project and the politicians that love them.

So what our politicians are telling foreigners is:  If you’re wealthy, you get to the cut to the front of the line.  What’s interesting is that the same politicians supporting EB-5 as a way to generate growth are frequently the same politicians who publicly demonize the domestic 1%.

As others have noted, it’s really just the fastest way to get a green card, for 10,000 wealthy foreigners per year:

“There have been some rare but highly publicized failures in the EB-5 program,” said Steve Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer at Miller Mayer and a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School.

Foreign interest in the EB-5 program has grown dramatically in the last few years. Applications were sluggish until the recession, Yale-Loehr said. But then, when domestic financing for construction projects was tough to find, some developers started to look overseas for financing.
There were just 700 visas issued in 2007; in 2014, for the first time ever, the program reached its quota of 10,000 visas through the EB-5 program and had to stop accepting applications. The quota was reached again this year.
For wealthy foreigners, the EB-5 program is the best bet for getting U.S. citizenship. Other options—finding an employer or a family member to sponsor them—have long backlogs and a lot of paperwork. The EB-5, by contrast, is a relative breeze.

“Most of them are doing it because they want the green card and it’s the fastest or best way to get a green card,” Yale-Loehr said.

Great for the crony! For everyone else, not so much.

Great for the crony! For everyone else, not so much.

Unfortunately for Vermonters, if the “investment” tanks, the loser is not the State of Vermont, it might be the person who ponied up half a million under the assumption that this money meant a real investment, but it most certainly is the Vermonter who thought they had a job at Seldon Technologies.  Especially when their own Senator proudly claims it as one of his accomplishments in June, but is nowhere to be seen come the shutdown in September.

Oh, and if you happen to be the head of the state’s EB-5 program, and then, shockingly, find yourself working for Mt. Snow after it received $52 million in EB-5 funding?  Well, hey, that’s just cronyism.  Er, I mean, “coincidence”.