New Poll shows the Majority of Americans still want Obamacare Repealed

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2012

Week in Review

Americans are giving mixed signals.  First they say they want Obamacare repealed.  And then they say they like parts of Obamacare.  What could possibly explain this (see Most Americans oppose health law but like provisions by Patricia Zengerle posted 6/25/2012 on Reuters UK)?

Fifty-six percent of people are against the healthcare overhaul and 44 percent favor it, according to the online poll conducted from Tuesday through Saturday…

Strong majorities favor most of what is in the law.

A glaring exception to the popular provisions is the “individual mandate,” which requires most U.S. residents to own health insurance.

Sixty-one percent of Americans are against the mandate, the issue at the center of the Republicans’ contention that the law is unconstitutional, while 39 percent favor it…

Support for the provisions of the healthcare law was strong, with a full 82 percent of survey respondents, for example, favoring banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Sixty-one percent are in favor of allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 and 72 percent back requiring companies with more than 50 employees to provide insurance for their employees.

Americans are strongly divided along partisan lines. Among Republicans, 86 percent oppose and 14 percent favor the law and Democrats back it by a 3-to-1 margin, 75 percent to 25 percent, the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

But in what could be a key indicator for the presidential contest, people who describe themselves as political independents oppose the law by 73 percent to 27 percent.

Oh, that.  They want all the benefits.  They just don’t want to pay for them.  Some things never change.

You could have guessed the responsible adults, the Republicans, who are always ready to rain on someone’s parade, would be against the law because of its cost and that part about violating the U.S. Constitution.  But what is amazing in this poll is that 73% of independents oppose it as well.  For the independents (and moderates) are more middle-of-the-road people.  So one would expect a split closer to 50-50 than such a large percentage against it.  Then again a lot of these people call themselves fiscally conservative but socially liberal.  So clearly the cost of Obamacare is more important to them than providing free birth control and access to abortion.

It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court will rule this week.  No doubt they will elate some people.  And devastate others.

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Al Gore’s Liberal Current TV about to go the way of Liberal Air America Radio

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2012

Week in Review

Things don’t look good for Al Gore’s television network.  They have lost so many viewers that their cable company may drop his channel (see 10 Brands That Will Disappear in 2013 by Douglas A. McIntyre, 24/7 Wall St, posted 4/21/2012 on Yahoo! Finance).

Each year, 24/7 Wall St. identifies 10 important American brands that we predict will disappear within a year. This year’s list reflects the brutally competitive nature of certain industries and the reason why companies cannot afford to fall behind in efficiency, innovation or financing…

Al Gore’s Current TV was on life support even before it fired its only bankable star, Keith Olbermann, in March following a set of battles with the host over his perks. He was replaced by serial talk show host failure Eliot Spitzer. Compared to Olbermann’s March figures, Spitzer’s ratings in April were down nearly 70%, according to TV audience measurement firm Nielsen. At the time, The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Replacement Eliot Spitzer pulled an anemic 47,000 total viewers in the first outing of Viewpoint, with just 10,000 among adults 25-54. The weeks since saw an early rebound, particularly in the demo, but in its four weeks on air Viewpoint has steadily declined in both respects.” Reuters recently reported that Current TV’s audience had fallen enough that cable giant Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) may have the right to discontinue carrying the channel. The closest Current TV has to a star is talk show veteran Joy Behar, a former cast member of “The View,” who had her own show canceled by CNN’s HLN in November. Gore does not have the pockets to keep a network with no future going.

Current TV will fail for the same reason Air America Radio failed.  Liberals just aren’t deep thinkers.  They’ll watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report because they are funny.  They’re entertaining.  They make fun of conservatives.  And they’re each on only for one half hour a day, 4 days a week.  They’ll watch these shows to learn what’s in the news.  Because the network news isn’t as funny or as entertaining.

Now contrast this with conservative talk radio.  Which with Air America gone is pretty much all of talk radio.  Why does conservative talk radio succeed when liberal talk radio does not?  Because conservatives are older.  More grown up.  And are interested more in the issues than being entertained.  That is, conservatives are deep thinkers.  A lot of them are because they’re married and trying to raise a family.  So those things the younger liberals aren’t interested in – economics, monetary policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy – greatly interest conservatives.  Because these things impact their lives daily.  Especially when they have the checkbook out.  While college students are more interested in knowing where the good parties are.

It is rather ironic that the very thing liberals use to attract their liberal base is the reason they can’t get them to listen to or watch their programs.  They have sold the welfare state to their liberal base in lieu of rugged individualism.  Basically telling them, “Don’t worry.  We’re here to take care of you.”  So they have.  They trust in government completely.  And enjoy being young.  Not worrying about the issues of the day.  Because government is there to take care of them.

And then there is the population breakdown.  About 40% of the people call themselves conservative.  While only about 20% call themselves liberal.  So they’re playing to a smaller audience to begin with.  And that other 40%?  Independents and moderates who don’t much like politics to begin with.  Their party affiliation, or lack thereof, suggests they may tune into The Daily Show or The Colbert Report because they’re entertaining.  But they’re probably not going to be policy wonks and tune into any hardcore political program.  Because they’re comfortable in the center.  And that’s just not where Air America was or where Current TV is.  Or conservative talk radio for that matter.

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The Solution to Europe’s Debt Crisis may be as ‘simple’ as the Eurozone Nations surrendering their Sovereignty

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2012

Week in Review

The solution to the Eurozone debt crisis is easy.  All the European nations have to do is surrender their sovereignty (see The eurozone’s long reform wishlist by Laurence Knight posted 6/24/2012 on BBC News Business).

A US-style federal budget may be needed to cover the cost of recessions, so that individual governments don’t risk going bust when their national economies get into trouble. For example, the cost of a minimum level of social security – especially unemployment benefits – could be permanently shared across the eurozone, paid for by a common income tax.

Welcome to the new world order.  At least the new country of Europe.  Made up from the former European nations.  And, unsurprisingly, the answer to all their problems is a new tax.  Not just any tax.  But a European income tax paid to a distant central power.  The kind of thing that embroiled Europe in wars to prevent going as far back as the Roman Empire.  And beyond.

The European Central Bank may need to have its mandate changed so that it has an explicit dual target to support employment as well as price stability, just like the US Federal Reserve does, as proposed by the new French President Francois Hollande.

Because it has worked so well in the United States.  The Fed was in charge during the Great Depression.  The Fed was in charge during the stagflation of the Seventies.  The Fed was in charge during the irrational exuberance of the Nineties.  And the Fed was in charge during the great housing bubble that gave us the subprime mortgage crisis.  Few people in the US think the Fed should be supporting anything these days.  For they feel they’ve done enough damage.

All Europeans (and especially southerners) are having to implement structural reforms that will increase their long-term growth and strengthen government finances, including removing restrictions on market competition, raising the retirement age, laying off (over many years) a lot of state employees, and making it much easier to hire and fire employees.

Really?  Something the individual European nations couldn’t do (cut back generous state benefits) a European country can?  Students in France took to the streets when they added a year or so to the retirement age.  Students took to the streets in Britain when they tried to make students pay for a part of their college education.  And Greece’s answer to austerity?  Riots.  It is easy to say what they must do.  Getting them to do it is another thing.  And they’ve clearly shown they don’t like doing it.  And so far have chosen not to.

In the same way that Washington has helped out struggling US states, the southern European governments may need to be given money (given, not lent) by the rest of the eurozone via direct fiscal transfers, so that they can afford to prop up their economies until they have regained competitiveness. These transfers could end up taking the form of bailout loans that are never repaid.

The US government can’t afford to bailout any states.  The state of California is in trouble.  As are some of our big cities.  Such as Chicago.  And New York City.  They have the same problem Greece has.  They have far more spending obligations than they can afford to pay.  As did the state of Wisconsin.  Whose governor implemented the kind of structural reforms suggested for the new European country.  And the opposition party and the federal government attacked them for it.  Organized a recall drive to kick out the governor.  And undo those structural reforms.  But the recall failed.  The governor won the recall election by a large margin.  Showing the people are no longer going to pay for other people’s irresponsible spending.  As the European people probably won’t want to either.

To make a full banking, fiscal and monetary union work, the eurozone governments would need to hand power to a central authority (the European Commission) that can pay for and supervise all of the above, while national governments accept that in future they have to keep their own spending strictly within their limited means.

 As most of the above reforms involve Germany sharing its wealth with the rest of Europe (and all European nations handing power to Brussels), Berlin is insisting on the principle of no taxation without representation – in other words a move towards full federalism, with spending and regulation controlled by a directly elected presidency of the European Commission.

Few European governments like hearing Germany tell them to implement structural reforms.  They’re not going to like it any better coming from Brussels.  Federalism wasn’t easy in the US.  We had to fight a civil war.  Go through reconstruction.  To this day we’re still fighting regional conflicts.  The Midwest is strongly union while the southern states are not.  And the federal government recently intervened on the side of the unions when Boeing tried to build a new aircraft manufacturing plant in the South.  In fact, those in the federal government refer to those states as flyover country.  Which is all they want to see of that country.  Flying overhead as they go between the east and west coasts.  Where the big government people live.

The 13 original American states had only about 200 years of history before they joined the federal union.  The European people have over 2,000 years of history.  It is unlikely that they will willingly choose to become flyover country.  No, there isn’t any easy solution to their problem.  If there was they would have already done it.  A currency union without a political union may just prove to have been a bad idea.  A political union isn’t likely.  Unless the people of Europe are more willing to give up their 2,000 years or so of history than the Americans were willing to give up their 200 years or so of history.  And if they’re not they should really think long and hard about creating something even bigger than the Eurozone.  That may be even more difficult to fix.  Should it follow US history too closely.  Where that first hundred years proved to be a bitch.

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The Luxury Tesla Model S impresses with Performance and Range

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2012

Week in Review              

The Tesla Model S is some car.  And it’s electric.  With the performance of a gasoline-powered sports car.  Although without quite the same range (see Elon Musk: Tesla Model S Is About ‘Breaking A Spell’ by Hannah Elliott posted 6/22/2012 on Forbes).

The Model S is impressive. It fits seven people and will go 0-60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds at a cost of $49,900 after $7,500 in federal rebates (that’s with a 40 kWh battery and160-mile range). An $84,900 85 kWh Performance variant gives a 300-mile-range; a $97,900 Signature Performance version adds such niceties as Nappa leather interior, exterior carbon fiber and special wheels. Top speed on that puppy is 130 miles per hour, with a 4.4-second 60mph sprint time. Each variant comes with an eight-year, unlimited miles guarantee…

Well, that 4.4 sprint time will beat a 5-Series on the track. The sub-$100,000 MSRP will beat the Aston on price. The 300-mile drive range beats Chevy Volt’s 40-mile max. If production ramps up as much as Musk has promised—20,000 produced annually–this could be the start of something big. Stay tuned.

A 300 mile range is greater than the Chevy Volt’s 40 mile range.  But the Volt has something the Tesla Model S doesn’t.  A gasoline engine.  After that initial 40 miles the Chevy Volt hybrid can switch over to the gasoline engine.  And continue driving on the gasoline engine.  For a very long time.  And when it runs low on gas it can quickly refill the tank.  And drive again for a very long time.  Unlike the all-electric Tesla.

The Tesla is no doubt a gorgeous car but it’s not for traveling the country in.  At least, not without a lot of planning.  And a lot of rest times scheduled for recharging.  Limiting a stress-free day-drive to about 125 miles one way.  Depending on the speed limit that might be about an hour and a half of driving.  This should get you back without a recharge.  If you want to take a chance of being without transportation for awhile to recharge you could go closer to that 300 mile range.  If you’re willing to pay an additional 70% for the extended range, of course.  If not you’ll have to settle for that 160 mile range.  Or a round trip to someplace about 60 miles away.

The all-electric car is really only for short commutes.  A short drive to work.  Plug the car in.  A short drive to lunch and back.  Plug in the car.  And the drive home.  Where you will, of course, plug in the car.  If that’s you this car is for you.  If you want to pack the family into the car and travel cross-country you may be better off in a hybrid.  Use the gasoline engine to get where you’re going to.  Then putter around when you get there on the battery.  With a full tank of gas.  Just in case.

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Tony Blair says it’s up to the Germans to Save the Eurozone and Pay Down that Excessive Debt of Others

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2012

Week in Review

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is asking the Germans to pick up the tab for the European sovereign debt crisis.  Even suggested that Britain may still join the currency union.  Once they fix the current problems they’re having (see Blair: To save eurozone, Germany must underwrite debts of struggling members by Associated Press posted 6/24/2012 on The Washington Post).

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday that the euro will only survive if Germany underwrites the debts of the eurozone’s financially struggling members.

He told BBC television that safeguarding the euro would need Berlin to “treat the debts of one as the debts of all,” and debt-wracked nations to carry out reforms which would help restore Europe to competitiveness…

Blair, who is currently envoy to the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, also insisted that Britain could still choose to join the euro — despite the crisis…

Prime Minister David Cameron, of the rival Conservative Party, has vowed that Britain won’t join the euro during his tenure.

This is the compassionate thing to do.  Except for those getting stuck with the tax bill.  Who have played by the rules and have been responsible.  And their reward for being responsible?  They can now be responsible for other people’s debt.  Somehow that doesn’t sound fair.  Or compassionate.

This doesn’t address the underlying problem in these countries.  Their government spending.  All this will do will give them a reprieve and allow them to borrow more money.  And why wouldn’t they continue their ways?  When they can do just that.  For they have demonstrated they are no fans of austerity.  So it is unlikely that they will cut any spending.  Which means things will only get worse.  Pushing that day of reckoning further down the road.  Making it ever more painful when it finally arrives.  For all the countries instead of just the ones struggling now.

The European social democracies are just getting too costly.  This is the problem.  A lot of this excessive government spending is paying pensions, health care costs and other social benefits.  This is the source of government deficits.  Anything they do to make that debt more manageable won’t matter unless they shrink these deficits.  So they can lower their taxes.  And remove this great burden from the private sector so it can restore Europe to competiveness.

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The Cost and Unreliability of Renewable Energy may give Nuclear Power a Reprieve in Germany

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2012

Week in Review

Thanks to global warming the Germans have an expensive future ahead of them (see Don’t mention the atom posted 6/23/2012 on The Economist).

WHEN Germany decided a year ago, after the Fukushima disaster, to phase out nuclear energy by 2022, economists were worried. Would the country be able to replace its 17 nuclear plants, which supplied 23% of its electricity in 2010, with renewable forms of energy? Would electricity prices go through the roof? Would the move endanger Germany’s industry?

It will be years before the answers are known for sure. But the Energiewende, as Germans call the energy U-turn, has already produced one certainty: the country’s four giant power companies, which were already compelled last year to shut eight of their nuclear plants for good, are among the big losers. And their fate may revive heretical thoughts of a reprieve for atomic power…

In the meantime, thousands of subsidised wind farms and solar arrays are hobbling the earning-power of conventional power stations. The midday peak, when the giants used to command premium electricity prices, is undercut by solar power. Winter winds whip away the margins that big, inflexible plants used to enjoy.

To add insult to injury, consumers and power-hungry industries still expect the power utilities to take up the slack when sun and wind are idle. Last February, with all the active nuclear plants working at full capacity, Germany’s energy producers were only just able to keep the lights on…

Various estimates say the U-turn will push up consumer prices by between 20% and 60% by 2020. What is more, to encourage investment in new conventional power stations, extra subsidies may be needed to reward standby capacity or stored power reserves.

Subsidized wind farms and solar arrays are eating into the profits of the big power producers by providing power at peak times that the big power producers used to charge a premium for.  Yet in February with all active nuclear plants working at full capacity they were barely able to keep the lights on.  So wind farms and solar arrays are producing so much power that it reduces the amount of power the conventional plants can sell.  Yet these same plants working at full capacity can barely keep the lights on in February.  Interesting.

When 23% of their power production goes off line it will take an enormous expenditure to replace that power with clean renewable energy.  So much so that electric rates will increase between 20% and 60%.  Interesting.

Because of the unpredictable nature of the wind and the sun they will have to build standby power capacity and power storage facilities.  Presumably to produce and store a surplus of electricity when the wind blows and the sun shines so they can use it when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.  Interesting.

Poor Germany.  To save the planet they will have to reduce their citizens to serfs.  Their government will tax them so much for all of this renewable energy that they will leave little for the German taxpayer to bail out the Eurozone.  Let alone leaving anything for themselves.  The Germans are an industrious people used to sacrifice (they paid a heavy price to join East Germany with West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall).  But there must be a limit to their self-sacrifice.  Just how much more will their government ask of them?

Even if they suck it up and pay most of their income in taxes they will have little left to engage in economic activity.  Which may result in a recession.  And growing budget deficits.  For as economic activity falls so does tax revenue.  Because there’s just less economic activity to tax. 

Energiewende.  This current path cannot end well for Germany.  Or Europe.

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