Monday, October 19

A pale harbinger

ACORN has been in the forefront of those browbeating banks, under the Community Reinvestment Act, to provide housing loans to people who couldn’t afford them. Banks were reluctant to make those loans, of course — until the government stepped in to “guarantee” them. Well, we’ve seen where that ended: we’re all paying the price, especially those who couldn’t afford the homes in the first place, and will be for years to come. ...

But the same something-for-nothing mindset is at work in the health care debate. Here again, many people want more health care than they can afford, which means that someone else will have to pay for it — the government having nothing except what it takes from us. The pretense that it is otherwise — or that they can redistribute more equitably than the market does — is what drives the Dems to their pie-in-the-sky schemes — until some among them realize that it is they and their constituents who are being taken for a ride. At that point, either the recalcitrant are silenced, with some temporary sop, or the bottom falls out of the scheme, which is what many of us are hoping for here. If not, the housing debacle will prove in time to be a pale harbinger of the health care debacle, at least for those who live to see it.

Saturday, October 17

What Mao Zedong actually said


(First attack the weak areas, then attack strong areas. You fight your [battle], I'll fight mine.)

But you could also interpret it as what Anita Dunn said: "You fight your war, and I'll fight mine."

A plum ambassadorship goes to a supporter, not a diplomat

Joe Andrew, you’re headed to Costa Rica!

More than a year ago, Andrew -- a Hoosier, superdelegate and former leader of the Democratic Parties in both Indiana and DC -- switched from backing then-Sen. Hillary Clinton to then-Sen. Barack Obama just days before the May 6, 2008 Indiana primary.

And this week President Obama nominated his wife, Anne Slaughter Andrew, to be the ambassador to the Republic of Costa Rica.

Friday, October 16

It's OK for males to do perform poorly

NPR interviewed Gail Collins last Tuesday about her book celebrating the increase of working women. Part of the transcript reads:

Ms. COLLINS: The very second that you suddenly got girls going through school and doing better than boys on every level, you instantly started getting all these magazine stories about what's wrong with our boys? We've only got two sexes.

INSKEEP: Somebody has to be in second…

Ms. COLLINS: Society really can't win on this one. You know, somebody is not going to have the majority of college students. But…
So it's OK for males to do perform poorly. Imagine saying something like that about males.

Friday, October 9

James A. McDevitt is an idiot

Last month a federal judge sentenced Rosa Martinez, a physician in Yakima, Washington, to a year's probation and a $1,000 fine for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The fraud occurred when a physician's assistant in Martinez's practice mistakenly charged the government for her services at the physician's rate, which is allowed only when the supervising physician is present, which Martinez wasn't. She said she was unaware of the rule but accepted responsibility for the errors because they occurred on her watch. The overcharges totaled $22...

The case, launched three years ago by U.S. Attorney James A. McDevitt, stemmed from Martinez's willingness to treat people with histories of illegal drug use for pain, a practice that is not only legal but ethically required. In 2007 a jury acquitted her of prescribing narcotics outside the scope of medicine, failed to reach verdicts on related charges of unlawfully distributing narcotics, and convicted her on eight felony counts of health care fraud. After the trial, Judge Van Sickle dismissed the distribution charges and ordered a new trial on the fraud charges. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that a medical billing expert hired by Martinez's lawyer "concluded that the convictions were based on misrepresentations by government auditors." According to the lawyer, "it gutted the prosecution's case," which is why McDevitt agreed to a plea bargain instead of retrying Martinez. As for Martinez, she wanted to keep fighting, but she "had run out of money" and assets, having "lost her home in the process of defending herself against the charges."

Obama caves in to the sugar lobby

If Obama wants to stand up to special interests, put money in the pockets of working families and defend American manufacturing jobs, he should order the Department of Agriculture to reconsider its recent decision to uphold the unjust status quo of the sugar program.

Tuesday, October 6

OMG! China doesn't like dorkings!!

If you were going to start a trade war against the United States, it is unlikely that your first salvo would be on chicken parts, or as the Chinese rather charmingly first announced, on dorkings. A dorking is a five toed chicken that flourishes in Surrey, England. The normal chicken has four toes. If you have not heard of dorkings before, you are not the only one.

Monday, October 5

Chinese migrant workers willing to accept lower wages

A short section of an article in the latest issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review which contains the most interesting new information from a study by Stanford University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS):

‘The survey data show that the initial impact of the crisis was much worse than was previously imagined. Of the 265 million rural-dwellers with off-farm employment, 45 million, or 17%, either lost their jobs or delayed their move out of agriculture between September 2008 and April 2009. The impact was felt more deeply in southern provinces than northern, which was to be expected given the concentration of exporters in the south. Younger workers were hit harder than older workers, perhaps because the experience of older workers made them more valuable and factory owners were more reluctant to let them go. Less educated workers were more likely to lose their jobs than more educated; those educated to primary school or lower were most likely to face unemployment. The impact of the crisis was neutral between men and women, which suggested that the trend toward a higher share of female workers in the off-farm labor force will not be interrupted.

But the results also show that the ability of China’s migrant workers to adapt to the crisis was much better than was previously imagined. By April 2009, the results suggested, 25 million of those rural workers who lost their off-farm jobs had found new employment. By August, that number had increased to 32 million, leaving just 13 million unemployed, or 4.9% of the total off-farm rural labor force.

The results also indicated that the reason for the success of migrant workers in finding new employment was a willingness to accept lower wages. In response to the massive increase in surplus labor, off-farm wages adjusted downwards by about 10%. For China as a whole, that meant a fall from about 850 yuan ($125) per month average off-farm wages in 2008 to about 765 yuan per month in 2009, with a steeper fall from a lower base in the south than in the north. It was not clear whether falling wages resulted from falling hours, falling hourly rates or some combination of the two. But what is clear is that the market for China’s off-farm rural labor is flexible, and wages have adjusted to accommodate the shock from the sharp decline in demand.’

Why no minimum wage? (Ha-ha).