Saturday, February 15, 2014

It’s All in the Numbers — Not the Human Emotion

Bill Tatro  / Townhall Finance
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, much like her predecessors and the rest of her current Fed cohorts, is a numbers cruncher. Thus, similar to any corporate executive, multitudes of numbers are presented to Janet for analysis, dissection, and ultimate response on a daily basis.

The Federal Reserve, much like a corporation, simply examines jobs, unemployment, and participation pools as mere numbers. If 113,000 jobs were actually created in January, not just the seasonal adjustment, high-fives would be given all around and Janet would truly be the hero of the day. However, even if we put faces on those jobs and realizing that making a latte, flipping a burger, or declaring “welcome to Walmart” is not exactly what the job market was all about in our country for decade after decade, the numbers still looked really good. Congratulations, Janet.

In 1991, the beloved Eastman Kodak Company — headquartered in my former neck of the woods, Rochester, NY — implemented a program designed to make their workforce feel good about themselves. The employees were not to be fired or discharged; the workers were simply being “downsized.” That word had a much softer feel and I’m sure that some psychological numbers cruncher somewhere said it would do a lot for the morale for those who had just lost their jobs. Unfortunately, bottom line corporate decisions and Federal Reserve policies are predicated only on numbers and words — humanity tends take a back seat.

For corporations today it’s all about the share price of their stock, essentially driven by earnings per share. Thus, company buybacks, reducing outstanding shares, is certainly one technique that comes into play. The other method, and most obvious, is reducing head count, applying tactical strategy, and downsizing, but of course it’s never simply “firing.” Dell recently “let go” 15,000, Texas Instruments “reduced” by 1,500, and fast food chains simply “cut” their employees work schedules to less than 30 hours per week, but there is simply no “firing” here.
While they watch the unemployment rate plummet, central bankers are encouraged to open entire cases of Dom PĂ©rignon, but when we look closer and see long lines at the food bank, we realize that we’re only viewing the numbers and there’s a definite separation from reality. Moreover, the number crunchers will attempt to tell you the economy is continuing to roll and that the “faceless” economy is steadily getting much healthier.

Janet Yellen, along with the rest of the Federal Reserve and corporate number crunchers, will continue to scrutinize their daily numbers without any clue that behind those numbers are actual people. Indeed, real individuals who are vitally dependent on the decisions made, and regrettably, these number crunching conclusions are based not on blood, sweat, and tears, but only on the bottom line and the most recent numbers.

U.S. “Chose to Stay Silent” on Muslim Persecution of Christians: November 2013

Egypt-Christians-APOver at Gatestone Institute, via, I continue with the latest from my monthly “Muslim persecution of Christians” series:

The endemic rise of Christian persecution in the Middle East was noted in November when Pope Francis declared “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians” and stressed the importance of “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practice one’s own faith” after he met with patriarchs from Syria, Iran, and Iraq, all countries where Christian minorities are under attack.
On the other hand, powers best placed to do something about the plight of Mideast Christians—namely, the U.S. Obama administration—made it clear that they would do nothing, even when well leveraged to do so.

In November, the wife of American pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned in Iran for over a year for practicing Christianity, said she and her family were devastated after learning that the Obama administration did not try to secure the release of her husband as part of the newly signed deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

“The talks over Iran’s nuclear program were seen by his [Abedini’s] family and those representing them as one of the most promising avenues yet for securing his release,” said Fox News. “But the White House confirmed over the weekend that Abedini’s status was not on the table during those talks.”

“I don’t think we have any more leverage,” said Abedini’s wife. “We now have to consider other avenues and having other countries speak out because our country when we could have used our leverage chose to stay silent.”

The rest of November’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity: 

Islamic Attacks on Christian Places of Worship 

Lebanon: An unidentified attacker firebombed the reception area of the newly built Christian cathedral of the town’s patron Saint, Mar Zakhya.  Despite the loud boom heard in the town’s main square, there was limited damage; some building material used for the building process of the cathedral was destroyed.  Although Lebanon was Christian-majority in the mid-20th century, today it is roughly 60% Muslim, 40% Christian…Click for entire report
The Shark Tank Breaking News February 13, 2014 - Southerland: Crist’s Race Remark “Shameful and Smacks of Political Opportunism” February 14, 2014 - Rand Paul Has Bold Message For The GOP: “Republicans Will Not Win Again In My Lifetime, Unless…” February 14, 2014 - House Democrats Finally Facing “Cold, Hard” Reality February 14, 2014 - Whining Democrat Congressman Supports Obamacare, But Now Tries To Distance Himself From It February 14, 2014 - Charlie Crist Looking For Love On Valentine’s Day? Home / Featured / In the News / Politics / House Democrats Finally Facing “Cold, Hard” Reality Stabenow-appears-safe-for-third-term House Democrats Finally Facing “Cold, Hard” Reality Posted by: Kristin Tate on February 14, 2014 President Obama and Vice President Biden are expected to speak to 110 Democrat lawmakers today. But bad weather and low turnout has “chilled” the House Democrats’ retreat today. House Democrats are finally beginning to face reality that they will probably remain the minority party, and a simple speech from Obama won’t make things any better. Rep. Jim Himes from Connecticut said, “It’s not pessimism—just as it’s not optimism. It is cold, hard realism.” The National Journal reported, “Democrats are stuck with a legislative wish list—items like immigration reform and a minimum-wage increase—that the GOP majority won’t abide. Meanwhile, legislation that might gain traction, like addressing surveillance issues, is not likely not give Democrats a boost in November. At the same time, Democrats on the campaign trail know they must brace for criticism as part of a do-nothing Congress, even though they are not at the helm, as well as Republican body blows over the Affordable Care Act.” Debbie Wasserman Schutlz gave a private talk at the retreat, but refused to say if she thinks Democrats will be able to become the House majority. She said, “We’re not making predictions.” That’s usually not a good sign. And of course, Nancy Pelosi was present at the meeting, as well. She was there pushing a minimum wage hike to $10.10 per hour. She proposed that this would be done through a discharge petition. Of course, to accomplish this, a majority of House members would be required to sign the petition. So this won’t likely happen. Pelosi and fellow Democrats also pushed for immigration reform. Rep. Xavier Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus said, “We think that’s not only the right thing to do, it’s time to do it.” The National Journal pointed out, “One thing that apparently was not discussed, lawmakers say, was any unhappiness with Pelosi and her leadership team.”

Read more at: | The Shark Tank

Obama Defies Constitution, Rule of Law

We were told that President Barack Obama would wield his executive power this year to defy Congress. Instead, he is defying his own healthcare law.
The Obama administration announced this week it is delaying and changing the law's employer mandate, the latest in a series of seat-of-the-pants revisions to Obamacare.
The president was eager to highlight steps he was taking to bypass Congress in his State of the Union last month, but left this one out. If he had demanded congressional action to delay the employer mandate, he surely would have gotten a bipartisan bill on his desk forthwith.
His call for executive unilateralism should be amended: "Even if Congress will act . . . I still prefer to act on my own."
Congress long ago ceded too much authority to the regulatory apparatus of the administrative state, but this is different. This is the executive branch affirmatively rewriting law in defiance of our constitutional system and the rule of law.
Obamacare is quite clear that the employer mandate "shall apply" after Dec. 31, 2013. Nonetheless, the Obama administration delayed it for a year last July. The latest move is even more brazen. It creates a distinction between employers with fewer and more than 100 employees that doesn't exist in the law, and delays the mandate for another year for businesses with 50-99 employees. At the same time, it changes the obligation on employers with more than 100 employees.
These aren't waivers or delays, but detailed revisions. Last year, the Treasury Department justified the delay as "transition relief," a euphemism right up there with "shared responsibility payments," the administration's favored term for fines on employers.
The examples that the department cites of prior transition relief are so tiny that they are beneath notice. One provision of the Small Business and Work Opportunity Act of 2007 changed the standards that tax preparers had to follow to avoid penalties. The new rules went into effect in May 2007, but in June of that year Treasury said it would follow the old standards for returns filed before Dec. 31, 2007.
What the administration is doing now is unilaterally changing a law four years after its passage to try to delay the economic and political pain past a congressional election.
Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute points out that the law authorizes waivers of the employer mandate only for states and, more specifically, "only if the state enacts a law that would provide equally comprehensive health insurance to as many residents, and only if that law would impose no additional cost to the federal government, and only if there is a 'meaningful level of public input' over the waiver and its approval, and even then not until 2017."
Why did anyone bother to write this stuff? Just think of all the lawyering and negotiating that went into the provisions of the employer mandate — the careful definition of terms, the precisely calculated fines — only to be cast aside with a dismissive wave of the hand from on high.
President Obama seems to share something of the attitude of King James I of England, who once confided to the Spanish ambassador of Parliament, "I am surprised that my ancestors should ever have permitted such an institution to come into existence." But, he sighed, "I am obliged to put up with what I cannot get rid of."
What makes the president's cavalier treatment of the legislature's handiwork in this instance so remarkable is that Congress did his bidding. It passed the law he desperately wanted. Yet he still treats it as a series of suggestions and little more.
President Obama's hero Abraham Lincoln had a famously worshipful view of the rule of law. "Let reverence for the laws," he said in his Lyceum Address, "be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap — let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges."
President Obama's implicit rejoinder: "Whatever."