Monday, December 29, 2014
Expert: Obama economic surge built on doctored data
From Stalin to Tony Blair, statistics emanating from Leftist governments have always been untrustworthy
The White House appears determined to deliver in the president's upcoming State of the Union speech a ringing message that economic growth under Obama is robust, with the DOW topping 18,000 for the first time and the Bureau of Economic Analysis reporting last week revised estimates placing third-quarter growth at an impressive 5 percent.
But critics, like ShadowStats.com econometrician John Williams, call it a smoke-and-mirrors illusion of economic data dishonestly calculated and reported to look rosy.
Put simply, Williams, in the most recent edition of his subscription newsletter, argues that the developing White House narrative of "the strongest economic growth in a decade" is nonsense.
He argues that the full economic recovery indicated by the real GDP numbers reported last week by BEA is "a statistical illusion created by using too-low a rate of inflation in deflating (removing inflation effects) from the GDP series."
Williams further argues "no other major economic series has shown a parallel pattern of official full economic recovery and meaningful expansion beyond, consistent with GDP reporting."
Williams' analysis of retail sales, again adjusted to remove an artificially low rate of inflation, shows "a pattern of plunge and stagnation and renewed downturn, consistent with patterns seen in series such as consumer indicators like real median household income, the consumer confidence measures and in the unemployment and most housing statistics."
WND previously has reported that real unemployment in the U.S., measured by traditional definitions that include an estimate of those forced to drop out of the labor force because jobs are lacking and those seeking full-time employment who are forced to take part-time employment is closer to 23 percent, rather than the 5.8 percent the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in November, confirming Donald Trump's accusation that Obama's jobless numbers are "phony."
Williams estimates that adjusted for inflation, orders for durable goods declined by 0.62 percent in November, versus a revised decline of 0.12 percent in October, and a revised September monthly decline of 0.68 percent.
He calculates that sales of existing homes showed a seasonally adjusted decline of 6.1 percent in November, with 9 percent of November sales of existing homes in distress (6 percent foreclosures, plus 3 percent short sales).
Contrast this with the narrative the White House suggested in a press release on Dec. 18, when the administration stated: "President Obama took office in the depths of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Six years later, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, and the decisive actions he took early on - to bring the economy back from the brink, to save the auto industry, and to build a new foundation for middle-class growth - we've made real progress."
In a press briefing two days earlier, White House press counsel Josh Earnest delivered a similar tone, stating: "Now, 2014 was a milestone for economic progress in the United States, but there's much more work to do."
He continued: "This year, America's businesses added jobs at the fastest rate since the 1990s. The most interesting statistic I've seen on this is that we've now had 10 consecutive months of more than 200,000 job created in the private sector in each of those months."
The statements portray Obama as having engineered an economic miracle that is historic in nature.
"That is the longest streak in nearly 20 years," Earnest continued. "And while many of these good, full-time, middle-class jobs and wages have begun to rise, it's still too hard for many middle-class families to get ahead."
Also, despite the Obama administration's war on coal and refusal to support the Keystone pipeline, the White House claims credit for declining gas prices.
"And while gas prices have fallen as we've produced more oil, and the growth of health care costs has slowed as the Affordable Care Act has been implemented, it's still too hard for many middle-class families to make ends meet," Earnest emphasized.
Williams is of another opinion.
"U.S. economic activity is turning down anew, despite overstated growth in recent GDP reporting. The headline contraction in first-quarter 2014 GDP was the reality; the headline second-quarter GDP boom and continued strong headline GDP growth in third-quarter 2014 were not," Williams concludes. "The more recent data appear to have been spiked, at best, by overly optimistic assumptions on the part of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). At worst, the bloated growth estimates reflect heavy political massaging."
Williams anticipated current BEA revised estimates of third quarter growth will "suffer heavy downside revisions" in the July 30, 2015, benchmark revision with early indications predicting an outright contraction in fourth quarter 2014 GDP.
"Future, constructive Federal Reserve behavior - purportedly moving towards normal monetary conditions in the currently unfolding, perfect economic environment - is pre-conditioned by a continued flow of `happy' economic news," Williams writes.
"Suggestions that all is right again with the world are nonsense," he continues. "The 2008 Panic never has been resolved, and the Fed soon will find that it has no easy escape from its quantitative easing."
How academia's liberal bias is killing social science< /b>
A blockbuster new report includes some unsettling revelations
I have had the following experience more than once: I am speaking with a professional academic who is a liberal. The subject of the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia comes up. My interlocutor admits that this is indeed a reality, but says the reason why conservatives are underrepresented in academia is because they don't want to be there, or they're just not smart enough to cut it. I say: "That's interesting. For which other underrepresented groups do you think that's true?" An uncomfortable silence follows.
I point this out not to score culture-war points, but because it's actually a serious problem. Social sciences and humanities cannot be completely divorced from the philosophy of those who practice it. And groupthink causes some questions not to be asked, and some answers not to be overly scrutinized. It is making our science worse. Anyone who cares about the advancement of knowledge and science should care about this problem.
That's why I was very gratified to read this very enlightening draft paper written by a number of social psychologists on precisely this topic, attacking the lack of political diversity in their profession and calling for reform. For those who have the time and care about academia, the whole thing truly makes for enlightening reading. The main author of the paper is Jonathan Haidt, well known for his Moral Foundations Theory (and a self-described liberal, if you care to know).
Although the paper focuses on the field of social psychology, its introduction as well as its overall logic make many of its points applicable to disciplines beyond social psychology.
The authors first note the well-known problems of groupthink in any collection of people engaged in a quest for the truth: uncomfortable questions get suppressed, confirmation bias runs amok, and so on.
But it is when the authors move to specific examples that the paper is most enlightening.
I say more about the paper mentioned above in my leading article on today's GREENIE WATCH
Replace ObamaCare by The Rule of Law
A government with moral and legal authority promulgates written rules and universally, impartially and uniformly enforces the rules, which provides a predictable and stable legal order on which to base economic and personal decisions. The law prevails, not the proclamation or arbitrary decision of a ruler, government bureaucrat, the enforcer (e.g., policeman) or judge.
Replace ObamaCare by The Rule of Law
Anytime now, the Supreme Court will hear the case of King vs. Burwell, where an adverse ruling could deny IRS-ordered subsidies in 36 states that are without state exchanges. Additionally, it would destroy the employer-mandate since employers are only mandated when the state has exchanges for their employees. Such an outcome would substantially destroy ObamaCare.
If the Supreme Court rules that subsidies are not available to these 36 states, emotional and economic chaos will most likely besiege America. Millions of Americans could be without insurance, and the insurance industry (already greatly coerced but making enormous crony profits because of ObamaCare) could lose billions. Already disoriented and impaired by ObamaCare, medical providers will further be disrupted. What a quagmire.
Randy Barnett, an excellent professor of law and legal philosopher at Georgetown University, understands the politics of ObamaCare and suggests to have a serious debate regarding insurance proposals in order to truly have an improved health insurance plan.
Professor Barnett's plan to proceed includes the following:
First repeal every word of ObamaCare
Restore the insurance private markets -- We the People can choose the type of insurance that fits our personal needs
Everyone gets a refundable tax credit - no special benefit to employer based insurance
Actuality based insurance - young people pay less
Consumer choice - including health savings accounts and catastrophic coverage
Increase competition - across state lines
Barnett does not address the pre-existing condition conundrum, which should obviously be included.
Most importantly, America – politicians and We the People – must have a complete and honest discussion on how we manage our healthcare. Rather than the deceits, secret deals, crony capitalism and political manipulations that produced the incompetent ObamaCare, America must have an honest debate, which should begin immediately. There must be an alternative to the mess of ObamaCare, and it must be ready for the House and Senate to vote on, which could easily be bipartisan legislation by May or June of 2015.
A civil and thoughtful debate and vote should produce good legislation. More importantly, it would restore the knowledge and reality that we are a nation of laws – the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is our most unique and important asset.
“Right to Try” Laws Give Terminal Patients a Fighting Chance
Regulatory delays are costing lives
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for determining which prescription drugs are legal to sell in the United States, with all new products forced to undergo a lengthy and expensive approval process before patients can access their benefits. But in many cases, the FDA is actively standing in the way of patients with debilitating or terminal illnesses being allowed to choose their own treatment, denying them the chance to fight for their survival.
If you’re dying, with little chance of recovery from currently available treatments, shouldn’t you have the choice to try potentially life-saving new medicines? Wouldn’t you want to try every option available to save your life?
Today, many Americans find themselves in exactly this position. But rather than being allowed to pursue alternative treatments, they are blocked by drug regulations that effectively condemn them to certain death. Fortunately, some states are trying to change that introducing so-called “Right to Try” laws, that give terminal patients the option of trying medicines not approved for the general public.
The FDA justifies its mission on the basis of protecting consumer safety. By making sure drugs are safe before releasing them, they argue, lives are saved. While there is undoubtedly some truth to this, it is only one side of the story. For every bad drug that is successfully blocked, several good ones are substantially delayed. The lives that are lost due to the unavailability of a new medicine is a statistic that is impossible to quantify, and less attention is therefore paid to the problem than to those instances when an approved drug actually harms people.
How these two issues should be balanced is something that can be debated at length, but in cases of terminal patients, the calculus is significantly easier. For a person who is dying, and who has no hope of recovery with currently available medicine, is naturally going to be more tolerant of risk than other patients. Yet, in most states, the law allows no exception for people in desperate situations.
So far, five states have enacted Right to Try laws. Michigan, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, Louisiana, and most recently Arizona, which passed its own Right to Try law in this November’s elections, are leading the nation in expanding access to medicine for terminal patients. Wyoming may soon join them, having prefiled Right to Try legislation for the 2015 session.
These laws are far from perfect, and they have been criticized for being ineffective. There is still a lengthy application process involved, and there is little incentive for doctors and pharmaceutical companies to play along with something that could potentially earn them bad publicity of experimental treatments fail to work. Still, Right to Try laws are a step in the right direction for improving patient choice. They could be still further improved by allowing volunteers to be part of experimental trials, which would themselves be considered as part of the criteria for drug approval.
The FDA is notoriously cautious compared to drug approval agencies in other countries, and there are many life-saving medicines available in Europe, but still prohibited in the United States. A loosening of restrictions could do immeasurable good for desperate patients waiting for a cure.
It is understandable that the FDA would want to protect consumers, but in the case of terminal patients, these protections no longer make sense. People in such desperate situations should be allowed to try any methods to save themselves, rather than being forced to sit idly by and accept an inevitability that need not be. Give patients a choice; their lives are the ones at stake, not ours.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.
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Posted by JR at 1:35 AM