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Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

More duct tape please…

In Politics on June 9, 2009 at 4:06 pm

From todays Wall Street Journal comes this really great piece, it is definatley worth your time.

The Media Fall for Phony ‘Jobs’ Claims

The Obama Numbers Are Pure Fiction.

  • By WILLIAM MCGURN

Tony Fratto is envious.

Mr. Fratto was a colleague of mine in the Bush administration, and as a senior member of the White House communications shop, he knows just how difficult it can be to deal with a press corps skeptical about presidential economic claims. It now appears, however, that Mr. Fratto’s problem was that he simply lacked the magic words — jobs “saved or created.”

“Saved or created” has become the signature phrase for Barack Obama as he describes what his stimulus is doing for American jobs. His latest invocation came yesterday, when the president declared that the stimulus had already saved or created at least 150,000 American jobs — and announced he was ramping up some of the stimulus spending so he could “save or create” an additional 600,000 jobs this summer. These numbers come in the context of an earlier Obama promise that his recovery plan will “save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years.”

[MAIN STREET] Associated PressThe president should ‘save or create’ more jobs in Cleveland.

Mr. Fratto sees a double standard at play. “We would never have used a formula like ‘save or create,'” he tells me. “To begin with, the number is pure fiction — the administration has no way to measure how many jobs are actually being ‘saved.’ And if we had tried to use something this flimsy, the press would never have let us get away with it.”

Of course, the inability to measure Mr. Obama’s jobs formula is part of its attraction. Never mind that no one — not the Labor Department, not the Treasury, not the Bureau of Labor Statistics — actually measures “jobs saved.” As the New York Times delicately reports, Mr. Obama’s jobs claims are “based on macroeconomic estimates, not an actual counting of jobs.” Nice work if you can get away with it.

And get away with it he has. However dubious it may be as an economic measure, as a political formula “save or create” allows the president to invoke numbers that convey an illusion of precision. Harvard economist and former Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw calls it a “non-measurable metric.” And on his blog, he acknowledges the political attraction.

“The expression ‘create or save,’ which has been used regularly by the President and his economic team, is an act of political genius,” writes Mr. Mankiw. “You can measure how many jobs are created between two points in time. But there is no way to measure how many jobs are saved. Even if things get much, much worse, the President can say that there would have been 4 million fewer jobs without the stimulus.”

Mr. Obama’s comments yesterday are a perfect illustration of just such a claim. In the months since Congress approved the stimulus, our economy has lost nearly 1.6 million jobs and unemployment has hit 9.4%. Invoke the magic words, however, and — presto! — you have the president claiming he has “saved or created” 150,000 jobs. It all makes for a much nicer spin, and helps you forget this is the same team that only a few months ago promised us that passing the stimulus would prevent unemployment from rising over 8%.

It’s not only former Bush staffers such as Messrs. Fratto and Mankiw who have noted the political convenience here. During a March hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus challenged Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the formula.

“You created a situation where you cannot be wrong,” said the Montana Democrat. “If the economy loses two million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would’ve lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs. You’ve given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong, because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct.”

Now, something’s wrong when the president invokes a formula that makes it impossible for him to be wrong and it goes largely unchallenged. It’s true that almost any government spending will create some jobs and save others. But as Milton Friedman once pointed out, that doesn’t tell you much: The government, after all, can create jobs by hiring people to dig holes and fill them in.

If the “saved or created” formula looks brilliant, it’s only because Mr. Obama and his team are not being called on their claims. And don’t expect much to change. So long as the news continues to repeat the administration’s line that the stimulus has already “saved or created” 150,000 jobs over a time period when the U.S. economy suffered an overall job loss 10 times that number, the White House would be insane to give up a formula that allows them to spin job losses into jobs saved.

“You would think that any self-respecting White House press corps would show some of the same skepticism toward President Obama’s jobs claims that they did toward President Bush’s tax cuts,” says Mr. Fratto. “But I’m still waiting.”

Someone please pass the duct tape, my heads gonna explode…

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2009 at 6:01 pm

From todays Washington Times…It seems as though the annointed one descended from on high to mingle with the commoners…and yes, we paid for it.

Obama Pic

 

Home > News > Politics

CURL: The cost of a NYC weekend

By Joseph Curl POLITICAL THEATER | Monday, June 1, 2009

 In another odd twist left unexamined by the media, the White House on Monday said it simply would not release the cost of President Obama’s weekend jaunt to New York City, where the First Couple had dinner and caught a Broadway show.

 Spokesman Robert Gibbs, keeping the White House press corps in stiches, as he always does, said the Obamas would have preferred using a commercial airline shuttle to New York and back, but the Secret Service would not allow such unprotected travel (ba da bing).

 And that was that. No further probing; asked and answered; time to move on.

 There was, of course, an ironic element of the trip. In February, Obama scolded corporate executives (while also costing Las Vegas some $130 million) when he said: “You can’t get corporate jets. You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas, or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”

 But the Chief Executive (Oval) Officer had made a promise to his good wife that after the campaign, they’d take in a Broadway show, and darn it, he meant to keep that promise.

One early estimate (from the New York Post) put the cost at $24,000. Absurdly low. The Daily Mail in London threw out another number — $75,000. Sure, three times as much as the first estimate, but still probably spectacularly low. Remember, joyriding Air Force One around for a few hours over Manhattan a couple months ago cost $250,000, so the cost of the weekend trip was likely not likely that low.

 With the White House simply refusing to say how much taxpayer money it spent, here’s a helpful way to calculate the cost of the trip:

 First, the First Couple (and entourage) flew from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base — three choppers (two decoys), if the Marines stuck to standard operating procedure (and they are sticklers for SOP). That means dozens of men and women — radar, communications, mechanics, crews, everyone, perhaps 100, who knows? — were involved. (A batch of tagalongs must’ve taken a taxpayer pool of vehicles out from the White House to AAFB, since it took three jets to get the gang to NYC).

 Second, the president moving on a Saturday takes a full operation at and around the White House, dozens and dozens of people. Maybe they’re all on salary, so that didn’t likely cost much. But all the cops involved — D.C. police, uniformed Secret Service officers, Capitol police — were probably paid overtime, even double time. Probably, again, 100 personnel or so.

 Then there were the jets — at least $24,000 for the three aircraft used to ferry the Obamas, aides and reporters to New York. The Obamas’ jet, a Gulfstream 500, served as Air Force One.

 Third, a C-17 had to fly to NYC to put in place a full motorcade (at least a dozen vehicles, maybe more). The military cargo plane may have taken up at least two, but maybe three, more choppers to fly the whole party from JFK to a Wall Street landing zone, where the motorcade was waiting. If not, the choppers flew there solo (White House veteran reporter Mark Knoller of CBS Radio wrote recently that “The VH-3D that serves as Marine One consumes about 1,200 pounds of fuel per hour.” Ouch.

 Fourth, driving through Manhattan is an expensive exercise. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of NYPD have to be stationed all along the way, shutting down roads, holding back pedestrians. There were police cars involved, dozens of motorcycles, and the ever-present NYC ambulance (oh, don’t forget that the White House doctor also probably went — with all his gear). The city likely gets reimbursed by the White House for the cost (they usually do). And they were all probably getting time and a half (the NYPD overtime budget is extraordinary).

 Fifth, the United States Secret Service (USSS) had to scope out the whole thing, then station agents all over — sharpshooters, undercover agents, etc. — at a huge cost. Who knows if they were on overtime. And if you think they went up Saturday morning, think again. They were likely in NYC upwards of a week before, planning the whole evening, every second of every movement. They had to map out five movements — from JFK to the Wall Street LZ, then a motorcade to the restaurant, then another motorcade to the play, then a final motorcade back to the LZ, then a chopper flight to JFK, before the First Couple and crew jetted back to AAFB for another chopper to the White House.

 One thing is known — The Obamas picked up the cost of dinner costs and their orchestra seat tickets, which cost $96.50 a piece. So if the whole thing cost $250,000, the Obamas offset that by at least a few hundred bucks. Phew