Some interesting snippets on matters of the economy at the end of the week.
Reuters lets us know that the economy in the fourth quarter of last year grew a tad stronger than was initially thought.
(Reuters) – The U.S. economy grew more quickly than previously thought in the fourth quarter…
Gross domestic product rose at an annualized rate of 3.1 percent, the Commerce Department said in its final estimate, revised up from 2.8 percent.
Several thoughts on this, first of all, even though 3.1% growth isn’t particularly anything to write home about, it’s better than 2.8% so you’d think that the Administration would be crowing about it. After all, it’s moving in the right direction. So why’d they release the news on Friday? Maybe it could be the rest of the information in the article, ya think? What could be wrong? Well…
I really wonder who dresses these people. We have another unexpected announcement about the economy, this week it’s the housing sector. Again. Last week we had reports of new lows in the price of resale homes and they were shocked. This week it’s a new low in new housing starts. Actually, the news is really about both January and February, from the Wall St. Journal.
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — New construction of U.S. housing units plunged in February, erasing a sharp gain in January and coming close to an all-time-low level.
Illegal immigration is a huge drain on the US.
It’s a direct assault on out culture – “Press Two for English”. It’s a direct assault on our heritage, the concept of the US being a melting pot where immigrants seeking freedom can assimilate into our culture, “Out of Many, One”, the famous quote from the Great Seal of the United States that Al Gore got exactly backwards. And illegal immigration is an assault on our financial stability and resources. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, states with the biggest budget problems also have the biggest “immigrant financial” problems, specifically California and Arizona. In fact, the cost if illegal aliens is about equal to the budget deficits in most financially strapped states
…and that would be “D” as in “D”emocrat, not “d” as in “d”ay.
Remember back a couple of years when oil prices went over a hundred dollars a barrel and gas prices broached $4 a gallon. You will also remember the screeching from Democrats and their media slaves about how George W Bush and Dick Cheney were profiting from the suffering of American families who were paying big prices at the pump. In March of 2008 the Washington Post ran a story – one of thousands, so yes, I’m cherry-picking but it’s not much different than of the ilk they published on this subject – where they made the following note…
I’m going to stray today from my normally politically correct, softball writing and call a spade a spade.
Barack Obama and his US Department of Labor are a bunch of lying whores. (With apologies to sex workers who don’t deserve the comparison.) Their latest exercise in attempting to sell a bill of goods to the American people is their latest pap on unemployment. This is just another exercise in why I don’t trust either statisticians or government employees. Both are congenital liars, to the point where they don’t even realize they’re lying. What never ceases to amaze me is that they are able to use media outlets like The New York Times to smear their pap and the folks at The Times seem to do it with glee in their hearts. I know I shouldn’t be amazed, but the level of gross stupidity and ignorance of even the basic facts – when all the data is numbers – is overwhelming and I expect better, even of products of the re-education camps run under the guise of “schools of journalism”. OK, so much for my whining. And, Mrs908 recommends a fine sharp white cheddar available at Trader Joe’s to go with the 908Whine™.
This subject is near and dear to my heart for several reasons. First of all, I am a proponent of LEGAL immigration. We are a nation of immigrants who came to America to be Americans, to experience freedom and liberty. Nothing should ever change that. We are also a nation of laws and we should expect and demand that immigrants obey the law, especially when it comes to how they come into the country. For most of the Bush Administration and for most of the last couple of years, it looked like amnesty and the rule of lawlessness would rule the day on this issue, but I honestly think we’ve turned the corner and that the conservative view on this issue will win the day. Over the past year we’ve seen some very encouraging things happen in regard to immigration.
- Even as Obama’s ICE has worked t find obscure regulatory methods to stop processing illegals, their other hand has been hard at work enforcing federal law with regard to employment of illegals and, in fact, we will deport a record number of illegals in 2010, around 400,000. That’s a huge jump from the previous administration and it’s certainly a good thing.
- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law, making it against state law to be in Arizona illegally and empowering Arizona police agencies to detain suspected illegal aliens.
- The Obama Administration file suit in federal court to block enforcement of SB1070, the case is currently making it’s way to SCOTUS.
- The attendant publicity around SB1070 brought an interesting result. People favor it by a huge margin, 55-60% favor it and polls show many states where people want a similar law passed by their state legislatures.
- As we noted here earlier in the week, Rep Lamar Smith is going to hold hearing with the intent to bring new immigration laws based on requiring eVerify for hiring in the US. This is a great first step and may actually end up being a solidly bipartisan piece of legislation because Obama’s Immigration folks are looking forward to testifying and support the legislation in concept at this point and it’s an issue that can be rightly painted as a “jobs” issue. Illegal aliens are taking jobs from unemployed American citizens. Come on Nancy & Harry, oppose this one. Please.
- The DREAM Act, legislation aimed at nibbling away toward blanket amnesty, was killed in the Lame Duck Session. With Republicans in control of the House, it’s dead as my white cat for at least two years.
- As we noted in the above linked piece, AZ State Sen Russell Pearce and his allies will be holding a press conference on January 5 to outline new legislation that will be introduced in at least Arizona that will go after “birthright citizenship”, effectively nullifying it for children of illegal aliens. See the earlier piece for our commentary on that, but suffice it to say that we feel Pearce is doing the right thing and the state level is the place to start the fight.
- In Kansas, Kris Kobach was elected Secretary of State. This is important because Kobach worked with Russell Pearce to write SB1070 and he is coming into office in Kansas with legislation ready for committee review with respect to illegal aliens and voter fraud.
In a year end piece in the New York Times, they note that the battle on illegal immigration – and they even call it that – has shifted from Washington DC to the States. This is critical to getting the problem addressed for a couple of reasons. First of all, any major piece of legislation coming out of DC will likely be an amnesty bill – see the DREAM Act. By moving the battle to the states, the focus of the legislation changes 180 degrees to incremental enforcement.
Legislative leaders in at least half a dozen states say they will propose bills similar to a controversial law to fight illegal immigration that was adopted by Arizona last spring, even though a federal court has suspended central provisions of that statute.
The efforts, led by Republicans, are part of a wave of state measures coming this year aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.
Legislators have also announced measures to limit access to public colleges and other benefits for illegal immigrants and to punish employers who hire them.
Next week, at least five states plan to begin an unusual coordinated effort to cancel automatic United States citizenship for children born in this country to illegal immigrant parents.
Opponents say that effort would be unconstitutional, arguing that the power to grant citizenship resides with the federal government, not with the states. Still, the chances of passing many of these measures appear better than at any time since 2006, when many states, frustrated with inaction in Washington, began proposing initiatives to curb illegal immigration.
The battle lines are already drawn for this fight. Conservatives, people who believe in the rule of law and advocates for legal immigration are on one side. The Left, which includes the entire Democratic Party machine and some liberal Republicans, along with an interesting alliance of Mexican nationalist groups (LaRaza, etc) and the US Chamber of Commerce who oppose businesses having to deal with immigration status not to mention their love of cheap labor. This was will be fought in the courts, the key is to get the right legislation before SCOTUS, because that’s where it will end up. The SB1070 ruling from the federal judge in Phoenix was expected. I expect the Ninth Circus to affirm her ruling and from there it will go to Justice Roberts Court.
For a quick roundup of who’s on our side, The Times article has a good outline.
“The federal government’s failure to enforce our border has functionally turned every state into a border state,” said Randy Terrill, a Republican representative in Oklahoma who has led the drive for anti-illegal immigration laws there.
Among the states expected to introduce bills similar to Arizona’s [SB1070] are Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
In Kansas, Republicans won big majorities in both legislative houses and Sam Brownback, who just retired as a United States senator, was elected governor. Mr. Kobach, the law professor, was elected secretary of state after a campaign in which he vowed to pass a law requiring proof of citizenship for voters.
The Times article has the standard level of moaning about how Republicans will lose the “Latino” voting block, blah blah blah. Arizona has a large Hispanic voting block and a very aggressive “immigrant” lobby. The media are their lackeys. Republicans swept every statewide office and took three House seats away from the Democrats. Two more House seats in southern Arizona were within a couple of thousand votes each of flipping to Republicans and our candidates were first timers. One of those districts, the incumbent had never run a TV commercial in any of his campaigns and won by about 3,000 votes.
Bottom line, this issue will be a clear winner for Conservatives and Republicans. We’ve got the right people doing the right things at both the state and federal level and we’ve got momentum on our side.
- ‘Anchor Babies’ to Face Scrutiny in Congress (foxnews.com)
- The Cost of Illegal Immigration to America (socyberty.com)
- SFgate.com GOP takeover of House to shift immigration debate (sfgate.com)
- Arizona’s Tough New Law Against Illegal Immigrants (time.com)
- In Congress, a harder line on illegal immigrants (charlotte.news14.com)
And I’m talking about commuter light rail.
In the world of government foisting stupid economic decisions off on tax payers who are clueless, nothing will ever top light rail. In the interest of full disclosure, I ride the Phoenix light rail system every day and it’s a great ride. I also happen live and work within walking distance of the line, something that probably 2% of Phoenicians can say. And while it happens to work great for me right now, it’s still a fools errand. Rail systems are rife with what would be called fraud and whole variety of other names that define serious criminal behavior if it was fronted by private enterprise instead of the government. Kind of like social security. I’m going to discuss two systems today, the Phoenix Metro Light Rail which is currently in operation and is expanding, and a new light rail system that is being proposed for Metro DC. I’m not going to talk about other existing systems and the disasters they are – Miami and LA for two – nor am I going to discuss the Harry Reid memorial high speed rail plans, which make commuter light rail look like the bargain of the century. You can look them up yourself if you have a really strong stomach or a large pantry of alcohol.
Things like cost overruns. Remember all the screeching from The Left about military cost overruns on stuff that can’t really be predicted, like war? Well, they’re curiously silent about cost overruns on stuff that is really straightforward, like rail line construction. Oh, and operation. And then there’s those pesky estimates of ridership.
So, with respect to the Phoenix system, the first phase of it encompassed a 20 mile stretch from kinda North Phoenix past the airport, through Tempe (ASU) and on to Mesa. For those not familiar with Metro Phoenix, it’s essentially Maricopa County, home to almost 4 million people, it’s larger than at 24 states and is not a commuter friendly place. It’s an hour’s drive on a weekend from one end to the other, make that two hours during the week and there is no real central corridor for business, there are business parks spread at random through the county. That means, unlike major eastern metro areas where people live in concentrated areas of housing and work in business concentrated areas, Phoenix housing and business is spread all over the 9,200 square miles of the county making a fixed rail transportation system inefficient because there is no centralization to build from.
OK, so let’s look at the construction of the Phoenix system. The initial cost estimates for Phase I were touted by the mayor to be about $500MM for 20 miles of track, stations and trains. The cost came in at $1.4B. That’s an oopsie. Now to be clear, there are no tunnels, no bridges, just ripping up streets and laying rails and putting electrical towers along the line to power the trains (yes Virginia, they’re eco-friendly non-fossil fuel vehicles). The trains were bought from a German firm who bid on the contract. There’s nothing unique or difficult here gentle reader but the government agencies who figured the initial cost – like maybe to sell the project to an unsuspecting public – missed it by a factor of about three. Oh well, it’s federal money, not “ours”. Well, sort of. The feds paid for half. Phoenix and Mesa paid for 40% and a Prop400 sales tax for “transportation” paid for the rest. So, for those of you who don’t live in Phoenix, thanks suckers.
So much for construction. Let’s talk about operating cost. Keep in mind that Phoenix bought the trains from a German firm that sells these critters all over the world. Not a new design and no fancy stuff, just off the rack train cars. They have electric motors and run on a fixed schedule, no joy-riding or taking side trips. Should be fairly easy to calculate the operating cost right? Ahhh, nope.
Unfortunately, it took massive energy bills to learn the lesson. Metro spent $1.2 million on power in its first six months of operation. That is 40 percent more than projected.
But fear not, the government has the situation well in hand. They’re going to turn up the air conditioning to 78 degrees. That will fix everything. No discussion of the fact that a three car train (most are two) uses about the same amount of electricity for one run as it takes to keep a 20 story office building open for one day. Trains run every 10 minutes.
As to who actually pays to operate the system, you’re gonna love this. Keep in mind that this estimate was prior to actual start up and costs have increased both significantly and, of course, unexpectedly.
The bulk of the operations budget, more than $159 million, comes from fares and cities. That money goes to everything from taking care of trains to paying the salaries of train operators to running Metro’s office.
Fares are expected to account for $44.81 million during the next five years.
Got that? The folks who ride (me) are paying about 30% of the operating cost. The rest comes from city and state taxes. And TARP when you can get it. Bottom line, while the construction cost overruns are criminal, they are at least one time hits. Big hits, but only one time. The operating cost is where they really nail you. Kinda like the cost of retirement for a city employee. They underestimated the operating cost and typically overestimate ridership. And when a “special” tax is collected, the revenue is almost always less than was projected as is the case for Prop400. Bottom line, city property tax payers get hammered and the fools go looking for “other” sources of revenue to support the white elephant that is firmly in place.
Now then, a quick note about the Metro DC boondoggle from the Washington Examiner.
What if they built a $6 billion Metrorail extension and nobody came?
That’s not just a rhetorical question. Last week, the Federal Transit Administration announced advanced payments for a number of its New Starts projects. On the list was Dulles Rail, which will be receiving $19.7 million (out of the total federal share of $900 million) for Phase 1 — an 11.7-mile Metrorail extension now under construction, which will run from West Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue in Reston.
According to the FTA’s own press release, “The extension is projected to serve 85,700 daily riders by 2030, including an estimated 10,000 new daily transit riders.”
Since Phase 1 of Dulles Rail will cost a minimum of $3.1 billion, that comes out to $310,000 for each new rider. Taxpayers would be better off financially giving each of them a brand new Lamborghini Gallardo (MSRP $237,600) or his and hers matching Tesla Roadsters (MSRP $109,000) instead.
Remember our comment about a criminal job of estimating to sell a project to unsuspecting tax payers? Get this…
First, the Silver Line is supposed to entice tens of thousands of commuters to leave their cars at home and take Metro to work at Tysons Corner, the nation’s 12th largest job center. But the latest FTA ridership projection does not reflect a major shift from cars to mass transit.
Second, that 10,000 figure is just a third of the estimate contained in the 2004 Dulles Rail Environmental Impact Statement, which predicted at least 29,100 new riders. This means that the Fairfax Board of Supervisors approved much higher densities around the four Tysons Corner Metro stations based on what now appears to be an erroneous assumption. And if only a third of the expected increase in new ridership materializes, only a third of the projected benefits of Dulles Rail will be realized.
Third, the latest new ridership figure is even less than the 13,600 new daily riders projected by 2020 for a 23-mile bus rapid transit project that was initially submitted by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation in November 2000, but later abandoned in favor of heavy rail even though Metrorail will cost taxpayers $288,875 more for each new rider.
Read the whole article if you have a strong stomach or alcohol left from phase one. Bottom line, we didn’t even get kissed. I hope Darryl Issa has time to look into this, or at least I hope somebody makes time to look into it. And the high speed rail fiasco. And, a strong stomach or alcohol will not suffice for that link. You’ll need hard drugs.
- In Dallas, Sprawling City Form Hampers Shift to Light Rail (streetsblog.net)
- Light Rail’s First Birthday (seattlest.com)