Obstruction

With full control of Congress and the White House, Republicans have anticipated being able to repeal the law using a special budget maneuver that would allow them to get around a filibuster by Democrats in the Senate.

Yes and no.  The budget maneuver is reconciliation, and it’s usable only on budget matters.  That means that Obamacare will be defunded pretty straightforwardly, but the law itself still will be on the books—for a future Progressive-Democratic Party-controlled Congress to re-fund using the same budget reconciliation maneuver.  The law itself needs to be fully repealed, too; defunding it can only be a stop-gap measure.

Nominations for HHS and CMMS

President-Elect Donald Trump has nominated Congressman Tom Price (R, GA) to be Secretary of Health and Human Services and Seema Verma to be Administrator of HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  The two are well positioned and experienced to spearhead the effort to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a health insurance environment that actually will provide low-cost, broad-ranging health insurance in a competitive market.

Senate Democrats already are digging in their heels, though.

The incoming Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said he’s urging his Democratic colleagues to give Mr Price “a thorough, thorough vetting,” and said Mr Price’s Medicare proposals are tantamount to privatizing the program.

Tax Cuts and Deficits

The Wall Street Journal had a piece earlier in the week that focused on Republicans’ dismay over President-Elect Donald Trump’s tax cut plans, his infrastructure spending plans, and the deficits that would seem to result from the two.

However.

Once again, the pundit takes tax cuts (and individual spending items) in isolation. Of course, he knows better: broad spending cuts must accompany tax cuts—and isolated spending items—even dynamically, in order to achieve budget surpluses and so reductions in our debt.

The last two times Republicans reclaimed the White House from Democrats—in 1981 and 2001—they also successfully pushed for large tax cuts. Deficits nonetheless rose during their administrations.

The Courts Get Another One Right

This case involves how much Federal control over land deeded by the Feds to a State the Feds retain when they make the deed.  In the particular case, the Feds, ‘way back in 1949, deeded land to Ohio (in particular, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District) subject to the criteria that the land had to be used for flood control, conservation, and recreation.  Lately, Ohio began allowing fracking under the land.

Foreign Investment Risk

The People’s Republic of China seems about to illustrate one form of this risk.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, will soon announce new measures that subject many overseas deals to reviews of “strict control,” according to people with direct knowledge of the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Targeted for particular scrutiny by the pending measure are “extra-large” foreign acquisitions valued at $10 billion or more per deal, property investments by state-owned firms above $1 billion, and investments of $1 billion or more by any Chinese company in an overseas entity unrelated to the investor’s core business.

Federal Green Expenditures

Watts Up With That has some ideas for budget cutting in the next administration.  Or, actually, these ideas come from Salon (!) via WUWT (never mind that cutting isn’t what Salon meant).

  • Energy Department

2017 climate-related budget: $8.5 billion

  • Interior Department

2017 climate-related budget: $1.1 billion

  • State Department

2017 climate-related budget: $984 million

  • NASA

2017 climate-related budget: $1.9 billion

  • Environmental Protection Agency

2017 climate-related budget: $1.1 billion

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

2017 climate-related research and development: $190 million

That works out to $13.8 billion of “useless waste.”  Yes, indeedy.

Times to Invest in the Market

My personal stock market investing mantra has always gone like this: “The best time to invest was yesterday; the second best time is today; the worst time is tomorrow.”  I decided to take check that and see how accurate it might be, so I built a simple Microsoft Excel® spreadsheet to take a back of the envelope look.

Systemic Importance and Institutions

Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari is on the right track, but he’s not there yet.  He’s one of a very small number of financial regulators (of any sort of regulator, come to that) who has the self-assurance and intellectual honesty to say, and to mean, things like

I start with the assumption that regulators are going to miss the next crisis.  We’re going to miss it.

He’s got a solution to that, too, but it’s only a partial solution, and that incompleteness stems from a fundamental lack of understanding.

Free Trade

Specific trade deals might be good or bad, but that’s specific to the deal; such efficacies don’t say much of anything about free trade or free trade deals in general.  There are, in fact, two primary reasons for encouraging free trade, zones of free trade, and the deals that enhance free trade and generate free trade zones.  One reason is the economic benefits for the partners of the free trade deals, including lower costs—and so downward pressure on price inflation—for the citizens of the nations involved, and net (if small) job creation, which stems from those lower costs and domestic companies benefiting from the increased demand that flows from those lower costs.  It’s true that particular jobs disappear as production moves to lower cost areas (and that’s true for entirely domestic regions, too), but other jobs get created as other businesses crop up to take advantage of production shifts.

A Minimum Wage Mandate Demonstration

McDonald’s, which already has ordering stations—kiosks at its restaurant tables from which diners can order their meals and have them delivered to them—at some 500 of its restaurants in Florida, New York, and California.  The Daily Caller, citing CNN Money, says more of these kiosks are scheduled to be added, next year, in McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and DC.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law a new $15 minimum wage for New York State in 2016, and the University of California has proposed to pay its low-wage employees $15. Florida’s minimum wage will rise I January 2017. Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 in 2014, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles.