Constitution? We don’ need no stinkin’ Constitution.

Another executive order imperial decree was just issued by the president:

On Friday Obama announced that the United States would no longer deport immigrants under 30 who are living in the country illegally as long as they arrived prior to turning 16, lived in the country for five years, graduated from high school or earned a GED or are serving in the military.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, young people who were brought to this country as children, are not felons and meet other criteria will now be eligible to receive "deferred action for a period of two years" on their deportation, their status will be reviewed in two years and, in the meanwhile, they will be eligible to apply for work authorization.
This action is in direct conflict with the US Constitution 101: Article 2, Section 3, Clause 4 -- unless of course:
“[Taking] care that the laws be faithfully executed” means:
a) Enforcing laws one does not like, anyway.
b) Changing laws one does not like through the legislative process.
c) Ignoring laws one does not like.
d) Making up “discretionary powers” to bypass Congress for laws one does not like.
e) Making up “discretionary powers” to execute policies that Congress rejects.
f) Delegating pseudo-lawmaking powers to the Executive-Branch bureaucracy.
g) a and b
h) c through f
i) Constitution? We don’ need no stinkin’ Constitution.
Hope n' Change got it right. Go read that blog's article that accompanies this excellent cartoon.

H/T: Curmudgeonly & Skeptical

Back Home In The Hills, A Retrospective


And the class of '57 had its dreams,
But living life from day to day is never like it seems.
Things get complicated when you get past eighteen,
But the class of '57 had its dreams.

~Written by Don and Harold Reid of the Statler Brothers

1957, besides being my high school graduation year, was markedly upbeat economically. Gross National Product growth had been ticking along at better than 5% per year for every year since the end of the Korean Conflict  in 1953. However, measurements associated with the government fiscal year that began in September 1957 did fall significantly below the heated economy of the four years preceding.
Consider 1957, when economist John Galbraith was about to describe the United States as the Affluent Society. That year, Americans’ per person income, expressed in today’s dollars, was $8,700. Today [in 2000] it is $20,000. Compared to 1957, we are now "the doubly affluent society"—with double what money buys. We have twice as many cars per person. We eat out two and a half times as often. In the late 1950s, few Americans had dishwashers, clothes dryers, or air conditioning; today, most do.
Upon returning to the scene of misguided youth for our 55th class reunion, the Class of 1957 at Moundsville High School (now torn down) found little evidence that the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia had participated in this economic betterment. The 1957 city population hovered near an all-time high of just under 15,000 but is now under 8,900 at the end of 2011-- a decline of 40%. Contrary to popular belief, population did not decline because students could not pass this 1931 West Virginia Elementary School Test.

The population decline relates directly to a shattered industrial base which sapped pride and independence from town folk. Massive earth movers and wrecking balls have been working for years to decontaminate the Fostoria Glass factory site that had closed in 1986.  Across Fostoria Avenue, a warehouse is all that remains of the long-shut United States Stamping Company plant.  Down the Ohio River, just south of town, the EPA was overseeing the decontamination of the two chlorine chemicals plants operated by Allied and by Solvay which were going full blast in 1957. Today, PPG's Natrium chlorine plant is being threatened by the EPA for high levels of mercury pollution.

In Washington Lands, the huge smokestack and cooling towers of American Electric Power's coal-fired Kammer plant were idled this year by environmental extremism. Goodbye to 60 jobs, $4.2 million in payroll, $1.7 million in local taxes and $620K from state tax coffers. Other local businesses, including the Consol Energy coal mine attached to the power plant, were also affected.  AEP's adjacent Mitchell plant may be included in the next round of coal-fired electric facilities to go, under the idiotic policies of the Obama administration.

Still standing in downtown Moundsville, directly across Jefferson Avenue from the city's namesake, the Grave Creek Mound ( largest of the earthwork burial mounds built by the prehistoric Adena Indians), is the ugly, imposing gothic stone wall structure of the West Virginia State Penitentiary that was closed in 1995. An attempt to generate income through prison tours has been a colossal failure. The sign over the main entrance remains with its West Virginia State Seal ironically declaring Montani Semper Liberi, "Mountaineers are always free."

Just north of Moundsville, Glen Dale's Louis Marx Toy factory, at one time the world's largest, has been closed since 1980 when 800 jobs were lost. And further north, the rusting hulk that was the Benwood Works of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel was shut during the American steel industry troubles during the 1980s. Surrounding steel operations in the Wheeling metropolitan area also shut because of old steel-making technology, foreign competition, and high labor costs compounded by strike-prone unions. Excess demands and frequent union strikes by the United Steel Workers, United Mine Workers, United Paper Novelty Toy Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and the Enamel Workers Union have all played prominent parts in bringing down these West Virginia companies.

My visit to Moundsville five years ago for the 50th reunion uncovered an exciting development in the region's retail trade.  It seems that Cabellas, the national outdoors outfitting chain, had opened a store less than 15 miles from my birthplace. This resulted in a new interchange on Interstate 70 at Triadelphia, along with a new mall. To hear the locals, people were coming from everywhere to shop at Cabellas! Alas, a 176,000 square foot store is just too small an event to save this northern Appalachian outpost.

Economic setbacks are traditional events in West Virginia and the retreat from locating a coal-to-synfuel plant on the site of the Benwood Works was disappointing just prior to the dawning of the Great Recession in 2008. In light of the fate of synfuel plants throughout America (especially with the natural gas shale plays in process throughout the Marcellas Shale deposits region and elsewhere), cancellation of the project, with its heavy government subsidies by then Mountain State governor Joe Manchin, might have been the best decision.

West Virginia's economy has been long suffering because of its glacial moraine topography, i.e. hills and hollows (that's "hollers" to us WV folk). Nothing can be done to make "caring" environmentalists happy about the cuts and fills required to provide roads and rails needed to speed commerce. "Speed" is probably a bad word choice, because all roads are crooked and travel is either uphill or downhill, sometimes with long steep slopes. Seemingly, because of its location on the Ohio River, Moundsville and Wheeling, WV should have thrived with nearby access to interstate highways, rail and river barge transportation (which adequately served the industries now gone) - but the Northern Panhandle's future is now profoundly tied to the Marcellus Shale which means natural gas extraction and mostly pipeline distribution.

The first hint of the "new game in town" is the limited availability of motel rooms and a newer, higher price tag on the rooms. The occupants inside these rooms are most assuredly gas pipeline contractors, mineral rights buyers and natural gas company personnel.  Local Industry is also taking notice of the new opportunities:
PPG Industries and Bayer Material Science have played a major role in the Upper Ohio Valley’s industrial base for years. Executives at both chemical plants said their companies intend to continue operations well into the future. That statement is subject to scrutiny, however, as both plants have experienced cutbacks and production changes over the past decade. Both Bayer and PPG are banking on the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom to play a big role in the future, as a byproduct of natural gas — ethylene — has the potential to help bolster their bottom lines. Bayer is known to be in the market for a natural gas “ethane cracker” facility, which would convert ethane — a component of natural gas found in the local area — to ethylene, which is used to make plastic. Bayer and PPG use ethylene to help make their products. If such a facility were to locate here, it could mean hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs, and also help boost the chemical industry by cutting what it pays currently to receive ethylene. PPG Industries Chief Executive Officer Charles Bunch also noted his company is talking with natural gas suppliers in the hopes of locking in fuel costs at low prices. PPG already has entered into an agreement with Dominion Transmission to locate a natural gas liquids processing plant on property adjacent to the Natrium plant. 
With gas wells increasing exponentially, the price of natural gas is falling toward $2.00 per million cubic feet but that is good news to Marshall and Ohio county drillers, because gas deposits here contain "wet" natural gas, where the petroleum content is selling for over $90 per barrel.
Information provided ... shows that drilling in the wet gas areas found in the Northern Panhandle - loaded with ethane, propane, butane and pentane - has proven up to three times more profitable than drilling in Pennsylvania's dry gas regions. For a typical dry gas well, the company earns about $13,000 in revenue per day. However, the company earns up to $38,800 in revenue each day for wet wells, company statistics show.
Potential new employment for natural gas, plastics, and gas liquidification could at last revitalize the region over the next 8-10 years but these new jobs will never be as plentiful as the ones that went away.  Somehow, I don't think that I will be changing my long-held opinion that "West Virginia is a great place to be from."

Free The Five Wives


The story are all over the internet, cable news, Time Magazine, U.K. Daily Mail, Huffington Post, NPR ... everywhere. Below is the audio of NPR's All Things Considered where Robert Siegel discusses the controversy over Five Wives Vodka with Ogden's Own Distillery Marketing VP, Steve Conlin.




From The LRC Blog comes a short summation of what happened:
It is distilled in Utah (a Mormon stronghold), but has been banned in Idaho because its label and its name might offend Mormons and women. Idaho regulators have decided not to carry Five Wives Vodka because of its label, which features "19th century women in petticoats holding kittens near their lady parts." "Products that we feel are marketed toward children, or are in poor taste with respect to out citizens will not be authorized for distribution," said Idaho State Liquor Division Deputy Director Howard Wasserstein.
As might be expected, the exposure of the ban to the world has brought about a backtracking by the Idaho booze control bureaucrats,(the same nannies who approved the sale of Polygamy Porter beer), as reported by the Boise Weekly:
Idaho could see sales of Five Wives vodka, a brand previously rejected by the Idaho State Liquor Division, if an appeals process is initiated. The liquor was never picked up for sale on state liquor store shelves, after the ISLD decided that the vodka wouldn't do well here. They cited the product's average taste, already competitive price point and most controversially, the product's risque packaging.
The interesting aspect here that needs to be tied together is the history of a small regional distillery that is bootstrapping its way to national recognition through some unique guerrilla marketing techniques.  Ogden's Own Distillery, LLC was started in late 2006 by a self-promoter named Timothy Smith.  In an interview with Gavin Sheehan in 2009, Smith had some tall tales to tell about himself and how he got interested in the booze business:
My Grandfather on my Dad’s side stormed the beaches of Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge along with numerous others. I was ten years old and interested in where my Grandfather was. Tom, my older brother and I were spending a few weeks with our Grandparents in North East Texas. I began exploring in the general direction in which I’d seen him disappear into the pine forest. After almost turning back a few times, I came upon a large fermentation tank and a moonshine still with my Grandfather nowhere in sight. Somehow I just knew what this contraption was. We never talked about it because before he’d leave out to check on things, he’d tell me to stay at the house.
My first experience making alcohol was when I was about twelve years old. I used apple juice and bakers yeast. I sealed off the bottle with a rubber balloon and let it ferment in my closet. The end product was not the best, but was my first successful batch of hooch. I began experimenting with distillation in my clubhouse that same year. We had moved from the church and lived in an oilfield. The refinery where my Dad worked was less than a mile away. My dad explained petroleum distillation to me and I had all the information that I needed to get started.
So the man is full of the malarkey necessary to be a top flight marketer, as demonstrated by his company's first product line, an absinthe drink named Underground, which was a tunnel system under Ogden's streets during the early 20th century; it was a convenient place for criminals and bootleggers to hide.

Next we find Tim Smith interviewed in the February 12, 2012 "Bite by Bite" column in the Salt Lake City Tribune, this time talking about his newest product line, Five Wives vodka.
Smith said he focused on Ogden’s “dark history” when it came to naming the new vodka. He said one of the first pioneer wagon trains that came through Utah spent time in Ogden. The caravan included 66 men and five women.
Click to Enlarge
The beginnings of the half-truths presented about the Five Wives brand had surfaced. The "dark history" bit hinted of Mormon polygamy that was discontinued about a hundred years ago, while the second had to have referred to the Bartleson-Bidwell Party which traversed the plains from western Missouri to Soda Springs, ID with 64 men, 5 women and 10 children.  These five women had five different spouses. At this point the wagon train split into two parties, one going northwest along the Oregon Trail and the party led by John Bidwell went south and west to California along the north shore of Great Salt Lake, which likely took them through Ogden.  The problem is, that only one female accompanied the Bidwell party, Mrs. Benjamin (Nancy A.) Kelsey. As it turned out, she was the first female to arrive in California by wagon train. Five years later, the first Mormon wagon train arrived in Utah.

Unknown is what came first, the picture of five women in petticoats or the the name "Five Wives," but it probably inconsequential either way.  The picture most certainly is key to a marketing concept, and it turns out to be a picture of a risque vaudeville troupe known as the Barrison Sisters.
They ... titilated by asking if audiences would like to see their female organs. They then would lift their skirts, revealing pussy-cats attached ... around their genitals.
So it really doesn't matter what the device used in the marketing scheme is. Nothing has to relate to anything except that each element brings up controversy. Ogden's Own, following the rule of never letting a controversy go to waste is offering for sale, "Free The Five Wives" tee-shirts at their website.  Proceeds from sales will go to the Boise Music Festival to help promote the brand there.

Next up is licensing in non-Liquor Board states (there are 34 of them) and establishing the production and distribution capacity to serve them.  Five Wives Vodka is already a success.

A Return to Single-Income Households?

Professor Todd Zywicki, who plies his trade at George Mason University and is also a prime mover at the Volokh Conspiracy Blog, did a financial  analysis of the the average spending of income for 1970's single-Income family vs. an early 2000 double-income household.  As a basis, he used the book, "Two-Income Trap" written and researched by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi.  His charts and comments below were taken from Volokh:

Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi compare two middle-class families: an average family in the 1970s versus the 2000s (all dollar values are inflation-adjusted). The typical 1970s family is headed by a working father and a stay-at-home mother with two children. The father's income is $38,700, out of which came $5,310 in mortgage payments, $5,140 a year on car expenses, $1,030 on health insurance, and income taxes "which claim 24% of [the father's] income," leaving $17,834, or about $1,500 per month in "discretionary income" for all other expenses, such as food, clothing, utilities and savings.

The typical 2000s family has two working parents and a higher income of $67,800, an increase of 75% over the 1970s family. But their expenses have also risen: The mortgage payment increases to $9,000, the additional car raises the family obligation to $8,000, and more expensive health insurance premiums cost $1,650. A new expense of full-time daycare so the mother can work is estimated at $9,670. Mother's income bumps the family into a higher tax bracket, so that "the government takes 33% of the family's money." In the end, despite the dramatic increase in family income, the family is left with $17,045 in "discretionary income," less than the earlier generation.

In fact, for the typical 1970s family, paying 24% of its income in taxes works out to be $9,288. And for the 2000s family, paying 33% of its income is $22,374 ... [making] the "median family spending" on the category of taxes ... about 140%.

Although income only rose 75%, and expenditures for the mortgage, car and health insurance rose by even less than that, the tax bill increased by $13,086 — a whopping 140% increase. The percentage of family income dedicated to health insurance, mortgage and automobiles actually declined between the two periods.

During this period, the figures used by Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi indicate that annual mortgage obligations increased by $3,690, automobile obligations by $2,860 and health insurance payments by $620 (a total increase of $7,170). Those increases are not trivial — but they are swamped by the increase in tax obligations. To put this in perspective, the increase in tax obligations is over three times as large as the increase in the mortgage payments and almost double the increase in the mortgage and automobile payments combined. Even the new expenditure on child care is about a quarter less than the increase in taxes.

Overall, the typical family in the 2000s pays substantially more in taxes than the combined expenses of their mortgage, automobile and health insurance. And the change in the tax obligation between the two periods is substantially greater than the change in mortgage, automobile expenses and health-insurance costs combined.
Since this data includes the 2001 Bush income tax cuts, two-income families are about to get clobbered by the greatest percentage tax increase in history, which will eat into discretionary spending when these taxes expire again at the end of 2012.  We can expect that during our continuing economic downturn, investment tax rates will double, dampening business expansion and keeping the lid on hiring thus stunting hoped-for economic recovery.  This will further depress unemployment numbers which are already worse than at any time since the Great Depression.  Continued government interference in markets, expanded government programs (healthcare), wasteful, unhelpful government spending and wrongheaded Keynesian economics are crippling our overburdened economy and we are witnessing Obama's "double-down" spending policies which ignore the obvious truth that spending more money than government has is not a working solution.

As a result, more money is being borrowed from China and the printing presses at Federal Mints are working overtime .... yet money in circulation is diminishing.  The American public is not spending.  This is a good short term strategy, but what do Americans do long term?

Maybe, just maybe, the long term strategy is to look back to yesteryear when one-car garages were enough, when 1,200 square foot houses were comfortable, and when there was only one wage-earner per household.

Absurd, you say!  Consider that NIPA personal savings rate which averaged about 9.5% in the 1970s began to decline in the 1980s.  By 2004, the rate was down to 2.1%.  In the first four months of 2008 the rate barely exceeded 1% BUT in just two years we are now back up to 4%.  Similarly personal loans and credit card activity has declined dramatically to rates seen only in WWII.  This means that the belt tightening has begun, because folks are convinced that the next economic bubble awaits just around the corner.  American families are shedding their excess, paying off or refinancing debt and increasing savings to survive.   What have they not done yet?  They have not figured out that double income earning is gaining nothing because extra expenses are incurred with the second job and additional cash running through the bank account which encourages unneeded discretionary spending.

Could you convince a wage earner to voluntarily quit a job in these times?  I would not, and I assume that most people look at this the same as I do.  However, when unemployment occurs, and new jobs are not in the offing, and even 99 weeks on the UC dole is not enough, you gotta do something.  So dump car number two on Craigslist, get rid of three of four cell phones, and cut way back on cable services.  Do without 10 pairs of Nikes and buy clothes at the second hand store.  My folks survived the Great Depression with far more stringent actions than these and they had the good judgment to conceive me at the same time.  I guess they thought that such recreation was cheap but they were certainly wrong about that.
In a single generation, a change has taken place at the heart of the American family. In an effort to make their families more financially secure in an ever more difficult economic environment, families have sent both mom and dad into the workforce, committing both incomes to basic expenses such as mortgages, car payments and health insurance. The intent and the effect are in opposite directions. Over the past generation, families have become more--not less--vulnerable to economic collapse, more likely to falter in the wake of a job loss, medical problems and family break ups. Families have fallen into a two-income trap, working harder than ever as more of them fail financially.
The recovery from the Great Recession is taking far too long and the two-income family is quickly becoming suspect as the cost of child care raises its ugly head. The push-back from states who are taking in less tax revenue is hitting programs that provided child care subsidies to working women,  The ending of federal stimulus fund programs does not help either.
"Many of the cutbacks by states are a result of federal dollars drying up from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act", said [National Women's Law Center Director, Helen] Blank. While President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget proposes $825 million to help states, many working family advocates expect a shortfall.
“The problem we continually face is as a country we’re not willing to put the resources into child care to make that available,” said Blank. “Families can’t afford it, and it’s an endless struggle for providers, families and policymakers.”
The deep recession and slow recovery have kept  government officials focused on priorities of food, shelter and employment. But she said that for working families, “child care is the lynchpin for all those things.”
When jobs were lost in 2008, they called it a "mancession" because men lost 5.4 million jobs while women dropped a measly 2.1 million, according to Pew Research. Since May 2009, during the supposed recovery, men have gained 768,000 jobs through June 2011 while women lost 218,000.  Yep, we are having a "hecovery."


My belief is that the high-cost for child care which ranges from $3,900 (in MS) upward to $12,200 (in MA) per year, combined with reduced hours of work and actual elimination of women's jobs has made the decision for the family caregiver to drop out of the workforce - despite the fact that she faces hostile unemployment boards that generally do not accept child care as a valid reason for quitting -  thus blocking continued compensation. Is this a temporary trend or another paradigm shift back to putting the children first? Gosh, maybe I should title this piece, "For the Children . . . "