State Spending Cuts Slow Economic Growth In Final Months Of 2010

State spending cuts slow economic growth in final months of 2010New data from the United States Commerce Department reveals that the economy grew at a slower rate than experts had originally predicted for the fourth quarter of 2010.

On Feb. 25, the agency reported that the gross domestic product (GDP), which represents economic growth, increased at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the final quarter of last year. This figure was lower than its initial estimate of 3.2 percent.

Deep budget cuts by State and local governments contributed to the sluggish pace by slashing spending at a 2.4 percent rate between October and December 2010. In addition, consumer spending rose at a rate of 4.1 percent, which is smaller than the original estimate of 4.4 percent.

"There are still signs the recovery is taking root, and it appears sustainable, but not strongly enough to significantly lower unemployment," Scott Brown, an economist at Raymond James, told Forbes.

State budgets and the economy were slated to be major topics at the National Governors Association's annual winter meeting this past weekend in Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama was scheduled to meet with Democratic governors on Feb. 25 to discuss job creation, then host bipartisan events on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28. 

Obama Says DOMA Violates Protections Of 14th Amendment

Obama says DOMA violates protections of 14th AmendmentPresident Barack Obama's administration has announced that it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is a Federal law that defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.

On Feb. 23, United States Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement saying that the President believes that DOMA "contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians" that violate the Equal Protection Clause in the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

Holder added that the legal landscape has changed considerably since the law was approved by Congress and signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1996. The Supreme Court has since ruled that certain laws discriminating against homosexual conduct are unConstitutional, and Congress recently repealed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that banned openly gay individuals from serving.

Six States have ignored the Federal law in recent years by legalizing gay marriage, while several other States have approved same-sex civil unions. On Feb. 23, Senate lawmakers in Maryland advanced a bill that would legalize gay marriages. Governor Martin O'Malley has pledged to sign the bill if it passes Congress.

In a column for The Huffington Post, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler expressed his concern that the White House's recent stance "sets a terrible precedent."

"Obama has declared that if the president doesn't agree with a law — even if the courts say it's Constitutional — he can choose not to defend it," Winkler wrote. "Don't be surprised if a President Palin points to Obama's decision when announcing her refusal to enforce and defend the landmark healthcare reform law because, in her view, the individual mandate is unConstitutional."

Majority Of Americans Want Compromise To Avoid Government Shutdown

With a government shutdown looming if Congress and the President can't agree on a budget by March 4, a majority of Americans are hoping that the two political parties can meet in the middle.

According to a new USA Today/Gallup survey, six out of 10 respondents said they want the lawmakers to agree on a compromise, while approximately 33 percent believe that legislators should hold out for the budget plan they want, even if it results in a shutdown of Federal services. Seven out of 10 surveyed Democrats favored a compromise, compared to about 49 percent of Republicans.

A House Republican bill to fund the Federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 was approved by the chamber on Feb. 19. The legislation would cut more than $60 billion from the continuing resolution that expires March 4.

According to media reports, GOP House members have proposed a $4 billion, two-week stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown. Democrats are resistant to the idea, saying that it is not a compromise because the stopgap funding is equal to a prorated amount in long-term budget that Republicans passed last week.

The USA Today/Gallup survey revealed that about half of the respondents said that the Democrats' budget plans do not go far enough to reduce the national deficit. Only about one in four Americans said that the GOP's proposal goes too far in slashing Federal spending.

Why The City Might Be Your Best Bet (Part 2)

Today, I’m continuing a two-part series on the Top 10 lies and half-truths about urban survival.

If you missed the first five last week , you can read it here.

There were several comments last week by people in rural areas who said that it was either their way or the highway, were QUITE angry that anyone would suggest that people living in the city might have ANY advantage over rural folks, and almost went so far as to say that city people didn’t have any chance of surviving in a populated area after a disaster.

Well, those people missed the point. The point isn’t to convince people living in rural areas to move into the city. It’s to get people, no matter where they live, to put a plan in place to increase their chances of surviving short-, medium- and long-term disasters right where they are. Or more to the point, right where they’re likely to be when a disaster happens.

For too long, rural folks have been telling prepared people living in cities that we’re all going to be killed by roving mobs of zombie-like gangs and looters after a disaster. In addition, they say that our only hope is to bug out to the country… or leave our friends, family and jobs and move to the country now.

That may be great if you want to and can pull it off, but the fact is that the majority of people in the United States will continue to cluster together in cities, so this is important information.

One commenter said that the “correct” answer is to start out in a rural area when a disaster happens and move back to the city after everyone has died off. That assumes that you get to pick the timing of the disaster. The simple fact is that disasters don’t ask you to confirm that you’re ready before they happen.

Since most people live in urban areas, most people will be in urban areas when a disaster happens. As a result, they need to have a primary or alternate plan to survive right where they are if they can’t relocate to a rural area — if they even want to. It’s just practical. It’s as practical as rural people having a plan in place to survive in their rural home if a disaster happens.

One of the factors that helps people take steps to get prepared is to know that their plans have a chance of working. If the only information out there for people living in cities is the B.S. that they have no chance of surviving, then they’re more likely to be apathetic and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Why prepare if nobody’s going to survive in the city anyhow?”

That’s one of the reasons why I developed the Urban Survival Course… to give friends and family a roadmap to follow to survive disasters in urban areas if they spend the majority of their time in areas that are “urban” enough to have sewer, water, gas and other shared utilities.

With that in mind, here are the next five lies, half truths and myths about cities after disasters:

  1. Everything in the city will be picked clean within days: This is partially true, but it only looks at a small piece of a bigger picture. Specifically, it is looking at the first several days after a catastrophic event. On a slow economic decline like what we’re in now, crime will go up (everywhere) but distribution continues. There will be regional breakdowns in distribution (gas and produce in some areas will last a few months) but most things will get to most places.

    We’ve got historical examples of this… most notably in Germany, Zimbabwe, Yugoslavia and Argentina.

    If you’re looking at a Katrina-type event, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), terrorist infrastructure attack, etc., things are different. Any stores that aren’t guarded by people willing to defend themselves against violent attacks will most likely get picked clean very quickly. But then a vacuum will form and, since nature hates a vacuum, it will get taken care of.

    Specifically, the need for food and supplies gets filled by black market vendors, looters and by enterprising people who figure out where supplies are and how to deliver them to a waiting group of wanting customers for a profit that outweighs the risk. Again, there is historical evidence for this. Namely: Berlin, Beirut and Buenos Aires. Clean water didn’t disappear in these scenarios… it just got more expensive. It’s simple supply and demand. As a note, if you don’t want to buy items from black market vendors and pay black market prices after a disaster, you’d better get prepared now.

    Remember all of those people who are going to “get out of Dodge” and “head for the hills”? Well, they aren’t going to be able to fit everything in their cars and they’re going to leave a lot behind. Some will tell their neighbors that they can have whatever they left. Some of these houses will quickly get taken over by squatters, like what happened recently in Argentina. And others will get picked to the bone by looters. In any case, all of the supplies that they couldn’t take with them will be left behind.

  2. There won’t be any parts available: Myth. Imagine if China did a cyber attack that knocked out the East Coast, West Coast and Texas power grids tomorrow. Now imagine next week you need a part for your Audi, Saab, Subaru, Hyundai or, God forbid, an eco-friendly hybrid. Are you more likely to be able to find new/salvaged parts in a rural area or in a city?

    I know… I know. That’s why everyone should have a vehicle with easy to find parts. The reality is that not everyone has and disasters don’t wait until everyone’s ready. But this also applies to other things as well:

    Even parts like thermistors and flame sensors for furnaces, orifices for heaters, ejectors for guns, primers for ammo, or light bulbs… there will not only be more initial supply in urban areas than in rural areas, it will be more likely that when supplies run out, there will be enough demand in a city for someone to focus on fabricating/manufacturing new ones — even if the manufacturing process is powered by hand or animal power.

  3. Medical supplies will be cleaned out immediately: Half-Truth. Medical supplies will most likely get wiped out soon after a disaster, but that only tells part of the story. To begin with, in a major disaster, medical supplies will get wiped out in rural areas too, so urban and rural areas are comparable here.

    Next, we need to look at distribution again. When some enterprising person/company DOES have medical supplies/drugs to distribute, they are going to want to do it as simply as possible, with as little risk as possible and with as much reward for their risk as possible. That means delivering one truck to a big population center rather than several trucks to smaller population centers.

  4. There won’t be any jobs in the city: Lie. There will always be jobs (legal) for people who are willing/able to do anything in a city. They may not pay as much as you’d like, and they may not be doing what you’d like to do, but there will always be jobs. It might also require you to have skills, a good attitude and a willingness to learn. People with bad attitudes and bad work habits probably will have a hard time finding jobs.

    If nobody will hire you for a “job,” you can find out what jobs people are having a hard time getting done and start doing those jobs for hire. (As a note, I spoke with three people in church on Sunday who are looking for jobs. They say that they’re willing to do “anything”, but there aren’t “any” jobs. Meanwhile, I looked on a local help-wanted website and there are 233 postings. This was just one site and since most jobs are filled by word-of-mouth, I can only assume that there are many more.

    In rural areas there actually may not be any jobs available. If you’ve only got 20 families within five miles of you, they may not even want you on their property unless they know you well, let alone talk with you about paying you to work.

  5. EVERYONE left in the city will be killed… and killed again!: Half Truth. Many will be killed — most from fighting within and between gangs. But the question remains whether the city will be more or less safe from violence than rural areas. If you get a nice isolated rural house where you can shoot your guns and can’t see or hear your neighbors, who’s going to answer you if you yell “help!” or “fire!”? The answer is nobody. It doesn’t mean that rural areas are bad — it just means that they’re not as perfect as people argue that they are. This is a big reason why towns and cities were formed in the first place.

    This belief also assumes that nobody learned anything after Katrina. It assumes that nobody will use any of the 60+ million guns purchased in the U.S. since Katrina to protect themselves or their neighbors. Finally, it assumes that all police forces will act like the New Orleans Police force did after Katrina.

    Folks, the world has changed. There are more gun-owners than ever, more of those gun owners are getting advanced training than ever, and there are more gun owners of all political colors who are willing and able to defend their family from violent attack than ever before.

    There will be anti-gun cities like Washington, D.C., and Chicago that are hard hit because of the exodus of gun owners who want to obey the law. But in areas where individuals can own firearms, armed uprisings by gangs and thugs just won’t be allowed to last very long. In addition to infighting and killing each other off, good people won’t stand for it. They’ll do fine as long as they keep attacking sheep, but as soon as they hit a sheepdog, a family of sheepdogs, or a neighborhood of sheepdogs, they’ll have trouble.

    Are there potential dangers in the form of gun control from the Federal Government? Absolutely. And they apply both to people living in rural and urban areas.

So, what’s the point of this Top 10 list? First, it’s to get people to realize that they need a plan to ride out disasters in whatever area they spend the most time. If you spend 80 percent of your time in the city, have a primary or alternate plan to “Survive In Place” in your city, remembering that long-term travel in a survival situation may be unproductive and more dangerous than staying put. This is especially true if your loved ones are separated and you can’t reunite and bug out until the roads are packed.

Second, it’s to provide a foundation for people living in cities who have been paralyzed in their preparations because of the common (Bravo Sierra) school of thought that they’ll just be killed and their stuff taken by highly organized and disciplined gangs of marauders after a disaster.

Don’t buy into the lie. Have a plan in place to survive wherever you spend the most time, no matter how much less than ideal you think it is.

The Gravy Train Has Derailed

Scenes like those playing out in Madison, Wis., with tens of thousands protesting efforts to reduce State budget deficits, may well soon come to your State capital.

States are broke and their budgets are imperiled. Years of living beyond their means, of spending like there’s no tomorrow, of borrowing to fund profligacy and of providing obscene benefits to government workers have caught up with State finances. The chickens are coming home and are finding their roost has collapsed.

President Barack Obama ginned up the stakes in Wisconsin when he said the budget battle, in which Governor Scott Walker is looking to make up a shortfall of $3.6 billion over the next two years, is a battle against unions. That’s not it at all, but Obama seldom lets facts stand in the way of an opportunity to stoke the class warfare argument. It’s what Marxist community organizers do best.

Walker’s proposal would require some State employees to pay about 5.8 percent toward their own pension (they currently pay nothing) and about 12 percent of their own insurance premium (they currently pay about 6 percent, and 12 percent is about half what the average private sector worker pays) and relinquish their rights to collectively bargain their benefits (not their wages).

For this, teachers called in sick or just didn’t show up for work and schools were closed. Union thugs were bused in from around the country to protest. Race hustler Jesse Jackson showed up to get his scowl in front of news cameras. Democrat State legislators — rather than do their jobs (they must be union workers) — ran away and hid in other States in order to deny the Legislature a quorum.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who knows a thing or two about living the high life at taxpayer’s expense — expressed solidarity with Wisconsin teachers. Unethical physicians handed out sick notes to teachers like they were penny candy.

The irony is Obama, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have themselves to blame for this fiasco. In 2009 and 2010, thousands of average, everyday Americans interrupted their lives, took off from work, temporarily suspended their businesses and found babysitters for their kids in order to travel to Washington, D.C., or to a city nearby, to gather in protest of big government spending bills — that paid off elite-favored corporations — and Obamacare.

But Obama, Pelosi, Reid and company ignored the wishes of a majority of Americans and continued to spend and steal liberty from an electorate that was clearly fed up with big government antics. Had this Axis of Evil and their progressive cohorts not run roughshod over the wishes of the American people, Democrats would probably still be in control of both Houses of  Congress and most State governments and State worker benefits probably wouldn’t be the target.

Oh, State budgets would still be in dire straits. But Democrats would be tackling their deficits some other way; probably by raising taxes. If history is a guide, Democrats — and for the most part Republicans as well — rarely tackle deficits with spending cuts.

But voters in November swept most Democrats out of their Houses (governor’s mansions and legislative buildings) and installed new governments. They showed they wanted a change to more frugal governance from one that had no compunction over enriching favored constituencies (unions and certain industries) on the backs of taxpayers. They elected men and women who said they understood what the electorate wanted.

So Walker is making the hard choices his voters sent him to make. And other governors are facing some of the same choices about spending.

According to The Washington Post, State and municipal governments have about $2.4 trillion in debt. That’s 15 percent of the national gross domestic product. Across the country, from California to New York, state pension obligations are crushing state budgets.

Heavy taxes and burdensome government regulation have stymied business growth and run jobs out of the country. Private sector workers have given up raises, endured lay-offs, salary cuts and loss of benefits and have borne the brunt of the financial crisis. Now it’s time for the public sector to accept the reality that the gravy train fueled by bubbles resulting from the Federal Reserve’s money printing policies has jumped the track.

Public sector workers’ salaries come exclusively from taxpayers. Public sector workers’ salaries are used to pay union dues. Unions use those dues to campaign for Democrats who then raise the salaries and increase the benefits of public sector workers.

In other words, if you are taxpayer you have contributed money to support Democrat candidates and Democrat initiatives whether you agreed with those candidates and initiatives or not, as The Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone pointed out in a recent column.

The stranglehold unions have over the Democratic process has to be broken. Wisconsin is ground zero of the battle between some sort of fiscal sanity and the status quo. State budgets are in deep trouble and cuts will have to be made. And those cuts are inevitably going to have greater effect on those who mooch off government.

And public sector employees — with salaries and benefits far and away above that seen in the private sector — have mooched off government for too long. Taxpayers are tired of paying for lucrative pensions and health insurance for public sector union employees when they can’t afford to contribute to their own retirement plans or provide adequate healthcare coverage for their own families.

We’ve seen the result of austerity measures in places like Greece and France. We’ve seen protests against tyranny in the Middle East and North Africa. Sometimes these protests turn violent.

In America, we’ve seen college kids protesting rises in tuition costs at State colleges. In some cities, near riots have broken out when public housing and other public assistance didn’t meet demand. Now we’re seeing protests against meager government cuts in Wisconsin and Ohio. California Governor Jerry Brown is trying to put a plan to reduce the State’s public pension obligations on a June referendum.

Public employees from Bell, Calif., to Clarkstown, N.Y. have been caught looting their taxpaying citizens with salaries exceeding $500,000.

In Washington, spineless Republicans are cowing to Democrats and backing off their pledge to make “deep” cuts, even though they only pledged to cut a meager $100 billion from a budget that tops $1.4 trillion. Democrats are playing games — pledging to make cuts but proposing higher taxes and cuts on children’s aid programs in an effort to gin up the class war.

Political elites, public sector workers and those who’ve made a career milking the system in order to avoid personal responsibility are parasites. They’ve sucked the host dry and the host is ready to end it.

But, as evidenced by the squawking going on in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere, the parasites aren’t about to go quietly.

Walker has all but threatened to use the National Guard to replace State workers — or quash protests. Walker was also was caught on tape saying to prankster who called him and claimed to be billionaire David Koch that he had thought about using troublemakers to infiltrate the crowd in an effort to delegitimize the protests. An Indiana deputy attorney general urged police to use live ammunition against Wisconsin protesters.

Democrat politicians are telling the parasites, “Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary” (Massachusetts Democrat Representative Mike Capuano). Union thugs — apparently having forgotten the calls for civility in the wake of Representative Gabrielle Gifford’s (D-Ariz.) shooting — seem to be following his orders as you can see here, here (the fracas starts at about 7:30 on the video) and here. They’re waving signs comparing Walker to Hitler, using vile language and intimidating and assaulting pro-Walker supporters.

Are these really union supporters validating the stereotype of thuggish behavior, or are these provocateurs?

That’s not clear. But in the run-up to the bailout and Obamacare votes, Tea Party activists were accused of using slurs and intimidation. There was never any evidence to back it up, but the mainstream media ran with the false accusations anyway. When acts of violence did occur, it was revealed the culprits were liberal provocateurs.

But the use of slurs and violence by those who support Leftist policies is never mentioned on the alphabet soup networks or the major papers, and there was scant mention of the duplicity when perpetrators of violence turned out to be Leftists rather than Tea Partiers. That wouldn’t fit the agenda of the mainstream media.

Whether you like it not, changes are coming. The parasites are unhappy. The elites are worried. The collapse is underway.

Question for Bob

Dear Bob,

Can you tell me about secure retirement avenues as far as pulling money out and buying gold.  Won’t there be heavy tax penalties? Will it be worth it to pull it out now and pay the taxes or leave it and hope that things don’t crash before they are of age?  Should we be buying gold and silver now while waiting on the 401K?

Barbara Perillo

Dear Barbara,

If you are talking about cashing out your individual retirement account (IRA) or 401(k) retirement plan then, depending on your age, the length of time you’ve had the plan and other factors, yes there will be heavy tax penalties. You should speak to your tax advisor to determine exactly how it will affect you. I pulled my money out of a 401(k) many years ago and, despite the penalty, I’ve still come out ahead. But without knowing all about your situation I cannot advise you as to whether it would be in your best interests to do the same. I still recommend buying gold and silver. Gold has gotten out of the reach for most people, but silver is still a wonderful investment. You can buy one-ounce Silver Eagles or junk silver (pre-1965 U.S. silver coins).


Best Wishes,

Higher Doses Of Vitamin D May Be Required In Order To Prevent Illness

Higher doses of vitamin D may be required in order to prevent illnessA study that was recently published in the journal Anticancer Research suggests that current recommendations for vitamin D intake — about 600 international units (IU), according to the National Institutes of Health — are inadequate to prevent cancer.

Researchers from medical schools at the University of California (UC) and Creighton University have found that between 4,000 IU and 8,000 IU of the vitamin may be needed in order for cancer-preventing benefits to occur.

Authors noted that higher concentrations of vitamin D in the blood have been shown to stave off breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.

"I was surprised to find that the intakes required to maintain vitamin D status for disease prevention were so high — much higher than the minimal intake of vitamin D of 400 IU per day that was needed to defeat rickets in the 20th century," said Cedric Garland, professor of family and preventative medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

A team of scientists examined the vitamin D levels of thousands of volunteers for the study.

They also noted that only about 10 percent of Americans are getting adequate amounts of vitamin D.  

A Carbon Copy, Media Lies, Pour The Wine And Wisconsin

*Does this remind you of anyone? The people of Egypt forced their president to resign. They were angry because Hosni Mubarak couldn’t get the economy to grow, ignored or punished those who opposed him, defied court rulings that said his edicts were unconstitutional, exploited class differences, and tried to curb or control communications, including the Internet. Sound like anyone you know?

*Don’t accept everything the media say. Before believing anything in the popular press about events in the Middle East (or anywhere else, for that matter), consider this gem from The New York Times back in 1979: “The depiction of [Khomeini] as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false.” Reminds me of how the same paper, 20 years earlier, described Fidel Castro as “definitely not a communist; [he’s] the George Washington of Cuba.”

*”Could you bring me a drink, general?” During a state dinner at the White House, Valerie Jarrett, one of Barack Obama’s tough-as-nails cronies from Chicago, turned to a man walking behind her and asked him to bring her a glass of wine. Turns out it wasn’t a waiter, however — it was four-star general Peter Chiarelli, the No. 2 ranking general in the U.S. Army. Chiarelli, who was in full dress uniform, is obviously a gentleman: He went and poured the lady a glass of wine and brought it to her without saying a word.

*Have you read about the fireworks in Wisconsin? Man, things are sure heating up in one of our coldest states. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had the unmitigated gall to say that the State government was going bankrupt and everyone had to tighten their belts a bit. State workers have gone absolutely ballistic at the thought of their cushy benefits and juicy pensions being cut by even a nickel. Democratic legislators even fled the state to avoid taking a vote on budget cuts. Walker says he will call out the National Guard if protests by State workers turn violent. Watch this one closely; it’s a harbinger of things to come.

–Chip Wood

Barack Obama’s Budget-Busting Whoppers

A friend of mine asked a question last month that stopped me cold in my tracks. I’ve been thinking about it and the implications of the choices he posed ever since. I thought I’d share it with you today.

Imagine that you’re sitting in your doctor’s office, waiting for him to return with the results of the extensive exam you’ve just completed. You’re glad it’s over, because they poked and prodded every body part they could reach — and took numerous images of those they couldn’t.

When the doctor enters the room, you can tell by his expression that the news won’t be good. And it isn’t.

“Cancer has spread so far throughout your body that there is nothing medical science can do,” he tells you. “I’m afraid you have less than six months to live. You’d better get your affairs in order.”

You’re stunned. For a moment you can’t think of anything to say. Finally, you blurt out, “But doctor, isn’t there anything — I mean anything, no matter how experimental — we can try?”

The doctor pauses for a moment and then says, “Well, yes, there is one thing we could do. I hesitate mentioning it, because the consequences can be pretty awful. But it will save your life.”

“What is it? What is it?” you shout. By now you’re desperate.

“Not many people know about this,” he says, “but there is a revolutionary new procedure that will actually transfer the cancer out of you. You’ll be 100 percent cured. Unfortunately, the cancer will instead attack your 8-year-old grandson. I’m sorry to tell you but he’ll be dead in two months.”

Here was my friend’s question: Given that choice, what would you do?

And then he asked a second one: But isn’t that exactly what we’re doing with our national debt? Instead of you paying it, haven’t you agreed to have it transferred to your children and your children’s children?

Under the arrangements your government has made, haven’t you saddled your offspring with debts that they will never be able to pay, even if they live a dozen lifetimes?

Thank you, Addison, for such a simple and stark way of describing the choices in front of us. As I said, I’ve been thinking about the gripping way you presented this ever since you sent it to me. It’s sure a lot more powerful than the analogy I used three weeks ago in my article about raising the debt ceiling.

The dilemma my friend presented is especially appropriate now, since just a few days ago President Barack Obama sent Congress his budget for the next fiscal year. Despite all the baloney you’ve heard in the media about how the White House has slashed Federal spending, don’t believe a word of it. That is — how can I be polite about it? — a bunch of balderdash. Here are the facts.

Our President has proposed total spending for the coming year of $3.73 trillion. Of that astronomical sum, he says taxes will raise a little over half; your government will borrow the other $1.6 trillion. If Obama gets his way — or anything even close to it — it will mean that our 44th President will have saddled this country with more debt than all 43 presidents who preceded him.

I’ve heard a lot of rumors about Obama’s “secret objectives.” Most of them I dismiss as utter bunk. But if one of them is bankrupting the country that has been so good to him, he has a chance to be the first President in our history to do it.

Let me state the facts another way: The President of the United States is asking his country to let him spend more than $300 billion a month. And to borrow $120 billion of that amount so he can dole it out to his favorite causes and constituencies.

What about the $10 trillion in debt he will have racked up by the time he leaves office? He’ll pass that on to your children’s children… and if necessary, their children, too.

And yet the lead story on about Obama’s budget was headlined “Painful cuts in budget.” Somebody’s got a lot of gall here.

Oh, to be sure, there were some proposed reductions in Obama’s budget. And for some strange reason they were all designed to either sock it to the wealthy or to outrage the poor.

Programs to help the low-income people heat their homes in the winter? Gone. Funds to help local communities fix their failing water and sewage systems? Decimated. Deductions for the interest you pay on your mortgage? Wiped out. Deductions for gifts you give your favorite charities? Cut drastically.

I can just hear Obama telling his staff, “Those blasted voters want cuts? I’ll give them cuts. What else can we do that will make them mad as h**l?” But that’s probably unfair. I’m told that the man hardly ever curses, even when his wife tells him he’s not allowed to eat something or to put out that cigarette.

Looking ahead, Obama proposes total Federal spending of $46 trillion over the next decade, with tax collections paying for $39 trillion of it. Borrowing will account for the rest, with the debt ceiling having to be raised from its present limit of $14.3 trillion to a mind-numbing $26 trillion. Imagine what the interest alone will be on that obligation?

I’ve read several commentaries that question all of the rosy assumptions behind the President’s numbers. Coming anywhere close to Obama’s budget numbers would require no inflation, no recession, no new wars, much lower unemployment and much higher tax collections. Anyone (besides the White House) want to bet on that optimistic set of events? The President’s number-crunchers are counting on a much more robust economy than seems reasonable to many people.

I say, forget about who’s right. It doesn’t matter whether the gross domestic product grows by 2.5 percent or 4.4 percent. It doesn’t matter whether inflation stays around 2 percent or more than doubles from here (which I think is almost a certainty). Because the truth is, there is no way on God’s green earth that the House of Representatives will approve that much spending. Not a chance. It ain’t gonna happen. As the kids like to say, “Put a fork in it; it’s done.”

Oh, I’ll grant you, the House might approve a higher debt ceiling next month. Even some of the young Turks from the Tea Party might succumb to all the dastardly threats of what will happen if they don’t. Debt default! Economic collapse! Utter catastrophe!

I don’t believe a word of it. But more of them read The Washington Post and The New York Times than Straight Talk. So even the best and the brightest of them can be badly misinformed.

And something hardly anyone ever mentions: A Congressman is only as staunch as his staff. And unfortunately, there just aren’t enough smart, tough, battle-hardened conservatives looking for jobs on Capitol Hill. Many groups are trying to fill the gap — one of my all-time favorites is the Leadership Institute, which has done an almost miraculous job with its training programs. But there are a lot more compromisers than Constitutionalists on the payrolls of the new House members. Sad.

Mitch McConnell, the ranking Republican in the Senate, referred to the Obama budget as “an unserious document.” That’s a pretty mealy-mouthed way of saying it, sir. Readers of this column expect to hear it a lot straighter than that. So let me be as blunt as I can.

Obama’s proposed budget is a fraud. It’s a deceit. It’s a sham.

The President and his team know there is not a chance in a trillion this monstrosity will win Congressional approval. What they’re doing is playing a high-stakes game of chicken. “C’mon, Republicans, tell us what you propose. We dare ya. No, we double-dare ya.”

We’re about to find out, ladies and gentlemen, if the people who were elected this past November stick to their promises. I hope you’ll do your part to make sure your representative won’t knuckle under to the pressure, the lies and the media smears he or she is about to face. And if he needs a backbone, lend him yours.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Human Rights Group Pans U.S. For Weak Policies On Paid Parental Leave

Human Rights Group Pans U.S. For Weak Policies On Paid Parental LeaveThe advocacy group Human Rights Watch has released a report that criticizes the United States for its weak or nonexistent laws on paid leave for new parents.

The study, which is called Failing its Families: Lack of Paid Leave and Work-Family Support in the U.S., is based on a series of interviews with parents throughout America. The 90-page report revealed that parents who had little or no paid family leave after childbirth or adoption faced a variety of obstacles, including postpartum depression, health problems and a delay in baby immunizations.

Furthermore, some new parents who were not granted paid leave were forced to seek public assistance, while many families fell into debt. Several women told researchers that employer bias against working mothers derailed their careers.

"The U.S. is actually missing out by failing to ensure that all workers have access to paid family leave," said Janet Walsh, deputy women's rights director at Human Rights Watch. "Countries that have these programs show productivity gains, reduced turnover costs, and healthcare savings."

The report states that more than 178 counties have national laws guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers. America, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea were among a handful of exceptions. 

Why The Debt Situation Is Worse Than You Even Imagined

There are few things about which history is unanimous. Land wars in Asia, for example… always a bad idea.

Paper money falls into this category. Paper money always fails and wipes out the people who depend on it.

Or as our friend Rick Rule likes to say, paper money’s track record is unblemished by success. The return of paper money to its intrinsic value (nothing) is guaranteed. All we need is time (though politics certainly help move things along).

We would not argue that organizing a system of sound money based on paper receipts is impossible. We would merely point out that keeping such systems sound and reliable has proven elusive to this point in human history.

Paper money is like many other types of idealized virtue humans cannot attain. It’s simply beyond human nature to avoid perdition. Sin, as they say, is part of man.

Every government that has used paper money has succumbed to a fatal level of borrowing. Rather than a restructuring of these debts, paper money systems allow for the rapid expansion of the monetary base to facilitate paying off debts in devalued money.

This is no different than stealing. And yet… that is what happens every time, resulting in a massive crisis and a breakdown of social norms.

It normally happens faster in democracies, where no strong interest group votes for living within the country’s means and repaying its creditors in sound money. No, people vote for more spending and more debt. And they always expect someone else to pay. Case in point… Greece.

Researching problems in the Greek economy is like reading a financial comic book. All the players are clowns.

For example, the national railroad has annual revenues of €100 million… against a wage bill of €400 million and another €300 million in expenses. The Ministry of Agriculture hired 270 people to digitize photographs of Greek public lands… with one digital camera.

In 2001, the Greek government borrowed $1 billion from Goldman Sachs to help balance the budget. The deal relinquished future receipts from the national lottery, national highway tolls, airport landing fees, and even funds promised to Greece in the future from the European Union.

The government was burning the family furniture to pay current expenses. And now, they’re out of furniture. It’s all been burned.

In total, the Greek government owes €1.2 trillion. That’s €250,000 for every adult.

Obviously, Greece cannot repay this money in sound currency. The only way out is for the Greeks to inflate the debt away — effectively stealing from their creditors with a printing press. That they haven’t done so yet is only because they no longer have their own currency, the drachma.

Instead, they are part of Europe’s common currency, the euro. And Europe is making every effort to maintain the mirage of a united economy. Unfortunately, no such thing exists. It’s merely a matter of time before the Greeks default.

The exact same thing is true about the United States — except the numbers are even worse.


Porter Stansberry

–Porter Stansberry with Braden Copeland


PS: The United State’s debt situation continues to grow evident. To learn more about it and how to protect yourself from it, please click here.

Investors Turn To Gold Amid Unrest In Libya

Investors turn to gold amid unrest in LibyaThe growing political chaos in Libya has caused oil prices to spike and has raised concerns about further inflation in the United States.

On Feb. 23, West Texas Intermediate crude oil — which is the major benchmark for crude oil prices — rose to $100 per barrel for the first time since September 2008, according to media reports. The increase comes as protesters in Libya have clashed with supporters of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, causing oil companies in the north African nation to evacuate workers and cease production.

According to The New York Times, oil experts predict that the crisis in Libya will cause European refineries to purchase sweet crude oil from Algeria and Nigeria, which are two major providers for the U.S. As a result, this would likely raise American gasoline prices, which have already increased by 6 cents per gallon over the last week.

As commodity prices and interest rates continue to inflate throughout the world, many people have turned to gold as an alternative investment to protect their hard-earned assets. According to Bloomberg, gold futures prices hit a seven-week high on Feb. 23, increasing as much as $4.50 to $1,418.50 an ounce.

"Escalating unrest in Libya and rising oil prices have encouraged gold safe-haven buying and fueled concerns over inflation, which also benefits gold," wrote Mark Pervan, senior analyst with ANZ Banking Group, quoted by the media outlet.

Arizona Lawmakers Advance Immigration Bill That Targets Birthright Citizenship

Arizona Lawmakers Advance Immigration Bill That Targets Birthright CitizenshipA sweeping immigration reform bill in Arizona has passed a critical procedural vote and will move to the Senate floor.

According to media reports, an Arizona Senate committee approved a sweeping bill on Feb. 22 that would deny automatic citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. The legislation would also require employers to check residency status of new workers, and schools to verify citizenship of their students. In addition, illegal immigrants who are caught driving in the state would face a minimum 30-day jail sentence if the measure is approved by lawmakers.

The bill was approved 7-6 and will now be considered by the full Senate. Supporters of the law hope that their action will prompt a judicial re-interpretation of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees legal status to people who are born in the United States. They believe that automatic citizenship for children of illegal immigrants burdens American taxpayers.

"If you're in the country illegally, you don't have a right to public benefits, period," said State Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), quoted by FOX News.

Several States have proposed tougher immigration laws in recent months in an effort to curb steep budget deficits. For example, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia lawmakers recently proposed legislation that would require healthcare providers and schools to keep a running tally of the illegal immigrants that they serve. The information, which would be made public, aims to give an accurate projection of what illegal immigration is costing State taxpayers.

Alcohol May Protect The Heart – But Don’t Get Carried Away

Alcohol may protect the heart but don't get carried awayResearchers from the University of Calgary have recently published a paper in the British Medical Journal which supports previous advice that drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation may be good for heart health.

After reviewing earlier studies, the team of scientists concluded that having one drink per day may lead to a 14 percent to 25 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, since moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to increase levels of healthy HDL cholesterol in the blood.

However, authors of the study want to remind the public that the findings do not suggest that heavy drinking is healthy in any way.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that an estimated 37,500 people die each year from alcohol-related causes, excluding accidents and homicides.

Study authors said that there was no indication that one type of alcohol — whether beer, wine or liquor — had additional benefits over the others.

They also noted that there is a need for public health campaigns which specifically communicate that the health benefits of alcohol are completely outweighed when drinking becomes excessive. The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming more than five drinks in a two-hour period for men, and four drinks in the same time for women.  

Give Us Enough Rope

Believe it or not, the partisan style of American politics is a blessing. Granted, we all have moments when we yearn for a more civilized discourse; or at least, one that doesn’t involve Lawrence O’Donnell trying to convince viewers that he’s earnest. (I thought he had a weird facial tic.) But even a casual glance at the madness which has spread across the parts of the world which most Americans can’t find with a map and a copy of Fodor’s should serve to remind you that you’re pretty damned lucky you don’t live in Jihadistan; or one of the growing roster of countries which shoot people with an affinity for jasmine (the Chinese are going to have to stop pirating DVD’s of Disney’s Aladdin).

In the wake of lunatic Jared Loughner’s attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), President Barack Obama issued a call for “civility.” Americans heeded that call for about the same length of time it took the Democrats to formulate “Sarah Palin did it” talking points for the corporate media. By the time Obama delivered his annual “it’s STILL Bush’s fault” address, the interaction between Left and Right was back from somewhat muted rumblings to full-throated cacophony.

Now Americans are witnessing the Democrat Party/Big Labor Operation Sour Milk (author’s note: The DNC is free to use that one, with proper citation) in the Cheesehead State. Union thugs, perhaps emboldened by their recent victories in rumbles with the patients at Shady Acres Senior Stop, are roaring in unison with everyone from the actual Communist Party to House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi to Obama himself.

There are the usual — and becoming somewhat clichéd — depictions of Governor Scott Walker as… well, I’m guessing Hitler; but possibly Charlie Chaplin. Either some of these protestors received their artistic instruction from one of those late-night television “drawing schools,” or the Service Employees International Union has a huge number of fans of the Little Tramp.

Last weekend, I posted a link on Facebook to a report in The Washington Post about the Wisconsin Democrats’ cowardly — and enormously unproductive — bail jump to a bar in Illinois. The attendant discussion started in the usual manner: Fun and friendly digs at Democrats, followed by comical and calm-headed retorts to Republicans.

And then all hell broke loose. Again.

Around 50 remarks into to the thread, two of my friends were planning to meet up and — as one put it: “Beat the sh*t” out of each other. I actually know both of these cats, and they’re both pretty good guys, even though one of them is a hardcore liberal, and therefore has his head politically crammed into his posterior. Their war of words — and almost more — got me thinking:

“In ‘Jihadistan,’ we’d all be shot.”

Then, I mused upon the fact that I have quite a few friends who have it completely wrong about politics. Some of these pals are rather open-mouthed about their liberalism. Some of them are even funny — on purpose; which in no way diminishes their wrongheadedness.

I have never wished to shoot, stab, garrote, or throat-punch any of them; although I freely admit that I’ve considered the old backhand upside the head on occasion. But they’re all like brothers and sisters to me and I would happily lay the proverbial smackdown on anyone who tried to step into them. I’d like to think they’d do the same on my behalf. (That’s a presumption. Some questions are better left unanswered, and all that.)

Among these “traveler” pals of mine:

  • A lawyer. A criminal defense lawyer, at that. But he knows good scotch and good cigars. He does suck at golf, but you have to love him for getting out there. At least he’s not one of those pansies over on the tennis courts.
  • A dyed-in-the-wool liberal who ran for office as a Democrat. He often talks about soccer as if it’s interesting. It isn’t — but he is. He does root for Notre Dame with the same eternal (and recently unrewarded optimism) with which I cheer on the Irish. He’s also about the coolest cat I have ever met, other than my own father. If I ever met someone who didn’t like him I wouldn’t want to meet that person twice.
  • A newspaper editor. Here’s a guy who once managed to work his hatred of George W. Bush into an editorial about a local homicide. I think his writing is hackneyed and whiny. He thinks my writing is… well… he doesn’t think it’s good. Meanwhile, his views on “looking for the union label” are not too different from mine. He’s also an avid gun guy and would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with many of us if the “time” came. When the stuff hits the fan, I suspect shooting straight is going to be a much more valuable piece of talent than writing political tracts, on either side.
  • An old school 60s retread-type who thinks all conservatives are GOP-Bots programmed by Roger Ailes. This guy actually once told me the United Nations is a WORTHWHILE organization. The UN is about as worthwhile as the Department of Education. UN-apologist though he might be, he has successfully hit a major league curveball, driven an actual race car over 200 mph and partied with some legendary rockstars and lived to tell some amazing stories about it.
  • A gay couple. They’re not even AMERICANS. However, they’re worldly, erudite, and incredibly interesting. A visit to their dining room table means a BIG step up from mac ‘n’ cheese. I only see them once a year, but I look forward to it throughout the rest of the calendar’s pages.

Not one of these guys is stupid. Each of them is worthwhile, in their own way. I debate with them, make fun of them, mock them and occasionally fight with them. I do NOT draw pictures of them made up as Hitler, nor do I Photoshop crosshairs over their faces.

Look, people: I’m not asking for some new-agey nonsense. Go ahead and drop the rhetorical hammer on those whom you deem deserving of a nail or two. I know I will continue to do so until Mr. Livingston decides he could fill my column inches with old “Family Circus” reprints. But there’s no reason for us all to behave like SEIU thugs, teachers’ union layabouts, and Nancy Pelosi.

There’s a big difference between:

Obama is a babbling, Alinsky-ite boob who is to the Presidency what the quarter pounder is to a kobe steak burger at Morton’s. He is grossly incompetent, elitist and appears to be almost pathologically mendacious.”


“Obama is a goose-stepping, modern-day Hitler.”

That’s a bad allegory, given how the goose-steppers in question would have taken a dim view of someone of Obama’s complexion in their ranks. Plus, Obama’s chicken-legged frame would look ludicrous in jodhpurs.

Fight on, my friends, my countrymen, my fellow Bob Livingstonians. But remember the sage advice attributed to Benjamin Franklin (who would doubtless be appalled by the goings-on of late):

“If we don’t hang together, we will surely hang separately.”

Emanuel To Become First Jewish Mayor Of Chicago

Emanuel To Become First Jewish Mayor Of ChicagoRahm Emanuel has been elected to succeed longtime Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, accruing enough votes on Feb. 22 to avoid a run-off election in April.

The former White House Chief of Staff under President Barack Obama won 55 percent of the vote to easily defeat runner-up Gery Chico. He will be inaugurated in May as Chicago's first Jewish mayor.

Emanuel, a Democrat, almost didn't get his name on the ballot after an Illinois Appeals Court ruled that he did not meet the residency requirements to run for office. However, the State's Supreme Court determined that Emanuel could remain on the ballot even though he spent most the previous year in Washington, D.C.

CBS News reported that Emanuel's victory celebration will be short-lived because he will soon inherit a city plagued by violent crime, a budget deficit and under-performing schools. Emanuel faces an uphill battle for support from certain union groups, including firefighters and police. According to The Huffington Post, one of Emanuel's campaigns ads earlier this month implied that some city employees work for personal gain rather than public service.

"We dedicate our lives to protecting and serving the citizens of this city," said Tom Ryan, president of Firefighters Union Local 2, quoted by the media outlet. "We run into burning buildings. We ride snowmobiles in the middle of blizzards to save lives. We don't [need] Emanuel to remind us that we are 'actually' public servants." 

State of Disunion

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States. During the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal, inaccurately credited with rescuing the nation’s economy, threw open the United States Treasury in an outpouring of feel-good, make-work programs which would have put even John Maynard Keynes (not to mention FDR’s pal Papa Joe Stalin) to shame.

Of course, students of mid-20th Century history are well aware that Roosevelt’s efforts to restore economic sanity to a nation reeling from the twin calamities of disasters man-made (the stock market crash and attendant economic fallout) and natural (the dust bowl) failed. The re-recession of 1937 proved that conclusively. FDR managed to hang on in office until World War II came along and a wartime economy ramped into full swing.

However, despite his socialistic — although not when it came to his own financial circumstances — attitudes, FDR did have a basic grasp of one theory: Government jobs. He certainly should have, since the New Deal put more than 15 million people on the government payroll. In a letter to Luther C. Steward, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees in 1937, FDR wrote:

"… the process of collective bargaining… cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people…”

Translated from the “excessively verbose politico-babble”:

“People whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers should treat their employers with a little respect.”

I suspect a casual poll of the union thugs, Democrat Party operatives and “teachers” currently engaged in the President Barack Obama-approved Operation Sour Milk in Madison, Wis., would reveal an almost unanimously positive opinion of the Hero of Hyde Park. Given that most of them likely don’t know more about economics than whatever’s printed on the cocktail napkins at AFL-CIO conventions, I further suspect that none have ever heard FDR’s prescient condemnation of their current actions.

Whether it’s Madison Teachers, Inc., the National Education Association or the International Brotherhood of First Ladies’ Food Tasters, a government-employee union demanding collective bargaining rights is essentially asking for the right to demand perks without input from their employers.

Hence, FDR’s warning: Unlike companies in the private sector, a government-employee union collectively bargaining with our elected representatives leads to — at best, a standoff in which both sides are employed by the taxpayers; at worst, collusion between two of the three interested parties. The Democrat/Union attacks on the taxpayer (and schoolchildren of Madison) manage to be both.

In essence, we’re paying our employees to rail against us. We’re also paying the freight to bus in their communist compadres, the Democrats who decided they would bounce to Illinois, the prosecutions of the doctors who committed fraud by issuing fake sick-out notes, any substitutes who have to be called in so the kids don’t forget where Wisconsin is on a map of… Wisconsin, and — and this is my favorite part — the people who will have to clean up the mess from Operation Sour Milk.

Before some of our port-side participants begin panting about the union employees’ fair claim to representation, allow me to point out that union labor represents less than 12 percent of the workforce, with fewer than half of those unionized members of a government employee union. Nevertheless, Obama and the Democrats have sided with this admittedly noisy minority out of deference to their own political passions (not to mention their job security). They’ve taken an active physical, financial and rhetorical role in the Madison melee — an admission of their complicity. Our (the taxpayers’) interests have taken a backseat to those of the unions.

A look at the Democrats’ donnybrook in Madison tells the story: Democrat legislators are skipping the State and union thugs are skipping work (just imagine how many naps, snack breaks and beatings of senior citizens are being missed while the Democrat Party’s Service Employees International Union stormtroopers are kicking the tar out of the taxpayers in the Cheesehead State). And the whole thing has the Obama seal of approval.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan warned the members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union not to strike. They did, and he fired them. Despite their mass termination, the airlines continued losing passenger baggage without interruption.

It’s time for Governor Scott Walker to take the handoff from the Gipper and spike the ball in the Democrats’ end zone. Come on, Governor Walker, win one for the Taxpayer!

We’re No Longer A Virtuous Nation

Reports out of Wisconsin indicate that physicians are defrauding the State — and therefore the taxpayers — by issuing fake medical excuses to teachers to give them cover for their “sickout” protests over the governor’s proposals to combat the State’s budget shortfall.

These fake medical excuses will cost the state upwards of $6 million, if press reports are accurate.

If physicians are indeed handing out fake excuses, those doctors need to be fined heavily and their licenses to practice should be revoked or suspended. But don’t count on it happening. Fraud is a hallmark of the government and the medical community, and the act of giving out fake excuses is but an extension of the corruption that infests mainstream medicine. And that’s a fraud perpetuated by the government through the Food and Drug Administration.

Beyond that, it represents a breakdown in our society’s moral compass, which is a direct result of statist and godless policies pushed by progressives and socialists.

In a letter to James Warren on Feb. 12, 1779, Samuel Adams wrote:

“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”

Can there be any doubt that we are no longer a virtuous nation?

Conservative Critics Say First Lady Contradicts Her Own Eating Initiative

Conservative critics say First Lady contradicts her own eating initiativeDuring her husband's first term as President, First Lady Michelle Obama has advocated for healthier diets and more active lifestyles among Americans. However, some critics have argued that the President's spouse is not heeding her own advice.

According to CNN, talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh recently called the First Lady a "hypocrite," following a story that revealed that Obama ate ribs for dinner this past weekend.

"Leaders are supposed to be leaders," said Limbaugh, quoted by the media outlet. "If we are supposed to go out and eat nothing, if we are supposed to eat roots, berries and tree bark, show us how."

Earlier this month, the Obamas were criticized by Boston-based nutrition experts for serving mostly junk food at the White House Super Bowl party, according to The Boston Globe. Mitali Shah of the Boston Medical Center said that the First Lady could have set a better example by offering healthy alternatives such as salad or vegetables to balance the spread of hot dogs, pizza and Buffalo wings.

Mrs. Obama has also been criticized for her recent public comments about breastfeeding, in which she said the consumption of human milk can help children avoid obesity. Tea Party favorites Sarah Palin and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) ridiculed the First Lady for making a political statement about a matter of personal choice.

NYC Cracks Down On Outdoor Smoking

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed a law that will outlaw smoking in the city's parks, beaches, boardwalks and other public locations.

According to media reports, Bloomberg approved the legislation after the city council voted 36 to 12 in support of the new restrictions earlier this month. The law, which goes into effect on May 23, allows NYC's parks department to issue $50 fines to individuals who smoke in these restricted areas.

The initiative is part of the city government's efforts to reduce potential health risks caused by second-hand smoke. In a written statement, Bloomberg said that the new laws will provide NYC residents and tourists alike with "a healthy place in which to relax and enjoy the surroundings."

In response, Audrey Silk, the director of New York Citizens Lobbying Against Smoke Harassment called the new law "tyranny, rationalized by a lie" that second-hand smoke is harming people outdoors, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, government officials in Hennepin County — the most populous county in Minnesota — are also making efforts to expand their anti-smoking laws. According to the Niles Daily Star, the new regulations, if approved, would ban smoking on all county-owned property, even if smokers are in their own cars.

"I don’t think this proposal is about health or cleanliness at all. It’s just an infringement on citizens’ rights," said Katie Rohman, a columnist for the news provider. "I don’t smoke and never have, but when government attempts to dictate something that is perfectly legal, that is overstepping its boundaries."