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has since ruled that certain laws discriminating against homosexual conduct are unConstitutional, and Congress recently repealed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that banned openly gay individuals from serving.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