By Steve Eggleston

“Game over man, game over”

– Hudson, “Aliens”

I could just as easily titled this “The Death of Conservatism”, because that’s what the results out of South Carolina mean. Donald Trump, who returned to his liberal roots in the last debate, won the South Carolina primary by 10 percentage points. By “returned”, I mean “went deep into the Netroots fever swamp”, as even 1990s Donald Trump wouldn’t have parroted the Code Pink tripe regarding the Iraq War (note; Trump supported the Iraq War at the time and said in 2000 he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction) and 9/11 (this a few weeks removed from Trump wrapping himself in 9/11’s #NewYorkValues). Thanks to how South Carolina allocates its delegates, Trump won all 50.

Sticking with the debate for just a moment, those are just two of the most recent expirations of prior Donald J. Trump statements. If that sounds familiar, it should.

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio, and even more strongly, his supporters, have taken the nearly-two-decade-long push by the GOP to get a new non-conservative base to heart, using relentless attacks on Ted Cruz (and only Cruz, despite weathering a second state’s worth of attacks from the Jeb Bush campaign) to wrest second.

That Cruz took third in the “conservative” party’s primary in a state that was seen as one of the most conservative in the country is disturbing. Indeed, the fact that full-throated conservatism garners less than 25% versus the “slow drift left” of Rubio and the “say anything because statements are made to expire” of Trump means more than Cruz’s upset win in Iowa.

I suppose the good news is that, with Bush’s departure, the GOP’s Next In Line principle, first noted by The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto and in effect between 1960 and 2012, appears to be finally dead. That leads me to Nevada, where the Democrats, despite a lot of noise from the Bernie Sanders campaign, appear set to finally break their own equally-longstanding Not Next In Line priniciple. While Hillary Clinton didn’t need to continue her incredible string of “luck” of winning every game-of-chance tiebreaker to win the Nevada caucuses like she did in Iowa (and before that, in hog futures), she did.

Spy vs Spy vs Spy is alive and (un)well.

By Steve Eggleston

First things first, congrats to Peter and the rest of the Magnificent Seven for winning one of the Best Grassroots Blogs awards from Doug Ross. It’s been a honor to write here, even as infrequently as I have been.

2015 has been one crazy year, especially on the political front. Going into the year, the conventional wisdom was that the Republican Party had a very deep bench, especially from the ranks of governors, from which to draw a Presidential nominee. That hasn’t exactly happened, as the first three to drop out of the race were accomplished governors who, arguably, would have been able to keep the grand center-right coalition together, with the remaining candidates representing, or at least claiming to represent, mere chunks of said coalition.

So, what happened? One could say Donald Trump happened, but that is only a partial answer. The long-rumored split between the GOP and its base seems inevitable now, and it’s been engineered by both the party bosses and the leading candidate. In fact, it reminds me of an old staple from Mad Magazine called “Spy vs. Spy”, or more properly, “Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy”.

In the 2-person version, the white spy and black spy plot against each other, Sometimes, the plot works; other times, it blows up in the plotter’s face. Things are a bit different when the grey spy shows up – she always wins.

Over the past year, the DC establishment redoubled their efforts to abandon their (former) base of conservatives, and they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The latest example – for the small price of finally getting the ban on oil exports removed, they gave the Democrats and their K Street masters everything else they wanted, from fully funding ObamaCare, executive amnesty for illegals and Planned Parenthood to resurrecting the Export-Import Bank and picking the first set of winners in the tax-break rewrite game.

Meanwhile, Trump, who entered the race only after consulting the husband of the Democrat front-runner, has been using that abandonment, his gift for the bombastic, and the willingness of those who claim to be tired of being told one thing and getting something else to ignore his pre-2015 positions on various issues to drive out the aforementioned governors and drive himself to the top of the national polls.

I wish my prediction for 2016 were different, or at least as wrong as my predictions for 2015 turned out to be, but the way things are going, the grey spy is going to be standing over the smoking corpses of the white and black spies flashing the double-victory symbol.

By Steve Eggleston

It’s been a few months since I’ve been writing, and the occasion of the 8th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Recession seemed an appropriate time to return to the ranks of the punditry. I jumped into the middle of a Twitter mini-discussion over the part-time portion of the workforce, specifically the apparent paradox of 319,000 more people working part-time for economic reasons on a seasonally adjusted basis last month than in October while 765,000 fewer people were working part-time for economic reasons on a seasonally-adjusted basis (746,000 fewer on a not-seasonally-adjusted basis) last month than in November 2014. Something Charles Franklin said sent me into this particular tangent of comparing the current level of part-time work to the recent past.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, as part of the Current Population Survey that measures unemployment, estimates the number of people working part-time, both the total number and those working part-time for economic reasons. Indeed, the latter is the last part of the broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment, the U-6 measure. Unlike most portrayals in the press, it is not a measure of part-time, or full-time jobs. Rather, it is the number of people who, at however many jobs they have, are working less than 35 hours per week for part-time status, or at least 35 hours per week for full-time status.

I do have a word of caution on the seasonal adjustment of the part-time measure of employment, especially the economic reason portion. More often than not, a wild swing in one direction is followed by an essentially-equal swing back. The November rise in the number of people working came after drops of 447,000 in September and 269,000 in October.

With that noted, I decided to calculate the percentage of the employed who were working part-time and the percentage who were working part-time due to economic conditions since the current version of the CPS began in 1994:

Part-time

Part-time economic reasons
Click the images for the full-size versions

In short, while things have been improving, there is still quite a ways to go to get back to where we were before the Great Recession on the employment front.

By Steve Eggleston

I’ve been struggling to understand why the Left is happy with the worst post-recession recovery since before the Great Depression. Then I happened upon this MacIver Institute story on a Milwaukee Area Technical College economics professor who also is the director of the local chapter of something called the Center of the Advancement of the Steady State Economy while catching up on my e-mail before crossing into Canada for my annual Canadian fishing trip.

Everything the Left, and especially Barack Obama, has done and called for in the last several years suddenly clicked when I read over MacIver’s reporting on CAASE. The cornerstone of this vision “truly green economy” is a “stabilized” population. Given the human drive to procreate, guess what needs to be heavily utilized to have zero population growth. If you said “abortion on demand”, give yourself a pat on the back.

That, however, is but a small part of what Obama calls a “fundamental transformation”. Another key element is both a mandated minimum and a mandated maximum income. Any wonder why there’s both a push for a $15/hour minimum wage and a war on “unequal” CEO pay?

CAASE also calls for a 30-hour workweek. Not at all coincidentally, that is the PlaceboCare definition of “full time”.

Small, densely-populated cities (which, ironically, is the primary cause of any human-derived change in climate in the form of the urban heat island) with bicycles as the primary mode of individual transportation is also a goal of CAASE. It isn’t exactly a coincidence that a key feature in new street construction is dedicated bicycle lanes.

By Steve Eggleston

Oil prices are at levels not seen since the beginning of the Obama Presidency, but in parts of the country, gasoline prices have radically risen. Here in Milwaukee as well as Chicago, the price of gasoline went up 80 cents per gallon since Monday as part of a spike affecting much of the Great Lakes region. In California, the spread between gas prices there and gas prices reached a record level in July.

The root causes of both spikes are the same – a lack of new refineries and boutique reformulated gasoline. In suburban Chicago, the largest refinery in the region, and one of only two that produce the RFG that is specific to the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas, is effectively shut down for at least a month by BP because of a leak in the the main crude unit. In California, a combination of a refinery fire, a strike at a second refinery, and California’s very-special environmental rules kept the price of gasoline extraordinarily high.

Yes, refineries have expanded capacity since the last new refinery was built in the late 1970s. However, this is another object lesson in what happens when One Big Factory (or in this case, Refinery) shuts down. Sadly, other than timing, it is nothing new to the residents of Milwaukee and Chicago – this spike happens every spring when the more-widely-usable winter blend of gasoline has to be swapped out for our very-unique formulation of summertime RFG.

The Marketwatch story that I linked to first noted that the shutdown of the BP refinery had another effect. As it is one of the few American refineries that can handle Canadian crude, the glut caused by that shutdown caused the price of Canadian crude to, at one point in the week, be half that of West Texas Intermediate, the American benchmark. There’s a certain proposed pipeline that could have helped prevent that collapse, one that has been blocked by both Obama and the putative Democrat front-runner for their nomination, Hillary Clinton.

By Steve Eggleston

“Oh yeah? Well I speak loud! And I carry a bigger stick! And I use it too! (WHAP!)”

– Yosemite Sam, “Ballot Box Bunny”

“A chicken? Of course not. Do you think I’d let a chicken do that to me? That’s just a loud-mouthed schnook”

-Grandpa Hawk, “The Foghorn Leghorn”

Normally at this time of the month, I would be recapping the jobs report. For those of you looking for that, as Ed Morrissey was busy at the Red State Gathering, I covered that for Hot Air yesterday.

The front-runner for the Republican Party nomination for President, Donald Trump, decided to prove he isn’t serious about actually becoming President. In a sense, that is a shame. More than 6 years after Rick Santelli talked about throwing tea into Lake Michigan over the failures of what I’ve come to call the bipartisan Party-In-Government, nothing really has changed in Washington. It still is a singular bipartisan Party-In-Government running things, and not in a conservative or small-government manner. Some of those we sent to DC to shake things up (I’m looking at you, Senators Ron Johnson and Marco Rubio) have been subsumed by the beast.

Even though there were already candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination from across the right-of-Che spectrum, including a number who can credibly tap into the disgust with the PIG from the right, Trump decided, unlike in the 2012 cycle, to jump in this time after consulting with the husband of the putative Democrat front-runner. He came in with three things – a hatred of Barack Obama (something shared by the candidates not named Chris Christie), a flip to a secure border and limits on immigration (with a more-recent flop back to inviting most of the non-Mexicans through the classy door in his yuge wall), and a loud mouth (something nobody else brings to the table).

It was that loud mouth that got Trump to the front of the field. It kept him there as his rather-questionable political past, including donating more boatloads of money to the Democrats, and especially the Clintons, began to come out. It even served him well as he began to verbally assault every faction of the Republican Party as “insiders”.

Then he ran into Megyn Kelly, who filled the role of Candy Crowley quite capably at the “adult-table” GOP “debate” on Thursday. She gave the proverbial “gotcha” questions to everybody whose first names did not begin with “Jeb” or “John”, yet everybody except Trump handled the treatment any candidate with the “R” behind his or her name receives from the rest of the Democrat Presstitute Organs in any given general election. Trump may have thought he was going to recreate the moment that Newt Gingrich had in 2012 when he attacked the premise of the questions he was getting in a debate during that Presidential campaign, but instead of merely attacking the premise, he went personal.

Of course, none of that matters to the still-substantial portion of Trump’s support whose sole mission in life is the destruction of the GOP to make the US a true one-party country. It’s becoming clear that is a goal Trump shares.

Update DTG: I have to disagree with Steve’s conclusion, my rebuttal is here.

By Steve Eggleston

From time to time, I have covered the attempt by the liberals in and contracted by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office and the Government Accountability Board to silence every conservative group of note in Wisconsin through Wisconsin’s unique John Doe investigatory process because they, and Governor Scott Walker, were successful in neutering the public employee unions here. I haven’t been nearly as thorough as the people at Watchdog.org, especially Matt Kittle. Once again, I recommend reading through all 222 parts of their series.

I have good news – on Thursday, Wisconsin Supreme Court shut down that persecution for good.

The Supreme Court actually decided three separate cases which they consolidated; two unnamed petitioners seeking to end the investigation because they claim no crime was committed, three unnamed petitioners (including the two mentioned above) seeking to “unbundle” the five-county investigation on technical grounds, and the special prosecutor seeking to have the second presiding judge’s quashing of numerous subpoenas issued by the first presiding judge reversed. Conservatives won on the first and third cases, but lost on the least-important second.

On the first case, the majority on the Supreme Court really dropped the hammer. Like the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals before it in a case known as Barland II, they ruled that Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws are unconstitutionally broad and vague on both federal and state grounds. They further held that even if independent groups were coordinating with campaigns on issue-advocacy ad campaigns, that coordination is protected under both the state and federal constitutions, and as such, is not a crime. As the prosecutors alleged only coordination on issue advocacy and never alleged coordination on express advocacy, the majority wrote as paragraph 11:

To be clear, this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law. Consequently, the investigation is closed. Consistent with our decision and the order entered by Reserve Judge Peterson, we order that the special prosecutor and the district attorneys involved in this investigation must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation. All Unnamed Movants are relieved of any duty to cooperate further with the investigation.

Related to that, they turned back special prosecutor Francis Schmitz’s attempt to unquash the subpoenas quashed by the second presiding judge, Gregory Peterson as the quashing was a discretionary decision made by Peterson and thus not subject to the supervisory writ sought by Schmitz. They further note that Peterson’s reasoning for the quash, that what was being claimed by the prosecution was not a crime, was affirmed by them in the first case, and that Peterson served the role as “a check on the prosecutor and on the complainant to ensure that the subject(s) of the investigation receive(s) due process of law” that Barbara Kluka, the first presiding judge, failed to serve as.

The same limiting factors on supervisory writs cost the three unnamed petitioners on the “bundling” case. Here, the majority noted that multi-county John Doe investigations presided over by the same reserve judge are problematic, and that the circumstances of the appointment of a special prosecutor by Kluka, though judicially sanctioned via an earlier Supreme Court ruling, did very likely violate state law on when a special prosecutor may be appointed.

So, what now? Even though Eric O’Keefe’s federal lawsuit against the prosecutors ultimately ended in dismissal, mostly because the state issues had not been resolved, there are already lawsuits in state courts against the prosecutors. There are already proposals to reform the John Doe process and radically reform the out-of-control Government “Accountability” Board beginning to percolate in the Legislature. There is also the long-shot possibility of getting Walker to use his statutory authority to remove Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for prosecutorial misconduct.

By Steve Eggleston

Unless you’ve been in a cave the last 2 days, you know that the Supreme Court once again rewrote what Justice Antonin Scalia has taken to calling SCOTUSCare to judicially extend tax subsidies for purchasing health insurance to the poor and middle class purchasing insurance on federally-established insurance exchanges. Much has been made over said subsidies, with the Congressional Republicans preemtively saying that had the letter of the law been applied and said subsidies on the federally-established exchanges been struck down, they would rush in to “temporarily” allow those subsidies to happen through 2017.

However, the case itself was never about the subsidies themselves, but rather the penalt…er…taxes that those subsidies allowed to be applied. Indeed, both the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts and the dissent written by Scalia admit that it is all about the tax, and in Roberts’ case, preserving what he transformed from a penalty to a tax.

As Scalia points out, the phrase “Exchange established by the State” appears innumerable times throughout the law. Indeed, it expressly defined the word “State” as “each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia”.

The goal of limiting the subsidies to those in states where the state set up the exchange rather than the federal government was to put political pressure on the states to be the proverbial bagmen for the federal government by offloading the cost of the exchanges from the federal government to the states. That the Democrats failed in their attempt to blackmail the states into becoming their bagmen (a wise fiscal decision, as those states that set up, or tried to set up, their own exchanges are finding to their peril) is not something for the IRS, or six Lawgivers-In-Black, to “correct”, especially when the Republicans said that they would do the “correcting” on at least a temporary basis.

The elimination of said subsidies in states with federally-established exchanges would, in a plain-text reading of the law, also eliminate the threat of the individual non-insurance tax for every couple, virtually every multi-member family, and most single people making between 100% and 400% of the poverty level in those states as the cost of the second-cheapest “silver” insurance plan would rise to above 8% of their income. Similarly, the two types of employer non-insurance tax are predicated on at least one “full-time” employee (that is, one who worked at least 130 hours in a given month) getting subsidized coverage, with the elimination of the subsidy eliminating the liability of those employers operating solely in those states.

Roberts, in defending his 2012 declaration that the individual tax is indeed a tax, admits that result would cause great financial harm to the overall SCOTUSCare scheme. Again, the role of a judge, even a Supreme Court Chief Justice, is not to save the other branches of federal government from bad financial bets through judicial rewrites of law, especially since Congressional Republicans vowed to do just that.

I guess we could count ourselves “fortunate” that my darker prediction of Roberts and his fellow Lawgivers-In-Black finding a way to keep the taxes fully-intact while striking down the subsidies didn’t happen. On the other hand, given the Congressional Republicans were going to fully-cave (though supposedly temporarily) on the issue of subsidies, I doubt that allowing them to keep the fig leaf of Kabuki Theatre Opposition will much matter. It will simply take a bit longer for them to do the expansion of SCOTUSCare that they previously did for Social Security (thrice) and Medicare.

By Steve Eggleston

If one is a historical fatalist like me, former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s entry into the 2016 Republican primary signals the end of the 2016 Republican season and likely the beginning of the next competitive primary contest. As James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal noted a long time ago, there is a Next In Line principle in the Republican Party, which has existed unbroken and almost unmodified since 1956. In order of succession, it is the sitting President, sitting Vice President, a family member of a former President (introduced with George W. Bush in 2000), former Vice President, and the person who placed second in a previous open primary.

However, do not let that stop you from voting in Pete’s Poison Poll, now in its third round. Bush and Rick Santorum, who finished second in the 2012 primary, are 2 of the 8 remaining contenders for the “stay-at-home-in-2016” title.

On the other side of the aisle, there is an interesting corollary. Since 1960, unless one is a sitting or former President or Vice President, those who were well-known prior to the previous Democrat convention have not won the Democrat nomination. In fact, Hillary Clinton fell victim to that historical trend in 2008 after being declared the presumptive nominee at this point in 2007.

Fast forward to now. Once again, Clinton is declared the presumptive nominee. This time, she doesn’t have somebody who began to catch fire at the 2012 Democrat convention the way Barack Obama did at the 2004 Democrat convention to contend with. Vice President Joe Biden seems disinterested in taking the promotion. She even managed to keep the Great Progressive Hope, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, on the sidelines even though there was a massive push from the Left to get Warren into the race. One would think she has a clear road to the nomination.

Instead, her campaign has been foundering. The Mystery Machine tour of Iowa was so poorly-received that she relaunched her campaign last week. Outside of The New York Times, even the press is less than enthused with the campaign.

Meanwhile, the supposed “token” opposition from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed Socialist, is beginning to prove to be more than a mere distraction. The first crack was at the Wisconsin Democrat convention, where Sanders finished within a couple of percentage points of Clinton in a straw poll. Then, a pair of polls came out of New Hampshire that put Sanders within striking distance of Clinton.

Honestly, I’m surprised, and not just a bit disturbed, that it is Sanders and not former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley that seems poised to deny Clinton a second time. O’Malley is young and has a governmental executive background, two things that seem to be priorities on the Republican side of the aisle. He was also reliably liberal his last few years in office, but I guess that purity of neo-Marxist thought is more important to the Democrats.

I’ve said since Clinton first thought about entering the race that, if she failed to keep the field clear, she would not be the Democrat nominee. It’s beginning to look like history will repeat itself once again.

By Steve Eggleston

Last month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that real GDP in the first quarter of 2015 increased by an annualized 0.2%. In the second of three regular looks, which incorporated most of the economic data from March, and to a lesser extent February, that wasn’t available last month, the BEA revised that to a 0.7% decline. When rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percentage point instead of the nearest tenth, GDP change went from +0.25% to -0.75%. If that holds up in next month’s final revision, it will be the second consecutive 1st-quarter drop and the third 1st-quater drop after the Great Recession “ended”.

The biggest reasons for the downward revision were the change in private inventories and net exports. In the first look, change in private inventories gave GDP a 0.74 percentage-point boost, with the change in non-farm inventories giving a 0.76 percentage-point boost. In the second look, the overall change in inventories only gave a 0.33 percentage-point boost, with the change in non-farm inventories giving a 0.36 percentage-point boost. It wasn’t because people spent signficiantly more on goods – the goods portion of personal consumption expenditures went from contributing +0.05 percentage points to GDP change to +0.10 percentage points.

Most of that increased spending appears to have gone toward imported goods – net exports went from taking only 1.25 percentage points away from GDP growth to taking 1.90 percentage points away from GDP growth, driven mostly by a growth in imports. The business press put the blame for that on the reopening of the West Coast ports after an extended work slowdown/work stoppage and the strength of the dollar.

A commenter on the Hot Air GDP post wondered how the fifth quarter of negative real GDP growth during the Obama Presidency, and the third since the Great Recession ended, compares to previous Presidencies. There are a few ways to look at that:

– 5 negative real GDP quarters (over 25 quarters) are tied with George W. Bush’s 5 negative quarters (over 32 quarters) and Richard Nixon’s 5 negative quarters (over 22 quarters) for the second-most among Presidents since 1953. Dwight Eisenhower, the first President whose term was entirely covered by quarterly GDP estimates, had 11 negative quarters (over 32 quarters), and 8 negative quarters over his Presidency’s first 25 quarters. Also, GDP shrank in each of the first 3 quarters of Gerald Ford’s Presidency following Nixon’s resignation.

– However, the economy under Obama has been historically weak, with the worst first-25-quarter performance of the 5 modern-era 2-term Presidents, plus the Nixon-Ford and John Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson administrations. Real GDP grew at an annualized 1.77% over Obama’s first 25 months, a far cry from Nixon/Ford’s 2.20% (2nd-worst combined administration) or George W. Bush’s 2.42%. Despite 8 negative quarters, Eisenhower’s economy saw an annualized 2.66% GDP growth in his first 25 months.

– While it is true that the Great Recession pushed annualized real GDP growth throughout George W. Bush’s Presidency down to 1.76% (or 0.01 percentage points below Obama’s 25-quarter mark), nominal (current-dollar) GDP grew at a far better rate during Bush’s 8 years even with the Great Recession and the “recession” of 2001 – +4.12% annualized for Bush versus +3.15% annualized for Obama.

– Lest one thinks taking out the Great Recession helps Obama in this category, guess again. Even though several earlier recoveries were broken up by recessions, each quarter that was 23 quarters after the end of every post-World War II recession had much better real GDP growth than the current 2.19% annualized post-Great Recession growth. The second-weakest recovery, from the 2001 “recession” clocked in with 2.79% annualized growth over the 23 quarters after the “recession” ended. The 1957-1958 recession, which had the second-largest post-WWII GDP drop behind the Great Recession (-3.7% to -4.3%), had an annualized growth of 4.62% in the 23 quarters following it despite the recession of 1960 being in the middle of that.

– There was only one other time there were 3 quarters of real GDP decline between recessions – between the recession of 1953-1954 and the recession of 1957-1958, with declines in the 1st and 4th quarters of 1956 and the 2nd quarter of 1957. Of note, the recession of 1957-1958 began in August 1957, 2 months after the third non-recessionary GDP decline.

Speaking of nominal GDP, for only the second time since quarterly GDP estimates began in 1947, it declined outside of a recessionary period, falling by an annualized 0.87%. The only other time that happened was the first quarter of 2014, when it fell by an annualized 0.80%.