Kudlow tries to tamp down inflationary zeal

Lawrence Kudlow‘s latest column posted at Human Events questions new Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s apparent interest in sparking the economy through inflation.

Will somebody please explain to me how rising inflation is somehow going to extricate us from the tepid economic recovery? I don’t get it.

It used to be hypothesized that low inflation was the key to high economic growth. For everybody in the economy, low inflation was a tax cut. Conversely, rapidly rising prices were thought to penalize the economy by placing a tax-hike effect on investors, businesses and families. It was this logic that spurred Paul Volcker (especially) and then Alan Greenspan to labor mightily in the 1980s and 1990s to bring inflation down.

The Fed’s favorite inflation measure — the personal consumption deflator — has risen about 1 percent over the past year, as has the consumer price index. When I grew up professionally in the 1970s, first as a New York Fed staffer and then as a Wall Street economist, no one — and I mean no one in their right mind — would ever have dreamed that double-digit inflation could be brought down to 1 percent. But Janet Yellen is now telling us that low inflation is a sign, and perhaps even a cause, of the weak economy.

The Wall Street Journal headline last week was “Fed Shows Growing Worry about Low Inflation.” As the narrative unfolds, both the Federal Reserve and the IMF blame low inflation for small wage gains, excess business capacity and soft global demand.

Not for one nanosecond should anybody believe this nonsense.

Another reason to like Ben Carson

Alex Pappas of The Daily Caller reports that the National Prayer Breakfast speech last year that launched neurosurgeon Ben Carson into the ranks of political celebrity led to an interesting response.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson says the White House wanted him to apologize for “offending” President Obama after he famously delivered a conservative message at the National Prayer Breakfast last year.

Carson, the former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, recalls the events surrounding his 2013 speech in his new book, One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future. The Daily Caller obtained an advance copy of the book, which is set for release May 20.

“He did not appear to be hostile or angry,” Carson writes of Obama, “but within a matter of minutes after the conclusion of the program, I received a call from some of the prayer breakfast organizers saying that the White House was upset and requesting that I call the president and apologize for offending him. I said that I did not think that he was offended and that I didn’t think that such a call was warranted.”

Conservatives rallied around Carson last year after his remarks, made from a podium as Obama sat just feet away. In his speech, he railed against “political correctness” and offered specific ideas for health care reform.

“Many have commented that the president appeared to be uncomfortable during my speech, but I was not paying particular attention to him or his reactions, as my comments were really directed more at the American people than the people on the dais,” Carson recalls.

Barone dissects president’s equal-pay rhetoric

Michael Barone‘s latest column delves into the details of the president’s arguments about “equal pay” for men and women, especially the misleading statistic of women earning 77 cents of pay for every dollar men make.

This isn’t controversial stuff. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Christina Hoff Sommers writes in the Daily Beast, the 77 cents “does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. ”

Those factors are acknowledged in a 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics report cited by AEI scholars Mark Perry and Andrew Biggs in the Wall Street Journal. It shows that (a) men tend to work longer hours than women, (b) men tend to take riskier jobs with premium pay, and (c) female college graduates tend to specialize in lower-paid fields than do male college graduates.

As a result, the BLS concludes, women who worked 40-hour weeks earned 88 percent of what similar men did. Single women who never married earned 96 percent of men’s earnings.

Stevenson concedes that not all the differential comes from discrimination or sexism. “Some of women’s choices come because they are disproportionately balancing the needs of work and family,” she told MSNBC.

By “disproportionately,” she presumably means that more women than men choose to stay home to care for children. “Which of these choices should we consider legitimate choices,” she asks, “and which of them should we consider things that we have a societal obligation to try to mitigate?”

This raises the specter of government bureaucrats intervening in marital decision-making, pushing more husbands to stay home with the kids. Even the Obama administration stops short of that.

The Democrats’ problem is that sex discrimination by employers was outlawed by the Equal Pay Act signed by John Kennedy in 1963 — 51 years ago. To make “the war on women” an issue and rally single women to the polls, the Obama Democrats have had to concoct new legislation putting new burdens on small employers and ginning up business, as the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Act’s extended statute of limitations did, for their trial-lawyer contributors.

Such legislation attacks a problem very largely solved.

Hanson examines progressive insurance

No, we’re not talking about Flo.

Victor Davis Hanson‘s latest column at National Review Online focuses on the ideological insurance progressives take out against charges that they’re racist, sexist, homophobic, elitist, or otherwise objectionable.

How do you ensure that you won’t be ostracized, denounced, or fired if you are a media celebrity, captain of industry, or high public official?

For some, sexist banter is certainly no problem. Stand-up comedian Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a c–t and a tw-t, but suffered no ill consequences. David Letterman joked on air that Sarah Palin’s 14-year-old daughter had had sex with Alex Rodriguez during a New York Yankees game. There was no downside to that either. President Obama tosses around “sweetie” as he wishes. No problem with that. No one believes Barack could be condescending to women.

It is not just that sloppy speech can, with the right ideological insurance, become irrelevant. Inconvenient truths can be insured against too. Barack Obama’s female staffers make far less than do their male counterparts, at least by the quirky sort of standards that the president himself applies to others to win petty victories in his vaunted war against the war against women. Bill Clinton had sexual relations with a young staffer, in what feminists would call a classic exploitative situation of disparate power. Most such bosses would be fired for hitting on their young assistants. If Woody Allen were not insured as a left-wing filmmaker, he would have been ostracized out of Hollywood.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Barry Smith reports for Carolina Journal Online on Gov. Pat McCrory’s use of Tax Day to help tout benefits of North Carolina’s recent tax reform package.

John Hood’s Daily Journal explains why state legislative leaders are right when they defend North Carolina’s new opportunity scholarship program against legal challenges.

NC Medicaid reform: ACOs dead this year

North Carolina’s Medicaid reform proposal in which Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) would bear some financial risk for assigned Medicaid populations will not be adopted by the Legislature this year.

Just now in the News and Observer:

Rep. Nelson Dollar, a member of an advisory committee on Medicaid changes, liked the idea of creating Accountable Care Organizations a whole lot more than his Senate counterpart, Louis Pate, did. Pate has said the plan that the state Department of Health and Human Services rolled out in February didn’t go far enough.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration wants to change the way the state handles Medicaid by making the budget more predictable and filling gaps in care. DHHS worked on the plan for about a year.

Though he likes the basics, Dollar says not to expect legislation this year that would allow ACOs to be in place by July 2015, as DHHS had posited.

“A direction has been set, there are many more details to be worked out,” Dollar, the chief House budget writer, said this week. “We have made great progress on Medicaid reform. We want to make sure in North Carolina we get it done right and that we have an efficient and effective system serving our citizens for many years to come. It’s far more important that we make sure we get all the detail work right as opposed to setting artificial deadlines.”

In recent years, the legislature has had to scramble to fill Medicaid budget holes. DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos promised the department would do better than it had under previous administrations, (”Cost overruns will not be tolerated and will not be acceptable,” she said at a news conference last year. “There’s a budget for a reason.”) But lawmakers heard last month that there’s another Medicaid shortfall projected at $68 million to $131 million. Legislators who keep an eagle-eye on the Medicaid budget, members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services, meet again Thursday. 

McCrory joins JLF, lawmakers, national business and legislative groups for Tax Day news conference

Tax Day marked the occasion for a news conference touting the long-term benefits of North Carolina’s 2013 state tax reform package.

Gov. Pat McCrory joined Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick; Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett; John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation; Jonathan Williams, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force; and Gregg Thompson, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, for the event.

Click play below to watch the 20-minute briefing.

The New ICD-10: Code Overkill?

For those that think Obamacare is a fist-clenching, jaw-tightening, eye-rolling daily dosage of headline news, an even bigger non-Obamacare headache has yet to fall in the hands of medical providers.

Physicians are in for a real treat come October 2015, as they will be required to comply with an upgraded coding system – formally known as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) – used for patient diagnoses and inpatient procedures.

For roughly 30 years, third-party payers have used the 9th edition of this coding system (ICD-9) to communicate with and reimburse medical providers.  The 10th edition has been established by the World Health Organization for almost a decade and still awaits full implementation in the U.S..  The Obama administration fully supports this massive transition, claiming that the new coding system will be more sophisticated and efficient for the medical community.

Under ICD-10, the number of codes will exponentially increase from 17,000 to 155,000.  Wow.

Now, some new codes certainly are necessary due to medical innovation and new diagnoses.  But after reading Stephen Hayes’s article on the matter in The Weekly Standard, some are just plain hilarious.

Check out the full article here.