Patterico's Pontifications

9/23/2014

Irony Overload: Michael Hiltzik Attacks Chevron for Using Sock Puppets

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:44 am

Michael Hiltzik has a column titled A Chevron PR website pretends to be an objective news source. Hilztik complains that a site called the Richmond Standard is pretending to be something it is not: a community news site. For example, the Richmond Standard site has a piece that describes the “rude, messy, and smelly” people at the People’s Climate March — commentary that sounds like it is coming from the grass roots, but which is actually coming from Chevron. In his column, Hiltzik talks to the PR consultant for Chevron who runs the site, and confronts him about the fact that the site is nothing but, well . . . a sock puppet (you knew that term was coming!) for Chevron:

The site is “transparent” about its sponsorship, he says. That’s true, up to a point: The homepage states that it’s “brought to you by Chevron Richmond. We aim to provide Richmond residents with important information about what’s going on in the community, and to provide a voice for Chevron Richmond on civic issues.” Chevron corporate announcements are sequestered in a section labeled “Chevron Speaks.”

Is that sufficient disclosure? The answer is a resounding “no.”

“The disclosures don’t go very far to show how news can be corrupted,” says Ed Wasserman, a news media ethics expert who is dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

So, to sum up: this is Michael Hiltzik complaining about a sock puppet’s unethical lack of transparency.

Michael Hiltzik — the original sock puppet guy.

I assume most of you remember this, but if not, treat yourself to a stroll down memory lane. Back in 2006, I exposed the fact that Hiltzik was running around leaving nasty comments about me, Hugh Hewitt, Cathy Seipp, and other conservatives, all under assumed names. The details are in this long and joyous post. If you’ve never read it, do so now. My favorite part was when Hiltzik, under his own name, praised comments he had left under an assumed name at my site:

For anyone interested, Specter is getting his head handed to him over at the Patterico blog for trying to sleaze out from under his flat misstatements of fact. And that’s a conservative blog. Follow the link above, and enjoy the carnage.

The person who was supposedly handing Specter’s head to him was a guy named “Mikekoshi” — who, I showed, was Michael Hiltzik himself. So you had Hiltzik praising his own arguments and falsely implying that they were being made by a conservative (“And that’s a conservative blog.”). As a result of this dishonest inanity, Hiltzik lost his business column. As the Associated Press reported in 2006: Los Angeles Times Ends Column of Writer Who Used Pseudonyms.

The Los Angeles Times said Sunday that it was discontinuing the column and blog of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter because he posted items online using assumed names.

The decision, reported in an editor’s note on The Times’s Web site, came a week after the paper suspended Michael A. Hiltzik’s Golden State blog. It said Mr. Hiltzik would be reassigned after serving a suspension.

Mr. Hiltzik “did not commit any ethical violations in his newspaper column, and an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting in his postings in his blog or on the Web,” the editor’s note said. “But employing pseudonyms constitutes deception and violates a central tenet of The Times’s ethics guidelines: Staff members must not misrepresent themselves and must not conceal their affiliation with The Times.”

. . . .

Mr. Hiltzik had been in a blog feud with Patrick Frey, the Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, who writes the conservative blog Patterico’s Pontifications. Mr. Frey recently contended that Mr. Hiltzik had been posting messages to his blog and other Web sites under assumed names.

Mr. Frey said he did not object to anonymity on the Web but rather to people using “pseudonyms to pretend to be something or somebody they aren’t.”

At the time, Dean Baquet (now editor of the New York Times) said that Hiltzik had to lose his column because he could no longer write about others’ dishonesty:

Baquet said he wasn’t certain sure how to punish Hiltzik until he read about Ken Lay’s trial last week and thought how the Enron saga would make great fodder for a business columnist. He realized then, Baquet said, that his business columnist—Hiltzik—could no longer write credibly about duplicity in the business world. There’s no place, he said, for dishonesty under the Times banner.

Well, sure there is, Dean Baquet. There’s all kinds of room for it! And nothing says so better than the utter gall of Michael Hiltzik criticizing business owners for using sock puppets.

Thanks to Robert C.J. Parry on Twitter.

8/14/2014

Michael Hiltzik Fails to Fact-Check His Column Accusing USA Today of Failing to Fact-Check a Column

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:32 am

I believe this is properly called “ironic” — no?

On August 7, Michael Hiltzik published a piece titled A Koch op-ed that USA Today should have fact-checked — but didn’t. The headline remains, but there is now a correction that tends to undercut the headline a bit:

FOR THE RECORD

Aug. 11, 2:22 p.m.: The headline on this post incorrectly states that USA Today did not fact-check its op-ed piece by Charles Koch. Michael Hiltzik did not contact USA Today to ask whether the piece was fact-checked. USA Today Forum Editor David Mastio said that the piece was fact-checked before publication in accordance with the newspaper’s practices.

I’ll note that I called this one:

Always trust content from Patterico.

I’ll have more to say about this piece in the next few days, but Hiltzik’s “fact-checking” of Koch’s op-ed seemed less like a fact-check and more like a tendentious argument that data should have been interpreted differently. Moreover, in setting forth his own data, Hiltzik screwed up. When I first stumbled across the column, it already sported this correction:

FOR THE RECORD

Aug. 7, 2:36 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that the BLS figure of people working part-time for economic reasons as of July was 7.4 million. The correct figure is 7.5 million.

My reaction at the time:

Time did tell — and now, Michael Hiltzik’s column about Charles Koch’s and USA Today’s lack of fact-checking now sports two corrections. Heckuva job.

As noted, I plan to have more to say about this column in coming days, so stay tuned.

6/16/2014

Hiltzik Calls Chelsea Clinton’s $600,000 NBC Gig a “Bribe”; L.A. Times Editors (OK, Lawyers) Rush to Quietly Paper Over the Accusation

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:27 pm

Michael Hiltzik has a column that is — currently — titled Why did NBC reportedly pay Chelsea Clinton $600,000 a year?

The disclosure raises the obvious question of NBC’s goal in giving a person without any measurable journalistic or broadcasting experience or any particular public following a high-profile job and apparently paying her a top-echelon salary.

The answer is equally obvious. Plainly, it was done to curry favor with the Clinton family.

I find myself in rare agreement with Hiltzik. But here’s the funny part. At the very bottom of his piece we see this:

Updated at 12:08 p.m. PDT: This post has been revised. During the editing process, changes were made to the headline and text.

Were they now!?

Odd how the changes are not specified. It’s enough to make an L.A. Times critic want to dig deeper.

A fella on Twitter has a hint as to what might have changed, saying that the original headline called Clinton’s job a “bribe”:

It looks like the fella on Twitter is right. iowahawk noticed the “bribe” language hours ago — before the story was changed and people started telling iowahawk that the link was broken:

Tellingly, Hiltzik still has this tweet up:

Look at the screenshot of the article below the tweet. The original headline is still there, as it is in this L.A. Times tweet that I predict will be removed shortly after this post goes live:

By the way, when you take the Twitter version of the short link offered by Hiltzik and put it into longurl.org to analyze it, you get this:

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 7.18.29 PM

Look at entry #2. The word “bribery” is part of the post’s title.

All this is proof that the word “bribe” was in Hiltzik’s original title, before the editors (OK, let’s be honest: the lawyers) got hold of it.

P.S. Please email when the Hiltzik and L.A. Times tweets get removed, in 3…2…1..

Yes, of course I have screenshots.

P.S. He’s right, you know. Even a stopped clock dishonest leftist hack is right twice a day once in a blue moon.

4/4/2014

Michael Hiltzik: Even This Diehard ObamaCare Opponent Is Not Sure Obama Is Acting Illegally in Unilaterally Delaying Provisions of the Law!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:51 am

Famed legal expert Disgraced ObamaCare shill Michael Hiltzik turns to the pages of a renowned law review medical journal for supposedly competing views on the legality of Obama’s unilateral changes in ObamaCare. Hiltzik is not a legal expert, but he considers himself an expert on any argument that can be made in favor of ObamaCare, and I guess the L.A. Times editors consider that a “business” topic. In other words, they have realized that actual businessmen don’t really read their rag, and so any liberal claptrap that has economic implications can now be considered fair game for the sock-puppeting business columnist.

Hiltzik opens the analysis by saying:

So let’s strip away the partisan rhetoric and see what the rules say.

Indeed. When I want to “strip away the partisan rhetoric” I head for the nearest copy of the Los Angeles Times and turn straight to the Michael Hiltzik column.

My eyes are rolling back in my head so hard they just called me an ambulance.

Hiltzik’s analysis is based on a look at two supposedly competing viewpoints in that publication that has earned a stellar reputation for its analysis of constitutional law and separation of powers issues: the New England Journal of Medicine. Arguing that Obama can do whatever the hell he wants: Timothy S. Jost of Washington and Lee University Law School and Simon Lazurus of the Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington. Their hackwork arguments are predictable.

I want to concentrate on the guy who is supposedly on “the other side” — the guy who, according to Hiltzik, can be counted on to present the most spirited case possible that Obama is acting contrary to the law. That is a guy named Nicholas Bagley from the Michigan Law School.

Per Hiltzik, Bagley has some rather tepid conclusions to the effect that maybe not all of what Obama is doing is quite kosher:

Bagley concludes that some of the Affordable Care Act delays may in fact step over the line, or at least create a “troubling precedent.” Bagley’s not more dogmatic because, as he wrote, “no crisp line separates routine nonenforcement from blatant disregard.”

It’s not unusual, or illegal, for the government to suspend or moderate enforcement of some laws in order to husband its resources for more important duties, Bagley observed. The delay of the employer mandates, moreover, correspond to established practice by the IRS, dating back decades, of granting “transition relief” to taxpayers subject to changes in tax laws, as these are. Congress hasn’t objected in the past. That said, Bagley pointed out that such relief is usually granted for just a few months at a time, and not for major provisions.

Bagley was less tolerant of the delays allowing old, canceled policies to remain temporarily in force. That was a political maneuver, he observed, aimed at validating the president’s promise that “if you like your old plan, you can keep it.” That “probably exceeds” the limits of presidential authority, he said.

You let ’em have it, Nicholas Bagley!

This fierce opponent of ObamaCare, according to Hiltzik, blames Congress for not helping the law work:

Bagley cited the “toxic and highly polarized political environment,” observing that “Congress’s unwillingness to work constructively with the White House to tweak the ACA has increased the pressure on the administration to move assertively.”

If you’re starting to get the idea that Bagley is not going to be the guy offering the most forceful case against Obama or ObamaCare, you’re right. I looked into Bagley a little further, after being made suspicious by his attack on Republicans in Congress, and found that he is the co-author of an article titled “Why It’s Called the Affordable Care Act.” (.pdf) Here is a choice quote from that article:

By improving quality, controlling costs, and extending coverage to the uninsured, the ACA means to address many of those problems. And it’s about time.

Take that, Obama!

If Hiltzik were intellectually honest, and wanted to present and confront actual arguments against the constitutionality of Obama’s actions, written by people who have not written law review articles praising ObamaCare, he could look to the Volokh Conspiracy (“The ‘fix’ amounts to new legislation – but enacted without Congress. The President has no constitutional authority to rewrite statutes”) or Nicholas Rosenkranz (Obama’s actions are “a unilateral executive suspension of the law” that “flouted the Constitution”) or Michael McConnell (“While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.”).

Instead, Hiltzik takes a figure that is not actually making a conservative argument, pretends that this figure is making a conservative argument, and then says: “Look! Even this conservative says the Republicans are irresponsible!” It reminds me of when Hiltzik sock-puppeted at this blog, attacking my commenter Specter. Hiltzik trumpeted the success of his own sock puppet in attacking Specter, saying:

For anyone interested, Specter is getting his head handed to him over at the Patterico blog for trying to sleaze out from under his flat misstatements of fact. And that’s a conservative blog. Follow the link above, and enjoy the carnage.

Hiltzik was trying to argue: “Look! Even a commenter at a conservative blog thinks Specter is wrong!” when Hiltzik himself was the commenter at the conservative blog.

This is the kind of dishonesty we have come to expect from Michael Hiltzik. And it’s the same move he makes when he sets up Nicholas Bagley as some sort of ObamaCare opponent.

P.S. I can’t let this go without comment:

Interestingly, Bagley and Jost/Lazarus agree on two major points. One is that even if Obama has stepped over the line of legality, there’s nothing anyone can do about it: No one has standing to sue Obama in court to force the mandates to be observed.

If that is truly Bagley’s analysis, it is sophomoric. It is emphatically not the case that, if no party has standing to contest presidential overreaching, “there’s nothing anyone can do about it.” Legal Expert Michael Hiltzik and ObamaCare Opponent Nicholas Bagley might want to take a look at a document called the Constitution, which entitles the legislative branch to address executive overreach in numerous ways that have nothing to do with the courts. Those methods include the Dreaded Ted Cruz Move of exercising control over the purse strings of the federal government.

They also include impeachment.

Next time, find someone who actually opposes Obama and his totalitarian law, Hiltzik, and they’ll school you on these matters. Maybe you’ll actually learn something.

Ah, who am I kidding?

3/25/2014

More Questioning of Michael Hiltzik’s Recent “The Sky Is Falling on Social Security!” Column

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:03 am

Over the weekend I caught Michael Hiltzik falsely claiming that Republicans had taken a “meat cleaver” to the budget of the Social Security Administration. The offered proof was that (no doubt like most goverment agencies) they usually don’t get quite what they ask for. I looked at some budget documents and noted that there was an 11% increase in the SSA budget over four years (2009 to 2013) and that they typically request 8% more every year than they received in the previous year.

It’s almost as if Michael Hiltzik wasn’t being truthful with the readers of the Los Angeles Times.

Daleyrocks dug deeper and found a document that challenges some other key assumptions of Hiltzik’s column. That document, in turn, caused me to research other documents relating to the performance of the SSA, with results that (surprise, surprise!) undermine Hiltzik’s claim that the level of service has plummeted.

Hiltzik’s column, remember, was titled, Another way to harm Social Security: wreck its customer service.

Mark Miller of Reuters brings us up to date on this underhanded campaign, which involves closing field offices by the score, satellite offices by the hundreds and service staff by the thousands. “Visitors to field offices waited more than 30 percent longer in fiscal 2013 than in 2012,” Miller reports. “Busy signals on the SSA’s toll-free customer assistance line (800-772-1213) doubled in fiscal 2013 over the previous year.”

Let’s put that in perspective. In 2013 the agency reported (pdf): “Busy signals on our 800-number were the lowest ever.” The document found by daleyrocks contains this table:

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 10.07.50 AM

So, despite the supposed “meat cleaver” slashing of the budget (again, an 11% increase over 4 years), the percentage of calls resulting in a busy signal has declined over time from 12% (FY 2006) to 5% (FY 2012). But then, last year (FY 2013), they supposedly doubled, right back to 10%.

What could explain this sudden change, then, from 2012 to 2013? If you look at my earlier post, you’ll see that the actual budgets for the SSA were $11.5 billion in 2012, SLASHED WITH A MEAT CLEAVER to $11.4 billion in 2013. Did this almost 1% cut in the budget mean that busy signals doubled? I tend to doubt it.

What did happen in 2013 was . . . the government shutdown. And during that period of time, the phones were apparently not being answered at anywhere near the same rate. CBS News reported in October 2013:

While Social Security checks will continue to go out after the government shutdown, some folks making calls to their Social Security office may find their calls unanswered.

Although this didn’t last long, when nobody’s calls get answered for weeks, that can skew totals greatly. Until I see data otherwise, I conclude that the government shutdown, and not a systematic “slashing” of budgets that remain mostly steady or increase.

[UPDATE: This theory is incorrect, because as a reader notes, the government shutdown took place at the beginning of fiscal year 2014, even though it was in calendar year 2013. So the alleged doubling of busy signals must have some other explanation — although it seems very hard to believe it was due to a paltry 1% cut in the SSA budget.]

Back to Hiltzik:

What was especially fatuous was the agency’s assertion that the annual statements, which showed up in people’s mailboxes with such regularity you could almost set your watch (or at least your calendar) by them, could easily be replaced by an online service anyone could access by computer.

Of course, many people don’t have access to a computer as easily as they do to their mailbox, and fewer feel comfortable going online for private, personal information. Now Miller reports that only 10 million workers, a mere 6% of the total, have signed up to get their statements online. How predictable.

Yeah? And what percentage of the people who got this stuff in the mail actually opened it up? I bet that percentage is very small — and that is the relevant comparison point. In other words: true, Internet access to the statements doesn’t mean everyone will sign up — but mail access to the statements doesn’t mean everyone opens them up (or would much care if they stopped coming). Hiltzik’s 6% argument basically assumes everyone reads the statements, but only 6% can figure out how to get online.

Logic and numbers tell a different story.

First, logic: even if it is true that most people don’t go online to access their statements, there are plenty of reasons people might not care what their benefits are. For some, perhaps that is because they know they can’t collect Social Security. That describes me. I have paid into Social Security for the requisite number of quarters, but I won’t collect a dime because of rules relating to pensions. For others, they will technically be eligible but not care, perhaps because they are young and this is not their top priority, or because they figure the system will collapse and they will never see any money from the system. Others may already remember what their benefits were and not yet be interested in how it has all changed in the last year. Still others think they will get benefits, never knew what they were, and won’t start to worry about the specifics until they near retirement.

Hiltzik assumes 100% of recipients are critically interested in seeing this information on a regular basis. But logic says they aren’t. What’s more, the numbers say that when getting online is important to them, more and more people can figure out how tondo that.

Second, the numbers: want to know something that does matter to people? Filing their claims. And guess what? That is happening online more and more every year. According to the document located by daleyrocks (.pdf), the “Complete Performance Section” for Fiscal Year 2012, as of 2012 the number of claims filed online was steadily increasing year after year:

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.28.14 AM

The document Overview of our Fiscal Year 2013 Goals and Results has the following table:

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.47.46 AM

Online claim filing continues to increase every year. And these are people who are theoretically the least able to access computers of anyone: the elderly and the disabled.

The daleyrocks-located document alao claims that the SSA met goals in numerous different areas, undercutting the idea that services have been cut to the bone. Goals met include: eliminate the oldest pending hearing requests; reduce the percentage of Appeals Council cases pending 365 days or over; minimize average processing time for initial disability claims; complete the budgeted number of initial disability claims; meet target for Disability Determination Services cases production per workyear; complete the budgeted number of disability claims at the reconsideration level; achieve the target number of initial disability claims pending; achieve the target percentage of initial disability cases identified as Quick Disability Determinations or Compassionate Allowances; increase the percentage of claims filed online (discussed above; this is considered a priority goal); complete the budgeted number of retirement, survivors, and Medicare claims; achieve the target busy rate for National 800 Number calls (as discussed above); omplete the planned number of video hearings; etc. etc. etc. I got tired of cutting and pasting all the goals they met.

Of course, they fell short in some areas, too. How can you keep increasing your request by 8% a year if you don’t claim you’re underfunded somehow?

But, just as Hiltzik’s claims of drastic budget slashing don’t withstand scrutiny, his claims of a pervasive, year-after-year decline in services doesn’t hold up. A review of these documents shows the services keep getting faster, more automated, and more reliable every year — with the apparent exception of a year with a government shutdown.

So, hey, I know what let’s do: let’s cherry-pick some numbers from the government shutdown year, lie about meat cleaver slashing, and make it sound like the SSA is going to hell in a handbasket.

Par for the course from this guy.

UPDATE: In 1993, busy signals at the 800 number were sometimes between 50 and 90 percent (.pdf). Then the GOP took a meat cleaver!! to the SSA budget and the percentage skyrocketed to between 5% and 10%.

3/22/2014

Hiltzik: Federal Government Takes a MEAT CLEAVER!!! to Social Security Administration Spending, by Increasing Rate of Spending By “Only” 11% Over Four Years

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:24 pm

Michael Hiltzik:

It’s no secret that if you really want to destroy a business, just hack away at its customer service. (Sears has been testing this axiom with considerable vigor.) The principle also holds true for government programs, which is why you should be very suspicious about the relentless budget-cutting at the Social Security Administration.

Mark Miller of Reuters brings us up to date on this underhanded campaign, which involves closing field offices by the score, satellite offices by the hundreds and service staff by the thousands. “Visitors to field offices waited more than 30 percent longer in fiscal 2013 than in 2012,” Miller reports. “Busy signals on the SSA’s toll-free customer assistance line (800-772-1213) doubled in fiscal 2013 over the previous year.”

As Nancy Altman, co-director of the advocacy group Strengthen Social Security, told Miller, this is part of “a raging fight by conservatives to get rid of the government’s footprint wherever possible.” And since Social Security has long been in their cross hairs, it’s unsurprising that a meat cleaver has been taken to its administrative budget. The budget request has been pared down in 14 of the last 16 years, Miller found.

Because as everybody knows, if a government agency does not get what it asked for, then the budget is being SLASHED!!!!!!!! — even if it’s being increased every year. If we learned nothing during the Era of Austerity, we learned that the dreaded Sequestration — a minor slowing of the rate of increase in government spending — was the slashiest of all budget slashings in all American history.

Thank the Lord that’s all over with.

So anyway, I decided to spend a few minutes looking into the actual numbers. Because, you’ll be shocked to learn, I didn’t quite trust Michael Hiltzik.

Here’s what I found.

Nota bene: I don’t get paid to do this research, so what you get is limited. It’s free ice cream; if you want to improve it, go ahead, but don’t complain while you’re doing it. In this post, we will focus on the “LAE” which is the “Limitation on Administrative Expenses.”

The President’s proposed 2011 budget contains the following passage:

Provides an 8 Percent Funding Increase to Provide Services Faster and Reduce Backlogs. This year, SSA will process almost 5 million retirement, survivor, and Medicare claims; 3.3 million disability claims; and over 326,000 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) aged claims. The Budget proposes $12.5 billion for SSA, an increase of $930 million, or (8 percent), above the 2010 enacted level of $11.6 billion.

From this we get these figures:

2010 enacted: $11.6 billion
2011 requested: $12.5 billion

Further down in the document there is a table of other figures:

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 9.43.13 PM

From this table I get these figures:

2009 actual: $10.3 billion
2010 estimated actual: $11.3 billion
2011 estimated actual: $12.2 billion

Now here is the fiscal year 2014 budget overview document. The request is made for $12.3 billion, an 8 percent increase over the previous year’s budget. (They apparently enjoy requesting 8 percent over the previous year. Nice work if you can get it.) So:

2014 request: $12.3 billion

The request contains this table:

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 9.31.58 PM

2012 actual: $11.5 billion
2013 estimate: $11.5 billion
2014 estimate: $11.1 billion

(That last figure adds a healthy $1.2 billion above that for “Program Integrity Proposed Mandatory Funding.”)

Here is another document with some figures to fill in some of the gaps. Quote: “The President’s FY2013 budget request for SSA administrative expenses, referred to as the limitation on administrative expenses (LAE) account, is $11.8 billion.” So:

2013 request: $11.8 billion

Quote: “For FY2012, the total SSA LAE appropriation was $11.4 billion, taking into account the 0.189% across-the-board rescission.” So:

2013 actual: $11.4 billion

Now I am putting together these all figures that I set aside above, in chronological order:

2009 actual: $10.3 billion
2010 enacted: $11.6 billion
2010 estimated actual: $11.3 billion
2011 requested: $12.5 billion
2011 estimated actual: $12.2 billion
2012 actual: $11.5 billion
2013 estimate: $11.5 billion
2013 request: $11.8 billion
2013 actual: $11.4 billion
2014 estimate: $11.1 billion
2014 request: $12.3 billion

We go from a 2009 actual expense of $10.3 billion to a 2013 actual expense of $11.4 billion. I calculate that as about an 11% increase. Raise your hand if you got an 11% raise between 2009 and 2013.

MEAT CLEAVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now we have a 2014 request of $12.3 billion — admittedly an 8 percent requested increase from 2013 (8 percent in one year!) — not to mention the little $1.2 billion for “Program Integrity Proposed Mandatory Funding.”

So we have an 11% increase in actual funding over four years, and a request for another 8 percent in the next year. And if we get a penny less than the amount requested? Well, then: the government is just using a MEAT CLEAVER!!!!!!!!!!!!

More claptrap from Michael Hiltzik.

2/28/2014

Michael Hiltzik: The Obama Stimulus Worked!!!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:11 pm

Michael Hiltzik, with another insipid column:

Once again: Yes, the stimulus worked.

Amazingly, there are still some holdouts in the political and economic community who insist that the Obama stimulus failed–that is, failed to arrest a steep fall in economic output and launch a period of growth in gross domestic product, jobs, stock market valuations, and other metrics that continues to this day.

This is not rocket science, folks. Stimulus money hurts the economy, because it diverts money from uses that benefit the consumer (as determined by market forces) towards uses that do not benefit the consumer (because they are misdirected by government intervention). There is no stimulus program that solely put idle people to work without diverting resources from where they would have most efficiently been used in a free market.

But don’t take my Austrian economics perspective at face value. Let’s look at what we were promised by the proponents of the stimulus. We were told that the stimulus would keep unemployment low, and that the unemployment rate would peak at just under 8 percent in 2009. Here was the Obama projection:

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 10.24.43 PM
Above: a chart from a
report cited by Obama to say unemployment would stay under 8 percent with a giant stimulus

Nice dream. In reality, though, unemployment went past 10 percent, and has only recently dipped below 8 percent.

(I hate using the standard unemployment figures because they are meaningless and do not reflect people who go on disability or otherwise drop out of the workforce. But the promises were made in these terms.)

That’s not all. We were also told the jobs would be “shovel ready”; that the stimulus would lift “2 million Americans from poverty”; that the green economy would create millions of jobs; and so on. These promises have not materialized — not any of them.

The Paul Krugmans of the world say that the stimulus just needed to be bigger! If your policy fails, it’s always because you didn’t implement that policy hard enough.) And indeed, that is Hiltzik’s line . . . today:

As we enter year six of the stimulus era, with yet another disappointing reading on GDP, it’s important to keep all that in mind: The stimulus works, it should have been bigger, and the impulse to replace it with austerity measures has done nothing but hurt workers and businesses. Anyone who claims otherwise doesn’t know how to read an economic chart, or doesn’t want to.

Today, Hiltzik says the stimulus should have been bigger. That’s not the tune he was singing in 2009, when he was simply beside himself with glee over the (to him very pleasingly) ginormous size of the stimulus:

In its embrace of the principle of stimulus by deficit spending, the Obama administration is launching a program infinitely more ambitious than anything Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed as a peacetime initiative in his entire tenure in the White House.

The White House is taking to heart one of the most important lessons of the New Deal — that it wasn’t stimulative enough.

. . . .

To a greater extent than most people understand today, Roosevelt was constrained by the political and economic orthodoxy of his era. . . . .

In terms of the scale of the program, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have demonstrated that, by contrast, they’re uneasy with timidity.

In 2009, Hiltzik was giving a standing O for the huge size of the stimulus. Now that it has failed to deliver on any of the alleged benefits we were supposed to see, all of a sudden it was now too small.

Hey Hiltzik, sorry they archive your old stuff, dude. Oh well. Sucks to be you.

Michael Hiltzik gets paid by the L.A. Times to make outrageously silly claims that leftist failures are actually giant successes. ObamaCare? A huge success! because it makes insurance available to more people through the magic of government subsidies! The web site’s failure? A huge success! because fewer people are using government subsidies, thus saving the taxpayer money! The blatant contradictions are papered over, in a fashion one might suppose is indicative of dishonesty — the sort of dishonesty practiced by, say, a guy who hacks into his co-workers’ emails, or who defends himself on enemies’ Web sites using poorly disguised sock puppets.

Hiltzik is not just dishonest, you see — he’s stupidly dishonest. It’s that much more amusing because he thinks he’s so smart.

Thanks, again, to Dana.

2/24/2014

Michael Hiltzik on the Awful Intimidation by of the United Auto Workers

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:46 am

Michael Hiltzik:

Good for the United Auto Workers. The union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the flagrant interference in its recent election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant. The workers voted narrowly against affiliating with the UAW.

Whether the UAW complaint will result in the NLRB calling a new election, or whether another election would lead to a UAW victory, is impossible to gauge. Erik Loomis of the University of Rhode Island and the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog thinks both are long shots, but agrees that the NLRB complaint is the right thing to do.

The details in the UAW filing are damning. The Tennessee Republicans’ conduct was nothing sort of shameful. As some 1,500 VW workers were preparing to vote, Gov. Bill Haslam, an assortment of GOP state regulators and Sen. Bob Corker staged a “coordinated and widely-publicized campaign” to interfere with the union representation vote, which under the law must take place “free of coercion, intimidation, threats, and interference.”

As it turns out, there has been deception and intimidation in Chattanooga . . . but you won’t be too shocked to learn that it is the union doing the deceiving and intimidating:

Volkswagen (VW) workers are claiming that the United Auto Workers (UAW) union used “misleading tactics” in its push to unionize a plant in right-to-work Tennessee.

UAW regional director Gary Casteel said on Sept. 12 that a majority of 2,500 workers at VW’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant signed cards endorsing union organization. Workers came out less than two weeks later alleging that UAW organizers misled employees about what they were signing, according to a complaint filed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Turns out that the cards they were signing trumpeted the fact that VW was seeking to establish a German-style “works council” — an organization comprising representatives of management and labor. Buried in the fine print: oh, yeah, and also we get to be your union.

The card check scheme also left employees vulnerable to intimidation. The complaint said that employees who changed their minds over the course of 18 months could only rescind their signature by personally visiting union officials.

“Despite making it so easy to sign union ‘cards’ at the workplace, UAW union officials are now demanding workers to go to the union office to exercise their right to reclaim their cards,” National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation president Mark Mix said in a statement. “This case underscores how card check unionization schemes make it ‘easy to check in, but impossible to check out.’”

Rep. Phil Roe (R., Tenn.) said that UAW’s tactics in his backyard highlight the need for the Secret Ballot Protection Act, legislation that he proposed over the summer to guarantee workers secret elections.

“Without secret ballots, workers are susceptible to intimidation, harassment, pressure and potentially threats to vote in a certain way,” Roe said in a statement. “Card check causes a high pressure and one-sided sales pitch.”

So, politicians fight to keep workers from being intimidated, and in the process get accused of intimidation. But UAW would never intimidate. No, sir. There’s no history of that at all.

If there’s one thing I know about the UAW, it’s that they always try to handle their business without any coercion, intimidation, or threats.

UAW, 1997, General Motors:

SPRING HILL, Tenn. March 7 — In a major embarrassment to United Auto Workers (UAW) union brass, Right to Work attorneys today announced their success in garnering an unfair labor practice complaint from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the UAW union after organized labor officials used illegal threats in an attempt to coerce and intimidate General Motors workers at the Saturn plant.

The labor board complaint, which names both the UAW International Union and Local 1853, results from a charge, filed by attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of a class of Saturn workers who are victims of an ongoing smear and intimidation campaign launched by
Local 1853 officials
. For targeting workers who dared to dissent, UAW officials will face a trial before a federal labor judge on July 2.

1954, UAW, Kohler strike:

Six years of sporadic violence ensued between strikers and strike breakers. In time, the company would charge opponents with more than a thousand acts of vandalism. At one point, more than 300 people were arrested. Calls for a national boycott of Kohler products were vociferous and sometimes effective. Strikers were able to continue their often violent activities because of some $12 million provided by the UAW.

UAW, 2012, Nissan:

What does UAW bullying look like? In 2011, Mr. King threatened that he would label automakers that resisted his card check scheme as human rights violators. Thus, plants who attempt to protect the privacy of their workers through secret ballots face unwarranted attacks on their reputations for disregarding UAW’s Principles for Fair Union Elections.

When the bullies dishonestly whine about being bullied, it needs to be pointed out. Thanks to Dana for pointing this out and doing the research to do so.

2/19/2014

Perennially Dishonest L.A. Times Writer Michael Hiltzik: The CBO Report Saying 500,000 People Will Lose Jobs From an Increase in the Minimum Wage Is a Slam Dunk for Increasing the Minimum Wage

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:25 pm

Typical dishonesty from a dishonest writer. Here’s Hiltzik:

Here are the main points. See if you can guess which one has gotten the most headline play in the news.
1. Wages would rise for 16.5 million workers.
2. Income for families living below the poverty line would rise by a combined $5 billion, and by $12 billion for those earning less than three times the poverty level.
3. About 900,000 people would be moved out of poverty.
4. The raise would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers.

Those are the main points? How about I quote, in its entirety, the summary at the head of the report:

Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers. Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.

The way Hiltzik explains it, there is only one “main point” that is negative — yet the full summary I just quoted notes not only that half a million people would likely be out of work, but that (duh) their incomes would “fall substantially” and that the general effect on employment for low-wage workers would be bad.

The report also notes near the top:

Moreover, the increased earnings for some workers would be accompanied by reductions in real (inflation-adjusted) income for the people who became jobless because of the minimum-wage increase, for business owners, and for consumers facing higher prices.

Funny, I don’t see higher prices for consumers among Hiltzik’s “main points.” Nor do I see lower income for business owners among Hiltzik’ “main points.”

And while Hiltzik is happy to tell us about the $5 billion increase in income for those in so-called “poverty” and the $12 billion increase in income for some relatively less well-off people, the report actually lists three different effects on income in one place, and four in another. Hiltzik gives us the two rosiest income effects, but fails to mention this one:

Real income would decrease, on net, by $17 billion for families whose income would otherwise have been six times the poverty threshold or more, lowering their average family income by 0.4 percent.

Funny how increases in income for some are among the reports “main points” — but decreases in income for others are . . . not.

After a while, it starts to look like Hiltzik’s “main points” have been cherry picked by a reporter with a history of dishonesty and sneakiness, who wants to sell readers his partisan and slanted view of the report’s findings.

Shockingly.

Thanks to Dana.

2/10/2014

Michael Hiltzik Continues His Absurd Shilling for ObamaCare

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:44 am

Michael Hiltzik is the key ObamaCare shill at the L.A. Times, and he continues to carry their water by talking about how totally awesome it is that ObamaCare will cost 2.5 million jobs over the next ten years, because, you know, CHOICE!!!!

The CBO projects that [ObamaCare] will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There’s a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily.

As economist Dean Baker points out, this is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps “older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family-values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus.”

The next thing you know, he’ll be saying it’s awesome that the Web site didn’t work well, because of all the subsidy money we saved.

Wait, what? He actually did say that??

[T]he problems of the healthcare.gov website reduced enrollments, cutting the government’s bill for premium subsidies.

Woo-hoo!

In twenty years, I guess the argument will be that the severe deterioration of our health care system has contributed to the early deaths of millions of Americans, thus cutting down significantly on overall health care costs.

Why, there’s simply no end to the benefits of this wonderful law, comrades!

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