Category Archives: Economics News

Has Wayne Goodwin made a New Year’s Resolution?

If I had a “when pigs fly” posting category on this blog, this news might be allotted to it.  The Greensboro News-Record reported last month, HERE, that NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin had WayneGoodwindisapproved the insurance industry’s request for a 26% overall increase in the rates for homeowner’s insurance rates statewide, rates that were due to take effect in June.  In an even more surprising turn of events, Commissioner Goodwin ordered reductions in the rates for coastal counties, a reversal of the trend in recent decades.

Although the newspaper article makes no mention of it, I assume the insurance companies may have recourse to the courts.  No word so far, however, that they intend to sue, so like so many of you, I will hope for a lower homeowner’s insurance bill later this year.

The Consequences of Falling Oil Prices

The website that tracks the daily prices for the two main types of crude oil consumed in the United States is saying that the price of WTI is now at $59.95 per barrel.  As many readers will know, crude oil is priced in terms of 42-gallon barrels, and the main domestic price standard is for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), a type otherwise known as “light, sweet” crude oil.  An alternate standard is known as Brent Crude, which is the average price of oil pumped out of the fifteen oil fields in the North Sea.  The price of Brent Crude is typically a bit higher than WTI, as the price of extraction is higher for undersea deposits.

I posted before, HERE, about the problems that falling crude oil prices pose for fracking producers, and on the day of the post (October 10th) the WTI price was about $87/barrel.  At today’s $59.95/barrel, the per-gallon price of WTI crude is $1.43, and we’re now seeing $2.53 at the pump.  There are almost no fracking operations in the United States that can produce crude for $60/barrel, not even close.

The ramifications of this price drop will be many, and worldwide.  Some are writing that the implications for revenue to the Russian government may imperil the Putin regime.

Keith Naughton joins the fray with a piece at the Daily Caller about the effects on the already-wobbly Venezuelan government.  Writes Naughton:

For over 15 years Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro have pursued absurd socialist economic policies liberally mixed with heavy-handed repression, and an anti-American foreign policy.  Private property has been expropriated.  Political opponents have been harassed and jailed.  The crime rate is soared.  Essential items have disappeared from store shelves.  Maduro himself flat-out stole the last presidential election (of course the leftist leaders in Latin America just shrugged it off — showing yet again that the left only likes democracy when they win).

Now Venezuela is at the end of its financial rope.  Tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue have been wasted away and now that the price of oil has cratered, the country’s fiscal deficit is unsustainable.  Maduro is cutting spending, unloading debt at cut-rate prices, and arresting his political opponents.  Tension is rising between the armed forces and the Maduro’s Chavista paramilitary thugs.

The article goes on to list five ways in which a collapse of the Venezuelan economy and government would impact the United States and its allies.  Read the full article, HERE, to get the details of the five ways, and what the Obama administration is planning to do about the potential crisis.

Chinese Economy bigger than U.S.? Not so fast.

Earlier in the week a new assessment of international economies was released by the World Bank’s ICP, or International Comparison Program, and China was said to have come out on top.  But the people at MarketWatch are saying, HERE, that the ICP was doin’ it wrong, and that it will be a decade, more or less, for China to surpass the United States economy.  The article is brief, so read the whole thing.

New development in NC Board Of Dental Examiners vs. FTC

Back in late January, I put up a post (HERE) on the Federal Trade Commission’s anti-trust suit against the NC Board of Dental Examiners, in which I mused that the case might end up in SCOTUS, the Supreme Court of the United States.

Well, it has.  But, although SCOTUS has accepted the case, it will not be heard until the next term.  However, two groups have already filed briefs with the court in support of the FTC’s side of the argument.  Here’s an excerpt that encapsulates the essence of the argument put forth by the FTC:

The central legal question in this case is whether the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners – which consists almost entirely of licensed dentists selected by other licensed dentists – should be entitled to the benefit of state-action immunity against federal antitrust laws.  Amici contend that the answer to that question must turn not only on legal principles, but also on the best available social-science evidence regarding the way that occupational-licensing boards like North Carolina’s operate in the real world.  As this brief will explain, in the real world, occupational-licensing boards routinely use government power to promote the private financial interests of their own members and licensees, rather than to promote any legitimate government interests.  The evidence for this conclusion is supplied by a branch of economics known as “public choice economics.”  Public choice economics is the application of economic theory to study the causes and effects of government actions.  Public choice economics has been widely and successfully used to explain and predict the forces that lead to the enactment of occupational-licensing laws and the behavior of occupational-licensing boards.  A central finding of this research is that when self-interested economic actors – such as licensed dentists – are given the power to influence or, as in this case, actually write the rules by which others will compete with them, they behave as self-interested private actors, rather than as stewards of the public interest.

For those who may wish to delve further into the arguments presented in these briefs, click HERE for the brief filed by the Institute of Justice, and HERE for the one filed by the Antitrust Scholars group.

And in a related bit, there is hair-braiding, which in NC and many other states, also requires occupational licensing.  Click HERE for an example from Mississippi.

State Insurance Commissioner Goodwin on Insurance Law

Did you know that NC law allows an insurance company to send you a homeowner insurance bill for up to 250% more than the maximum rate set by the Insurance Rate Bureau?  ‘Tis true, acknowledges NC State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin in this WRAL article, which airs the outrage felt by some NC homeowners who have recently been on the receiving end of such bills.

Read the whole article, HERE, as it’s an eye-opener.

So, Don’t Hear Much About “Peak Oil” These Days

The notion that there was a finite amount of oil reserves in the world, the vast majority of which mankind had already discovered, and a much smaller portion of which could ever be economically extracted, was known as the “Peak Oil” theory.  The theory was developed in 1956 by Marion Hubbert, a geologist who worked in the Texas research facilities of Shell Oil.  Hubbert died in 1989, but not before seeing the realization of his fundamental prediction, which was that worldwide petroleum production would “peak” in the late 1960s and steadily decline thereafter.

It recently occurred to me that there are some similarities between the liberal left’s attitude on Peak Oil in the 1970s and their attitude now on AGW/Climate-Change.  In the seventies and eighties, before AGW alarmism began to overshadow it, Peak Oil was the catastrophe that the left relied upon to panic the populace into thinking that, whatever the economic and/or inefficiency drawbacks of doing so, the nation must immediately launch into a monstrously expensive, government-coerced adoption of green energy.

I have a good friend who used to believe in the Peak Oil theory strongly, and he, along with his environmentalist friends, would use it as a justification for advocating vigorous governmental action to move the American citizenry away from the consumption of fossil fuels.  Nowadays, of course, they rely on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), or Anthropogenic Climate Change, or whatever the currently favored terminology happens to be.

But you don’t hear much these days about Peak Oil, because the discovery and exploitation of shale oil deposits since the late 1990s has made almost everyone understand how foolish the notion was to begin with.  And just this spring, another development in the Williston Basin (graphic at right, click to enlarge) along the Canadian border with Bakken_FormationMontana and North Dakota has reinforced that realization.

The basin, named for and surrounding the town of Williston, North Dakota, contains multiple layers of oil-bearing rock.  The top-most layers constitute the well-known Bakken formation, but recent discoveries are somewhat deeper.  These deeper layers are referred to on the U.S. side as the Three Forks formation, after Three Forks, Montana, and on the Canadian side as the Torquay Formation, after the seaside resort town of Torquay on England’s southern coast. 

The oil producers in the region are now “cracking the code” on the best drilling techniques and practices for the Three Forks and Torquay formations, and are coming up with incredible economic returns.  These wells cost, on average, less than four million dollars each including equipment and drilling expenditures for a one-mile horizontal well, but the yield is so great that the producers are recovering that investment in as little as one year, sometimes even less!

This kind of return on investment has re-invigorated the Canadian side, and on the US side, the production of the Three Forks wells is causing the industry to leap-frog estimates of the amount of recoverable oil available in the basin, by numbers ranging from 50% to 100%!  And this scenario, to one degree or another, is being repeated above the sites of shale oil deposits all over the world.

It is true, of course, that the earth is not growing any more dinosaurs, so the TOTAL reserves of petroleum are, indeed, finite.  However, for the immediate future, the proven reserves are growing at a rate that seemed incomprehensible a half-century ago when Marion Hubbert’s ideas were the prevailing wisdom.

For the WikiPedia page on “Peak Oil”, click HERE.  For the recent article in the industry journal Oil Voice, on which this post is partially based, go HERE.  And for the WikiPedia page on the Williston Basin, click THIS link.

Coke & Kamen: They’d Like To Give The World Some Water

To Dean Kamen, the college drop-out, entrepreneur, inventor, and designer/manufacturer of the Segway, nothing beats sunlight distillation for creating pure water from not-so-pure water.

In Kamen’s eyes, distillation was magical in its simplicity.  “The sun will evaporate the water out of an open latrine, and it will leave behind all of the bioburden, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia,” he says.  “It will even separate the water from the arsenic and hexavalent chromium in a chemical waste site.”

So, to lick a problem related to one of his medical inventions, he set about to use distillation as the basis for a small, compact, efficient mechanism for making pure water.

As the plan for his water purifier took shape, Kamen found himself thinking a lot about disaster relief.  Whenever an earthquake or tsunami struck, aid organizations would request clean water before anything else because local supplies were tainted with sewage or chemicals.  Kamen thought, “I’ve been trying to make a box small enough that you could carry it around for mobile dialysis, and it makes 250 gallons a day—that would be enough for a hundred people in a crisis.”  More to the point, why not use the machine to help entire villages, or even nations, with persistent water needs?

“There are nearly a billion people in the world that get up every morning and their primary goal is to find water,” Kamen says.  “Many travel great distances to find water that won’t kill them.  And sadly, hundreds of thousands of times a year it does kill, mostly kids.”  With Kamen’s purifier, people could just stick a hose in their dirty laundry water, a polluted river, or even their own toilet pit, and crystal-clear, microbe-free water would stream out of the machine.

But the catch to scaling the production up was to find an organization with the right infrastructure.  That’s when Kamen thought of Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola Company.

“You talk to people that travel a lot and they say, ‘If there’s one thing you can buy anywhere in the world, it’s a Coke.’  You know the joke: A guy takes three weeks climbing to the top of Mount Everest; he gets to the top and buys himself a Coke.  So I thought, Coke is something you drink, and they have coolers that are about the size of our machine, and they have bottling partnerships around the world.  I’m going to go and try to convince them to do this.”

And he did.  The result was the Ekocenter, and you can read Tom Foster’s fascinating account of it’s development at the Popular Science website, HERE.

Fayetteville Observer Launching Series on Fracking in NC

As most know by now, testing has revealed the presence of shale gas deposits in the Sandhills region of North Carolina.  A map of the known NC_TriassicRiftBasins_ShaleGasand suspected deposits is at right (click to enlarge).

Since this is an issue that will occupy a portion of the General Assembly’s time this summer, and since it may well represent the beginnings of an “shale gas boom” for the Tar Heel state, the Fayetteville Observer, is initiating a six-part series on fracking.  The “master” page for the series is HERE, and the first in the series is HERE, but readers are cautioned that the Fayetteville Observer imposes a ten article per 30-day period limit against online viewers.

More 47% Folks In The Wagon Than Ever Before

From a post this morning by Terry Jeffrey at CNSNews.com on further analysis of the updated Census:

Of the 103,087,000 full-time, year-round workers, 16,606,000 worked for the government.  That included 12,597,000 who worked for state and local government and 4,009,000 who worked for the federal government.

The 86,429,000 Americans who worked full-time, year-round in the private sector, included 77,392,000 employed as wage and salary workers for private-sector enterprises and 9,037,000 who worked for themselves.

and

In the last quarter of 2011, according to the Census Bureau, approximately 82,457,000 people lived in households where one or more people were on Medicaid.  49,073,000 lived in households were someone got food stamps.  23,228,000 lived in households where one or more got WIC.  20,223,000 lived in households where one or more got SSI.  13,433,000 lived in public or government-subsidized housing.  [ NOTE:  Totals to 188,414,000. ]

Of course, it stands to reason that some people lived in households that received more than one welfare benefit at a time.  To account for this, the Census Bureau published a neat composite statistic:  There were 108,592,000 people in the fourth quarter of 2011 who lived in a household that included people on “one or more means-tested programs.”

Those 108,592,000 outnumbered the 86,429,000 full-time private-sector workers who inhabited the United States in 2012 by almost 1.3 to 1.

For all the gory details, go HERE.

Well, It’s A Start

Speaking as someone who has been on both ends of the stick at various times, I cannot take pleasure at the news that someone is losing his job.  And yet, because the shrinkage of the bureaucracy at all levels of government is such an important goal, it was encouraging to read this News-&-Observer piece over the weekend about the elimination of over eighty positions in the NC Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) so far this year.  And anything that provokes such alarm in the Sierra Club is likely to be a very good thing.

From the article, this bit:

“The loss of staff at EEP raises the question of whether the state of North Carolina will continue to provide high quality mitigation services in the future to protect our wetlands and water quality,” said Cassie Gavin, director of governmental relations for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club.

Environmental groups across the state have expressed alarm about regulatory rollbacks, budget cuts and staff reductions imposed by the General Assembly and Governor Pat McCrory’s administration.  DENR Secretary John Skvarla has come under particular criticism because of his “customer-friendly” philosophy, honed while he clashed with regulators when he was in the private sector.

The full article, behind the N-&-O paywall and including some history of one of the targeted DENR agencies, is HERE.

Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act sent to Prez

The house version of this bill was passed earlier in the week, the Senate version passed on Thursday, and the President is expected to sign it into law very soon.  For the last couple of days I have been trying to find information on how the House and Senate versions of this bill will be (were?) reconciled, with little success.  Here is an excerpt from an interesting take published by the town of Dennis, MA on their Planning Department blog, with some editing on my part:

Section 3 deals with repealing increases in rates that have occurred over the past 18 plus months.  It repeals a requirement that any policy bought after July 2012 be for “full actuarial risk” and removes a requirement that properties sold would be immediately subject to full actuarial risk.

This is important, as most coastal communities have thousands of properties being added to the flood zone as part of the pending map changes.  Prior to July 2012 the owner of a home constructed before the Flood Insurance Rate Maps went into effect was allowed to buy flood insurance at a discounted rate if the home met the standards that were in place at the time of construction.  Under Biggert-Waters this provision was removed.  The 2014 bill has restored this provision.  Also, properties located within the flood zones established in 1986 and 1992 had, before Biggert-Waters, been able to transfer their discounted flood insurance to new purchasers.  This transferability of flood insurance policies protected property values and provided an incentive for homeowners to maintain flood insurance even after all mortgages had been paid off.  When this ended in July 2012, home buyers were finding they faced hefty insurance rate increases that made homes they were about to close on unaffordable.

Another part of the rate increase repeal is a bit more curious, as it removes a provision that established paying full risk value for a new policy if a homeowner allowed coverage to lapse and replaces it with a provision that protects the discounted rate for a future purchase of of flood insurance by placing a caveat that the full risk value is not required if the dropping of the coverage was as a result of the insurance no longer being required.  I am not sure where this takes us and have not seen much discussion of this provision.  It appears to allow for a homeowner to drop flood insurance when a mortgage is paid off and pick up the discounted rate again at a future date.  I am not sure if this is the intent, but we will have to wait for guidance.

The rate increase repeal also provides for refunds for over-payments based upon repealing increases that have occurred.  It would appear that this refund issue will affect a very small cross-section of people, mainly those who have purchased flood zone property since July 2012 and had the new full risk premiums assessed rather than previously existing grandfather rates.

And another report, this one from Fox News, HERE.

Government Now Has Record Number Suckling

The Tailless Tenrec (T/T) is a small, cat-sized, hedgehog-like critter that lives in Madagascar, the Seychelles, Mauritius, and several other islands in the southwestern Indian Ocean.  It gives birth to a litter of as many as 32 young, with an average litter between 15-20 after a gestation of 50–60 days.

The Tailless Tenrec is relevant to this post only because it has something in common, sorta, with the United States Government. The T/T, in order to provide nutrients to 30+ infantiles, has been observed to have as many as 29 teats, thus enabling the sort of mass suckling that has now become the hallmark of the Obama Administration.

Need some numbers?  Okay, how about this from a new John Merline post at Investor’s Business Daily:

Buried deep in a section of President Obama’s budget, released this week, is an eye-opening fact: This year, 70% of all the money the federal government spends will be in the form of direct payments to individuals, an all-time high.

In effect, the government has become primarily a massive money-transfer machine, taking $2.6 trillion from some and handing it back out to others.  These government transfers now account for 15% of GDP, another all-time high.  In 1991, direct payments accounted for less than half the budget and 10% of GDP.

What’s more, the cost of these direct payments is exploding.  Even after adjusting for inflation, they’ve shot up 29% under Obama.

For the full article, worth reading, go HERE.

First the Good News, then the Bad News

This weekend, at least two things happened of note.  The first was that we went on Daylight Savings Time, which means another hour of daylight in the evening.  The second, as observant visitors may have already noticed, is that the Federal debt surpassed seventeen and one-half TRILLION dollars for the first time ever.

Oh! How The Money Rolls In!

First, it was the irresistible Siren call of the the lottery bounty that made the hearts of avaricious state legislators around the nation go pitty-pat, but now there is marijuana, their new inamorata.  In joyful news from earlier this week, the AP reports on the tax revenues arising from Colorado’s new legal pot law:

Colorado’s legal marijuana market is far exceeding tax expectations, according to a budget proposal released Wednesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper that gives the first official estimate of how much the state expects to make from pot taxes.

and

The initial tax projections are rosier than those given to voters in 2012, when state fiscal projections on the marijuana-legalization amendment would produce $39.5 million in sales taxes next fiscal year, which begins in July.  The rosier projections come from updated data about how many retail stores Colorado has (163 as of February 18th) and how much customers are paying for pot. There’s no standardized sales price, but recreational pot generally is going for much more than the $202 an ounce forecasters guessed last year.

Mason Tvert, a legalization activist who ran Colorado’s 2012 campaign, said other states are watching closely to see what legal weed can produce in tax revenue.  “Voters and state lawmakers around the country are watching how this system unfolds in Colorado, and the prospect of generating significant revenue while eliminating the underground marijuana market is increasingly appealing,” said Tvert, who now works for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Yep.  I think there is a danger that legalizing marijuana will follow the same path as lottery legalization.  As states, especially the blue and purple states, continue their profligate spending practices, they will become so desperate for funding that they will get into the drug business just as they got into the gambling business.  Anyhoo, for the full article, click HERE.

The War On Poverty — The One We Flat Out Lost

One of the few advantages to reaching the Biblical three score and ten, or more, is perspective.  Those of us who are old enough to have reached adulthood before Lyndon Johnson became President (in November, 1963) can draw a clear line between the America that existed before the pursuit of the Great Society began in earnest, as opposed to that which has evolved since.  (Spoiler alert: before was better.)

The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for the entire period from 1955 through the beginning of the Reagan Revolution in 1981.  Among the many domestic wealth-transfer mechanisms set up by the whole body of Great Society legislation passed by Johnson and the Democrats was the “War on Poverty” (WoP).  Some of the discrete legislative acts resulting from the overall “War” were the expansion of Social Security (1965), Food Stamps (1964, now known as SNAP), the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (1965), and the Economic Opportunity Act (1964) which was the rubric from which the Community Action Program, Job Corps, and VISTA eventually sprang.

But the fifteen trillion dollars spent on the WoP in the decades since President Johnson declared the war in his 1964 SOTU address have seemingly gone for naught, as the US poverty rate, adjusted for inflation, is largely unchanged in the last fifty years.  Think about that.  In essence, almost one entire year’s worth of GDP, in today’s dollars, pissed away with no substantive improvement.

How can this be?  How can such an enormous amount of money be spent with nothing more to show for it than an occasional twitch of the needle?

John Goodman (the economist, not the actor) takes a stab at addressing this puzzlement in commentary published at the website for The Independent Institute, a public policy think tank.  Two snippets:

From the end of World War II until 1964 the poverty rate in this country was cut in half.  Further, 94% of the change in the poverty rate over this period can be explained by changes in per capita income alone.  Economic growth is clearly the most effective antipoverty weapon ever devised by man.

and

In 1965, 18% of the population lived in poverty.  Today we are at 15%, or 50 million Americans.

It is past time that we elected a Congress that will recognize that something radically different needs to be done to bring this catastrophe to a merciful end.  Anyway, to read the entire article, complete with graph, click HERE.

Daring Debt-Ceiling Conjecture from a Duke University Professor

The latest potential debt ceiling crisis is now safely in our rear view mirror, having come and gone with a whimper rather than a bang.  That’s okay with me, by the way, as some readers will remember that I opposed the defunding strategy that Senator Ted Cruz and his adherents bungled so badly last fall.   However, the Congress is addicted to spending more money than our Federal revenue stream will support, so there will be more crises down the road, sure as death and taxes.

Now comes Duke University law professor Steve Schwarcz to postulate a potential new strategy for future Presidents (or maybe even Obama) to use in avoiding a default, a strategy which would bypass Congress altogether.  An excerpt from law professor Kenneth Anderson’s post from yesterday at the Volokh Conspiracy about Professor Schwarcz’s idea (BTW, for you non-accountants, the term “monetize” just means taking action to convert an asset, tangible or intangible, into cash):

… although the Executive Branch lacks authority to directly issue Treasury securities above the debt ceiling, it has the power to raise financing by monetizing future tax revenues.  In each of the proposed options, a non-governmental special-purpose entity (SPE) would issue securities in amounts needed to repay maturing federal debt.  Depending on the option, the SPE would either on-lend the proceeds of its issued securities to the Treasury Department on a non-recourse basis, secured by future tax revenues; or the SPE would use the proceeds of its issued securities to purchase rights to future tax revenues from the Treasury Department.  In each case, therefore, future tax revenues would form the basis of repayment to investors.

The full article is HERE.

Those who favor a con-con (Constitutional Convention) do not always appreciate the myriad number of issues that the public might want to see addressed at such a convention, but I am confident that this would be one of them, as it is such a radical  and divisive departure from all our previous assumptions about how debt ceiling confrontations might be resolved.

The Jobs Reports issued near the 2012 Presidential Election

In an article from last November, the business reporter for the New York Post, John Crudele, began this way:

In the home stretch of the 2012 presidential campaign, from August to September, the unemployment rate fell sharply — raising eyebrows from Wall Street to Washington.

The decline — from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September — might not have been all it seemed. The numbers, according to a reliable source, were manipulated.

And the Census Bureau, which does the unemployment survey, knew it.

Now that we have a better understanding of what Obama’s IRS is capable of, maybe it is time to look at his Labor Department, and the Census Bureau within it.  The full article is HERE.

President Obama Labors to Perpetuate the Myth of the Gender Wage Gap

A great deal has been written to debunk the myth of the “gender wage gap” in the days since President Obama’s 2014 SOTU speech made reference to it anew, in a pitifully transparent attempt to enlist the women’s vote on behalf of Democratic candidates during the upcoming mid-term election season this fall.  However, this short video from American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Sommers does a pretty good job of encapsulating the salient points that reveal what an outright lie this Democrat talking point really is:

For a far greater in-depth read on this topic, HERE is the transcript of the testimony of Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Diana Furchgott-Roth before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee in September of 2010, testimony of which the President must surely be aware.  An excerpt from her opening statement:

… average wage gaps do not represent the compensation of women compared to men in specific jobs, because they average all full-time men and women in the population, rather than comparing men and women in the same jobs with the same experience.

And for another perspective, THIS short article from Camille Paglia, well-known lesbian author and social commentator, on the folly of the current feminist effort to diminish the role of men in American society.

The Man Behind The Recent CBO Job Loss Numbers

… is University Of Chicago economics professor Casey Mulligan.  Last week, reporter Joseph Rago of the Wall Street Journal interviewed Professor Mulligan, HERE, on how the Congressional Budget Office came to be enlightened by his research on how government policies drive the incentives and dis-incentives for work, and how that effects the national economy.

NC Board Of Dental Examiners vs. FTC: The Details

This is a case which may end up before the Supreme Court.  So, in today’s post to the Volokh Conspiracy, Sasha Volokh takes us into the weeds a bit to explain the intricacies of the case and the legal issues that were before the Fourth Circuit Court and that may be before SCOTUS if they take the case up for review.  The full post can be read HERE, but, spoiler alert, the case is about how North Carolina limits the provision of teeth-whitening services to licensed dentists only, and how this violates US anti-trust law.  In other words, rent-seeking behavior sanctified by the State.  This is a key bit:

First, what is this Board?  The North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners is, by statute, “the agency of the State for the regulation of the practice of dentistry” in North Carolina.  The board consists of six dentists licensed in North Carolina, one dental hygienist licensed in North Carolina, and one citizen member.  The dentist members serve three-year terms and are elected by North Carolina-licensed dentists.  The dental hygienist member also serves a three-year term and is elected by North Carolina-licensed dental hygienists.  The citizen member serves a  three-year term and is appointed by the governor.

Iraq & Iran want to take on Saudi Arabia in Crude Oil Production

London’s daily Telegraph newspaper is reporting that Iraq, with Iran’s cooperation, plans to greatly increase its current crude oil production over the next six years or so from the current production level of three million barrels per day to nine million or so.

An excerpt from the article, HERE:

Al Shahristani said on Tuesday that Iraq plans to boost its capacity to produce oil to 9m barrels a day (bpd) by the end of the decade as Baghdad rushes to bolster its economy, which is still shattered by war and internal conflict.  Iraq was producing 3m bpd in December, according to the International Energy Agency.

Iraq’s intention to challenge Saudi Arabia’s status as the “swing producer” in the OPEC cartel could see a dramatic fall in oil prices if Baghdad decides to break the group’s quotas and sell more of its crude on the open market.

Cuba: Let’s Preserve It As A Museum To A Failed Political Ideology

With China gradually and grudgingly adopting capitalist reforms, there are really only two countries left that are firmly in the grip of Communism.  One, of course, is Dennis Rodman’s favorite getaway, and the other is Cuba.  Who knows what will become of North Korea, but we’ll always have Cuba.  I hope.  Because any time someone begins to extol the virtues of the communist system, we can always inject a dose of reality by pointing to the island nation to our south that actually “walks the walk”, and to the deprivations its citizenry is subject to.

Michael J. Totten lends a hand with that with his two recent dispatches from the stronghold of the Castro brothers, the first of which is HERE.  A tidbit:

Police officers pull over cars and search the trunk for meat, lobsters, and shrimp.  They also search passenger bags on city busses in Havana.  Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote about it sarcastically in her book, Havana Real.  “Buses are stopped in the middle of the street and bags inspected to see if we are carrying some cheese, a lobster, or some dangerous shrimp hidden among our personal belongings.”  If they find a side of beef in the trunk, so I’m told, you’ll go to prison for five years if you tell the police where you got it and ten years if you don’t.

No one is allowed to have lobsters in Cuba.  You can’t buy them in stores, and they sure as hell aren’t available on anyone’s ration card.  They’re strictly reserved for tourist restaurants owned by the state.  Kids will sometimes pull them out of the ocean and sell them on the black market, but I was warned in no uncertain terms not to buy one.

Maybe Donald Trump could buy the whole she-bang and turn it into a tourist destination, like Disney World, except in this case it could be a giant “Museum To A Failed Political Ideology”.

The second of Totten’s dispatches is HERE.

ObamaCare Bending The Cost Curve? uhh…Not So Much

In one of their many attempts lately to distract from the cancellation of insurance plans by the millions, and from the failures attending the Laurel & Hardy designed HealthCare.gov website portal, the President’s minions are returning to the lie that ObamaCare is bending the cost curve downward.  To help readers understand exactly why this is so much DoDo doo-doo, economist and Hoover Institution fellow Charles Blahous has this article up.

Eat the Rich

Bill Whittle takes us for a spin on the USA budget ride, a roller coaster that only seems to go downhill, featuring the guy described by Whittle as “the mendacious Michigan manatee of malevolence”, Michael Moore.