Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review are pleased to see the growing likelihood of several legitimate Democratic candidates joining the 2016 race and preventing a coronation of Hillary Clinton. They also shake their heads as John Kerry believes he alone is capable of brokering a Middle East cease fire. And they react to more reports of badly wasted taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan.
Archives for July 2014
The End of Christianity in Iraq?
The rise of a self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq is already responsible for the eradication of Christianity in the historic city of Mosul, and this could be the first step towards much greater persecution in the weeks and months to come.
Even before the rise of ISIS, Christianity was greatly endangered in Iraq. Open Doors USA listed it as the fourth worst persecutor of Christians in the world earlier in the year.
“Iraq was already a very dangerous place for Christians because of the weakness of the central government and their inability of unwillingness to protect Christian churches and Christians who wanted to choose for themselves what their religious beliefs worse,” said Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. David Curry, who says the latest developments in Iraq are making things exponentially worse.
On July 19, ISIS announced every Christian in Mosul had a choice by noon Saturday to convert to Islam, pay a financially crippling tax or leave with no possessions but the clothes on their backs.
“Since June 10, when ISIS came in and took over…it’s been incredibly difficult. Over 3,000 families, just from Mosul, are homeless, are on the run and have had to leave everything and it’s really unprecedented in this modern age to have a group call out this kind of segregation of a religious minority and force them out of their homes with impunity. No western government seems to be standing up or protecting these folks,” said Curry.
Not surprisingly, the persecution is leading to a significant humanitarian crisis.
“Those that have the resources are heading out of the country entirely. Most of them, of course, don’t have the resources to get on a plane and fly out so they’re heading north into the Kurdistan regions, where there is more security,” said Curry.
Open Doors USA is racing to meet the physical needs of those heading for an uncertain destination.
“Open Doors has set up response to help the refugees. We’ve got a project that is giving them food, water, tents, whatever we can do to help them stabilize in their homeless condition and try to acclimate them back into society if possible,” said Curry.
Curry says those who choose to turn a blind eye to the treatment of Christians in Iraq are making a horrific mistake.
“I think people underestimate how fast this kind of persecution spreads and to our detriment. This sort of persecution in the Middle East could certainly spread to other religious groups, like Jewish minorities, certainly Buddhist minorities. When we let this kind of aggression stand, I think it’s a very bad sign for the rest of civilization,” said Curry.
“I think you could see problems in Jordan. I think you could see problems in parts of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. There’s still key parts of Iraq. It certainly is a major shift in the Middle East. I think it could get worse,” he said.
That’s why Curry says western nations need at least to publicly condemn ISIS for this persecution.
“Government need to stand up and send clear messages of support to the Christian minorities, to do what they can to put diplomatic pressure on these groups and to make this very difficult to happen anywhere else and to hopefully turn the tide in the coming weeks,” said Curry.
The upheaval of the past 11 years is taking a severe toll on the Christian population in Iraq. Curry says there were a million believers in Iraq in 2003. Now he says some estimates are as low as 300,000.
Should a Young Person Rent or Buy?
By Ryan Brown
The 2008 housing crash is still having a huge effect. During the recession, Americans lost more than a quarter of their net worth. Housing prices dropped 20% and total home equity in the United States dropped $4.2 trillion. All told, losses during the recession totaled $8.3 trillion.
But some of the losses appear to extend beyond mere dollar value and penetrate Americans’ psyche. In 2011, 53 out of every thousand eligible young adult renters became a homeowner. That’s 38% lower than the pre-recession 85 per thousand, recorded in 2001.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that so many young people pause when confronted with the question of whether they should rent or buy. Among an age group where only 43% respond that they are “very satisfied” with their current job, researching the question to buy or to rent is a tough situation.
That situation isn’t made any easier when a lot of experts agree that the best answer is, “it depends.”
Rick Harris is regional vice president for the National Association of Realtors and the owner and broker of Coldwell Banker Pro West Real Estate in Ashland, Oregon. He agrees that it does depend, but adds that there are a few criteria by which young people can base their decisions.
“It depends on some things that you can point out. It depends on a person’s financial situation and what their goals are. It depends on what kind of credit they have. It depends on where they live, what the market is like where they live, how long they plan to stay there, and really how flexible they want their lifestyle to be,” says Harris.
If a young person can’t give good answers to those questions, Harris says the best thing to do is wait and keep renting. That, in itself, he says, may have some added benefits.
“Renting gives you great flexibility. You can move for jobs more easily and you can live where you want to. Unless you have a lease you can be out of a rental and move to a different place relatively quickly. Up front it costs less to get into a rental investment and you can call the landlord if the roof leaks. If the paint needs to be redone a landlord will often do that, or if there are plumbing repairs they’ll often deal with that,” he says.
But when a young person is ready to sacrifice some of the flexibility of renting and buy a house, Harris recommends they remember one important fact from the recent housing crisis.
“Understand that real estate is a long-term, not a short-term investment. In the bubble, a lot of people were doing what was essentially day trading in houses. They would buy houses before they were built and flip them. It worked like the stock market works, but the same thing that can happen in the stock market happened in the housing market—the bubble popped,” he says.
As with any complicated issue, however, even when someone is ready to own a home after answering some of the important questions in home-buying, those questions open the door for even more questions. In renting and buying, many of those new questions focus on real estate’s biggest issue, location, location, location.
Jed Kolko is chief economist and vice president of analytics at Trulia, an online real estate site. He says where you plan on living might help you determine whether to rent or buy.
“When we look across the country and compare a similar unit for rent and for sale, similar-sized units in the same neighborhood, it looks more than a third cheaper to buy than to rent. But that’s only if you get today’s low mortgage rates and if you stay put for seven years,” says Kolko.
A closer look at the data shows that buying ranges from being just 5% cheaper per month than renting in Honolulu, Hawaii, to being 66% cheaper per month than renting in Detroit, Michigan. Kolko is quick to point out, though, that the length of time you plan on staying in an area is still the most important factor.
“One of the most important factors in deciding whether the math makes sense to buy or to rent is how long you’re going to stay put in a place. People who aren’t planning to stay put at least five or seven years, might be better off renting,” he says.
For young people who plan to stay for seven or more years, have a great job, and want to settle down, though, there are still hurdles they may face, simply because they’re young.
“There are a lot of obstacles right now for young people who might want to buy. The first of course is the down-payment. Qualifying for a mortgage is also a hurdle. And, as student debt is rising, debt might make it harder for some young people to qualify for a mortgage,” says Kolko.
To make sure that young people do all the necessary research and get all their facts straight, Kolko recommends they use a rent versus buy calculator to really make sure that the details all point in the direction of renting or buying.
“A rent versus buy calculator lets you compare for any two units whether buying or renting is going to be the better deal. The calculator lets you put in what your tax bracket is, how long you’re going to stay in the home, and your location, to get a very personalized calculation of whether it’s going to be cheaper to rent or to buy,” he says.
But using a rent versus buy calculator can leave some questions unanswered. Jared Gerlach is a software developer in Provo, Utah. He says that even after a lot of research, owning his first house came with some surprises.
“Before I bought a house, I didn’t realize all the different things that I would need to do. I have to worry about paying utilities and the mortgage on time, watering the lawn, taking out the trash—stuff like that,” says Gerlach.
Though the decision to rent or buy might seem to be subjective, by using rent versus buy calculators, taking into account the flexibility of their lifestyle, and looking at location, young people can navigate this difficult decision.
Three Martini Lunch 7-18-14
Jim Geraghty and Brett Winterble is in for Greg Corombos and discuss President Obamas reaction to the downed Malaysian plane in the Ukraine by Russian separatist. Obama heads to a fundraiser .
Three Martini Lunch 7/17/14
Brett Winterble, in for Greg Corombos, joins Jim Geraghty from National Review to discuss the bipartisan angst towards the current border crisis and the potential inroads for Republicans among new voters. They talk about Missouri Representative Todd Akin’s continued discussion of rape which puts him and the Republican party in a bad light. And they close by disucssing how they think it’s ridiculous that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calls the border secure.
What Congress Can Do About the Border
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) says congressional Republicans are ready to start acting in response to what they consider to be President Obama’s refusal to honor the rule of law and defend our nation’s borders.
Gosar says the upcoming actions include tightening funding to the relevant federal agencies accused of not doing their jobs, enforcing strict constraints on who is allowed to stay in this country after coming illegally and bypassing the president to work with states to restore security to the southern border.
The first tool the GOP plans to employ is the power of the purse, which does not require approval from the Senate or the president.
“September is the largest spending month in federal workforce calendars. So why don’t we re-prioritize these aspects within the IRS, which has hardly been a stalwart aspect of upholding the Constitution? How about the Department of Justice? How about the executive branch? I think all these can suffer a little bit in regards to bringing that money forward so that the American taxpayer doesn’t have to be impugned by additional finances,” said Gosar.
On Wednesday the House voted to reduce IRS funding in Fiscal 2015 by $566 million below current spending levels. The congressman says the exact strategy on reducing funds is not fully worked out, but he says GOP members are definitely in agreement on the general idea.
“I think there’s a lot of consensus that there’s opportunity here to look within the current budget and making sure that the president is brought before the Constitution so that he upholds the Constitution,” said Gosar.
A 2008 immigration law is causing frustration for some border security advocates since it mandates due process for children crossing the border rather than simply turning them around and sending them home. However, Gosar says the law also puts clear limits on who can stay here in those circumstances.
“(We need to be) streamlining the process, holding the administration accountable with respect to the 2008 law. they’d have to show that they were part of sex trafficking. That’s the only detail that most people are not talking about. It’s not just anybody from a contiguous state, it’s those that are involved in sex trafficking (who can stay). Hardly every single individual that’s been transported is involved in sex trafficking,” he said.
Gosar admits that demanding Obama enforce the law only goes so far. However, if he refuses to do his job, the congressman says Congress can go over his head and coordinate with border state governors who do take national security seriously.
“It’s time that we start to work with the states, like Texas. Gov. (Rick) Perry has shown that he’s ready to move. I think the governor of Arizona (Jan Brewer) would be another good place given her stalwart actions in regards to defense of the border. I think California will also join along. New Mexico, I think, would also because a plurality in New Mexico want border security enforced,” said Gosar, who elaborated on the steps Congress can encourage the states to take.
“The first thing that states have is the National Guard. They have the power of their purse in regards to initiating that response to the border as well as police enforcement. So I think the first aspect is a show of force to make sure the rule of law is actually supported,” said Gosar.
Two other legislative efforts are underway, but neither will have the support of Rep. Gosar. Earlier this week, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) introduced a bill mandating much faster processing of the tens of thousands illegally crossing the border. Their plan would require each case to be heard within seven days of each person clearing HHS inspection and a decision on whether a person can stay in the U.S. to be rendered within three days of the hearing.
Gosar says this plan isn’t terrible but is completely unnecessary.
“The president already has in his arsenal the ability to accomplish exactly those things: to speed up the opportunity, executively change the process. He has the ability to do that right now,” he said.
The congressman also has little use for Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency spending. He says Obama is jamming unrelated spending priorities into this bill and it won;t really solve the problems.
“I think throwing money like he’s asking for at this problem without having a stalwart plan…is not a good plan at all,” said Gosar.
Gosar says Obama owns this problem because of his unilateral implementation of several DREAM Act provisions in 2012 and for championing the Senate bill which provides for instant legalization for the vast majorityof those in the country illegally. He also says the rule of law is breaking down because the president refuses to enforce what’s on the books and his constituents are noticing.
“We have a lot of people very upset. They range from folks that are on the liberal side to the conservative side, saying this is out of hand. This is a humanitarian crisis but also a crisis on the sovereignty of this country,” said Gosar.
The president contends the problem lies at the feet of congressional Republicans, who refuse to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. However, Gosar says the voters are not fooled and the failure to resolve this crisis soon will backfire on Obama and his party.
“I’d hate to be a Democrat come November,” he said.
Three Martini Lunch 7/16/14
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review cheer multiple independent experts concluding Republicans have a better and better chance of taking control of the U.S. Senate this year. They also react to the Pentagon spending over $40 million apiece on planes the Afghans don’t even use. And they discuss the ongoing odd behavior of former Oregon Rep. David Wu.
Does a $10.10 minimum wage give Americans a raise, or leave them the bill?
By Jack Howard
President Obama supports a $10.10 minimum wage. He said in his State of the Union Address that it will put more money in consumers’ pockets and help families.
“Give America a raise!” he said.
But some say a higher minimum wage will cause businesses to hire fewer young people who work low-skilled jobs, leading to higher unemployment.
Obama cited the example of a pizzeria in Minneapolis as proof that businesses can thrive if wages increase.
President Obama says that move eased workers’ worries about money and boosted morale. And a higher minimum wage would do the same across the country.
Cato Institute’s policy analyst Jeff Miron disagrees.
“I mean, if that were true, that employers weren’t going to respond at all to a higher minimum wage, then maybe we should mandate it to be fifteen dollars an hour or five hundred dollars an hour,” said Miron.
Instead, Miron, who is also a Harvard professor, says employers would just replace minimum wage workers.
He says he experienced this fifteen years ago when he was lost in a parking garage in France where the minimum wage is much higher than it is in the US.
He couldn’t find a parking attendant to pay because the position had been replaced by a machine.
“A higher minimum wage had given people a much higher incentive to invest in machinery that would accept those tickets. That was a clear example where the mix of machinery relative to people was different in two different places because one had a much higher minimum wage than the other,” he said.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates a $10.10 minimum wage would cost five-hundred thousand jobs.
Center for American Progress expert Sarah Ayres says their research is off.
“The best empirical research that has been conducted over the last few decades has not found that. It’s overwhelmingly found that raising the minimum wage does not cost jobs. And does help millions of people and provide an immediate boost to the economy by putting more money into peoples’ pockets,” she said.
She says a higher minimum wage doesn’t necessarily mean fewer minimum wage workers.
Ayres says fast food workers shouldn’t be worried about layoffs after a minimum wage raise.
“This is true not just generally but they also don’t create job losses among teenagers or among restaurant worker,” said Ayres.
In 1992, Ayres says a natural minimum wage experiment happened. New Jersey raised its minimum wage, and neighboring Pennsylvania didn’t.
She says researchers David Card and Alan Krueger found no difference in fast food employment.
Heritage Institute economist James Sherk says it’s not so black and white.
He says a higher minimum wage is OK for a place with a higher cost of living for everyone.
“California is free to raise the minimum wage as much as they want. I would think that would not be the best economic policy. But it’s going to be less harmful for California than it would be if you force that same pay increase on West Virginia,” said Sherk.
In addition, a California business would also raise prices – making the cost of living even higher.
“The typical restaurant has a profit margin of 2 or 3 percent. They can’t simply absorb that a 20, 25 increase in the cost of their labor. The only way they can cover that is by raising their prices. And who are the people affected by that? Their customers,” he said.
Continuing with the restaurant example, Sherk says prices would rise 10 percent. He says that rise is a large price to pay for a reduced number of minimum wage workers to get a raise.
And he says the cost of living for the rest of us would rise.
Ayres rejects that conclusion. She says the rest of us would also get a raise.
“So what we found is that raising the minimum wage leads to spillover effect for workers who are making above the minimum wage. Those workers will also benefit in the way of higher wages,” she said.
As lawmakers decide whether a minimum wage increase amounts to a living wage or places an artificial value on labor, all of us will soon learn whether we all benefit or the rest of us end up with the bill.
Where Is Congress on Border Crisis?
Congressional Republicans are slow to denounce President Obama’s “lawless” actions and doing even less in response, according to Center for Immigration Studies Legal Analyst John Feere.
As the latest crisis on our southern border swells, many Republicans accuse Obama of inviting people to come to the U.S. illegally through his unilateral implementation of much of the DREAM Act in 2012 and by endorsing instant legalization through the Senate immigration bill. But while the criticism of Obama has been prevalent, what they’re doing about it appears less clear.
“Unfortunately, Congress has been largely absent. The truth is, it shouldn’t have gotten to the point it’s at now,” said Feere, alleging weak GOP reaction to Obama’s de facto legalization efforts in 2012.
“As soon as President Obama did that, Congress should have immediately reacted and demanded that he stop that lawless program. I mean, the American people have said no to the DREAM Act through their elected representatives numerous times. That wasn’t good enough for the president. He unilaterally decreed it into law through this deferred action, but Congress was largely silent,” said Feere.
And Feere says that response simply continued an existing pattern.
“Years prior, Congress was largely silent when President Obama narrowed the scope through what we generally refer to as the Morton memos, which are a series of memos that limited immigration enforcement to the worst of the worst: the murderers, the rapists, the people who are involved in violent crimes. Certainly it makes sense to go after those people first, but the way those memos operate is to give a pass to virtually everyone who isn’t engaged in the violent crime who’s here illegally,” she said.
So what should Congressional Republicans be doing right now? Feere offered multiple suggestions.
“I think what they should be demanding is that the president cease all public discussions about amnesty and the legalization of illegal immigrants and demand that he instead send a message to people around the globe who are thinking of coming here illegally, that the U.S. is going to defend its sovereignty. We’re not going to welcome those who seek to violate it,” said Feere.
He also says Congress needs to push back hard against Obama’s suggestion that if lawmakers don’t pass his version of immigration reform he will simply legalize lawbreakers through executive orders.
“That type of commentary only encourages more people to come into the United States illegally. I think that Congress really needs to demand that the president get a little more serious about the rule of law,” said Feere.
The one legislative initiative before Congress is the $3.7 billion in emergency appropriations the Obama administration says it needs to bring more judges to the border and expedite the deportation process. Feere does not believe that’s the top priority for this president.
“I think people need to be very cautious about the language some of these journalists are using about how this funding is going to be used to speed up the deportation of those here illegally. That’s not quite the case. It may speed up the processing of illegal immigrants, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be returned home,” said Feere.
As a result, he says passing the spending bill in it’s current form would only make the problem worse.
“Not very much of it’s going to be going towards actual enforcement measures. If we should expect the funding to be spent that way, then we should also expect more illegal immigration because people are going to be hearing that the United States is bending over backwards to process anyone who comes to the border. Until people overseas see their neighbors and their family members returned home, the flow of illegal immigrants is going to continue,” said Feere.
Feere says the only reason for Congress to support such a bill is if it were allocated to unequivocally beef up border security and trigger a serious enforcement of existing immigration laws.
Three Martini Lunch 7/15/14
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review discuss the arrest of illegal immigrant and outspoken amnesty advocate Jose Antonio Vargas. They also shake their heads as the Pentagon sends out pink slips to thousands of service members. And they grimace as John Kerry makes it clear he is uncomfortable expressing the idea of American exceptionalism.