We will not rest [once our vacation is over]

From “Al Qaeda Takes Credit for Plot” in today’s Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):

We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable,” Mr. Obama said in remarks broadcast on television from Hawaii, where he is on vacation.

OK, I know, the President of the United States is never really on vacation, but it is funny nonetheless.

Bureaucracy’s insatiable appetite: The Federal Register

From the essay Computer Productivity: Why it is Important that Software Projects Fail by Dr. Anthony Berglas:

The boundless creativity of politicians and bureaucrats to develop new and more complex regulation is bounded only by the bureaucracy’s inability to implement them.

Considering the 2008 Federal Register is 80,700 pages, and that it grows every year, it’s safe to say that there appears to be no upper limit to scope of the problem.

Incredibly, the Federal government actually believes that people should, or could, read the Federal Register. It even answers the question, “Why should I read the Federal Register?”. The only real reason should be to cure insomnia.

Metrics on reading the Federal Register

Let’s presume you had to read the Federal Register, taking the following assumptions:

  • The document, as of its final 2008 version, is 80,700 pages.
  • You sleep eight hours a day.
  • You have a full-time job, five days a week, eight hours a day.
  • You commute to/from work for an average of one hour each day.
  • You spend two hours a day for personal and domestic matters – bathing, eating, housekeeping, etc..
  • You spend four hours on each weekend day to address random matters (paying bills, playing WoW, etc.).
  • While reading, you take a 15-minute break every two hours.

Considering that, you have about 39 hours per week to read. If you can read two pages per minute (a good clip that assumes comprehension rates don’t matter), it would take you nearly 121 days (17 weeks) to read all 80,700 pages of the Federal Register.

Keep in mind that such a clip requires reading on average 5 1/2 hours per day. In reality, the average American spends just 21 minutes a day reading. At that rate, the average American would take nearly 2,000 days (about five and one-half years) to read the 2008 Federal Register.

To make matters worse, the Federal Register continues to grow, at a pace of about 1.5% per year (Federal Register Pages Published Annually, PDF). That means an extra month of reading each year for Joe Sixpack if he wants to read all the applicable laws in 2013 after spending more than five years reading the 2008 Federal Register.

In closing: To understand the laws of America, start reading now, and don’t plan on stopping for over five and one-half years. Then, expect to spend a month of reading each year just to catch up.

Of course, this doesn’t include the state or local laws where you live… but that’s a whole other matter.

Bad government: Spending $250,000 to create or save one job

From the Wall Street Journal Online, Oct 30 2009: White House Data Shows 650,000 Jobs From Stimulus:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Friday that the government’s fiscal stimulus program has helped create or save almost 650,000 jobs…

The new jobs figure — 640,329 specifically — represents direct stimulus spending through Sept. 30 on projects or activities…

[T]he reports cover only $160 billion of the $339 billion in stimulus spending that has occurred through Sept. 30.

I’m not an economist or a mathematician or a politician, but I can do basic math:

$160 billion divided by 640,329 equals $249,871.55 per job created or saved.

As a comparison: the median full-time salary for a U.S. worker was $27,756 in 2005 (source).

Why does it cost $250,000 to create or save a job in a market where the average worker makes under $30,000? Can someone explain to me how spending a quarter of a million dollars to save one job is a smart way to spend money?

Seriously, can someone explain?!?!

How a cup of coffee per week equals 210,000 jobs over ten years

Posted today on CNN.com. Emphasis added:

The White House will unveil reforms to the nation’s international tax code on Monday intended to close loopholes for overseas tax havens and end incentives for creating jobs overseas.

The administration expects these initiatives to raise at least $210 billion over the next 10 years “to cut taxes for American families, increase incentives for businesses to create jobs in America and reduce the deficit.”

What does $210 billion in new taxes mean to Americans? Let’s review.

  • The median U.S. household income is about $50,000 per year.
  • Let’s assume that the typical cost (insurance, office space, pens, etc.) of an employee to an employer is double an employee’s salary. (It varies quite a bit by industry, but this is a fair back-of-the-envelope number.)
  • The “cost” of one $50,000 per year job over ten years is therefore roughly $1 million.
  • $210 billion in new taxes over ten years can result in up to 210,000 less jobs being created, if you assume how that money could otherwise be spent providing a job to 210,000 people for ten years.
  • To compare, only 16 American companies have more than 210,000 employees.

The flip side:

  • The population of the United States is about 304 million.
  • $210 billion in new taxes over ten years equals about $690 per person over ten years, or $69 per year, or 19 cents per day.

Feel free to thank the White House for eliminating the potential of 210,000 well-paying jobs over ten years so you can enjoy an extra $69 per year – about enough to buy one cup of coffee per week.

Depressing, isn’t it?

Obama’s approval ratings aren’t as rosy as they seem

I opened up my Google News page this morning to see the following headline:

After 100 days, Obama's approval ratings remain sky-high (CNN)

This contrasts with an article I recall reading a few days ago which talks about how Obama’s approval ratings are not sky-high when compared to past presidents at the 100-day mark.

First, what is President Obama’s approval rating? The folks at Gallup poll this stuff constantly, and have an article that tells us:

As President Barack Obama concludes his first 100 days on the job, Gallup Poll Daily tracking for the week of April 20-26 finds 65% of Americans approving of how he is doing and only 29% disapproving. Obama’s average weekly job ratings have varied only slightly thus far, ranging from 61% to 67%.

We’ll take 65% approval and 29% disapproval as our President Obama benchmarks.

For historical comparison, we have the American Presidency Project, which provides a chart of Presidential job approval ratings at or near the 100-day mark. Note the chart below, which I have taken the liberty to highlight.

Presidential Job Approval Ratings Following the First 100 Days

See those green boxes? Those are presidents who showed a higher approval rating and lower disapproval rating after 100 days than President Obama. The yellow box highlights President George W. Bush’s approval/disapproval ratings after 100 days – an approval rating three percentage points lower than President Obama, and an identical disapproval rating.

What can we surmise from this?

  • Taken in historical context, the public approves of President Obama at a level typical of most presidents.
  • Taken in historical context, the public disapproves of President Obama at a level typical of most recent presidents – that is, those since the Reagan/Bush years.
  • Feelings about our President are much more polarized in recent years, with lower approval and higher disapproval numbers than past presidents.

And now, the best conclusion: Only three presidents had a lower approval rating 100 days into their first term of office than they had on their first day in office.

  1. Jimmy Carter (started with 66%, fell to 63%)
  2. William J. Clinton (started with 58%, fell to 55%)
  3. Barack Obama (started with 68%, fell to 65%)

Which presidents saw the greatest increase in approval rating between their first day and their 100th day?

  1. Ronald Reagan (51% to 68%)
  2. John Kennedy (72% to 83%)

I will tell you this: it is not reassuring to know that, at least in this one area, that President Obama is trending more like Jimmy Carter than Ronald Reagan, or Bill Clinton than John Kennedy.

It is also not reassuring to know that CNN and the Gallup folks are drinking the Obama Kool-Aid… but I don’t expect much different from them.