QUOTE OF THE DAY
Built in Chicago: Evanston to food truck: You must apply for license our own law says you’ll never get
Jim Nuccio and Gabriel Wiesen are two young entrepreneurs who want to operate their Beavers Coffee & Donuts food truck in Evanston, but one thing stands in their way: a city ordinance that allows only food trucks run by “licensed food establishments,” such as brick-and-mortar restaurants, to operate there. Jim and Gabriel do not own a restaurant in Evanston, so they cannot qualify for a license. The city has given no health or safety explanation for this requirement – instead, its only possible purpose is to protect established restaurants from food truck competition.
That is why the Liberty Justice Center stepped in and filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jim and Gabriel, taking on the unconstitutionality of this irrational and arbitrary ordinance. In response, the city still hasn’t provided a single health or safety reason for this requirement in the ordinance, but instead moved to dismiss Jim and Gabriel’s suit, claiming that they haven’t suffered any injury because they never applied for a license. As the city’s argument goes, Jim and Gabriel should have applied for a license even though the ordinance expressly says they can’t get one because they don’t own a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Evanston.
Jim Pethokoukis: Weak January jobs report shows why Obama doesn’t want to talk about jobs anymore
President Obama mentioned “jobs” only three times in his recent inaugural address, “workers” one time, and “unemployment” zippo. The January jobs report provides a sober reminder that the US labor market, while recovering, remains extraordinarily weak. The official unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9% as 157,000 net new jobs were created, according to the Labor Department.
To provide some context, recall that back in January 2009 Team Obama economists Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer predicted the unemployment rate by 2013 would be closing in on 5%. (Of course, Obama’s economists also thought we’d be in a mini-boom of 4%-plus economic growth. That hasn’t happened either.) Oh, and at the January pace of job creation, we won’t return to pre-Great Recession employment levels until after 2025
Reason: Progressive Failure Is On Full Display in California
California’s modern-day progressive Democrats keep crowing about the huge success they’ve had in taming the state’s budget deficit thanks to Prop. 30’s tax increases and other “reforms,” and now are championing the Jerry Brown model as a blueprint for the nation. Be very afraid.
It’s bad enough that other states have to deal with our residents, who are fleeing our success-punishing tax and regulatory regimen, but now, apparently, they are going to have to deal with our bad ideas, promoted through smug lectures from California’s liberal politicians.
Not surprisingly, the national media have been quick to tout California’s Democratic-led “renaissance.” For instance, The New Republic this week published a feature, “Back from the Brink,” about California progressives having “achieved the impossible” of a balanced budget.
“Progressive Democratic activists identified the straitjacket of rules that had the state tied up in knots, and devised a systematic plan to change them,” the magazine’s David Dayen argued. “Through massive organizing, they transformed the electorate and sidelined Republican obstructionists. Now, with surplus money on hand, they’re getting ready to fight a new battle over the next few years: whether to focus on budget balancing and debt reduction, or to continue to boldly invest in California’s future.”
I chuckled at the “debt reduction” reference. Have you ever known progressive Democrats to keep a lid on spending or to care about paring back the size of pension debt? They will indeed “invest” in California—and you know what investing means. They will throw money at programs and at government employees without improving accountability or insisting on reform.
Reuters: Wall Street surges to five-year highs; Dow ends above 14,000
Stocks rose to five-year highs on Friday, with the Dow closing above 14,000 for the first time since October 2007, after jobs and manufacturing data showed the economy's recovery remains on track.
The S&P touched its highest since December 2007 after a 5 percent gain in January, which was its best start to a year since 1997. The index is now just about 60 points away from its all-time intraday high of 1,576.09.
Employment grew modestly in January, with 157,000 jobs added. That was slightly below expectations, but Labor Department revisions showed 127,000 more jobs were created in November and December than previously reported.
Analysts attributed the market's robust showing so far this year partly to a deluge of cash flowing into equities.
Investors poured $12.7 billion into U.S.-based stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in the latest week, concluding the strongest four-week flows into stock funds since 1996, data showed on Thursday.
FCW: Groups call for stronger FOIA
A collection of open government supporters called on Congress to update the Freedom of Information Act Monday, claiming its 20th century requirements are not encouraging enough transparency and openness from federal agencies.
"FOIA needs to be stronger," said Gavin Baker, open government policy analyst at the Center for Effective Government.
Baker was one of more than a dozen speakers making policy suggestions to Congress through the Advisory Committee on Transparency’s Jan. 28 "Kick-starting the 113th Congress" event on Capitol Hill.
Baker said FOIA, unaltered since the E-FOIA Act of 1996, needs a 21st century framework that encourages proactive disclosure of information by agencies and reduces exemptions to the public.
CNET: Uber strikes key deal with California regulators
Uber, the on-demand driving service, has temporarily resolved an issue it's been facing with California, the company announced yesterday.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which regulates some driving services in the state, last year issued citations and fines against Internet-based Uber for allegedly operating a "charter-party carrier" service that failed to include insurance coverage and enrollment of its hired drivers in a substance abuse program. CPUC also argued that Uber failed to provide evidence of workers' compensation insurance.
Two other driving services, Lyft and SideCar, were also included in the citation, which fined all three companies $20,000 each.
"This is a matter of public safety," Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC's Consumer Protection and Safety Division, said in a statement at that time. "If something happens to a passenger while in transport with Lyft, SideCar, or Uber, it is the responsibility of the CPUC to have done everything in its power to ensure that the company was operating safely according to state law."
CNBC: Economy Adds Another 157,000 Jobs; Rate Up to 7.9%
The new year started off with an old story: Employment grew again in January but not at a pace able to lower the jobless rate.
Nonfarm payrolls rose 157,000 for the first month of 2013 while the unemployment rate edged higher to 7.9 percent, news unlikely to alter the Federal Reserve's monetary policy or instill confidence that the recovery is gaining steam.
Economists were looking for 160,000 net new jobs created with the unemployment rate holding steady at 7.8 percent.
The ho-hum jobs numbers for January were accompanied by substantial revisions higher for previous months, according to the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Traders reacted positively to the report, providing a healthy gain at the market open.
Businessweek: Politicians Continue to Cash in on Future Savings
Illinois postponed a $500 million bond offer yesterday after Standard & Poor’s (MHP) lowered the state’s rating to A- last week, with a negative outlook. Pensions are the problem. Illinois is supposed to save enough money for its state employees. It has not. Also, the state assumed unrealistic investment returns on the money it did save. At the end of 2012, S&P reports, Illinois was almost $100 billion short on what it already owes its employees for retirement, and the state legislature is incapable of making changes to what the state will owe future employees.
Meanwhile, in New York, a state that’s been more responsible with its pension program, the state comptroller, city mayors, and investors are arguing over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to allow cities to cash in now on expected future savings on pension reforms enacted last year for employees who haven’t been hired yet. “This is a financing plan to get you from today to tomorrow,” Cuomo told Bloomberg News.
One of the many differences between today and tomorrow is that $100 billion in the hand today is worth more than $100 billion sometime in the future. Economists refer to this as the “time value of money.” Many assumptions about economics have come into question in the past four years. This one stands pretty firm. And it underpins several of the fights America has been having with itself.
Chicago Tribune: Dear S&P
May we call you Stan? This fourth letter from the Tribune editorial board to all of you at Standard & Poor's doesn't make us intimates. But the deeper you downgrade the credit of Illinois state government, the greater the familiarity. Recall that in May, June and August we tried to be helpful, updating you on the disastrous finances of our insolvent state. Unfortunately, those were the good old days.
First, Stan, explain: We see that your competitors at Moody's Investors Services now rank Illinois' credit equal to that of Botswana, an African nation that's 70 percent desert. So insulting, so unfair. What did poor Botswana (official motto: "Rain") do to deserve being lumped with Illinois? Is the National Assembly in Gaborone really as financially dim as our General Assembly in Springfield (unofficial motto: "The Speaker's Wishes")?
Fine, Stan, you don't speak for Moody's. But you caused your own sandstorm last Friday when your latest downgrade (A-minus, Negative Outlook) put Illinois alone at dead last among the 50 states. You threatened to slap Illinois with still more downgrades. Then, on Thursday, you raised your rating of California? Ouch.
Carpe Diem: Plastic surgery facts and some economic lessons
According to this Survey on Aesthetic/Cosmetic Procedures Performed in 2011 by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, these were the top five countries for plastic surgery procedures in 2011:
1. United States (3,100,000)
2. Brazil (1,447,000)
3. China (1,050,000)
4. Japan (952,000)
5. Mexico (794,000)
The Economist adjusts for population and reports the top five countries for plastic surgery procedures per 1,000 population (figures are estimated from The Economist chart below), and the top five list is quite different:
1. South Korea (13.25)
2. Greece (12.25)
3. Italy (11.75)
4. United States (9.95)
5. Colombia (7.95)
CARTOON OF THE DAY