Thursday, January 1, 2015

Last Call For Taking Stock Of 2014

The Democrats have been very good for America's corporate economy, and the trillions that corporate America has been hording are finally, finally now being put to use in expanding hiring and growing the economy.

Oil, the Federal Reserve and an expanding economy set the tone for U.S. stocks in 2014, as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rallied to unprecedented highs and extended the bull market rally past 200 percent.

The S&P 500 (SPX) closed 53 times at a record and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) climbed above 18,000 as accelerating growth fueled optimism in the economy and accommodative central banks sent risk-seeking investors into equities. Energy shares tumbled and airlinestocks soared as the largest U.S. crude output in three decades and OPEC’s refusal to cut production led to a 46 percent plunge in oil prices.

After last year’s 30 percent rally in the S&P 500, “it’s tremendous to be somewhere up in the double digits,” Richard Sichel, chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co., which oversees $2 billion, said in a phone interview. “Stock investors should be very happy about having a follow-through like that. There’s optimism about the economy, and lower gas prices helped as far as consumer confidence.”

The S&P 500 rose 11 percent to 2,058.90 after gaining in 2013 by the most since 1997. While the S&P 500’s 1 percent loss on Dec. 31 left the index down 0.4 percent for the month, breaking a streak of six straight December gains, the index completed its third straight annual advance of more than 10 percent for only the third time.

The Dow added 7.5 percent to 17,823.07, slipping below 18,000 on the final two days of trading. TheRussell 2000 (RTY) Index of small companies climbed 3.5 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 13 percent. 

Doesn't seem to be too much "uncertainty" these days.  Wonder why that is.  Oh, yes, maybe it's because Republicans are now supposed to be taking credit for the Obama economy they've been attacking for six years?

Of course they are.  Will the public buy it heading into 2016?

Only if the Dems let them.

It's Criminal Almost To The Palestinians

The Palestinians have finally realized that if the UN won't help them (and the US will eternally make sure that it won't, no matter what Obama or any American president says about peace) then suing Israel in the International Criminal Court will have to do.

President Mahmoud Abbas moved on Wednesday to have thePalestinian Authority join the International Criminal Court, opening a new front in the Middle East conflict that could lead to war-crimes prosecutions of Israeli officials and that risks severe sanctions from Washington and Jerusalem.

The step is part of a strategic shift by thePalestinian leadership to pursue statehood in the international arena after decades of failed American-brokered negotiations with Israel. It came a day after the defeat of a United Nations Security Council resolutionthat demanded an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory by 2017.

“There is aggression practiced against our land and our country, and the Security Council has let us down — where shall we go?” Mr. Abbas said at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah as he signed the Rome Statute, the founding charter of the court, and a number of other international conventions.

“We want to complain to this organization,” he said of the court. “As long as there is no peace, and the world doesn’t prioritize peace in this region, this region will live in constant conflict. The Palestinian cause is the key issue to be settled.”

Naturally, we're already threatening Abbas.

An American State Department spokesman called the action “counterproductive,” arguing that it would only push the two sides further apart.

“It is an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people,” Jeff Rathke, the spokesman, said in a statement. “Actions like this are not the answer. Hard as it is, all sides need to find a way to work constructively and cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence and find a path forward.”

It'll never happen.  Bringing up Israel for war crimes tribunals is the only card the Palestinians have left.  The US will find some way of blocking it, of course, or will turn up sanctions to the point where Abbas is ousted and Hamas takes control, opening the door for another round of collective punishment.  Certainly Bibi now has his campaign issue heading into March elections in Israel.  But it looks like 2015 will be as bad, if not worse, for the Palestinians than 2014 was.  And that's saying something.

The Medicare Money Dance

More and more Republicans are starting to come around to the fact that denying their states Medicaid expansion means their constituents are paying tens of millions in federal tax dollars that are 100% going to other states, and Republican governors are feeling the heat, big time.  Thge problem is their own Tea Party legislatures, who would literally rather let people die than accept help from a black president's health care program.

Several Republican governors and one independent are meeting Republican legislative resistance to their expansion proposals. Some have tried to woo conservatives by adding "free enterprise" provisions, which require federal approval.

Perhaps the most aggressive GOP governor is Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who won re-election in November. Meeting with newspapers and others, Haslam now says Medicaid expansion is "morally and fiscally the right thing to do."

He told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that nearly every elected Republican in Tennessee "has run sometime in the last four years saying, 'I think Obamacare is really bad.'" He said his plan "is not Obamacare." Among other changes, it would offer vouchers to newly eligible adults to help pay for employer-sponsored coverage, and require co-payments for treatment.

Some top Republican lawmakers have praised Haslam's idea. But others vow to fight it, calling the governor's tweaks meaningless. State Sen. Brian Kelsey says Tennessee voters elected Republicans to shrink government, not expand it.

And Haslam is far from alone.

In Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead opposed Medicaid expansion during his first term but now says it would save the state money and provide needed insurance to poor people.

A committee of Wyoming's GOP-controlled legislature created uncertainty, however, by endorsing a different version. It's modeled on an Indiana plan that would require new Medicaid recipients to pay into a fund similar to a health savings account.

Federal officials have not approved the Indiana plan, backed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

Alaska's new independent governor-elect Bill Walker and North Carolina's Republican Gov. Pat McCrory also face serious GOP legislative opposition to their ideas for expanding Medicaid. Virginia's Republican-controlled legislature has thwarted Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's repeated expansion efforts.

And it gets worse.

Arkansas could become the first state to rescind a decision to expand Medicaid. Term-limited Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe negotiated a modified expansion plan with the Republican-controlled legislature. But Republicans made dramatic gains in the November elections, and some legislators want to undo the decision.
Republican Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson has yet to announce his position, which could prove crucial.

That's right, Arkansas Republican hate people of color so much, they'll take away their health care.  Maybe they'll die or go to another state, right?

And let's not forget, Republicans in Washington want to take health care away from tens of millions for "principles".

Some principles, huh?

StupidiNews, New Year's Day Edition!

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