Healthcare legislation includes billions for jungle gyms and streetlights

They call it an effort to improve the nation’s “health infrastructure.”  I call it pork.  Didn’t someone mention something about lipstick on a pig awhile back?

WASHINGTON – Sweeping healthcare legislation working its way through Congress is more than an effort to provide insurance to millions of Americans without coverage. Tucked within is a provision that could provide billions of dollars for walking paths, streetlights, jungle gyms, and even farmers’ markets.

The add-ons – characterized as part of a broad effort to improve the nation’s health “infrastructure’’ – appear in House and Senate versions of the bill.

Critics argue the provision is a thinly disguised effort to insert pork-barrel spending into a bill that has been widely portrayed to the public as dealing with expanding health coverage and cutting medical costs. A leading critic, Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, ridicules the local projects, asking: “How can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?’’

But advocates, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, defend the proposed spending as a necessary way to promote healthier lives and, in the long run, cut medical costs. “These are not public works grants; they are community transformation grants,’’ said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Kennedy, chairman of the Senate health committee whose healthcare bill includes the projects.

Pretty soon Queen Nancy will be shrieking from the House floor that this bill is all about JOBS JOBS JOBS JOBS.

Dismal June for retail sales

It’s pretty simple.  You have less, you spend less.

As retailers reported their monthly figures Thursday, the weakness appeared to cut across all sectors, particularly apparel sellers. Among the biggest disappointments so far were teen merchant Wet Seal Inc., The Children’s Place Retail Stores Inc. and Limited Brands Inc., which owns Victoria’s Secret.

Even low-priced operator Costco Wholesale Corp. struggled with a same-store sales decline compared with a year ago, when business was helped by stimulus rebate checks.

Same-store sales — sales at stores open at least a year — are considered a key indicator of a retailer’s health.

“Consumers are under severe pressure on the job front, so discretionary spending is just not happening, “said Ken Perkins, president of retail consulting firm Retail Metrics LLC.

“This is not setting up well for the back-to-school season.”

Rainy weather across a broad swath of the country was a factor in depressing sales of seasonal goods last month. But shoppers clearly are being discouraged by financial worries.

The latest jobs report from the government, which showed shrinking wages and higher-than-expected job losses last month, is increasing concerns about consumers’ ability to spend in the months ahead.

Merchants are relying more now on shoppers’ paychecks to fuel purchases because consumers’ two other key sources of funding — credit cards and home equity loans — have shrunk. But, seeing their earnings dwindle, shoppers are continuing to seek 70 percent discounts.

No confidence.

China and India give emissions cuts the Heisman

Obama’s magical powers aren’t working at the G-8.

But the impasse over the 2050 targets demonstrated again the most vexing problem in reaching a consensus on climate change: the longstanding divisions between developed countries like the United States, Europe and Japan on one side, and developing nations like China, India, Brazil and Mexico on the other.

While the richest countries have produced the bulk of the pollution blamed for climate change, developing countries are producing increasing volumes of gases. But developing countries say their climb out of poverty should not be halted to fix damage done by industrial countries.

As various sides tried to draft an agreement to sign Thursday, those tensions scuttled the specific goals sought by the United States and Europe. The proposed agreement called for worldwide emissions to be cut 50 percent by 2050, with industrial countries cutting theirs by 80 percent. But emerging powers refused to agree because they wanted industrial countries to commit to midterm goals in the next decade and to follow through on promises of financial and technological help for poorer nations.

“They’re saying, ‘We just don’t trust you guys,’ ” said Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s the same gridlock we had last year when Bush was president.”

Another blow to cap and trade.

Karl Rove: Obama Can’t Be Trusted With Numbers

Karl Rove shines a bright light on Obama’s numbers game.

In February, President Barack Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill while making lavish promises about the results. He pledged that “a new wave of innovation, activity and construction will be unleashed all across America.” He also said the stimulus would “save or create up to four million jobs.” Vice President Joe Biden said the massive federal spending plan would “drop-kick” the economy out of the recession.

But the unemployment rate today is 9.5% — nearly 20% higher than the Obama White House said it would be with the stimulus in place. Keith Hennessey, who worked at the Bush White House on economic policy, has noted that unemployment is now higher than the administration said it would be if nothing was done to revive the economy. There are 2.6 million fewer Americans working than Mr. Obama promised.

The economy takes unexpected turns on every president. But what is striking about this president is how quickly he turns away from his promises. He rushed the stimulus through Congress saying we couldn’t afford to wait. Now his administration is waiting to spend the money. Of the $279 billion allocated to federal agencies, only $56 billion has been paid out…..

I won’t post the whole thing, but I recommend you read it all.

In conclusion, Rove writes:

Mr. Obama has already created a river of red ink. His health-care plans will only force that river over its banks. We are at the cusp of a crucial political debate, and Mr. Obama’s words on fiscal matters are untrustworthy. His promised savings are a mirage. His proposals to reshape the economy are alarming. And his unwillingness to be forthright with his numbers reveals that he knows his plans would terrify many Americans.

Promises, promises.