Monday, March 22, 2010

The market yawns at health care reform

Memo to my conservative/Republican friends that are bitterly opposed to the health care reform legislation that just passed.

The fate of health care reform was in serious doubt when the market closed Friday.  As of 11:15 a.m. today, the first trading day after reform passed, the markets yawned.  The Dow is up a tiny fraction, as is the NASDAQ.  Virtually no movement at all on the dollar.  If this really were a dramatic, government takeover of 1/6 of the nation's economy, with dire consequences for the budget and the economy, wouldn't the markets have reacted negatively?  And if you want to say that the reaction is priced in already, well, then it must have been viewed POSITIVELY, because the Dow is up over the last several weeks, in the time that health care reform revived, and is WAY up since early in Obama's presidency.

Far more likely is that the market thinks that health care reform will not dramatically effect the economy in the short or long run.  Which is probably correct, though I think there will be a LONG term positive effect.  What we can be reasonably sure of is that the market does not see short or medium term sharply negative effects, or we'd see the Dow down 2 or 3 percent, at least. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010


The epochal, hugely historic health care reform measure just passed the House!  Today will, in time, be seen as one of the great legislative days in the history of the United States!  I haven't been this thrilled with anything political in the United States, ever.  Nothing in my lifetime (1970) is even close.

Teddy Roosevelt first proposed universal health care for all.  FDR seriously considered including it in what became Social Security in 1935.  Truman proposed it in the 1940s.  Nixon proposed it in the 1970s.  Nixon was a Republican, as was Teddy Roosevelt.  Clinton, as we all know, proposed it and worked hard on it for a year.  And while what emerges as law in the next week doesn't come especially close to truly universal coverage, it is a huge step forward.  It is also a vital step towards a sane and rational health care system that doesn't cost twice as much per person as France or Germany.

Following a weekend of incredibly high drama, with every vote fought over tooth and nail, and with the outcome in doubt until early this afternoon, just moments ago, the House passed the Senate version of health care reform.  This horribly flawed bill now goes to Obama, who will of course sign it, probably tomorrow.  Passage of the health care reform legislation represents a huge victory for him, as he was, as I said in my post yesterday, all in on Health Care reform.  The amount of effort, time, thought, arm twisting and sheer energy put into this bill by Obama, Nancy, Harry, and so many other very important people will surely be chronicled in best selling books to come, and maybe even a $100 million grossing documentary.  There is a lengthy New York Times article on this point today, which I haven't yet read.

The Senate must now vote on the House fixes to the Senate bill, and will do so via use of reconciliation, which means that it cannot be filibustered, and is guaranteed an up or down vote.  Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) and Dick Durbin (the # 2, and the guy responsible for counting the votes) have very confidently and quite credibly said they have the 50 votes to pass this series of fixes.  If the Senate passes the same set of fixes as the House did earlier today, those fixes will go to Obama for his signature, which again should happen pretty quickly.  The entire health care reform effort of the last year should (finally) be over in less than 5 days.  A year and change of intense effort, following on talks over decades, stretching back to Teddy Roosevelt, albeit with long periods of inaction, has now, for the moment, ended.  A great, great deal of work remains in the coming years, to be sure, but I suspect Congress is going to take a fairly long break from serious health care reform.

We have made huge strides down the long, arduous road towards universal health coverage (and a rational health care system).  This is just a monster win for America, a truly great day for us all, even though a great many Americans can't see that yet.

There is no easy way to measure it, but this bill probably consumed more presidential effort than any since the great Civil Rights Act of 1964.  And it passed.  *whew*.  Now, after the Senate presumably votes to approve the house-approved changes to the original Senate bill (I'm probably going to blogger hell after writing that last sentence) health care reform can get off the front pages and people can see that it doesn't do any of the terrible things that the the GOP says it does.  And so will begin the democrats' and Obama's political rebound.  More on that in a coming post.
Health care will pass tonight

By all press accounts, the suspense is gone.  Nancy has the votes, with several to spare.  The vote on the rules by which debate will proceed, which is an excellent indicator of how the final vote will go, has just been concluded, and it has passed by 224-206, thus with 8 votes to spare.  No republican votes. 

This may well be the exact number that votes for the health care bill in two hours.  I don't know for sure.  In any event, the deed is done, and health care reform will certainly pass in just a few short hours.  WOW.
Dems appear to have the votes

The latest breaking news is that a deal has been reached with Bart Stupak and other pro-life lawmakers for them to vote for the bill.  If true, that would almost certainly cinch the vote for Pelosi.  It now appears upwards of 95% that the House will approve HC reform today!  WOO HOOO!!!
Glued to C-Span

I'm at work, earphones plugged into the computer, with C-Span on in the background.  Maybe that's an indication that I need help.  But I am SO into the upcoming health care vote.  I'm pretty confident that if it passes, both the Senate bill and the fixes, that it will get somewhat more popular with the public in the coming months and years.  There's just not much in it that hurts an ordinary voter.  There just isn't.  And when that sinks in, and when pre-existing conditions go the way of the dodo bird, it will likely become popular.  IF it passes.  And I'll be glued to C-Span.  I'm almost sorry I agreed to go out tonight; I likely won't be able to watch live as the final vote is cast.
Health care reform does not poll well-- so what?

I read a great article about why legislators should be very wary of taking actions based on public polls, particularly regarding complex issues.  I wish I'd written some of this myself.  I didn't-- and I don't think my commentary can improve upon it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Obama's all in

First, in news that just broke moments ago, according to several key democratic members, the House will vote on the Senate bill tomorrow, and not use "Deem and pass." This is a good thing, in my view.

To use a fairly well known poker metaphor, as Andrew has, Obama has moved all of his chips into the middle of the table. He is going all the way with his hand, and he'll either win big or lose big, and very likely we'll know which of these tomorrow. Its better than 80-20 now that he'll win big. It is to his great and everlasting credit, win or lose, that he finally moved all in. It did take him long enough.

A bit of big-picture review. My friend Andrew, who is nearly always right about policy matters, has been bitterly critical of Obama on health care, and not without quite a bit of justification. For example, he was saying about June 2009 that Obama could not, under any circumstances, leave the writing of the Bill to Congress. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi could not be trusted to organize a trip to McDonalds, let alone a hugely complex piece of vital legislation. Reid in particular has seemed weak, the various congress people each had their own agenda, etc. Instead, he was calling on Obama to get in the trenches, write the bill in essence, then allow cosmetic tweaking and try and jam it down Harry and Nancy's throats. I'm the PRESIDENT, Andrew basically wanted Obama to say. I disagreed at the time, saying that giving Congress a few more months of headroom was good politics and made good sense. I think in the fullness of time he was right and I was wrong. Obama WRITING the bill was never in the cards, but he needed to be MUCH more aggressive earlier on. To use poker terminology, Obama was playing a good game of LIMIT poker. In limit poker, your bet sizes are rigidly limited. You either bet the amount you are allowed, or you don't bet at all. You can't move your big stack of chips in the middle and force your opponent to either call or fold. In no limit poker, by contrast, you can (and occasionally do) move all of your chips into the middle.

Obama was making small demands, small shows of strength. In short, he was playing limit poker. Sure he wanted health care reform, of course, but he wasn't exactly setting any presidential effort records to get it. There were set piece speeches and events, but not a consistent, sustained effort.

Then in January, Scott Brown in Massachusetts became the 41st Republican vote in the Senate-- the Democrats could no longer defeat a Republican filibuster with only democratic votes. And no GOP members wanted to play along. Which was very disappointing, but it was clear by about March 2009 that the GOP was going to oppose Obama in lockstep on big things. When John McCain isn't with you on immigration reform, you know the party's gone nuts.

Anyway, after some brief talk of moving onto the economy and not focusing on health care, Harry, Nancy and Obama have been focusing non-stop on it, like a laser beam, for weeks. This in the face of an economy still deeply troubled and with polls showing the health care reform effort deeply unpopular. This is a truly astounding act of political courage by the democrats. Courage and democrats has not often been used in the same sentence in recent years (at least not without the modifier "lacking," or its equivalent) and for good reason. The democrats have by and large taken the easy way out, taking small shots at the GOP, but not frontally attacking their idiocy. In short, the democrats, like Obama, have been playing limit poker.

Well that all changed a few weeks back, beginning publically with the televised summit. In having the summit at all, Obama basically announced that he was moving all in. Enough of this limit crap, he in essence said, I'm playing no limit, and I'm playing for keeps. All in boys and girls. That drastic change in presidential attitude, on behalf of a pretty crappy bill, and in the face of stiff public opposition, tells me that Obama really believes that health care is MONSTER important, and is willing to take gigantic political risks in order to further the great moral and economic cause of serious health care reform. And he deserves great praise, in my view, for moving all in.

Tomorrow, in all likelihood, the final cards will be dealt and we'll see Obama achieve a huge, historic, glorious, hard-earned victory. But it will have been earned only because Obama finally moved all in.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Health Care Reform will likely pass

If I had to guess, the dems will pass it with 3 or 4 votes to spare. 

The fantastic CBO report, indicating that the health care reform bill will cut $138 billion off of the federal deficit in the next 10 years, and much more thereafter, probably sealed the fate of the bill in favor of passage.  This projection by the CBO gives much needed political cover to moderate democrats in districts that voted for McCain (or barely for Obama) that they can run as "smaller government" types while voting for this health care reform effort.

From what the dem leaders are saying this morning, and from yesterday's hugely positive developments, (the CBO projection) it now appears 80-20, at least, that the dems will pass the huge, comprehensive (and rather awful) health care reform package, probably on Sunday.  As my readers know, despite the bill's huge flaws, I consider this a monumental step forward in American history.  Once this bill is fixed up in the coming years (and it may take quite a few years), this achievement will be fully on par with the creation of social security and Medicare in its impact on America. 

There has been a TON of talk about the procedure involved in this latest leg of the health care reform battle.  What is likely going to happen is that the House will pass the Senate bill, unaltered.  This bill has some substantive problems, in addition to the smelly "bribes" needed to get votes 57-60 in order to pass a Republican filibuster.  These include the infamous Nebraska giveaway, the Louisiana Purchase, a special deal for Florida, and more.  Google these phrases for more info.  After the House passes the Senate bill it goes to Obama, who signs it.  It is then law.  Next, the House and Senate will pass identical fixes to the bill, which will proceed through "reconciliation" a procedure in the Senate which precludes the use of a filibuster.  The Democrats thus only need 50 votes (with Biden to break a tie, if needed) and not 60.  This is not a challenge-- it was always getting ALL 60 members of the Senate to vote for a health reform bill that was the problem.  50 is easy.  If that second bill, passed through reconciliation, gets a majority in both chambers IT goes to Obama for signature.  Thus this round of health care reform would (mercifully) end, probably next week.

For Larry, what do I think of deem and pass?  There has been talk, not yet silenced, that rather than the House simply vote on Health Care reform, they would vote on a rule for debate on the reconciliation package which would "deem" the Senate Health Care bill passed if the second reconciliation package passed.  This way the members could "avoid" voting directly for the Senate bill.  Its a sneaky act of political cowardice (the Senate bill itself is very unpopular in the House, and easy to vilify in campaign commercials.), and I don't much like it.  Typical democrat way of doing things-- terrified of their pathetic, idea-less GOP opposition, who ran the country damn near into the ground when they were in power.  A Trillion dollars blown in Iraq, Great Recession, torture, etc.  And Nancy and Harry are afraid of these IDIOTS! 

But do I, in the end, support Deem and Pass?  Yes.  If I was a yes vote in the House, and Nancy told me about this crazy procedure, I'd object.  Strongly.  But if she said, "look there are 5 wavering moderates that don't want to directly cast a vote for HC reform, but would rather use this crazy procedure," I'd be ok with it.  Health care reform is much too important to worry about process.  I will add that using this crazy procedure would almost certainly be a significant political NEGATIVE to those who go along with it.  Think many tens of millions won't be spent on ads saying, "Congresswoman X voted for Obama's health care reform bill and then lied about it?"  Of course they will.  And the ads will be more than a little truthful.

The democrats contend that deem and pass has been used before, and it has, but never for the purpose of avoiding a clear recorded vote on an issue of signficance, let alone an issue of monumental, epochal, country changing significance.   So I don't really like it at all.  But its constitutional, and if they do it, it will stick.

In any event, in the end, who cares?  Health care reform is BY FAR the biggest issue facing America.  I mean BY FAR!!  I actually don't think that can be seriously debated.  Given that, and given that this (seriously flawed) effort represents a very significant first step towards getting rid of the health insurance companies and towards a rational health care system, all other concerns must yield. 




Thursday, March 18, 2010

Israel and settlements

For those that haven't heard, Israel was in the news last week for its insane, idiotic, and counterproductive settlement policies.

Here's the background.  In Israel, Obama is seen as not really pro-Israel.  He dared to make a big speech in Cairo, and for other reasons.  Anyway, Hillary is really liked in Israel on her own merits and because Clinton was and is popular there.  Joe Biden is popular in Israel to those in the know.  Anyway, Biden was there last week, and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  He told him that we weren't happy about proposed settlement expansion plans.  While Biden was in Israel, Netanyahu's Interior Minister, a right-winger from the religious Shas party named Eli Yishai.  What's a bit ironic is that Shas has never been focused on the settlements at all, unlike Likud, but more on that some other day.

The fact that this announcement took place while the US Vice President was in the country caused a stir.  Israel apologized for the timing of the announcement, but not the substance of it.  Admirable honesty.  The only thing admirable about the whole Israeli settlement situation.

Here's my take on settlements.  I HATE them.  I think they are hugely counter to Israel's national security interests (and America's!), as well as being counter to Israel's economic interests.  I think, to quote Thomas Friedman, that the settlement policy is "insane," and has been for many years.

The US has long allowed Israel to go its idiotic way on the settlement issue. Oh, we bleat about and complain, and pound our chest and tut tut, but except briefly under Bush 41, when we threatened to suspend loan guarantees to Israel, we just talk and do nothing about it. Which is what Obama is highly likely to do. Which is why Israel feels free to keep building settlements.  AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), which is by far the largest and most organized Jewish pressure group, is mindlessly pro whatever an Israeli government does, especially a right-wing Israeli government. To AIPAC, its Israel right, wrong, or pro or contra US interests. AIPAC doesn't speak for mainstream American jews on settlements, which many American jews dislike or hate, but there it is.

In the US, there is no gain politically in OPPOSING Israeli settlements.  This was true even before 9-11.  Let's be honest: Who in America loves a Palestinian? An Arab? And AFTER 9-11? Oops.

So we give Israel around $3 billion a year in mostly military hardware, give it all sorts of diplomatic cover and get bitch slapped in return on the settlements. Year after year.  If I were president, they'd be told that if they built so much as one more living room in occupied territories they'd be persona non gratta. We'd pull our ambassador, for good, cut as much aid as congress would let me, stop giving them cover in the UN, and I'd seriously consider selling high tech arms to Egypt and Saudi Arabia (not Iran, obviously).  I'd show them that if you bitch slap the heavyweight champion, you just might get hurt badly. And hey, if I lost reelection? I'm sure I'd do fine on the lecture circuit, the boardroom circuit, etc. That's what a president with chutzpah would do. We're allies, these settlements are insane, and we bitterly oppose them. Build them at your peril.

In return for this admittedly very tough stance, I'd be willing to consider modifying my views somewhat on the final status settlement negotiations. I have, strongly supported Israeli military actions to defend itself, in particular the war against Hezbullah in 2006.  I supported peace talks with the Palestinians when they made sense and opposed them when they did not.  I am HARDLY mindlessly anti-Israel!!!! But on settlements, I am mindlessly anti-settlement, and thus in the minds of some, anti-Israel. The settlements are, by all accounts hugely economically costly, soldiers in huge numbers don't want to be sent to defend them, they cause great diplomatic grief to the US, impede a final settlement, and generally PISS ME OFF.

In a way, I admire what the Israelis do on settlements. They manage to do something hugely: (i) not in their ECONOMIC interests (protecting those settlements is hugely expensive, not to mention building them), (ii) pretty damn clearly not in their SECURITY interests; and (iii) which America, Israel's only real ally in the world, opposes (but does nothing about).  After managing this trifecta, Israel then says, well, we did it, and we still love America.  Israel's got cojones on the settlement issue. Short on brains, painfully short on long term planning, but long on cojones. And that, at least, is worth admiring.

As for Bibi (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), he's reasonably happy that the current Palestinian government has clamped down on the worst of the madness and sees Hamas as its blood enemy. And he'll probably be happy to dribble a few crumbs their way if they continue to "behave."  But after the second intifada and the huge rift with Hamas, there's just no appetite in Israel for renewed grand talks. Even I oppose them, for heaven's sake!

I called in the late 90s on Arafat to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state. I think the idea still holds merit.  Let Israel fight the existence of a newly declared state, born under fire, occupied by an enemy. The irony won't be lost on anyone in the region. It would put the US in a very bad spot, get the Arabs to verbally support it, and very possibly result in some positive (for the Ps) changes on the ground.  I don't really see the downside.  At worst, false hopes are raised and nothing changes, which is probably the most likely outcome.  But a Palestinian state will happen someday, barring some catastrophic disaster, the question is when and what the terms will be.  So starting sooner rather than later is no bad thing in my view, especially with a seemingly responsible coterie of P's in leadership positions in the West Bank.

So much of this could have been written 2 years ago, 5 years ago, or (with a few tense modifications and other tweaks) 15 years ago. We're frozen in time, because both sides are basically frozen in their positions.  Israel proves daily what some deny-- that they are obsessed with settlements for their own sake-- greed-- simple greed (albeit badly misplaced), and faux security concerns (also misplaced).  If the settlements weren't significant to the Israelis, they wouldn't keep building them!  They tend to force moderate P leaders into the arms of the Islamic extremeists, exactly as Begin and others planned, so long ago.  Sad, really.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The March Jobs Report in early April will show at least 150,000 jobs gained

After a series of posts predicting job growth, and having apparently been slightly wrong on timing, I am making a specific, testable prediction for job growth for the current month. I'm predicting that there will be at least 150,000 jobs gained when the government releases the next report on the jobs market in early April. And I wouldn't be overly surprised if the number was over 250,000, a good number in general, and an absolute show stopping blockbuster compared to what has been going on.

I'm finally making a specific prediction because I finally think I know what's going on in the job market. Job growth has already resumed, but slowly. In fact, the other survey that the government conducts, usually considered less reliable, but still useful, shows 850,000 jobs GAINED in the last two months. This is an absolutely astounding number, given that the other survey shows slight job LOSS. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, and closer to the weaker payroll survey. There's virtually no chance we have gained 425,000 jobs per month over the last two months (which would be a rocking strong total). The number of people filing first time claims for unemployment is MUCH too high for a job market boom. But still, these surveys, unless there are just huge problems with them, are telling us something, namely that there is some job growth out there. Which makes sense based on a few other things we think are going on.

February's numbers, depressed by the snow, showed some strength in wages, which implies a somewhat less weak labor market. Several sectors, including federal employment, temporary workers, and manufacturing, showed some strength. Construction was godawful, but that's probably weather related. In any event, construction layoffs have to slow radically in the coming months, or there wouldn't be any construction workers left!

As for March, the weather is currently quite good nationwide, there will be some census workers added (more in April), and there is one more month for banks to begin lending, which from what I have read hasn't started for small businesses yet (large businesses have had no problems getting money for a bunch of months). In short, this is the month where we finally get the positive job growth I've been predicting for months. You'll know as soon as you see the report whether I'm right.

There's little I like more than being right. But if I'm wrong, I'll post and let all of you know why, and what the report really said.

One other thing before I go. If my economic predictions are reasonably right, bonds are going to do VERY poorly over the next year, and stocks VERY well. If you own bonds, sell. Quickly. The Dow Jones index should get up over 12,000 fairly quickly, certainly by the middle of the Summer. 14k will soon follow. And I wouldn't be surprised if 16k or 17k followed soon thereafter. I think the market is pricing in a lasting recovery, but a weak one, that proceeds in fits and starts. In contrast, I am predicting a medium-strong and VERY consistent recovery. Predicting a consistent anything with the US economy is a surefire way to be dead wrong, but I think the amount of stimulus, both fiscal and monetary, is so historically unprecedented, that we will avoid a real slowdown for at least 2 years, and maybe 3. So the rest of 2010 will have somewhere between good and great growth, with good growth in both 2011 and 2012. The fed should begin raising interest rates in about September, very slowly and cautiously at first, and then beginning about March 2011 quite quickly, as the vigor of the recovery becomes clear. The best of the stock market growth should come between now and about June or July 2011. The next 15 months are going to be a historic bull market. For heaven's sake, BUY STOCKS! NOW.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I was right about the coming United States economic recovery. Its here, its real, and its effects have already begun to be felt in the labor market. The current statistics are (slightly) wrong, will be very misleading for February, when the jobs report comes out this Friday, the 5th, but beginning with the VERY NEXT report, due out on April 2, the job growth I have long been predicting (and virtually promising) will be here. Give me 5 more weeks, and then you may judge

While my timing was very slightly off (I had predicted job growth would begin in November, later revised to "by February,") I was, I think, very right in my overall predictions. The economy will add jobs this month (when the figures are reported in early April). North of 125,000. This will herald a long period of time in which the economy is growing, steadily, but not in a boom (say 2.8-4%), and in which we are adding jobs at a rate of circa 200,000 per month. The national unemployment rate, currently 9.7%, will most likely stay between 9.4 and 9.8 % for the next 3-6 months and then begin a long, steady, inexorable drop until it is around 7.4% or so when Obama wins a 41 state reelection landslide in November 2012 running on a strongly recovering economy, which was facing a possible depression when he took office. (See my post of December 20, 2009).The real credit will go to the huge and very creative approach to stimulating the economy taken by Time's 2009 Person of the Year, Ben Bernanke, (likely destined to go own in history as the most successful Fed Chairman of them all for his deft handling of the great financial crisis of 2008-2009), the monster bailouts put through by Paulson (Bush's guy) and Geithner at Treasury, the much loathed TARP rescue of the huge banks (which I always strongly supported) and the stimulus package passed in February 2009, with virtually no Republican vote

Many books will be written about the period of bailout, from late 2008-early 2009, and how they saved the US economy. I think I have outlined these books in various posts, including this one.

Back to the economy.

There have been recent signs of economic weakness which were somewhat surprising. I don't deny this. Nevertheless, I have the courage of my convictions of the above predictions. I know I was a little early in predicting job growth last year, (so sue me!) but it is now here, and in the next several months it will be clear to all.

On Friday the government will report that a lot of jobs were lost in February, probably more than 150,000, a bad number in line with the number of job losses late last year, and not at all in line with my relatively rosy predictions repeated above. But this won't in fact be true. Instead, the awful snowstorms on the eastern seaboard and in the south will have skewed the numbers, particularly in the construction sector. A lot of people will have been furloughed as a result of the bad weather, and thus show up in the statistics as having lost their jobs. Now that March is here and the weather will VERY likely improve sharply, many of these workers will be rehired. When coupled with hiring in the service sector, the beleaguered manufacturing sector (!) and Census workers, the result will be a solid, steady job growth, beginning THIS MONTH, and accelerating in the coming months.

Here is an article neatly summarizing what his going on now-- which is in essence what I predicted months ago would happen in January/February.

This article states that, "private sector employers cut 20,000 jobs in February, the fewest since February 2008, when employment first began to decline." In short, businesses have cut pretty much all the workers they are going to cut as a result of the economic downturn. Home builders realized long ago that they were in a depression (that sector). Large manufacturers have done their cutting and, amazingly, are now ADDING jobs. Ditto the service sector, which was hammered by a monster slowdown in demand for their services in late 2008. That demand is creeping up, slowly, but up, forcing service sector businesses to expand the hours their current employees are working, and to hire new ones, often on a temporary basis, while the business leaders wait and see how demand for their services go.

Another factor which will spur job growth this year is if the logjam breaks in DC over health care (and other issues). Now I don't know if bills will be passed and signed into law, but I do know that by the Summer bills will EITHER pass or be deemed dead until next year. This will provide increased certainty regarding costs of new employees, which will help decision makers decide to add workers. Its not a huge thing in my opinion, but it will register.

The upshot? My predictions were right, I am reaffirming them, and in early April, when the jobs report for March comes out, you'll all see that I was right.

I know I said I'd donate $100 to Sarah Palin if we didn't have a month of 75,000 job growth by February 2010. That will not come to pass in the official numbers, but I think they are wrong, and there is evidence in the unemployment survey to support my view. Look, I am paying off under the spirit of my promise, not the letter. If we still haven't gained significant jobs by April of this year, I'll pay off. Give me a few months to go through coming data and see if I may have in fact been right but for the February snowstorms. If not, I'll pay up.