Commentary

 The latest ranking of contractors providing services to the federal government reveals that at least nine of the top 10 are tied to the Department of Defense and took in nearly $70 billion of the government’s money in 2010. Leading the pack as it has for the past 17 years is Lockheed Martin, with $17 billion, followed by Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.

 The recent attempt to terminate both the ethanol subsidies of $.45 a gallon and the $.54-per-gallon import tariff on Brazilian sugar-based ethanol by the Senate failed because it was an amendment attached to a bill that was doomed to failure anyway. Both will cease on December 31 automatically, ending 33 years of subsidizing the ethanol industry; however, food prices are likely to stay high anyway.

While the private-sector is drowning under a perpetual recessionary storm, U.S. regulatory agencies are flourishing. "If the federal government’s regulatory operation were a business, it would be one of the 50 biggest in the country in terms of revenues, and the third largest in terms of employees, with more people working for it than McDonald’s, Ford, Disney and Boeing combined," writes John Merline of Investors.com.

 Warren Buffett (left), better known as the Oracle of Omaha, earned $40 million last year and paid $7 million of it in taxes. But in his editorial in the New York Times on Sunday, he claimed that he doesn’t think he’s paying enough, and neither are his friends. So he’s asking the SuperCommittee to stop “coddling” him and his friends, and raise their taxes as part of the deficit reduction scheme they are hatching.

Finally, some good news about the economy, from an unlikely place: North Dakota. CNNMoney reported that while the United States' economy grew at less than 3 percent last year, North Dakota’s grew by more than 7 percent. And with national unemployment over 9 percent, in North Dakota it is just over 3 percent (and hasn’t touched 5 percent there in more than 20 years).

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