Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

So, how IS the economy doing?

Dale keeps you abreast of the daily numbers and if you even glance at them semi-regularly, you know they’re not particularly good.

So how have we been doing lately economically?  Well, a little historical context might help:

In the 138 years from 1870 to 2008, the US economy expanded by about an average of 3% a year. After the revisions to GDP data from 2012-2014, we see that the U.S. economy since the financial crisis has been growing an average of 2.0% a year versus the earlier 2.3%. The difference between 3% and 2% may not sound like much, but think of it this way:

At a 3% growth rate the economy doubles in about 24 years.
At a 2% growth rate the economy doubles in about 36 years – 50% MORE time!

And don’t forget, while the government tries to sell you on 2% being the new norm (and you should like it), much of the recent GDP results have involved huge government spending.  So it is actually worse than the 2%.

Here’s a fairly interesting bottom line:

Today there are 136 people receiving some sort of government benefit for every 100 people employed in the private sector.

That can’t go on indefinitely.  Greece and Puerto Rico have already demonstrated that.  And, although it isn’t the only factor leading to this economic demise, it certainly is one of them.

You see, math and reality don’t bow to ideology and fantasy.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Aug 15

July motor vehicle sales came in at a stronger than expected 3.2% increase to a 17.6 million annual rate. Sales of North American-made vehicles rose 5.2% to a 14.2 million annual rate.

Personal income rose 0.4% in June, while consumer spending rose 0.2%. The PCE Price Index, an inflation measure, rose 0.2% overall, and 0.1% less food and energy. On a year-over-year basis, personal income rose 4.1%, consumer spending rose 3.4%, and the price index rose 0.3% overall, and 1.3% at the core.

Gallup’s US Consumer Spending Measure shows that Americans report spending an average of $91 per day in July, little changed from June’s $90.

The ISM Manufacturing Index slipped -0.8 points in July to a lower-than-expected 52.7. In contrast, the PMI Manufacturing index rose 0.2 points to 53.8.

Construction spending inched only 0.1% higher in June, mainly due to a -1.3% drop in non-residential private construction. On a year-over-year basis, Construction spending is up by 12.0%.


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Hiroshima

In a few days the usual “outrage” for the “war crime” of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima will begin to wend its way around the world.

That narrative grows stronger each year – mostly because of the death of the generation that fought the war in the Pacific and because the narrative continues to be fueled by a need for moral preening and fact free opinion that doesn’t ever seem to die out.

My father was one of those who fought through the Pacific war.  His bonafides were Saipan, Leyte and Okinawa.  He was a recon guy.  And following Okinawa, his next job was going to be the recon of the landing sites on Kyushu, the big southernmost island on what was considered the Japanese “mainland”.  Operation Downfall.  To be opposed by the Japanese “Ketsu Go” in defense of the Japanese home.

My dad never talked much about the war, but I remember the first time I brought up Hiroshima and the bomb and how many people it killed.  He didn’t waste much time on niceties, but turned his hard eyes on me and said, to both me and my two brothers, “if we hadn’t dropped that bomb, you and your bothers wouldn’t be here.  And a lot of your friends wouldn’t be here.  Because I wouldn’t have come back from the war and neither would have their dads.”

That was it.  He had no sympathy for the apologists.  He felt they were making their case in a contextless and ignorant way.  They didn’t know the facts, they hadn’t fought the enemy all the way across the Pacific and they hadn’t the foggiest notion of the mind of the enemy he had fought.  So he dismissed their criticism out of hand.

Bill Whittle had a similar experience as you’ll see in this video.  What Whittle does, however, is muster facts to make the argument that backed what my Dad had said all those many years ago.  He points out why it was both necessary and prudent to do what was done and how, in the end, it probably saved literally millions of lives.

Watch it.  Understand why Jon Stewart, who is featured in the video, is essentially ignorant and, frankly, stupid when he calls Harry Truman a “war criminal”.  And when the anniversary of this comes around on August 6th, be armed with these facts and do the generation that is all but gone a favor – dispute those that are historically ignorant and feel the urge to do a little moral preening to the detriment of those that fought and won that war.

Don’t let them get away with their moral preening and don’t let them ignore the facts for the narrative.  The decision to drop these bombs was hard, but it was right.  And it is the sort of decision none of those who stroke their own vanity by claiming the moral superiority of the present have ever or will ever be called upon to make.

All I have to day is “thank you” to those who made this tough but just decision.

Thank you for my life.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 31 Jul 15

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for July unexpectedly softened to 93.1 from the mid-month flash of 93.3.

The 2nd Quarter Employment Cost Index plummeted to 0.2%, the lowest in 33 years. Year-on-year, the ECI fell -0.6% to 2.0%, a near-historical low.

The Chicago PMI jumped back into positive territory in July, rising from 49.4 to 54.7.


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Property and privacy rights? Or drone rights?

Interesting story:

A Kentucky man shot down an $1,800 drone hovering over his sunbathing daughter and was then arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief and first-degree wanton endangerment.

“My daughter comes in and says, ‘Dad, there’s a drone out here flying,’ ” William H. Merideth, 47, told a local Fox News affiliate reported Tuesday. The Bullitt County father shot at the drone, which crashed in a field near his yard Sunday night.

The owner of the drone claims he was only trying to take pictures of a friend’s house, the station reported.

“I went and got my shotgun and I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything unless it’s directly over my property,’ ” Mr. Merideth said, noting that the drone briefly disappeared when his daughter waved it off. “Within a minute or so, here it came. It was hovering over top of my property, and I shot it out of the sky. I didn’t shoot across the road, I didn’t shoot across my neighbor’s fences, I shot directly into the air.”

Most people would say, “good for him”.  He felt his privacy and property rights were being violated by some possible peeping Tom and he took action to protect both.  As he says, he “didn’t shoot across the road, I didn’t shoot across my neighbor’s fences, I shot directly into the air.”

He had a good, sound reason to take action:

“He didn’t just fly over,” he said. “If he had been moving and just kept moving, that would have been one thing — but when he come directly over our heads, and just hovered there, I felt like I had the right.”

“You know, when you’re in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy,” he said. “We don’t know if he was looking at the girls. We don’t know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing.”

Exactly.  The unknown, coupled with the concerns plus the fact that the drone was purposely and repeatedly being flown where it had no permission to fly, prompted Merideth to action.  And he removed the possible threat.

End of story?

Hardly.  The 4 people who were engaged in flying and hovering the drone over his property showed up to confront him.  Then the police showed up.  Who got arrested?  Well the property owner, of course.

As Scott Shackford of Hit & Run points out:

You’d think it would be obvious that it’s not a good idea to pilot an expensive piece of surveillance equipment just casually over other people’s properties, not just out of respect for other people’s privacy, but because you could lose the thing.

You’d think.  But instead it is the man who was guarding both is privacy and his property rights who ends up going to jail.  Apparently his expectation of privacy and his property rights concerning trespass weren’t enough to save him from catching a ride in the police van.

Tell me again about our “Constitutional rights” to both privacy and property?  Apparently drone’s trump them.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 30 Jul 15

The nation’s long period of below-trend economic growth extends into its sixth year. 2Q GDP was only 2.3% annualized. The GDP Price Index is also restrained once again, at 2.0% annualized.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 12,000 to 267,000. The 4-week average fell 3,750 to 274,750. Continuing claims fell 1,000 to 2.255 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell a steep -1.9 points lower to 40.5 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-15.0 billion last week, with total assets of $4.486 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-4.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $18.3 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 29 Jul 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 0.8% last week, with purchases down -0.1% and refis up 2.0%.

The Pending Home Sales index unexpectedly fell a sharp -1.8% in June, to 110.3. Analysts expected a 0.4% increase.

The Fed took no interest rate action at the today’s FOMC meeting and saw no change in the pace of “moderate” economic growth. 


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Sanders gets one right … kinda

Ezra Klein of Vox interviews Bernie Sanders.  Meh.  Nothing particularly newsworthy there.  But in the process of this softball interview, the question of immigration comes up.  Read the exchange:

Ezra Klein

You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. I think if you take global poverty that seriously, it leads you to conclusions that in the US are considered out of political bounds. Things like sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders. About sharply increasing …

Bernie Sanders

Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.

Ezra Klein

Really?

Bernie Sanders

Of course. That’s a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. …

Ezra Klein

But it would make …

Bernie Sanders

Excuse me …

Ezra Klein

It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn’t it?

Bernie Sanders

It would make everybody in America poorer —you’re doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don’t think there’s any country in the world that believes in that. If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or UK or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you’re a white high school graduate, it’s 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?

I think from a moral responsibility we’ve got to work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty, but you don’t do that by making people in this country even poorer.

OK, you can quit laughing now.  Klein caught flat footed and gasping.  Sanders echoes exactly what the right has been saying while at the same time trying to put the blame on … the right.

Yeah, no sale Bernie, but the rest?  Right on.  Nailed it.  Oh, and about that $15 minimum wage … yeah, you just killed it.

In reality Bernie likens businesses who want cheap labor with the “right wing”.   Hardly true but for many on the left, business = “right wing”.

However, to categorically call “open borders” a “right-wing” idea is simply absurd.  It certainly isn’t the right in this country pushing for amnesty and open-borders (well, except for some establishment GOP types).  It isn’t the right-wing that has established sanctuary cities.  And it definitely isn’t a right-wing federal administration refusing to enforce immigration laws.

But you all knew that.

So what is Bernie telling us with all this nation-state talk?  That maybe, its really a form of “national socialism” he prefers?

Oh, wait …

McQ

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Economic Statistics for 28 Jul 15

The S&P Case-Shiller  Home Price Index fell -0.2% in May, catching analysts by surprise. The Index is up 4.9% on a year-ago basis.

July’s PMI Services Flash reading is up 0.4 points from the June final, coming in at 55.2.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell sharply lower in July, falling to 90.9 from 101.4 in June.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index for July came in above analysts’ expectations, rising 7 points to a reading of 13.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index for July fell sharply to 114.6 from June’s unusually high reading of 127.0.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales continued to fall, down to 1.0% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.2%.


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Hillary’s renewable energy plan

As you’ll see it’s as unachievable and utopian as all the other “clean energy” plans we’ve heard.  In fact, IBD calls it a “farce”.  And rightfully so.

Why?  Well here are the basics:

Clinton says she has two big goals that she’ll start working on “day one” to combat climate change. First is to expand solar energy supplies by 700% by installing half a billion solar panels by 2020. Second is to power “every home in America” with renewable energy by 2027.

She describes these as “bold national goals.” The more appropriate label is “expensive pipe dream.”

Again, the latter description is more apt.  Consider the goal of half a billion solar panels by 2020.  That’s 5 years from now, folks.  We all know that solar panels are a) expensive and b) don’t live up to their billing as to making us energy independent (well unless we are willing to carpet every sun touched surface on our house and property with them).  So how will she accomplish this goal?  Well, with your tax dollars (or borrowing) of course.  Subsides, tax credits, outright grants, subsides to solar panel manufacturing and big government projects that install millions of panels in desert areas (Environmental impact? Only pipelines have that.).

My goodness, haven’t we done this before?  And what’s that popular definition of “insanity”?

Also consider that perhaps the cleanest renewable energy, one that has contributed most to the use of renewable energy, is hydroelectric energy (46%).  That source has been in decline due to pressure from environmental groups.  We have less hydroelectric power now than we did in 2000.  And that trend is likely to continue.

Biomass comes in second (9%) and is also in disfavor with environmental groups (greenhouse gasses).

That leaves three “renewable” sources – geothermal, solar and wind.  Between the three, they currently contribute just “6.7% of the nation’s electricity capacity, according to the Energy Department.”  In total, we have about 15% of our energy from all renewable sources.  So you get an idea of how small the contribution of these three really are.

While Clinton didn’t say much about the other two, wind is a favorite of the renewable energy crowd.  The problem with both wind and solar is the usual – powerful environmental groups oppose both.  Especially groups concerned with the negative impact on wildlife they’ve demonstrated.  It is no secret that both wind installations and large solar instillations are abattoirs for wildlife, especially birds.

So how likely is a President Clinton to see this bit of campaign positioning come to fruition?  Well thankfully not very. It’s a slapdash bit of campaign nonsense. It is pure pandering with no hope of realization.  It is the usual political campaign “policy” making that is all talk with no walk.  It has no possibility of being realized and is just thrown out there to feed the base and keep them happy.  It is the underpants gnomes in action.

It doesn’t even stand up to casual scrutiny.  But don’t worry, her base has no reason for even casual scrutiny.  If she said it, they believe it and that ends it.

Meanwhile, upon finishing her delivery of this devilish clever energy plan, she boarded her private jet and smoked off to her next destination.

~McQ

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