Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 4 May 16

The nation’s international trade deficit fell to $-40.4 billion, but the month’s -3.6% drop in imports may signal falling demand.

Non-farm productivity fell an annualized -1.0% in the 1st Quarter of 2016, while unit labor costs rose 4.1%.

The ADP Employment Report estimates that only 156,000 private sector jobs were created in April.

Factory orders rose a solid 1.1% in March, following a downwardly revised -1.9% decline in February. 

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index fell -2 points to 30 in April.

The PMI Services Index rose 1.5 points to 52.8 in April. Similarly, the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index rose 1.2 points to 55.7.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -3.4% last week, with purchases up 1.0% but refis down -6.0%.


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Venezuela: How bad is it?

It’s bad:

Despite breathless coverage of Venezuela’s vanishing supply of condomstoilet paper, and beer, perhaps the country’s most debilitating shortage has been that of food, which appears to be a motivating factor for growing antigovernment sentiment.

“I want the recall because I don’t have food,” one woman told the Venezuelan commentary site Contrapunto, referring to a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro that has so far reportedly drawn more than a million signatures in support.

“We want out of this agony — there is too much need in the streets,” another woman told Contrapunto. “We have much pressure because there is no food and every day we have to ask ourselves what we are going to eat.”

Many families have been reduced to one meal a day.  In a verdant and rich country, this is what socialism has brought them too.

And the idiocracy in charge?  Well, they’re reduced to abjectly stupid moves like this in an attempt to forestall the inevitable:

To try to shore up wages, Maduro on Sunday announced a 30% minimum-wage increase, which comes after a 25% hike on March 1 and is the 33rd wage boost since 1999. Beginning this month, workers and pensioners will earn 15,051 bolivars a month — only about $13, based on the black-market conversion rate, according to El País.

That amount may become even more paltry. Venezuela’s inflation rate in 2015 was 180.9%, according to the central bank, and the International Monetary Fund expects inflation in the country to reach 720% this year.

The acquisition of food has become the primary function of Venezuelans:

“I have to leave the house at 5 a.m., facing the risk of being killed, to stand in line all day and only buy two or three products,” Jhonny Mendez said.

Do yourself a favor and look through the pictures of the amount of food several families have in their house in a day that accompany the above article..  

What has happened in Venezuela is criminal … there’s no other word for it.  Chavez was a criminal and his henchman now in charge is also a criminal.  What they’ve done to that country is unforgivable.  And it was all predictable … in fact, it was predicted.  I also have a feeling it isn’t going to end well:

Meanwhile, the return El Niño, a cyclical weather phenomenon, leads to widespread power outages across the country as the authorities’ incompetence and corruption are laid bare. 76 percent of Venezuelans have fallen into poverty and 13 percent eat only twice a day. Maduro’s government is rejected by 85 percent of the population.

Looting last week was contained but the Governor of Lara, Henri Falcón, a former Chavista, noted that “this is a thousand times worse than the reasons that led to the ‘Caracazo.’” He added that, at any moment, the political, social and economic crisis may lead to a conflict of incalculable consequences.

~McQ

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“Pawternity” leave the next goal of the entitled generation

It seems, this week, that I’m all about proving Shark’s point that “every time I think we’ve reached peak stupid, something new comes along to prove me wrong.”  Well here you go, Shark, the shot:

Bringing my adopted cat, Jameson, home with me in 2014 was one of the happiest days of my life.

Having to go back to work two days later was one of the worst.

While the rest of the country is hung up on the necessity of maternity leave — or even the newly coined “meternity” — one group continues to be overlooked when it comes to paid time off from work: new pet owners.

“Paw-ternity” leave is already a reality in the UK — the US pet-insurance provider Petplan found that nearly 5 percent of new pet owners in the UK were offered time off to care for their four-legged kids. (Not surprisingly, the UK is also light-years ahead of the US when it comes to maternity leave, offering up to 39 weeks of paid leave for new mothers.)

It’s time for the US to hop aboard the “paw-ternity” train. It’s not just because I want to stay home and cuddle on the couch with my new feline (which I do). When I adopted Jameson, he was 6 years old and had spent the previous year of his life in an animal shelter. He was suffering from several health problems after being neglected by his previous owner — and was skittish, nervous and uncertain about why he was suddenly being transported to a strange new home.

And the chaser:

Many pet experts agree that new pet owners should try their best to clear their schedule for the first few days following a new animal’s arrival. Not only can pets benefit from the comfort of being cared for by a loving parent after spending time in an animal shelter, but they require attention to be properly housebroken and trained so they don’t become a public nuisance.

Dear silly young woman who seems to think her choices should be paid for by others.  If you want to stay home with your new pet, companies have a thing called “vacation days.” You might have heard of them.  That’s right, you’re paid and everything.  And it isn’t like you can’t plan this sort of thing out.  You know, “hey, I have 10 days of vacation saved and I want a new pet – perfect, I’ll take vacation and stay home with it”.   Then you can housebreak the little nipper and prevent it from becoming a public nuisance at the same time.  See how that works?

What doesn’t work is this sort of demand that others take up the slack and pay your for time off just because you’ve made a choice that has absolutely nothing to do with them or your work.

But we all know the real bottom line here.  The equating of pets with children gives the entrée into demanding the same sort of treatment that new mothers get.  Because, you know, going to the pet store and pointing to a cat in a cage is just the same as carrying a baby for 9 months and then bearing the child.  So let’s face the truth.  You want time with your pet but you don’t want to spend your vacation days to do that.

What does that make you?  Well mostly a spoiled and entitled child who will one day live in a ramshackle house with 100 cats, living on a pittance of Social Security (because you had difficulty holding on to work) and rail against the world for not giving you the time you demanded when you only had one.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 2 May 16

The PMI Manufacturing Index for April fell -0.7 points to a barely-positive 50.8.

Construction spending rose 0.3% in March, and is up 8.0% on a year-over-year basis.

Right in line with the PMI Index, the ISM Manufacturing index dropped -1.0 point in April to 50.8.

Gallup’s US Consumer Spending Measure for April reports that Americans’ self-reported daily spending rose $6 to $95.


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Government hands out license to kill to favored industry

One of the important economic truths we who pay attention to markets have learned is the government should never be involved in picking economic winners and losers.  It’s doomed to failure and it is even more doomed when driven by politics – which usually ignores reality for utopian visions they try to pay for with your money.

The recent utopian dream shared by the left and our leftists in government has been “clean energy”.  Like wind turbines and solar.  Why?  Well it would help create a much more clean and healthy environment where the birds and bees and flowers and trees would all be much happier.  And, after all, it is our responsibility to take the necessary steps to protect our wildlife.

You mean, like birds, right?

According to a study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, every year 573,000 birds (including 83,000 raptors) and 888,000 bats are killed by wind turbines — 30 percent higher than the federal government estimated in 2009, due mainly to increasing wind power capacity across the nation.[i] This is likely an underestimate because these estimates were based on 51,630 megawatts of installed wind capacity in the United States in 2012 and wind capacity has grown since then to 65,879 megawatts. And, at one solar power plant in California, an estimated 3,500 birds died in just the plant’s first year of operation.[ii]

Oh wait, that’s not supposed to happen!  And when it does, don’t the leftist environmental groups go batsh*t crazy (no pun intended).

I mean look how they were when oil was the culprit killing birds:

Over the past five years, about 2.9 million birds were killed by wind turbines. That compares to about 800,000 birds that a Mother Jones Blog estimated to have been killed by the BP oil spill that occurred in April 2010[iii]—5 years ago–despite not all of them showing visible signs of oil.[1] Nevertheless, BP was fined $100 million for killing and harming migratory birds due to that oil spill. In comparison, the nation’s wind turbines killed more than 3 times the number of birds than did the BP oil spill over the past 5 years. And, wind turbines routinely kill federally protected birds and eagles.

Why I’m sure there have been protests and all by environmentalists haven’t there?  And media coverage!  I mean I remember watching hours of oil soaked bird footage on CNN and the other networks.  Where’s the outrage?  And where is the fines for this gross violation of all the leftist environmentalists hold sacred?  Why isn’t the federal government stepping in and doing something?

Oh, they did?  Boy, did they:

The Obama Administration on December 9, 2013, finalized a regulation that allows wind energy companies and others to obtain 30-year permits to kill eagles without prosecution by the federal government. The American Bird Conservancy filed suit in federal court against the Department of the Interior, charging it with multiple violations of federal law. [viii] Nonetheless, the Shiloh IV Wind Project in California, for example, received a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowing it to kill eagles, hawks, peregrine falcons, owls and songs birds while not being subjected to the normal prohibitions afforded under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Treaty Act.[ix]

Now that, my friends, is truly outrageous.  Different standards for different industries – one fined at the first ruffled feather because it is the unfavored industry, and the other given a license to slaughter what we all believed to be “protected species”.

Your government at work, picking winners and losers and excusing the winners from adhering to the law.  Special treatment.  Is that equal treatment under the law?

Well of course not … but it is how banana republics do things.

~McQ

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If you like your pistol, you can keep it.

From the same bozo and administration that brought you the highly successful health care insurance scam, I mean plan, now we’re talking about spending tax dollars, your tax dollars, on ‘smart’ guns, uh, for government agencies only though.

The general idea being that if we give cops and DHS and the Army smart guns ‘accidental’ discharges from the ‘unauthorized use’ of   weapons will be reduced.

“These common-sense steps are not going to prevent every tragedy, but what if they prevented even one?”

We’re not doing things for the children any more, now we do things to prevent just one tragedy.

What a pity President bozo and his Secretary of State, madam un-indicted felon didn’t take action to prevent 4 tragedies on September 11, 2012 in Libya huh?

But I digress.

So we’ll dump money, your money, my money, into studies, and subsidize spending on weapons systems and methodologies that allow a firearm to identify the owner before it can be fired.  All sounds like a great idea, who doesn’t want little kids not to get shot, or pets, or whoever gets shot that didn’t sorta deserve to be shot.    How could anyone be against that, right?

Note the usual caveats here – it’s only for government agencies or military weapon purchases and it’s just studies and developing the technology, etc.   So, no fear, they’re not coming for your weapons ‘Merica, nope nope nope.

I wasn’t aware that there were a large number of accidental discharges by military, national, state and local firearm carrying authorities that were causing tragedies, or is there news I’m missing?

Let’s get real shall we?  The study is just the foot in the door that allows the salesmen to develop and sell us the technology, and the weapons, which, I’m sure, will be dirt cheap dontchaknow.  And it’s probably not just pistols we’re talking about here, assume it’s all types of fire arms because unauthorized and accidental discharges have gotta be stopped and since crazy Americans won’t give up their guns, we can at least make them safer, right?

Assume for the moment they are successful.  Certainly not going to happen under bozo’s administration, but it’s a path to be followed, and probably will continue after he’s left office, because this is government, and studies are studies, and hey, it’s not their money so who cares if they drop millions on it.  Chevy Volt owners might buy one if we give them a $7500 tax credit.   And it’s not like we’re going to ask for the money back from the people who we gave the grants or subsidies to, because that’s not how it works.

Alas, there’s only about 357 million problems with this plan.  That would be the current number of weapons in the hands of American citizens that don’ t use this technology.

Believe me, they’ll want you to understand right up front, you’ll still be able to hang on to granddad’s vaunted Colt 1911 even if it means that we might not prevent a tragedy until those old crappy low tech weapons are finally off the street sometime in the far future.  Maybe they’ll even allow you to trade your old junkers straight up for flashy new electrical ones!

Yeah I’m sure, no one will write any laws or regulations that will make the old weapons illegal once they create this cool technology, and make it practical, and workable, and maybe even affordable.

Sure.  If you like your old weapons, you’ll still be able to keep them.

You can trust Barack, right?

 

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Economic Statistics for 28 Apr 16

The initial estimate for 1st Quarter 2016 GDP came in at a lower-than-expected annualized rate of 0.5%. The GDP price index rose 0.7%.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index rose 2 points to a still-negative -4.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 9,000 to 257,000. The 4-week average fell 4,750 to 256,000, the lowest in 42 years. Continuing claims fell 5,000 to 2.130 million which is the lowest in 16 years.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.5 points to 43.4.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $15.5 billion last week, with total assets of $4.475 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-7.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $16.1 billion in the latest week.


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Guns rob attackers of their “right to a fair trial”. No. Really.

Yesterday, the Shark said: “Every time I think we’ve reached peak stupid, something new comes along to prove me wrong.”  Well, to prove Shark’s point, I found this:

The Second Amendment is highly contested. There is no doubt that people do have the right to carry and have a stockpile of guns (“the right of the people to keep and bear arms”) and a state has the right to organize a well-regulated Militia. But, the main issue is on the right to self-defend with a firearm.

The main problem with the notion of self-defense is it imposes on justice, for everyone has the right for a fair trial. Therefore, using a firearm to defend oneself is not legal because if the attacker is killed, he or she is devoid of his or her rights.

To say this is probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read would be an  understatement.  It is certainly an indicator of how far the left will go in it’s “reasoning” to deny you the use of a gun and your basic right to self-defense.  I said “basic” but self-defense is indeed an inherent right.  You need no one’s permission to exercise it because you own your life and without protecting it, you would obviously cease to exist.

That apparently is lost on this statist rube.  Let’s lay this out a little differently.  This Huffington Post writer is attempting to persuade you that a civil right (an actual societal construct applicable only to a particular society) is somehow superior to an inherent right (a right that is yours without anyone or anything granting it.   It is your existence and its requirements for survival that “grant” it.  The right is applicable to all mankind without exception. It can be violated, but it can’t be taken away.).  We have an idiot here who claims that if you defend yourself your action “imposes on justice”?

Wtf?  Your action, especially if you successfully defend yourself, IS justice!  And how you do it or with what is irrelevant!  Gun?  Knife?  Crowbar?  Throat punch?  Each and every one of those may “impose on justice”, as he defines it and is your right.  But this dolt tries to sell that as a primary reason to restrict the ownership of guns.  Only cops should have guns and you should defer your “self-defense” to them!

This is a person that has no concept of inherent rights, what they mean and why they’re necessary.  So he writes slop like this!  And it gets worse as his “reasoning” stays in the ditch and hits a concrete culvert several times.  No airbags deployed because his ideas weren’t worth spit to begin with and certainly not worth saving.

So Shark … suck it up bud.  We’re not even close to “peak” stupidity.  The stupid machine keeps on churning and the manure keeps on plopping out.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 27 Apr 17

Stating that the economy “appears to have slowed” and household spending has moderated, The Federal Open Markets Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged, with a Fed Funds target rate of 0.25-0.50%.

The NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index rose 1.4% in March to 110.5.

March’s international trade deficit narrowed by a sharp -9.5% to $-56.9 billion, with exports down -1.7%, and imports plunging by -4.4%. Consumer goods imports fell -9.1%, indicating decreasing consumer demand.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -4.1% last week, with purchases down -2.0% and refis down -5.0%.


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