Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: November 30, 2011


The “Gimme Generation”

I‘ve mentioned before about the seemingly unbridgeable ideological divide confronting our federal representatives in Washington, DC. This seems to be a generational version of the same thing (my emphasis):

Young folks today appear to have the same dreams and ambitions that my generation had at the same age. We wanted an education, a good career, a home of our own and a happy life. The main difference between today’s youthful opinion is that most of us expected to stay in school, work hard and earn a good life instead of having it given to us at someone else’s expense — a point of view expressed by many young adults today.

Proof of the pudding showed up this fall in a survey conducted by Professor Jack W. Chambless at Valencia College in Florida. He asked his students to write a short essay expressing their view of The American Dream.

Most of the students responded with the familiar notions of youth expressed by my generation with one important and notable exception. Instead of taking personal responsibility for their future, they noted that the government should, “Pay my tuition, provide me with a job, give me money for a house, make sure I get free health care and pay for my retirement.” If necessary, “… raise taxes on rich people so that I can have more money …”

What else would you expect from young Americans, who, after several generations, have grown accustomed to a “Nanny State” in which the Federal Government has taken more and more license with the lives of individual Americans? This entire process has resulted in a citizenry in which one-half of wage earners pay no income tax at all and, indeed, in some cases even get a “refund” even though that refund comes from one of the other half of Americans who have paid income tax. If this is not a prime Marxist example of government, “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need,” I don’t know what is.

In fact, according to clip below, 80% of the students opined that health care, tuition, down payments and jobs should all be provided by the government at no cost to themselves. And, while this certainly isn’t a scientific poll or anything even approaching the sort, it should be noted that this was from a class of 200 college kids. So, at least 160 of them thought this way. Which is more than just pathetic and sad. It’s a harbinger of terrible things to come.

I truly pray that Valencia College has cornered the market on freeloaders, thus making this a terribly skewed sample. Or maybe the students surveyed are just a bunch of smart-asses having fun with their professor. Indeed, I’m sure that something far less than 8 in 10 college students believes that government should just provide for their every want and desire, paying for out of the pockets of the “rich” if need be (one wonders where they think all these goodies originate?).

But the number doesn’t really need to be all that high before serious issues arise. If, instead, the number is only 20% (or 1 in 5), that would be better, but still alarming. Consider that if 20% of the electorate feels this way, and that the remaining 80% are diametrically opposed on almost every issue, then pleasing that smaller cohort becomes the key to political victory. In short, giving free stuff to the 20% in exchange for their votes. Which is not at all unlike what we have now.

Of course if that number is higher that 1 in 5, the problem becomes much worse. At least, until they run out of other people’s money.

You can see a video of an interview with the professor who conducted the survey here.


Economic Statistics for 30 Nov 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that mortgage applications were down by -11.7%, but the short Thanksgiving week clouds the significance of this week’s results. Delving deeper into the report shows new purchase applications were down -0.8% while refinance apps fell -15.3%.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report shows layoff announcements are fairly steady this month at 42,474 compared to 42,759 in October and 48,711 last year.

ADP, the country’s largest third-party payroll processor, estimates private payrolls rose 206,000 in November. We’ll see if Friday’s Employment Situation confirms that.

3Q productivity and costs were revised downward slightly, with productivity increasing at 2.3% annually, while labor costs fell -2.5%. This is pretty much in line with the GDP revision for 3Q.

The Chicago PMI indicates a pickup in business activity for the Chicago area, with the index rising to 62.6 from 58.4. This report is widely seen as a predictor of the national PMI, which will be released tomorrow.

The National Association of Realtors reports their pending home sales index rose to 93.3 from 84.5.

~
Dale Franks
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“Kicking the can” in a cul de sac

Or maybe a better analogy is Nero and Rome.  Politicians and hard decisions just don’t seem to mix very well do they?  It is much better to be Santa Clause than the Grinch.  Especially if you want politics to be your career.

Maybe that’s the problem.  If you remember correctly, at least in the US, politics was supposed to be a part-time job.  But here as in Europe, it has developed into a full-time job that requires excessive pandering to special interest groups using taxpayer money and borrowing as the means.

And here we are.

In Europe, it has, as predicted for decades, finally reached a tipping point.  And the political elite?   They really have no idea how to handle the problem (and the same sort of problem is becoming evident here).  So they resort to the usual reaction of politicians caught in an uncomfortable situation.  Defer a decision:

Under pressure to deliver shock treatment to the ailing euro, European finance ministers failed to come up with a plan for European countries to spend within their means. Such a plan is needed before Europe’s central bank and the International Monetary Fund consider stepping in to stem an escalating threat to the global economy.

The ministers delayed action on major financial issues – such as the concept of a closer fiscal union that would guarantee more budgetary discipline – until their bosses meet next week in Brussels.

If their finance ministers can’t put together a plan of action, what in the world are the ministers going to do next week?  Megan McArdle notices the can kicking as well and also recognizes that they’re doing that in a cul de sac:

Keeping the euro together requires much more than fiscal integration–all fiscal integration does is turn the peripheral countries into something like those Algerian ghettos ringing Paris.  Actually correcting these imbalances is going to require a lot of people in the periphery to get up and move.  That’s a really tall order.  Despite the fabled European multi-lingualism, in my experience, the majority of workers speak English about like I spoke high-school French and college Spanish; well enough to go on vacation, but not well enough to enjoy living in another country.  I’m told that this is about standard.  And that’s just one of the many barriers to movement between countries.

It’s not just the Germans who have to ask themselves whether the PIIGS won’t eventually say "Enough!" and renege.  The bond buyers have to ask the same thing.  At this point, it’s not entirely clear to me that any solution is credible enough to kick the can more than a very short distance down the road.

McArdle’s question in the title of the piece is “How can Europe possibly save itself?” You could read the question two ways.  The first is wondering out loud what Europe could do to fix the problem and solve the dilemma they’re in.  The second is rhetorical and reflecting a belief that it can’t.

Given this latest deferral, I’m beginning to see the question as rhetorical and the result as catastrophic.  If you want to see a real “Domino Effect”, let Europe collapse.

Oh, and by the way, they just downgraded the third quarter GDP estimate from 3.1% to 2.3%

And that sound you hear?   The can clinking along as politicians the world over do what they do best.

MICHAEL ADDS: You could actually read the question a third way: Who will step in to save Europe from itself? Why, none other than good ole Uncle Sam (aka we the taxpayers):

The Federal Open Market Committee has authorized an extension of the existing temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap arrangements with the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, and the Swiss National Bank through February 1, 2013. The rate on these swap arrangements has been reduced from the U.S. dollar OIS rate plus 100 basis points to the OIS rate plus 50 basis points. In addition, as a contingency measure, the Federal Open Market Committee has agreed to establish similar temporary swap arrangements with these five central banks to provide liquidity in any of their currencies if necessary. Further details on the revised arrangements will be available shortly.

U.S. financial institutions currently do not face difficulty obtaining liquidity in short-term funding markets. However, were conditions to deteriorate, the Federal Reserve has a range of tools available to provide an effective liquidity backstop for such institutions and is prepared to use these tools as needed to support financial stability and to promote the extension of credit to U.S. households and businesses.

This is essentially a back-door bailout of the Euro. The Fed fixes the interest rate for these loans (the currency swaps) at today’s rate, sends a bunch of US dollars to European central banks (and elsewhere), which then loan out those dollars to European banks facing a “liquidity crisis” — i.e. running out of money and holding diminishing assets (one of which may have almost crashed last night). Nominally, the European central banks are on the hook for any losses suffered, but we all know how that works.

You can read more about how these swaps work here.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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