Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Economic Statistics for 31 Jul 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

The MBA reports mortgage applications fell -3.7% last week, with purchases down -3.0% and re-fis down -4.0%.

The ADP Employment Report indicates that 200,000 new private payroll jobs were created in July.

The Commerce Department’s initial estimate of 2nd Quarter GDP growth is an anemic 1.7% annualized, though that’s up from the 1.1% of the previous quarter. Inflation slowed, as the GDP price index rose 0.7%, compared to 1.2% in the 1st Quarter.

The Employment Cost Index rose a steep 0.5% in the 2nd Quarter, and is up 1.9% over a year ago.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index rose 0.7 points to 52.3 in July, but the new orders, production, and inventories components all declined.

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Dale Franks
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How inept is big government?

I think the signs are clear that most of big government displays varying degrees of ineptness, from slightly to completely.  And over the years, the entire scale of government has moved relentlessly to the “completely” side of things.

Here’s a simple example of why few have any trust in government and even fewer believe what it says anymore.  In this case it has to do with security and immigration.  It has to do with basic competence.  It has to do with following and enforcing the law.  And it also has to do with a department of government which has done none of those things:

The Homeland Security Department has lost track of more than 1 million people who it knows arrived in the U.S. but who it cannot prove left the country, according to an audit Tuesday that also found the department probably won’t meet its own goals for deploying an entry-exit system.

The findings were revealed as Congress debates an immigration bill, and the Government Accountability Office’s report could throw up another hurdle because lawmakers in the House and Senate have said that any final deal must include a workable system to track entries and exits and cut down on so-called visa overstays.

The government does track arrivals, but is years overdue in setting up a system to track departures — a goal set in a 1996 immigration law and reaffirmed in 2004, but which has eluded Republican and Democratic administrations.

“DHS has not yet fulfilled the 2004 statutory requirement to implement a biometric exit capability, but has planning efforts under way to report to Congress in time for the fiscal year 2016 budget cycle on the costs and benefits of such a capability at airports and seaports,” GAO investigators wrote.

Why has it eluded both Republic and Democratic administrations? Basic incompetence coupled with bureaucratic resistance. A combination which leads to ossification – something we see more and more of as government grows more vast and inept. Also note that many of the problems we suffer today are of government’s making. Certainly if we have a means of logging arrivals into the country, having a system that tracks their exit just couldn’t be that tough to do. And DHS has had the mandate to do that since … 1996. 17 years. 17 years and nada.  Result?  We have no idea how many foreigners we have illegally in this country right now.  But they can track a Pakistani Taliban for days on end via drones.

Of course none of this should surprise anyone, because the federal government isn’t now nor has it ever really been that interested in enforcing immigration laws. When it does do so it is almost by whim.

Like I said, this is just one example of the legion of examples where big government exacerbates problems by being inept or just intransigent (or both) in the execution and enforcement of laws.  Executive departments really don’t pay that much attention to either the law or Congress.  And, as usual, there are no consequences for doing so.  The department charged with homeland security during a war on terror has lost track of a million foreigners that have traveled to this country.

And no one seems to care.

~McQ


Economic Statistics for 30 Jul 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

In weekly retail sales, ICSC Goldman reports weakness, with a -01.6% weekly sales drop, and a 2.2%% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, Redbook says sales rose a moderate 2.9% on a year-ago basis.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose 1.0% in May, still strong, but down from the 1.7% and 1.9% of the previous months.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence fell a point to 80.3 in July, but that disguises a 5-point gain in the "present situation" component.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index for July rose to 107.6, as institutional investors increased their appetite for risk.

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Dale Franks
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What happened in Detroit? Well, frankly, “Atlas Shrugged”

You have to read this article by Bill Nojay in the Wall Street Journal.  Nojay was hired as the COO of the Detroit Department of Transportation, on contract, for 8 months.  His litany of woes is, as Insty notes, almost straight out of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. 

It is all but an article of faith on the left and certain pseud-intellectuals that Rand was a crackpot.  Yet here we are watching what she wrote become reality:

Micromanagement by the council was endemic; I once sat for five hours waiting to discuss a minor transportation matter while City Council members debated whether to authorize the demolition of individual vacant and vandalized houses, one by one. There are over 40,000 vacant houses in Detroit.

Union and civil-service rules made it virtually impossible to fire anyone. A six-step disciplinary process provided job protection to anyone with a pulse, regardless of poor performance or bad behavior. Even the time-honored management technique of moving someone up or sideways where he would do less harm didn’t work in Detroit: Job descriptions and qualification requirements were so strict it was impossible for management to rearrange the organization chart. I was a manager with virtually no authority over personnel.

When the federal government got involved, it only made things worse. A federal lawsuit charging that the DDOT did not fully comply with the law in accommodating disabled riders had dragged on for years because of idealistic but painfully naïve Justice Department attorneys seeking regulatory perfection. I felt like a guy in the boiler room of the Titanic, desperately bailing to keep the ship afloat for a few more hours while the DOJ attorneys complained from their first-class cabin that their champagne wasn’t properly chilled.

Detroit’s other municipal departments had similar challenges. I would often compare notes with managers trying to run the city’s street lights, recreation programs, police departments and smaller offices. All of us faced similar gridlock.

The “government is the answer” crowd have a lot to answer for when considering Detroit.  In that city, government was as much of the problem, in fact, likely the biggest problem the city faced.  It couldn’t get out of its own way.  And as the city deteriorated and taxes skyrocketed in an attempt to offset the deterioration, the producers finally fled.  They shrugged.  They said, “no more.”  This country is headed in the same direction.

It just may take a little bit more time to reach the depths of Detroit and suffer the same result – but there’s little if any question it’s on the same road as Detroit.  It has passed through the stop sign, busted through the road closed sign and is headed toward the cliff.  The only control anyone may have now is how fast the whole contraption reaches the edge.

~McQ


Bloomberg’s NYC soda ban ruled “unconstitutional” by court

I love it when petty tyrants are struck down:

New York City’s crackdown on big, sugary sodas is staying on ice.

An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the city’s Board of Health exceeded its legal authority and acted unconstitutionally when it tried to put a size limit on soft drinks served in city restaurants.

In a unanimous opinion, the four-judge panel of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division said that the health board was acting too much like a legislature when it created the limit, which would have stopped sales of non-diet soda and other sugar-laden beverages in containers bigger than 16 ounces.

The judges wrote that while the board had the power to ban “inherently harmful” foodstuffs from being served to the public, sweetened beverages didn’t fall into that category. They also said the board appeared to have crafted much of the new rules based on political or economic considerations, rather than health concerns.

Bingo.  In fact, they were instrumental in carrying out the wishes of one man – Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  His is a personal agenda that has little to do with health and much to do with what he perceives as his duty to stop people from using substances that he deems harmful.

Thankfully the court said he doesn’t get to do that – at least not without substantial evidence to support his use of a ban.  If ever there was an example of “arbitrary and capricious”, Bloomberg’s ban defines it.

But as a rule, petty tyrants don’t like getting their hands slapped.  So, instead of seeing the handwriting on the wall, this one will spend more of NY taxpayers money pursuing a loss in a higher court:

The city’s law department promised a quick appeal.

“Today’s decision is a temporary setback, and we plan to appeal this decision as we continue the fight against the obesity epidemic,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.

And if you ever wanted to understand why these busy-body do-gooders exist, here’s a fine statement to illustrate the point and the problem:

“We have a responsibility, as human beings, to do something, to save each other. … So while other people will wring their hands over the problem of sugary drinks, in New York City, we’re doing something about it,” Bloomberg said at a news conference after the measure was struck down in March.

Uh no, you don’t “have a responsibility” to “do something”.  It’s none of your freaking business, sir.  What you are doing is interfering in the life of people who haven’t asked you to do so and are therefore violating their right to do as they wish as long and they don’t violate the rights of others.  That’s something petty tyrants can’t seem to get through there heads.

Freedom means the right to be fat, unhealthy and to fail.  You may not like those things personally, but that indeed is the cost of freedom.  If you’d prefer to be free to make your own choices rather than have some nanny make them for you, then you believe in freedom.  Mayor Bloomberg does not.

~McQ


Filner/Weiner: where are the “war on women” accusations?

George Will brought up a very good point on ABC’s This Week this Sunday.  When discussing Democrats Bob Filner and Anthony Weiner and their current problems, Will uttered the following:

"If these two people, [Mayor Bob] Filner in San Diego and [Anthony] Weiner here, were Republicans, this would be a part of a lot of somber sociology in the media about the Republican war on women."

Who has heard any hint of that?  Anyone?  Are you seeing it in the media?  Given how the left and Democrats try to define the “war on women” would they really not include these two under that definition?

By the way, the panel on This Week got a huge cackle out of Will’s utterance, because, you know, obviously his square peg just doesn’t fit the round hole they have conjured in their minds.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 28 Jul 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss immigration, Voter ID and libertarianism.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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