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Former SEIU boss: We should emulate Chinese economic model

You can wade through all the trash he throws up there as a preface to his central point, but I’ll save you the trouble.  Writing in the WSJ, Andy Stern says:

The conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model—so successful in the 20th century—is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century. In an era when countries need to become economic teams, Team USA’s results—a jobless decade, 30 years of flat median wages, a trade deficit, a shrinking middle class and phenomenal gains in wealth but only for the top 1%—are pathetic.

This should motivate leaders to rethink, rather than double down on an empirically failing free-market extremism. As painful and humbling as it may be, America needs to do what a once-dominant business or sports team would do when the tide turns: study the ingredients of its competitors’ success.

No poisoning the well there, huh?  The “conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only" model?  Really?  Where? 

And why was it “so successful in the 20th century” and why is it having problems now?  Well that’s a fairly easy question to answer.   What happened increasingly in the 20th century that is at an all time high now?

Answer?  Government.  It has increased dramatically in both size and intrusiveness.  We don’t have a “free-market” system anymore.  Haven’t for quite some time.   It’s a convenient shibboleth used by opponents of free markets such as Stern.  We have a government that has, in the century cited, turned it into crony capitalism.  Any resemblance here in the 21st century to a “free market” model is purely coincidental.  And we now have a debt drag imposed by out of control government spending that has finally topped our total yearly GDP.

As usual, with those who think China has figured out how to build the socialist dream, they never figure in the damage done to the model that was “so successful in the 20th century” because doing so kills their entire premise.   Government is their vehicle to both wealth and social justice.   They have no concept of how markets work so are gullible enough to still believe that central planning, properly done, can work.  And they take the fact that China has risen economically as proof of their premise.

What they don’t do is look behind the curtain.   Stern talks about his trip there, “a trip organized by the China-United States Exchange Foundation and the Center for American Progress—with high-ranking Chinese government officials, both past and present.”

Yes indeed, very likely to see the underside of the economy is a show tour aren’t you?

A caller to Rush Limbaugh who spends a lot of time in China lays out the reality there:

CALLER: Because once you get outside of the main cities, there are still people plowing fields behind cows and oxen, still hand harvesting corn, grains, rice. I mean, it’s still very much a Third World economy once you get outside of the main cities.

RUSH: With a First World military.

CALLER: Yeah, that’s true.

RUSH: That’s where much of their spending goes. Their infrastructure is built on the cheap, too. Doesn’t take much wind to bring down some of their so-called powerful infrastructure. But, you’re right, and this is what President Bush was telling me, that the big challenge is keeping those peasants behind the oxen. Don’t [let] them into the city. The cities can’t handle them. The cities are teeming with people already. But it’s always been the case that there is this romance — the left has romance — with the romantic attachments to all these tyrannical communist regimes, and now they’re looking at China and you’ve got this Andy Stern guy and other people telling us, "This is what we need to be. We need to emulate the ChiComs. The ChiComs are doing it right."

This is simply the usual nonsense wrapped up in a little different packaging.  It is the leftist dream – a strong central government planning the economy in which it ensures social justice as its highest priority (btw, China is an environmental disaster area, but you won’t hear that from the likes of Stern).  And that doesn’t mean market capitalism, even if the Andy Sterns of the world want you to believe that.  

While he avoids the obvious problem of government intrusion and its disastrous effect on the economy, he does touch on the political problem we still endure.   We have politicians who prefer being Santa Claus to the Grinch and whose whole political horizon never goes beyond the next election.

But the central problem we have isn’t needing a new economic model.  Instead we need to go back to the old one before it was corrupted and distorted by government.   Instead of more government, as Andy Stern wishes, we need precisely the opposite – much less government.

If we want to regain our economic footing and dominance, what government needs to do is get the hell out of the way, get spending under control and pay down the debt (which should become its primary focus over the coming decades) to eliminate the debt drag it has created.

Other than that, it’s job is to be the night watchman, not Santa Claus.  Our problem isn’t economic models.  Our problem is exactly what Stern wants more of.

Obviously economics wasn’t his strong subject in whatever schooling he received and history was apparently completely skipped.  How else to explain the utter nonsense he pushes in his article?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


115 year old electric car gets same mileage on charge as Chevy Volt

We’ve come a long way baby:

As the New York Times reported September 5, “For General Motors and the Obama administration, the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid represents the automotive future, the culmination of decades of high-tech research financed partly with federal dollars.”

Decades of research.   Yield?  40 miles on a battery charge.

Meet the Roberts electric car. Built in 1896, it gets a solid 40 miles to the charge — exactly the mileage Chevrolet advertises for the Volt — the much-touted $31,645 electric car General Motors CEO Dan Akerson called “not a step forward, but a leap forward.”

The executives at Chevrolet can rest easy for now. Since the Roberts was constructed in an age before Henry Ford’s mass production, the 115-year-old electric car is one of a kind.

What a leap, no?

Yeah, I know, the Volt is much heavier, yatta, yatta, yatta.  But seriously, if it was really a “leap forward” and the “culmination of decades of high-tech research”, why does it get the same per charge mileage as a car 115 years old?

I mean maybe I have a higher standard for things described as a “leap forward” and perhaps I expect too much from the “culmination of decades of high-tech research”, but 40 miles a charge?  Come on.

So why didn’t the Roberts catch on then?  Well, the market said “no”:

If you didn’t know there are electric cars as old as the Roberts, you aren’t alone. Prior to today’s battle of electric v. gas, there was another battle: Electric v. gas v. steam. This contest was fought in the market place, and history shows gas gave electric and steam an even more thorough whooping than Coca-Cola gave Moxie.

Now, of course, we find that the market isn’t to be trusted and government knows best – thus the “leap forward” (sound familiar to anyone?) and the brutally poor sales of the Chevy Volt.

Yes, friend, you’ve got it.  We’re again seeing the government – which knows best – picking winners and losers.   Except, as usual, the government’s winner is a loser.

Can you say Solyndra? 

Sure you can.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The first post-downgrade business day

The yield on the 10-year note has dropped to 2.44%, down from 2.57% at Friday’s close. I’m thinking this is telling us the economy’s on the way into the toilet, as the standard reaction for a credit downgrade is rising interest rates, to cover the extra risk. The Dow’s long slide, which began on 22 July–and continues with a 250 point loss so far today–is probably telling us the same thing, as earning expectations slide. Since the downgrade was one agency only, and the downgrade only to AA+, economic factors are clearly weighing more on the bonds than the downgrade.  On the other hand, if you’re a gold investor, you’re probably a little happier today, as Gold hit $1,715/oz.

The key takeaway so far today is the continuing decline in yields, which isn’t good news. Thank goodness there’s no economic releases today. I’d hate to see what more bad news would bring.

So, back into recession, it looks like.

One of the more interesting things I’m wondering about, in a horrified kind of way, is what effect the downgrade has on corporate paper.  A number of institutions have investment rules that require they concentrate their investments in AAA-rated securities.  But, one of the general rating rules is that subsidiary corporate and government instruments cannot have a higher rating than their sovereign instruments. So if the US Government doesn’t have a AAA rating, no subsidiary US corporate or government paper should have a AAA rating either.

So, what does this mean for the handful of corporate and government instruments that were rated AAA prior to the downgrade? Do they get downgraded, too?  If so, where do the institutions with a AAA rating requirement go with their money?

I’m not at all sure how this works. As we’ve been saying a lot in the last week or so, we’re in uncharted territory.

END OF DAY WRAP-UP: Well, that could’ve been worse, I suppose.

INDEX Close
Dow 10,810.83 -634.76 (-5.55%)
S&P 500 1,119.46 -79.92 (-6.66%)
NASDAQ 2,357,69 -174.72 (-6.90%)
10-Year Yield 2.34% -0.22%
Comex Gold $1,710.20/oz (+3.7%)

I’m not sure how much worse it could’ve been, though.

~
Dale Franks
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Global markets off after US credit downgrade

As expected global market reaction to the US credit downgrade has been anything but positive.

Global stock markets sank again Monday as worries over the downgrade of U.S. debt outweighed relief at a European Central Bank pledge to buy up Italian and Spanish bonds to help the two countries avoid devastating defaults.

European markets shed their early momentum and losses were heavy in Asia. Most stocks were trading sharply lower amid mounting fears over the opening of U.S. markets, when traders will have their first chance to respond to Standard & Poor’s momentous decision to lower its triple A rating for the U.S.

"The reverberations from S&P’s downgrade are still being felt across the globe," said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index.

The European Central Bank’s buy of Italian and Spanish bonds – two Euro countries in deep financial trouble – at first seemed to allay the expected downturn.  However that was later reversed and global markets saw a sharp downturn.

At this time one can only speculate what will happen in US markets, but the global sell off is not a good sign.

Monday’s trading came after one of the worst market weeks since the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008 – around $2.5 trillion was wiped off global stocks last week.

In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 1.7 percent at 5,157 while France’s CAC-40 fell 1.6 percent to 3,227. Germany’s DAX was 2.3 percent lower at 6,091.

Sentiment in Europe was hurt by an expected sell-off at the U.S. open – Dow futures were down 1.8 percent at 11,196 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 futures fell 2.1 percent to 1,173.

The one bright spot in an otherwise dismal picture is the US Treasuries market.  And “bright spot” is a relative term considering the rest of the markets:

So far, the S&P downgrade doesn’t seem to be having too much of an impact on U.S. government bonds, known as Treasuries. The worry has been that the downgrade would prompt investors to demand more, but the yield on ten-year Treasuries has actually fallen.

"Early market reactions suggest that the treasury market will remain well supported," said Jane Foley, an analyst at Rabobank International. "Even though there may be no sharp sell-off in treasuries this week, S&P’s decision should at least provide a signal to the U.S. government that it may be foolhardy to continue to take its creditors for granted indefinitely."

Two points.  One – yes, it should provide such a signal.  However, if that signal isn’t acted upon and acted upon swiftly, then two – the treasury market will not remain well supported.  Interest rates will rise on demand by investors and servicing our debt will cost more and more.

To add more fuel to the fire, there’s this:

"Investors are concerned about a rising risk of global recession, credit downgrades especially now in the eurozone, such as France, the threat of a major bank bust and a global liquidity trap as investors stay in cash," said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

So much to watch and consider.   While this may not be the most interesting news to read about, none is more vital.  The problems in both Europe and the US have a far reaching effect on global markets.  And they will have an effect, at some point, on everyone’s wallet.  We’re in uncharted territory here, and unfortunately, there are no easy and painless ways to solve these problems.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 23 May 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Rand Paul, this week’s elections, and the stock market.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

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. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Why Would We Want To Make The Same Mistake As Europe?

If you have a friend who is a supporter of the present monstrosity called “health care reform” because they think Europeans are better served by their system than we are by ours and the Democrat’s solution will make us more like them, ask them to watch this 4 1/2 minute video.

By the way, pay particular attention to the rising costs of health care in Europe and, more importantly, the chart which shows costs to include cosmetic surgery, which is the only market based part of health care we have. Amazing how that works, no?

[HT: Maggie's Farm]

~McQ

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