Free Markets, Free People

Economy

What a difference a percentage point makes

Especially when you’re talking about GDP growth:

The "new normal" is a term coined by the brain trust at the giant bond fund PIMCO. Anthony Crescenzi, a PIMCO vice president, strategist and portfolio manager, is part of that brain trust.

"The difference between 2 percent growth and 3 percent growth is of major importance and has major implications for the entire economy, for financial markets, for the budget," he says. And the heart of the problem is job creation.

Crescenzi and his colleagues argue that the U.S. economy could actually grow 2 percent a year without adding any new jobs. That’s because the productivity of current workers is rising at about 2 percent a year. "In other words a company can produce 2 percent more goods and/or services a year even if it doesn’t increase the number of people it employs," he says.

Smaller Incomes Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, thinks some new jobs would be added in an economy growing 2 percent a year, but far fewer than one growing 3 percent. "In a 3 percent world we’d create roughly 1.6 million jobs a year," he says. But he says that in a 2 percent world, job creation would be less than half — around 700,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, in China, growth hit 9.5%.  So what is China doing, policy wise, that the US isn’t?  Well, for one thing it is encouraging businesses and has established a positive business climate.  Additionally, it isn’t borrowing money to pump into some black hole it calls “stimulus” at a rate faster than we’ve seen in recent history. Etc.

It’s pretty bad when you have to look to China to point out what the US should be doing.   As Henry Kissinger recently said, the Chinese used to think we had the financial side of things pretty much figured out.   Then this mess and resultant stupidity in reaction to it.   The one thing we should have had the inside track on, we didn’t, because we chose to recreate the failed policies of the Hoover/FDR era without a world war to finally pull us out of the mess (or at least I hope that’s the case).

Is this the “new normal” as Crescenzi claims?   PIMCO, btw, is the world’s largest bond fund (almost 2 trillion).  PIMCO also recently announced that it would no longer be buying US debt.

Why?  Because no one is confident the Federal Reserve knows what it is doing:

Some Fed officials at the June meeting also said additional monetary stimulus would be appropriate “if economic growth remained too slow to make satisfactory progress toward reducing the unemployment rate and if inflation returned to relatively low levels after the effects of recent transitory shocks dissipated,” according to the minutes.

Really? 

So they are considering a “QE3”?  Note the change from “last August” to now. 

Last August, when Bernanke signaled in a speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that the Fed would embark on a second round of Treasury bond purchases, employers were cutting jobs, pushing up the unemployment rate to 9.6 percent. The weakness in the economy prompted Bernanke to focus on the possibility of deflation, or a broad-based drop in prices and asset values including homes and stocks.

The economy is in better shape now than in August, though hiring remains “frustratingly slow,” Bernanke said at a June 22 news conference. Employers added 18,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, the fewest in nine months, the government reported last week.

The Fed’s $600 billion Treasury bond-buying program, completed in June, was designed to spur economic growth, employment and consumer spending by lifting stock prices and reducing borrowing costs.

Is the economy in “better shape now than in August”?  I say ‘no’. And so do most of the economic indicators.  Dr. Robert Barro, Paul M Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard University makes it clear where the current policy is leading:

Turning to quantitative easing, he warned that the US and UK are storing up inflation and that the Bank of England may be too complacent. Although there is no threat to inflation now, he said: "You have to have an exit strategy. Ben Bernanke [chairman of the US Federal Reserve] and [Bank Governor] Mervyn King are aware of this, but I think they are a little over confident about how they can accomplish it. Because you want to have this exit strategy without having a lot of inflation.

"That’s when the inflation would occur. If there’s a recovery and there’s all this liquidity and somehow the central bank has to reverse it."

That’s precisely where this is all headed – somehow at, at some point, the Fed has to wring out all this money it pumped into the economy.  And that stored up inflation is likely to explode during that process – a real economy killer.  Barro is saying he has little confidence in the Fed, deeming them “over confident” in their ability to do that while avoiding letting the inflation dragon out of the cage.

Meanwhile, in Europe …

Yeah, it’s a mess.  And given the propensity of our policy makers to recreate the policies of the Great Depression, I don’t see it getting better any time soon.  So yes, for at least the foreseeable future, the “new normal” may be 9.2% unemployment.  Because there is still no reason or incentive for US businesses to take the chance of expanding and hiring in such an uncertain economic atmosphere.

Until they are much more confident in the policies of this administration and the Federal Reserve, few if any are going to change the status quo.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Obama claims that stimulus worked when in fact it simply delayed the inevitable with borrowed money

Seriously out of touch:

Three days after the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the national unemployment rate had ticked up from 9.1 percent in May to 9.2 percent in June, President Barack Obama said that the loss of jobs in the public sector is “evidence” that his $830-billion economic stimulus legislation worked.

“Now, without relitigating the past, I’m absolutely convinced, and the vast majority of economists are convinced, that the steps we took in the Recovery Act saved millions of people their jobs or created a whole bunch of jobs,” Obama said at his Monday press conference.

Except he can’t point to anything to prove his point.  What we do know, however, is much of that money went to pay down the debt of the various states, which is hardly likely to create jobs.  We also know it was spent on things like “Operation Fast and Furious” which certainly didn’t lead to any jobs – at least here in the US.

So this is the only place he has to point:

“And part of the evidence of that is as you see what happens with the Recovery Act phasing out,” he said. “When I came into office and budgets were hemorrhaging at the state level, part of the Recovery Act was giving states help so they wouldn’t have to lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters. As we’ve seen that federal support for states diminish, you’ve seen the biggest job losses in the public sector–teachers, police officers, firefighters losing their jobs.”

Or, ”we didn’t save anything, we just delayed, for a short time, the inevitable.”

That makes it hard to claim that the stimulus “worked”.  Public sector jobs don’t contribute to the economy – they’re a drain.  Oh sure we’ve decided they’re a necessary expense, but they don’t contribute to the economy the way a private sector employee does.  What has been said for years is we can’t afford the overall expense of government – that it must cut back to “necessary” and drop the “unnecessary”.   There was the easy way to do it (when the economy was good) and had they done so state governments would have been in better shape when the downturn hit.  But they didn’t.  Government has a tendency to expand when revenues increase, not contract.  So when revenues contract, they are unable to fund the excess.

So the stimulus didn’t create or save jobs, it funded the excess jobs states and localities should have shed long ago as “unnecessary” and, more importantly, “unaffordable.”

Look, this unemployment problem is the beast that will devour Obama and he knows it.  But if this is the best he can come up with, he’s in for a very long and bumpy re-election campaign, at least when it comes to this subject.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Temporary worker hiring outlook dismal

One of the things economists watch to try to gauge the job market is how the temporary worker market is doing.   Many times a rise in temp workers signals businesses are gearing up for more permanent hiring as the economy gains steam.  The opposite is many times also true.   And, unfortunately, it appears that this particular indicator isn’t giving us the warm fuzzy feeling  we hoped it would:

Last month’s fall in the number of temporary workers could herald continued weakness in the job market.

The total number of temporary employees placed by staffing agencies dipped by 12,000 last month and is down 19,000 the past three months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Now perhaps 3 months can’t be considered a “trend”, but it is pretty darn close.  And it parallels the news we’ve been getting about unemployment and the economy in general.

Temporary workers, however, could be the most telling signal. The number of contingent workers started growing in fall 2009, about six months before the broader job market began to emerge from the recession. From September 2009 to March, employers added nearly 500,000 temporary workers.

Roy Krause, CEO of SFN Group, a top staffing agency, says temporary placements for white-collar jobs in accounting, computers and legal remain strong. But those for lower-skilled light industrial, clerical and certain call-center jobs — which accounted for most of last year’s growth — have slowed. "They tend to be more sensitive to economic conditions," he says.

An example:

Chemical maker Arkema of Philadelphia employed about 150 temporary workers earlier this year. But it trimmed that total by about 50 in April and May as the weak economy prompted it to cut its 2011 forecast, Vice President Chris Giangrasso says. Arkema, he says, will likely not add this year to its permanent staff of about 2,500 in North America.

Key point – “weak economy”.  He had enough growth last year to warrant hiring temp workers but not full time staff.   Now he doesn’t even have enough business to warrant 2/3rds of the temps he hired and had to let them go.

That weakness in the economy continues to linger because, as we’ve noted any number of times, of the unsettled business climate.  And that’s something government could do to help the situation – back off regulation, taxes and interference (*cough* NLRB/Boeing*cough*) and stay out of the way.   It seems, though, that doing so is just not in this administration’s genes.

And so the negative indicators continue to pile up while the President of the United States and a complicit media attempt to make bad guys out of the GOP as they hold the line against economy crippling tax increases.

Go figure.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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NY Times still clueless about economic woes

Cluelessness seems to be a fairly rampant disease among those who seem unable to peer objectively at reality and analyze it.  They prefer to pretend they know what they’re talking about and unhelpfully prescribe exactly the wrong antidote every single time (in this case, more of what we’ve watched fail for two plus years).  And, as it turns out, the New York Times editorial board is peerless among that group:

It was not surprising to hear the Republican presidential candidates repeat their tiresome claim that excessive government spending and borrowing were behind Friday’s terrible unemployment report. It was depressing to hear President Obama sound as if he agreed with them.

And the NYT’s claim as to why that’s not the case?

There has never been any evidence that the federal debt is primarily responsible for the persistent joblessness that began with the 2008 recession. The numbers have remained high because of weak consumer demand and stagnant wage growth, along with an imbalance between jobs and job skills.

Who has ever argued that “federal debt is primarily responsible for the persistent joblessness?”  Certainly there are other factors.  However, there’s no question that excessive government spending – i.e. borrowing to spend – has had a hand in the stagnation we’re now undergoing.  In fact, increased and excessive government spending has had no effect and, given the promises made, could be argued to have had a negative effect. 

The debt is the indicator of the problem – excessive and unaffordable spending.  As we’ve been pointing out for months, revenue isn’t the problem – spending is.   So pointing to this strawman, as the NY Times does, is just more politics from the side who thinks it prudent to penalize those who produce in order to bail out those who spend what they produce (and the reason the Democrats insist on calling the present income tax levels “Bush tax cuts”).  What doesn’t seem to penetrate the thinking of those who continue to push this line is one of the reasons we’ve had weak consumer demand and stagnant wage growth is the unsettled business and regulatory atmosphere this administration has created in its 2 plus years.  That, of course is pushed aside by the NYT in favor of this argument:

The president may have a nebulous approach to unemployment, but he is hardly indifferent to it. His re-election hinges on reducing it. It is hard to understand, though, why Mr. Obama has adopted the language of his opponents in connecting the economy to the debt. To his credit, he talked about the one step that would work — investing money in rebuilding the country. But the debt-ceiling ideas he is now considering would make that investment much less likely by pulling hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy at precisely the moment when the spending is needed most.

Yeah, there’s absolutely no connection between the “economy” and the “debt” is there?   Of course there is?   And pretending that borrowing money we don’t have to push it out in the economy and calling it an ‘investment’ doesn’t fool most rational folks.  The NYT even points out that the last time the money was thrown out there is it mostly went to service state debt which only delayed the inevitable.  Now, apparently, that will somehow be different in the face of “weak consumer demand”.   Really?   And, of course, the jobs the NYT laments about aren’t private sector jobs but government jobs (state and local) which we all know are the engine of our economy (/sarc).

The types of increases in revenue that government should be encouraging are those that come from private sector jobs.   They provide tax revenue from created wealth.   They don’t require the government to borrow money to “invest” (i.e. borrow money, create jobs and then tax the jobs created with the borrowed money and claim “increased revenue”.  Make sense to you?).

So while I don’t disagree with the Times when it says “his re-election hinges on reducing” unemployment, it appears the Times would opt for the easy and wrong way to do it – borrow more money, pump it into creating make-work jobs just long enough to get Obama past the 2012 election.   Then, who care?   Debt ceiling, increased drag on the economy’s GDP and all that stuff, forgetaboutit.  Well, at least till they get this guy re-elected.  Then, of course, I expect a clarion call by the Times wondering how this could have all be so mismanaged and spinning and twisting it, as they have in this editorial, so it all ends up being the fault of the Republicans.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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The UN’s plan to dominate the world of energy and to redistribute wealth? “Climate change”

If you’ve ever wondered what the purpose was of the UN’s climate change agenda or where it is going, a new report makes it pretty obvious:

Two years ago, U.N. researchers were claiming that it would cost “as much as $600 billion a year over the next decade” to go green. Now, a new U.N. report has more than tripled that number to $1.9 trillion per year for 40 years.

So let’s do the math: That works out to a grand total of $76 trillion, over 40 years — or more than five times the entire Gross Domestic Product of the United States ($14.66 trillion a year). It’s all part of a “technological overhaul” “on the scale of the first industrial revolution” called for in the annual report. Except that the U.N. will apparently control this next industrial revolution.

The new 251-page report with the benign sounding name of the “World Economic and Social Survey 2011” is rife with goodies calling for “a radically new economic strategy” and “global governance.”

Throw in possible national energy use caps and a massive redistribution of wealth and the survey is trying to remake the entire globe. The report has the imprimatur of the U.N., with the preface signed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon – all part of the “goal of full decarbonization of the global energy system by 2050.”

Make no mistake, much of this has nothing to do with climate.

I couldn’t agree more with the last sentence.  This has never been about climate.  World governance, however,  is and always has been the end game of the “Third World Debating Club”, also known as the UN. 

Dan Gainor, who wrote the piece being quoted, then cites the press release from the UN concerning the report:

The press release for the report discusses the need “to achieve a decent living standard for people in developing countries, especially the 1.4 billion still living in extreme poverty, and the additional 2 billion people expected worldwide by 2050.” That sounds more like global redistribution of wealth than worrying about the earth’s thermostat.

Well if you really understand how this is being approached, Gainor is exactly right.   Let me explain.   Those living in “extreme poverty” – the 1.4 billion cited – live mostly without running water and electricity.  Anyone – what is the fastest way to remedy that situation?  Well on the power side, fossil fueled (i.e coal fired) power plants.  You can build them relatively cheaply and quickly and they can begin to provide the requisite power necessary to begin to lift these people out of poverty.

But of course, the UN couldn’t control that, could they?  Instead, it has decided the way to do this is through going green with complete “decarbonization” by 2050.  That is can control, because it has been the initiator of most of this nonsense about global warming and the absurd treaties that have gone with it.   If it can find a way to convince governments that the threat is real and to have them self-impose carbon restrictions on themselves based on the UN agenda, it will be the UN calling the shots.

So essentially the UN is holding these 1.4 billion hostage to their agenda by refusing to budge on their push for global “decarbonization” by 2050.  In essence they’re telling the extremely poor that they’re stuck with that condition because the simple and immediately available solution is unacceptable to them since it poses a threat to the environment.  They’ll just have to wait while the UN engineers this agenda to the detriment of economies everywhere and we all end up in poverty of some sort.

An example of where this could head can be found in the UK right now as Christopher Booker explains:

Three years ago, when the hysteria over global warming was still at its height, our own British politicians voted almost unanimously for the Climate Change Act committing us, uniquely in the world, to cut our CO2 emissions by 80 per cent within 40 years. Even on the Government’s own figures, show that this will cost us up to £18 billion every year until 2050 – it is by far the most expensive law ever passed by Parliament. As our politicians continually impose on us ever higher taxes and other costs supposedly in the cause of ‘fighting climate change’ they have been carried away by a collective fantasy that has no parallel in history.

The result has been quite predictable:

As energy prices go through the roof, shocking figures reveal one in four families has been plunged into fuel poverty. Consumer Focus warns as many as 6 million could be forced to choose between a hot meal or heating their homes this winter.

Here are the numbers:

As energy prices go through the roof, shocking figures reveal one in four families has been plunged into fuel poverty.

[…]

The figures are higher than the one in five first estimated and show for the first time wealthier families have also been hammered by spiralling fuel costs with 15% of middle classes now fuel poor.

Research from price comparison website uSwitch found the number would leap to one in three if housing costs were added in.

It means at least 18 million people are spending 10% or more of their take home pay on energy bills. Based on the new way of calculating fuel poverty, 47% of working class families and 22% of the middle classes fall into this bracket.

A quarter of families with a stay-at-home parent are fuel poor but uSwitch argues this figure would soar to 44% if mortgages or rents were included. The number of fuel poor single parent families would jump from 39% to 52% while pensioner numbers would rise from 33% to 36%.

According to the website, fuel bills have rocketed by 71% in the past five years rising from £660 a year in 2006 to £1,131 today.

In other words, the UK’s self-imposed carbon caps and attempts to use not-ready-for-primetime alternative and renewable energy sources has driven up energy costs to such a level that it has put 1 in 4 in the UK into what is known as “fuel poverty”.

Bottom line?

William Baker, Head of Fuel Poverty Policy added: “Rising energy prices will lead to a bigger bills and a huge upswing in fuel poverty. This will mean an increasing percentage of our population, especially those on low incomes, are more likely to live in colder or damp houses or face higher debt.”

Most who have taken the time to do some study of the subject of climate change have come to the conclusion the science supporting it is suspect and that the UN’s IPCC is a political organization, not a scientific one.   This new UN report just puts an exclamation  on
that point.  The UN has, for years, concocted various plans and schemes to give it a larger role in world governance.  Not satisfied with being a deliberative body with the aim of keeping the peace, it now is attempting to find ways to direct revenue via this, their most ambitious scheme to date, to who they choose should receive it.  It is indeed a revenue redistribution scheme.

The end result of enacting this plan would be disastrous to the world’s economies, would keep those 1.4 billion in extreme poverty in the same state and, as is being demonstrated in the UK, put even more of the world’s population in “fuel poverty”.

Time to kill this monster now, before it gets any further out of its cage.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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How should the GOP respond to the Obama demand for increased taxes?

I have a pretty good idea, but first, here’s the gist of the demand:

President Obama pressured Republicans on Wednesday to accept higher taxes as part of any plan to pare down the federal deficit, bluntly telling lawmakers that they “need to do their job” and strike a deal before the United States risks defaulting on its debt.

Declaring that an agreement is not possible without painful steps on both sides, Mr. Obama said that his party had already accepted the need for substantial spending cuts in programs it had long championed, and that Republicans must agree to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies, hedge funds and other corporate interests.

So how should the Republicans answer this demand?

Well, as I mentioned in my post about why the GOP should stand firm on declining to raise taxes, the problem isn’t tax revenue.  It is, quite simply, spending.

What the Democrats and Obama will promise you is they’d use any increased revenue brought in by increased taxes to reduce the deficit and debt.  But that is never how it really works and we know that.  It’s like giving an alcoholic another shot – he’s going to drink it.  Revenue isn’t the problem.  Spending is the problem.

So what the GOP must do is say, “Mr. President, when the government has proven that it can indeed cut spending and cut it drastically, and it has done everything it can conceivably do in that regard, if there is a revenue problem at the bottom of it, then we can discuss tax increases.  But until such a time that it is proven – through action, you know actual cuts – that the government has done all it can in the area of spending cuts, there’s nothing further to discuss in terms of tax increases.”

Period.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Common sense reasons why GOP should stand firm on tax increases

James Pethokoukis provides the reasons.  As you’ll note, economically, they’re not rocket science, but they certainly are something that the left seems to want to ignore in focusing its solutions to the debt problem on getting tax increases included.

One – the economy will not tolerate a tax increase at this time.   It is simply not in the shape in which it can shrug a tax increase off.   And it certainly won’t matter if the tax is only on “the rich”.  As someone once asked, “ever get a job from a poor man?”  The increase in revenues generated by taxing the rich (or anyone for that matter) will not offset the loss it will generate in hiring or expansion of business.  Pethokoukis points out that the economy is in incredibly fragile shape at the moment.  Thus:

…[T]he economic recovery is sputtering with stall speed fast approaching. Now would be a terrible time to penalize investors and business, both big and small, with new taxes.

Common sense 101.

Two –  Tax revenue isn’t our problem when it comes to debt.  Spending is the problem.  Yet as I pointed out Saturday, the solution the left seems to prefer involves nothing but tax revenue increases or tax increases.   What they’re less inclined to do is focus on the spending problem and make appropriate spending cuts.  “Greek heroin” is the reason.  Take a look at this:

By 2021, the the CBO says, the annual budget deficit would be 7.5 percent of GDP and by 2035 a truly monstrous 15.5 percent. Throughout this period, tax revenue would be 18.4 percent, right around the historical average. But spending would be 25.9 percent in 2021, 33.9 percent in 2035 vs. an average of roughly 21 percent. It’s spending that’s way out of whack, not revenue.

That means that if the so-called “Bush tax cuts” (they’re just the current tax rates) are left in place, that’s where we find ourselves in 2035.   As Pethokoukis proves, it isn’t tax revenue that’s the problem.   Unless you believe that it’s the government’s money in the first place and they have every right to determine how much you get to keep. 

Let’s go with that.  Let’s see what happens if the left gets its way:

But let’s say all the Bush tax cuts were left to expire, as was AMT relief. Assuming no economic fallout, according to the CBO, revenue would be 23.2 percent of GDP by 2035. Three problems here: a) even with all those tax increases, the annual budget deficit would still be nearly an unsustainable 10.7 percent of GDP in 2035; b)  the U.S. tax code has never generated that level of revenue and almost certainly can’t without a value-added tax; and c) there would be tremendous economic fallout. Axing all the Bush tax cuts would chop three percentage points off GDP growth, according to Goldman Sachs, certainly sending America back into recession. Tax revenue would again plummet.

Spending, not tax revenue, is the obvious problem.

Common sense 101.

Three – boosting economic growth is the fastest way to increasing tax revenues.   However there’s one problem to that as far as an intrusive government is concerned.   It has to get out of the way.

Pethokoukis and I part ways a bit here as he endorses a consumption tax vs. an income tax and further endorses raising the revenue percentage of government’s part of the GDP to 19%.   Can’t go there with him even if Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan is similar.  I’m not so much against a consumption tax (it at least taxes what you consume thereby not penalizing you for what you save, nor do you get double taxed assuming the income tax goes away) but I am against such an increase in the tax percentage.  I think very aggressive cuts in government spending plus fairly massive deregulation (and the obvious cuts in compliance spending by businesses that would save) would yield a fast recovering and growing economy.  Granting an increase in the historic percentage of GDP that government has taken opens a door of precedence I don’t want opened.  It is time government lived within its means and understood that that economic growth takes precedence over government growth – every time.  

It is spending – uncontrolled and wasteful spending – that is our problem.   Not tax revenue.  Government must be cut and cut fairly severely.  That’s something the heroin addicts don’t want to hear.   So they spin out solutions which always end up in one place – “the problem is revenue, we need more revenue”. 

No.  They don’t.

And the GOP, if it is to have any credibility with voters come 2012, had best not cave on this point.

Again, Common Sense 101.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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The Greek tragedy (or socialism runs out of other people’s money)

And, of course, Greece isn’t the only country going through this at the moment, it is only the worst off of the bunch.   In fact, it is a case study in the end result of socialist programs (although you’d think, given its fairly recent collapse, that much could have been learned from the Soviet Union).   Greece has, for decades, piled up more and more debt than the other European socialist countries and, with the global economic downturn, was the first of the Euro zone to hit the shoals of bankruptcy – although Europe is doing everything it can to forestall that.

The problem is that socialism and its benefits (whether they’re affordable or not) are like being hooked on heroin.  Even if you know you have too, you just can’t seem to get off the stuff.   Addicts deny reality, fight the cure because it is horribly painful and thus somehow come to believe they can continue to survive on the drug as they have before.   And it slowly and inexorably kills them.

Greece, if it isn’t able to kick the habit, is on its economic death bed.  Europe understands this and also sees the possibility that Greece’s inability to break this habit, i.e. pass and impose austerity measure – draconian austerity measures – might also mean the death of Europe’s currency, the Euro and conceivably the break up of the European union.

That’s how serious it is.

But the addict continues to fight the cure.  Led by the two major unions, Greece has been shut down for 2 days as protesters vent their spleen about the unacceptability of these austerity measures.   The irony, of course, is the measures are being imposed by a socialist government which has been given no choice but to impose such measures.

However, that government is seen as week and socialist members who supported the measures at first are now opposing them.

But the austerity program has met with resistance from within the ranks of Mr. Papandreou’s own party, especially over the privatization of state companies whose workers have traditionally been at the heart of the Socialists’ constituency.

As many as four Socialists in Parliament have said they will consider opposing the measures, including one who opposes the planned privatization of the water utility of Thessaloniki, in her district.

Another Socialist, Alexandros Athanasiadis, said he would vote against the plan to reduce the state’s stake in the Public Power Company to 34 percent from 51 percent. Some of the company’s coal-burning plants are in his district in northeastern Greece.

Naturally the socialists oppose privatization because, you know, the government has done such a bang up job to this point of running businesses it has no business being involved in.  Why?  Because the government, and therefore the parliamentary members, control the jobs, pay and pensions.   More heroin.  As government gets more involved in areas it has no business and it (those who run it) begin to understand the power such intrusion brings them, they’re loathe to give it up, even when they’re doing a horrible, inefficient and costly job that could be better and more cheaply done by private industry.

The symbiotic relationship between the unions and the MPs is mutually beneficial and ensures an incumbent who properly plays the game (support union demands) remains in power (see public sector unions and Democrats here).  That, of course, has led to unaffordable pensions, wages which aren’t competitive and a public stuck with the ever increasing bill.

Well, the bill has come due.

On Monday, Mr. Venizelos, a Socialist veteran known for his ability to rally his troops, told lawmakers that the measures might be “tough and even unfair” but that they were unavoidable. “We have to finally come to our senses and get serious,” he said.

With 2 days of protests, one has to wonder whether indeed the Greeks are going to actually come to their senses and get serious”, because if they don’t the repercussions could be devastating.

And knowing all of that, and looking at our debt problems, one also has to wonder why we seem bent on creating an addiction of our own, given the real world examples of where that must eventually lead.

It makes absolutely no sense, does it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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GOP–pay attention to this poll

Pay attention to this because it is important:

The portion of Americans who say they believe the U.S. is on the wrong track is higher than it was at any point during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, when unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent after the 1981-82 recession, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. The ABC poll showed the wrong-track number during Reagan’s first term peaking at 57 percent in October 1982. The Bloomberg poll shows 66 percent of Americans think the U.S. is going in the wrong direction now.

This is the number I continue to talk about because to me it is the truest indication of the mood of the country.  The mood is obviously critical to the re-election, and wrong track polling has consistently indicated the way previous elections are going to go.  There is a threshold that portends bad news for the incumbent, and we’re well past that.  The question is, will it stay there?  The answer seems to be, by all indications and forecasts, yes.

As the public grasps for solutions, the Republican Party is breaking through in the message war on the budget and economy. A majority of Americans say job growth would best be revived with prescriptions favored by the party: cuts in government spending and taxes, the Bloomberg Poll shows. Even 40 percent of Democrats share that view.

This should be something every GOP politician should have tattooed on his or her inner eyelid to help them focus.  Concentrate on the message about the economy – it’s a winner.  Wander off into wedge issues and you give your opponent an opening and a way to distract the public.   If you do that you deserve to lose.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Repatriating corporate profits with tax breaks

It’s under consideration, and if you read the article, the NYT isn’t particularly thrilled about it.

Why?  Because those nasty corporations didn’t create jobs the last time this was done:

But that’s not how it worked last time. Congress and the Bush administration offered companies a similar tax incentive, in 2005, in hopes of spurring domestic hiring and investment, and 800 took advantage.

Though the tax break lured them into bringing $312 billion back to the United States, 92 percent of that money was returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, according to a study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research.

This money comes from overseas operations and in some cases accounting maneuvers that shift domestic profits to low-tax countries. The study concluded that the program “did not increase domestic investment, employment or research and development.”

My question is, it didn’t increase “domestic investment, employment or research and development” where?  Because unless the stockholders took their money and buried it in a coffee can in the back yard, that’s most likely exactly where it went – via a more circuitous route that the NBER didn’t bother to follow.  That money didn’t just disappear when it went to share holders.  Where did it go?

Well, first remember that share holders are what?  Investors.   So even if all they did was let that money ride, it was “invested”. 

If, in fact, it was invested elsewhere, then one would assume that those companies in which the investment was made may have increased employment or R &D.  But you have to chase the money to find that out.

Bottom line, repatriation of overseas profits means more tax revenues, even at the reduced rate that would be found in a “holiday” as is being proposed.   And even if shareholders get the lion’s share of the money (and that’s why they’re called “shareholders” NYT, because they own a share of that money), they’re going to spend it, save it or invest it themselves.  

If one could get past the first step in the process and look at how money usually flows and is used, they’d realize that whining about “shareholders” getting most of the money is about as ignorant as complaining that if government gives taxpayers a tax break we wouldn’t spend the money properly, ala Bill Clinton.

Injecting billions of dollars of private money into the private economy in times like this isn’t going to hurt anything.  But it stands a great chance of helping.   But hey, those damn corporations wouldn’t spend it the way the NYT thinks they should, so they’re against it.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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