That’s the question here. Which entity decided, arbitrarily, to change the conditions of the agreement?
DC officials are furious as Walmart has reneged on a promise to build stores in lower-income areas of the city. Walmart announced last week that they will be shuttering 269 stores throughout the country. (The already-existing three DC stores will remain open.) The company cited the unexpectedly high building and labor costs as to why they would not move forward with the additional locations, but was more open in a meeting as to how DC’s labor laws, including its higher minimum wage, are making it harder to operate a business.
Let’s see. Was raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour within the District a part of the deal? Do you think Walmart would have agreed to build had it known that such a raise in labor costs was in the offing? My guess is “no”. Thus the citing of “unexpectedly” high … labor costs. And obviously, it also costs more, then, to build the store in a union town, because when the lowest paid worker gets a raise such as this, guess what happens to the pay of the higher paid workers? That’s why unions back the minimum wage.
The WaPo sheds some more light on the subject:
Evans said that, behind closed doors, Walmart officials were more frank about the reasons the company was downsizing. He said the company cited the District’s rising minimum wage, now at $11.50 an hour and possibly going to $15 an hour if a proposed ballot measure is successful in November. He also said a proposal for legislation requiring D.C. employers to pay into a fund for family and medical leave for employees, and another effort to require a minimum amount of hours for hourly workers were compounding costs and concerns for the retailer.
“They were saying, ‘How are we going to run the three stores we have, let alone build two more?’ ” Evans said.
Exactly! When the government that made the deal then changes the conditions, it isn’t the company which is the problem. It is the government assuming the power to set the labor cost for the company (plus this new fund that’s likely to pass into law) which is at fault. If anyone should be “furious” it is the company and the citizens now denied the low cost of goods Walmart would have brought to those neighborhoods. A perfect example of the government engaging in “bait and switch”.
So who, exactly, is it that gets hurt?
Why the very people they were purported to want to help.
What a surprise.
We were told that while oil prices were high, shale oil could be produced at enough of a profit to drill, but to expensive to continue if the prices dropped.
But efficiency and technical innovation have overcome that bit of conventional wisdom as Shale Energy Insider reports:
US shale companies have increased the number of rigs in the field for the first time in nearly seven months when oil prices were trading around $70 per barrel, compared to under $60 per barrel in the current market.
The number of rigs rose in almost every main shale basin across the US according to data gathered by Baker Hughes.
Industry experts have suggested that as a result of last year’s price crash, shale exploration firms have cut their break even costs by anything up to $20 per barrel.
“As much as anything else, the rise this week is a testament to break-evens coming down just over the course of this year,” said James Williams, president of energy consultancy WTRG Economics.
“Shale is a lot more resilient than we thought it was, and it means we’re going to be able to keep producing shale oil at a lower cost than we thought we could.”
Adding rigs is the primary way to gauge whether or not it is economically profitable for energy companies to drill for and pump the oil According to one analyst, the companies have been able to streamline their operations to the point their breakeven costs have dropped by about $20 a barrel. That’s huge:
A Bloomberg analyst suggested that the cost of drilling services have fallen between 20% and 50% with break even prices in parts of the Permian and Eagle Ford below $40 per barrel.
And what does it mean overall?
Director of upstream research for Wood Mackenzie, Scott Mitchell forecast that producers could add up to 100 oil rigs by the end of the year.
“Drilling rigs and fracking require a quite specific technical workforce, and there were a lot of layoffs as a result of the drop in activity.
“We may find the supply of people becomes short very quickly if activity ramps up, leading to price increases again,” he predicted.
That’s right … jobs and less expensive gas. Of course, most if not all of the shale oil drilling has taken place on non-federal land, and the market has been able to function without a great deal of governmental interference. It is providing both employment and a very important commodity at less expensive prices. Additionally, as it lowers its breakeven point, it buffers us against volume drops as the price of oil comes lower and other sources stop producing oil. With the lower breakeven point, they’ll continue to pump past the point where they’d have quit previously because doing so is still profitable for them. That helps ensure lower prices at the pump will be more common and more stable.
The market … a wonder we need to allow to work without interference much more often than we do.
The monkey and weasel are disgusted.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is denying it, but a senior law enforcement source has told Fox Newsthat she gave an order for police to stand down as riots broke out Monday night.
“The source, who is involved in the enforcement efforts, confirmed to Fox News there was a direct order from the mayor to her police chief Monday night, effectively tying the hands of officers as they were pelted with rocks and bottles.
Asked directly if the mayor was the one who gave that order, the source said: “You are G*d damn right it was.””
Happy, happy … just let ’em do a little looting and trashing and all will be well. Oh, and let’s redefine a few things shall we?
The mayor, in an interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on Tuesday, denied any order was issued to hold back on Monday.
“You have to understand, it is not holding back. It is responding appropriately,” she said, saying there was no stand-down directive.
Responding appropriately? I wonder how “appropriately” she’d have responded had it been, say, her house or business they were looting and trashing. Absolutely no respect for private property. None. And nonsense excuse making to boot.
Yes, the dirty little secret that no one wants to admit is that Baltimore, and so many other urban areas and inner city communities in America are a reflection of the abject failure of liberal progressive socialist policies as advanced by the Democrat party.
The preeminent question is whether or not those in Baltimore and other places will recognize who is truly responsible for their plight. Or will they continue to be manipulated and propagandized by the liberal progressive media and the poverty pimps like the one supposedly heading down from New York City.
Most of us can answer that question – “they continue to be manipulated and propagandized by the liberal progressive media and the poverty pimps like the one supposedly heading down from New York City.” Oh, and the Republicans. Just watch 2016. The “plantation” has a huge hold.
Apparently Ben Affleck is mortified by his ancestors:
This brings the total number of Affleck’s known slaveholding ancestors to 14, and the number of slaves either owned or “held” as a trustee or on behalf of an estate by these ancestors to 242.
It seems that this was discovered while doing a PBS program and Affleck asked they be, uh, unmentioned. You see, he is ashamed of them.
Okay, I can understand that … however, why hide it? Why not say, hey they were wrong, what they did was wrong and I certainly don’t support what they did. Seems to me that would be much more powerful than trying to hide the past. And, to quote Hillary Clinton – “what difference does it make”?!
Oh, liberal credentials of course. And white guilt. Dude has to hand in the credentials and burn with white guilt. Pity.
Anyone wonder what Ben would have done if he’d been born during that era to one of his slaveholding ancestors? Yeah, I think Ben wonders that as well. Heh.
If you need another example of “crony capitalism” (and I put that in quotes because this is no more capitalism than lead is gold), it is playing out with the FDA and a couple of Senators … oh, and their corporate cronies:
People who are trying to do good for their families and the planet by living a simple life based on traditional skills are facing yet another assault. Artisanal soap makers say new regulations, proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), will put them out of business. Many soap makers are rural “kitchen table” operations that rely on the income to fund their simple living lifestyle. Some use milk from goats they raise and ingredients they harvest from the land.
The form includes a statement on behalf of handmade body care product makers that says, in part: “My products comply with FDA labeling requirements and the ingredients are commonly known (i.e, olive oil, oatmeal, sugar, coconut oil, etc). My best customers are in my community. I cannot afford the user fees proposed in S. 1014. Further, my business has no capacity to do the reporting requirements for each product batch (10-50 units) as it could be several hundred FDA filings per month.” Those who sell online will also be affected.*
The view of Sen. Feinstein and her corporate backers (listed below) is that the Personal Care Products Safety Act (Senate Bill S.1014) will make the world a safer place by scrutinizing “everything from shampoo and hair dye to deodorant and lotion.” She introduced the amendment to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, because of troubling negative health effects from chemicals used in personal care products. She says the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act should be more progressive like laws in Europe rather than antiquated US regulations in effect since the 1930s.
Yes, friends, having solved all the important problems of the world, our Senatorial nannies are going to back their corporate sponsors and attempt to regulate out of business this incredible threat to the American public. And who are their Corporate sponsors?
Companies and brands that support the bill:Johnson & Johnson, brands include Neutrogena, Aveeno, Clean & Clear, Lubriderm, Johnson’s baby products.Procter & Gamble, including Pantene, Head & Shoulders, Clairol, Herbal Essences, Secret, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Ivory, CoverGirl, Olay, Sebastian Professional, Vidal Sassoon.Revlon, brands include Revlon, Almay, MitchumEsteee Lauder, brands include Esteee Lauder, Clinique, Origins, Tommy Hilfiger, MAC, La Mer, Bobbi Brown, Donna Karan, Aveda, Michael Kors.Unilever, brands include Dove, Tresemme, Lever, St. Ives, Noxzema, Nexxus, Pond’s, Suave, Sunsilk, Vaseline, Degree.L’Oreeal, brands include L’Oreeal Paris, Lancome, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Kiehl’s, Essie, Garnier, Maybelline-New York, Vichy, La Roche-Posay, The Body Shop, Redken.
Feinstein says her proposal is a “streamlined national system of oversight” and it won’t cost the taxpayer anything because it’s funded by industry user fees (until they pass the extra cost to the consumer, that is). Big multinational soap makers may be able to manage the increased fees and paperwork called for by Senate Bill S.1014 but the the Handmade Cosmetic Alliance says they will cripple their cottage industries. They tried to explain this to Feinstein without success.
I’m not sure how else you interpret this “inversion” nonsense.
Burger King Worldwide Inc. is in talks to buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc., a deal that would be structured as a so-called tax inversion and move the hamburger seller’s base to Canada.
The two sides are working on a deal that would create a new company, they said in a statement, confirming a report on the talks by The Wall Street Journal. The takeover would create the third-largest quick-service restaurant provider in the world, they said.
The point of this sort of a merger, beside the business aspect, is to move the headquarters of Burger King to a lower tax nation:
Inversion deals have been on the rise lately, and are facing stiff opposition in Washington given that they threaten to deplete U.S. government coffers. A move by Burger King to seal one is sure to intensify criticism of them, since it is such a well-known and distinctly American brand.
By moving to a lower-tax jurisdiction, inversion deals enable companies to save money on foreign earnings and cash stowed abroad, and in some cases lower their overall corporate rate. Even though many of the headline-grabbing inversion deals of late have involved European companies, Canada has also been the focal point for a number of them, given its proximity and similarity to the U.S. Canada’s federal corporate tax rate was lowered to 15% in 2012.
And surprise – Canada’s economy is picking up steam and corporations are eyeing it as a place to locate. Imagine that.
Canada’s corporate tax rate in Ontario of 26.5% (the federal rate of 15% plus Ontario’s provincial corporate tax rate of 11.5%) is considerably favorable to the American corporate tax rate of 35% thanks in large part to the conservative Canadian government led by Stephen Harper. The Harper government lowered the federal tax rate to 15% in 2012 down originally from 28% since it took office in 2006.
In fact, a recent KPMG Report, Focus on Tax, ranked Canada as the #1 country with the most business-friendly tax structure among developed countries when adding up a wide range of tax costs to businesses from statutory labor costs to harmonized sales tax. When comparing developed countries to what companies pay in the U.S.; Canada came in at 53.6%, the U.K. came in at 66.6%, and the Netherlands at 74.5% of the U.S. corporate tax burden.
Meanwhile, our politicians are trying to find a way to prevent that, because, well because they apparently think corporations work for them and exist to pay whatever tax rate they deem necessary. Of course, in a free country, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Corporations, like people, have the right to move wherever they wish. It is their call, not the government’s.
But, here that’s not the case:
Burger King’s possible merger to obtain the favorable Canadian corporate tax rate is a true reflection of the American corporate tax rate being the highest in the OECD. However, rather than taking the same stance on outright cutting the corporate tax rate as the Harper government did to keep the U.S. a competitive place to do business, President Obama calls tax inverting companies like Burger King “corporate deserters who renounce their citizenship to shield profits”. At the urging of President Obama, Congress is considering a bill to make it harder for companies to change addresses abroad. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew called for a “new sense of economic patriotism,” asking Congress to pass curbs to inversions. The Treasury Department currently is also preparing options to deter or prevent corporate tax inversions potentially on its own.
“Corporate deserters”. “Economic patriotism”. It’s Orwellian Newspeak at its finest. Imagine anyone trying to “shield profits” from a grasping and out-of-control government. It is also another, in a long line of indicators, that this is no longer a free country in the sense we used to believe it was. It is now a country where every other entity is subservient to the needs or wants of intrusive, controlling government.
That’s kind of the $64,000 dollar question (yes, I’m showing my age … bite me) isn’t it?
You’ve seen the news about the fast food walkouts and claims that food service people should be paid $15 an hour? That what the United Food and Commercial Workers union claims workers in that industry should have. But what do workers they actually represent in that industry actually get? Not much over minimum wage and union dues to pay out of that:
An examination of UFCW contracts shows that even senior union members are not receiving the wages that ROC and Jobs for Justice demand.
Consider a department manager at Kroger’s union shop in Michigan. She earns a maximum rate of $13.80, even after over half a decade on the job. If this is the highest wage the UFCW can negotiate for skilled, experienced workers, how can the union provide entry-level, low-skilled workers with $15 an hour?
It is not possible for them to accomplish this. Yet, receiving media coverage for the protests they sponsor is an effective way to increase membership and dues collections. The wage they demand is more than twice what similarly skilled union members are paid, namely $7.40 an hour for an entry-level cashier.
Courtesy clerks are paid a starting rate of $7.40 an hour and can work their way to up a wage ceiling of $7.45, after 12 months on the job. Fuel clerks do not fare much better; they start at the same $7.40 and can earn $7.80 an hour after three years of experience, barely over half of the $15 an hour wage worker centers supported by the UFCW demand. Specialty clerks also start at $7.40 an hour, but can earn up to $9.35 after six years. This amount is still 25 percent below the $12.50 an hour “living wage” Jobs for Justice claims all entry level workers should be paid. Read the full union contract between Kroger and the UFCW here.
The take-home pay is even lower once dues—and federal and state taxes—are removed. Dues are mandatory and usually take between $19 and $60 a month from members’ paychecks.
A non-union member could negotiate that without even trying hard. So, what good is the union really done for those those it represents? Other than pay it’s union staff very well?
It is expensive to run a union. The average total compensation for those employed by the UFCW—rather than represented by the UFCW—is $88,224 a year. This income is almost six times what the union negotiated for cashiers at Kroger’s. Joseph Hansen, the International President of UFCW, earns in excess of $350,000 a year—over twenty times the earnings of many of the workers he represents. The Executive Vice President and National President both earn over $300,000. Are entry-level union workers receiving benefits from paying dues out of their $7.40 an hour paychecks to fund these salaries?
But you know, it’s “management” that’s the problem, right? I mean how could a cashier negotiate a $7.40 an hour paycheck without the union – and then give the union its “dues” out of that same paycheck? Hey, the president of the union has to have his perks, right?
I know, I know, don’t look at the paycheck, look at the other benefits … like a pension, right?
The UFCW has one of the worst records for funding of union pension plans. The Labor Department has informed the UFCW that nine of its pension plans have reached “critical status,” meaning they are less than 65 percent funded. Many of these funds have been underfunded for six years. They have low chances of regaining sustainable financing unless they can convince more new members to join and pay dues without receiving similar benefits.
And, of course, there’s the political side of things … it is important to help fund the union’s political activities, no?
Well of course it went to Democrats. Democrats have been in the union’s pocket (and vice versa) since time began, apparently. Put $11.6 in the pension fund? What are you, a Republican?
Yes, it’s a crying shame people aren’t represented by this union … said no libertarian, ever.
Despite the attempt by government and particularly Democrats, to blame the financial meltdown we’ve endured on banks and unscrupulous investment companies, the buck stops with them according to a new study just released:
Democrats and the media insist the Community Reinvestment Act, the anti-redlining law beefed up by President Clinton, had nothing to do with the subprime mortgage crisis and recession.
But a new study by the respected National Bureau of Economic Research finds, “Yes, it did. We find that adherence to that act led to riskier lending by banks.”
Added NBER: “There is a clear pattern of increased defaults for loans made by these banks in quarters around the (CRA) exam. Moreover, the effects are larger for loans made within CRA tracts,” or predominantly low-income and minority areas.
As we’ve mentioned previously any number of times, government policies can set and enforce preverse incentives. And that has nothing to do with a free market. That’s at best a mixed market. So no, the problem wasn’t a “market failure”, it was the usual result of government intruding and setting preverse incentives that are contrary to good business practices and would likely not survive or succeed in an actual free market.
Here’d the bottom line:
The strongest link between CRA lending and defaults took place in the runup to the crisis — 2004 to 2006 — when banks rapidly sold CRA mortgages for securitization by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Wall Street.
CRA regulations are at the core of Fannie’s and Freddie’s so-called affordable housing mission. In the early 1990s, a Democrat Congress gave HUD the authority to set and enforce (through fines) CRA-grade loan quotas at Fannie and Freddie.
It passed a law requiring the government-backed agencies to “assist insured depository institutions to meet their obligations under the (CRA).” The goal was to help banks meet lending quotas by buying their CRA loans.
But they had to loosen underwriting standards to do it. And that’s what they did.
Not only that, they guaranteed the bad loans with your money. Why do you think so much money has had to be pumped into those two institutions?
You see the market had determined that certain standards protected their investments. The government decided to ignore reality and push a social agenda using “race” as the basis for throwing out those standards and using their coercive power to implement the social agenda they preferred.
The result was predictable.
And the coverup as well.
Or here’s what happens when you play the green card and drive up the cost of energy to the point that it is unaffordable:
When the mercury falls, the theft of wood in the country’s woodlands goes up as people turn to cheaper ways to heat their homes. With energy costs escalating, more Germans are turning to wood burning stoves for heat. That, though, has also led to a rise in tree theft in the country’s forests. The problem has been compounded this winter by rising energy costs. The Germany’s Renters Association estimates the heating costs will go up 22 percent this winter alone.
How much carbon is being emitted by wood burning stoves? How about the deforestation?
Gee, nukes don’t sound so bad now, do they?
My friend George Scoville wrote a Black Friday-appropriate post on a problem with gift-giving, which touches on a broader point that libertarians should heed.
A microeconomics paper that’s bounced around econ-blogs for several years says gift-giving causes a huge deadweight loss: when someone else picks a gift for you, it may not be what you would have bought for yourself when you would have bought it, which normally implies that goods and services are being distributed inefficiently.
If that’s true, then Christmas is a tremendously wasteful institution, within an order of magnitude of the income tax, and we’d be better off giving each other cash gifts.
First, on a technical note, that paper was written in 1993, before Amazon wish lists and social media made it easier to detect people’s interests and needs, so perhaps we’re getting better at matching gifts with recipients.
More importantly, the paper fell short of meaningfully capturing deadweight loss, because it focused entirely on the value of the goods. Gift economies mostly operate on another kind of supply and demand: the desire for social cohesion, meaning closer relationships with family, friends, and other peers.
This is no trivial matter: relationships with people we can count on make us happier, healthier, and more successful. Anything that helps to build and cement those bonds is valuable, and while some academics and marketers try to quantify that value (it may be more than you’d think), the normal rule is that relationships of trust should not be fungible with cash. All societies have some social taboo against trading off the sacred and the mundane, which sometimes leads to absurdly stupid conclusions, but also allows people to build trust without worrying that anything intimate or of an extremely hard-to-price value (what’s the rest of your life worth?) will be easily sold for any of the mundane things that can be bought with cash.
It’s awkward when people give each other cash as gifts even if the amount is equal, and gift exchanges in which only one side puts any thought into it show unequal empathy. If you put a lot of thought into anticipating someone’s wants, and that person gives you a very generic gift, it’s like being put in the Friend Zone.
The point of gifts is to trip a hardwire in the brains of social mammals: cycles of giving and gratitude that go beyond simple reciprocity. When you’re trading cash, everyone is acutely aware of the value of what’s been exchanged, and there’s no fudge factor in the brain for “the thought that counts.”
That’s something we disagreeable, rationalistic libertarians should keep in mind, because the gift economy is a powerful force in human relations that resists and resents the intrusion of market forces, even if markets efficiently bring us the gifts.
I don’t know how many times we have to point these out or how many ways we have to illustrate that government has no business trying to pick winners and losers, because usually, as with most centralized planning organizations, they get it wrong. Why? Because they’re absolutely blind to signals from the market. Government’s picks are founded more in preference than reality:
Obama touted it in 2010 as evidence “manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States,” but two years later, a Michigan hybrid battery plant built with $150 million in taxpayer funds is putting workers on furlough before a single battery has been produced.
Workers at the Compact Power manufacturing facilities in Holland, Mich., run by LG Chem, have been placed on rotating furloughs, working only three weeks per month based on lack of demand for lithium-ion cells.
The facility, which was opened in July 2010 with a groundbreaking attended by Obama, has yet to produce a single battery for the Chevrolet Volt, the troubled electric car from General Motors. The plant’s batteries also were intended to be used in Ford’s electric Focus.
The 650,000-square-foot, $300 million facility was slated to produce 15,000 batteries per year, while creating hundreds of new jobs. But to date, only 200 workers are employed at the plant by by the South Korean company. Batteries for the Chevy Volts that have been produced have been made by an LG plant in South Korea.
Talk about outsourcing.
Workers are furloughed for one week every month. And guess who pays for that week?
Boileau pointed out the workers who are on furloughs one week a month are eligible to collect unemployment for that week, and he said the company covers the contributions to their individual benefits during the period.
Reality check commonly ignored when it comes to government:
“Had it been private investors rather than government bureaucrats making the decision, there either would have been a reality check about the industry, or only those who made individual decisions to invest would have lost their money, not taxpayers.”
Instead, government has “socialized” the loss.
The market has moved on – natural gas is cheap and plentiful. It is the future, at least the near future. That’s where everything is going.
Meanwhile, the government continues its near unbroken string of picking losers … not that anyone who knows a thing about economics and markets should be the least surprised. Unlike many other things, this is not “unexpected”.
Here’s how markets work. From Toyota:
It said today it will not release its proposed mass-market mini e-car, the eQ. The reason: there’s no demand for it, not while battery technology is failing to provide comparable range to a tank of petrol. The natural gas boom in the US has seen prices of the fuel plummet, in turn reducing the cost of electricity generated by burning it. The Japanese car maker said today it will release 21 hybrid gas-electric models in its line-up by 2015.
“The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” said, Uchiyamada, who spearheaded Toyota’s development of the Prius hybrid in the 1990s.
Here’s the market not working because of government intrusion (and ownership):
Nearly two years after the introduction of the path-breaking plug-in hybrid, GM is still losing as much as $49,000 on each Volt it builds, according to estimates provided to Reuters by industry analysts and manufacturing experts.
Cheap Volt lease offers meant to drive more customers to Chevy showrooms this summer may have pushed that loss even higher. There are some Americans paying just $5,050 to drive around for two years in a vehicle that cost as much as $89,000 to produce.
It currently costs GM “at least” $75,000 to build the Volt, including development costs, Munro said. That’s nearly twice the base price of the Volt before a $7,500 federal tax credit provided as part ofPresident Barack Obama‘s green energy policy.
A pity these things have to be continually pointed out. But, of course, it won’t stop those who want government to decide what we should be driving instead of consumers and think subsidies will foster that desired behavior.
Two non-partisan government agencies — the Congressional Budget Office in Washington, D.C. and Parliament’s Select Transport Committee — conclude that during the next decade at least, the giveaways will have little impact on sales of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles, or on gasoline consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions. Their main beneficiaries: affluent purchasers who’d buy the vehicles anyway.
“… during the next decade at least …?” Love that caveat, don’t you? They never work if it is something consumers don’t want. See current example for proof. In the case of the market, it’s moved on … and much faster than government can react. As usual, government has backed a loser.
The frenzy over shale gas deep under Ohio and other states has the makings of a different kind of rush on the nation’s highways. Businesses, cities, metropolitan transit systems and even school districts across the nation are edging toward a switch from diesel and gasoline to natural gas. Converting cars and light trucks to use either gasoline or natural gas is expensive. And heavy trucks designed specifically for natural gas also cost more than conventional diesels. But at current prices, engines that can run on natural gas cut fuel bills in half or better.
And GM has the Volt. You have to laugh at the fact that the central planners invariably always get it wrong.
You’d have think we’d have learned that by now, wouldn’t you?