Are businesses sitting on their money in the hope of a change in the regulatory regime (i.e. an Obama loss in 2012)?
Marylin Geewax brings us the following story about the overall economic picture. And it isn’t pretty:
The latest surveys show that both business owners and consumers have been losing confidence in the U.S. economy. That pessimism is just the latest blow to hopes for a speedy recovery.
Last week, even Federal Reserve officials said they have grown more pessimistic about the economic outlook this year. The policy makers cut their forecast for 2011 to a growth rate of just 2.7 to 2.9 percent — down from their April estimate of 3.1 to 3.3 percent.
Economists say growing pessimism and a lack of confidence tends to depress spending. Chris Christopher, an economist with the forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, says the large cash reserves corporations are holding are evidence that our budding optimism is fading.
I’d only ask, “what budding optimism”? Most who’ve been following the so-called “recovery” have seen little, in terms of economic indicators to elicit “budding optimism”. As we discussed in yesterday’s podcast, part of the problem, in fact a big part of the problem is the unsettled regulatory regime. Businesses have no idea where the administration is going with regulations, but what they’ve seen thus far provides them with no incentive to expand and hire and every incentive not to do so. Consequently:
U.S. corporations have about $1.65 trillion in cash available to them, he noted. But managers are so wary about the near-term outlook that they are not spending that cash on hiring workers or expanding operations.
And that brings us to another factor one can’t help think is at least beginning to have an effect as well. As we approach the second half of 2011, the 2012 presidential election looms. Are businesses now factoring in the possibility of change in the White House (real change we could live with) and holding back until that’s settled? It is certainly something that would make sense. With the administration’s war on business these past two plus years, there’s no reason to commit to expanding a business or hiring new employees if doing so is going to end up being a net negative. So why not wait and see? Sit on the cash and have it ready to use if and when the current administration is shown the door and a less draconian regulatory regime is on the horizon?
That’s common sense business.
Of course that’s not the only reason business is hanging back. There are other factors:
Other concerns involve a spring slump in manufacturing activity and the ongoing problems in real estate. For example, last week, a report from the National Association of Realtors showed existing home sales fell again in May, down 3.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.81 million units, the lowest rate in six months. Even worse, the median price was down 4.6 percent from a year earlier.
Consumers, whose spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of all U.S. economic activity, also lost confidence this spring as gasoline prices rose to nearly $4 a gallon in early May and unemployment ticked back up last month. The unemployment rate had gotten down to 8.8 percent in March, but was back up to 9.1 percent by May.
All of that in combination have businesses reticent to do what is necessary to help the recovery. I just wanted to bring the other factor - unsettled regulatory regime – to the fore as it simply doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. Draconian regulations which cost businesses high compliance costs are a drag on economic expansion. The possibility of relief from such a regime is a legitimate reason to not expand or hire and incur those increased compliance costs. As I’ve said any number of times, the government can help the economy best by getting the hell out of the way. Instead it seems the inclination is to meddle and intrude even more and, as should come as no surprise, this sort of non-recovery “recovery” is the result.
A group of around ten women in Muslim headscarves crashed the RightOnline conference for about ten minutes Saturday, protesting what they said was an incident targeting Muslim women Thursday night.
The event was the latest spark kicked up by the proximity of Netroots Nation and RightOnline. The two conferences are blocks apart — RightOnline is being held in a hotel many Netrootsers are staying in — and interaction between the progressives at Netroots and the conservatives at RightOnline has been inevitable.
A spokesperson for the group of women told TPM they weren’t sure of the identity of the man responsible for the Thursday incident — when two hijab-wearing women were followed by a man with a cell phone camera who reportedly asked them why they were dressed the way they were "in America" — but rumors that the incident involved an employee of conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart were rampant at Netroots.
A few points. It wasn’t a “flash mob” – at least not as I understand the term. I stood on the second floor balcony, watched them arrive together. I then watched a person, who I assume was John Aravosis, interview one of them for at least 10 minutes and then I watched them ascend the elevator and go up into the RightOnLine crowd.
All of this action based on a rumor that it was an “employee” of Breitbart involved in asking someone why they were dressed the way they were. Not fact – rumor. Unfortunately for them, all they drew was curious stares from the crowd. No confrontations, no heckling, no nothing.
I’m not sure why TPM felt compelled to make of this much more than it was, but then I always find it interesting to actually witness something as it happens and then read the report in what passes for the left’s media.
The spokesperson for the "flash mob," Allison Nevitt, told TPM that there was a larger message to their protest beyond the Thursday incident, which Nevitt said had been reported to Minneapolis police.
"The point was mostly that Muslim women are an equal part of this nation, and that we have an equal right to exist here," Nevitt said.
Is that the point? Well other than a rumor, who at RightOnLine denied it?
Why are the Netroots so angry? They won, right?
John Aravosis, another panelist, who blogs about gay-rights issues on AMERICAblog, reminisced about the heady early days of the left’s relationship with Obama.
"I honest to God thought I was voting for these guys and that it was going to be the first time in my lifetime that I’m finally in a position of power, where I could be working with the White House on a regular basis, saying, ‘OK what could we do this year on gay stuff?’ Wouldn’t it be cool, oh, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ this is great.’ "
But panelists agreed that it hasn’t turned out so well for progressives on overhauling health care or financial systems or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a host of other issues.
Interesting – the naiveté evident is, well, not surprising. These folks apparently actually believed they’d have both access and impact.
But it seems the “gay stuff” has been the bell weather issue to prove both of those assumptions wrong. And, of course, there’s Iraq, Afghanistan, the environment, Gitmo, – in fact just about everything.
So what does that all mean? Well let’s contrast it a bit with RightOnLine going on concurrently in the same city. Motivated, enthusiastic, optimistic along with record attendance. The difference in the “enthusiasm gap” is evident. Jane Hamsher:
This is the time when Barack Obama has to care. This is the time when he needs your vote. So don’t give yourself away cheaply. Ask for what you need and what the country needs and this is the time to do it.
That reminds me of some on the right when John McCain was running. It doesn’t sound like a very confident or enthusiastic group does it?
Originally postedin 2007
It actually started on June 5th. And it almost didn’t start then. The weather had turned bad. A great storm had blown in from the Atlantic. High wind and high seas had forced ships of all kinds back into bays and inlets. Low clouds made it impossible for aircraft to find landmarks. If the weather didn’t break, nothing would happen until at least July.
But the weather did break, and so, it began only a day later than planned.
There must have been about, oh, I don’t know, 15 of us there. Our two great men were there, Monty and Eisenhower. The poor weatherman had to talk first. Eisenhower asked Monty what he felt. ”Sure, I’ll do whatever you say, you know. We’re ready.” Then Eisenhower very calmly said, ”We’ll go.”
150,000 soldiers—American, British, Canadian, French, and many others—embarked on 5,000 ships, began moving towards places known today as St. Lô, Vierville-sur-Mer, Pouppeville, Arromanches, La Rivière-Saint-Sauveur, Pointe-du-hoc, Ouistreham.
The men on those ships, for the most part, didn’t know those names. They had simpler terms for the beaches where they would be spending the day—and for many, the rest of their lives. They called them Juno, Sword, Gold, Omaha, and Utah.
There were soldiers from many nations involved that day, all of whom deserve to be recognized and remembered. But as an American, it is the men from my country that I will write about.
Only about 15% of them had ever seen combat. But by this time, cold, wet, seasick, crammed into airless holds, or huddled on unprotected decks, many of them preferred combat to what they were going through on board ship.
Get us off these ships. I don’t care what’s waiting for us.
As it happened, though, it didn’t begin on the beaches, but in the air. On the night of June 5th, an armada of over 800 C-47 transport planes ferried the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions over the invasion fleet towards France. For them, the weather was still pretty bad. And it was dark.
It was going to be difficult. Everything depended on landing the pathfinders in the right place. Then the pathfinders had to light the dim beacons for the landing zones. The pilots carrying the airborne forces had to see the beacons, then they had to fly precisely, right over the landing zones.
And the Germans. Always the Germans, with searchlights and flares and the 88mm anti-aircraft cannon—the “flak” guns.
Getting everyone down alive, together, and ready to fight was going to be a chancy business. And the airborne troops knew it.
I lined up all the pilots. I says, ”I don’t give a damn what you do, but for one thing. If you’re going to drop us on a hill or if you’re going to drop us on our zone, drop us all in one place.”
But…they didn’t. The airborne forces were scattered. Almost no one landed on their programmed landing zone. Units from the two airborne divisions were scattered and intermixed, forcing officers and NCOs to create scratch units on the spot, with whomever they could find. The 101st Airborne Division commander, Maj. Gen. Maxwell Taylor, found that his new “unit” consisted of himself, his deputy commander, a colonel, several captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels…and three enlisted men. He quipped, “Never have so few been commanded by so many.”
And still they fought. Gen. Taylor soon had gathered a force of 90 officers, clerks, MPs, and a smattering of infantrymen. With them, he liberated the town of Pouppeville. Elsewhere, American soldiers gathered into groups, and struck out for an objective. Even if it wasn’t their objective, it was someone’s, and they were going to take and hold it.
And when they took it from the Germans, the Germans tried to take it back. But the paratroopers held.
It was a terrible day for paratroopers, but they did terrible fighting in there and they really made their presence known.
By this time, the Germans knew something was going on, if not precisely what. Their responses were confused. Their commander, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had returned to Germany for a brief leave. He wasn’t the only one absent that night. The 21st Panzer Division’s commander, Lt. Gen. Edgar Feuchtinger, was spending the night in Paris with his mistress. Col. Gen. Freiderich Dollman, commander of the 7th Army, and many of his staff officers and commanders, were 90 miles away in Rennes, on a map exercise. Ironically, the scenario for that exercise was countering an airborne landing.
The Germans were surprised, yet subordinate commanders began to take the initiative, seeking out the paratroops and engaging them, trying to determine what was happening. Was it the invasion? A diversion from the expected landings in Calais? What was happening?
Then, as the black night gave way to the cold, gray dawn of June 6th, they began to find out. Looming out of the fog, a vast armada of haze gray ships and landing craft began to move ashore.
At 5:50am, the warships began shelling Utah and Omaha Beaches. In the exchange of fire with German artillery on Utah Beach, one of the landing control ships was sunk. As a result, when the first wave came ashore on Utah beach at 6:30am, they were 2,000 yards south of their designated landing point.
It was a blessing in disguise. There was almost no enemy opposition. Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. made a personal reconnaissance past Utah beach, and found the beach exits almost undefended. He returned to the beach to coordinate the push inland. By the end of the day, 197 Americans were dead around Utah Beach, but the landing force had pushed inland.
At Omaha Beach, the story was much bleaker.
At around 6:30am, 96 tanks, an Army-Navy special Engineer Task Force, and eight companies of assault infantry went ashore, right into the teeth of withering machine-gun fire. Despite heavy bombardment, the German defenses were intact. Because the landing was at low tide, the men had to cross 185 yards of flat, open beach, as the well-protected German gunners cut them down. Tanks were sunk in their landing ships, or blown up at the edge of the water.
Them poor guys, they died like sardines in a can, they did. They never had a chance.
The men from the 29th Division’s 116 Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and the 1st Division’s 16th RCT were pushed off course in their landing craft by strong currents, and landed with machine gun bullets spanging off the gunwhales of their LCT’s. When the bow ramp dropped, men were riddled with bullets before they could even move. Others, jumping off the sides of the ramp, burdened with their equipment, drowned as they landed in water over their heads. Many more died on the beach, at the water’s edge.
You couldn’t lay your hand down without you didn’t touch a body. You had to weave your way over top of the corpses.
The first instinct for many was to crouch behind the steel anti-tank obstacles, to take cover behind the bodies of fallen comrades, to try and scrape shallow trenches with their hands. And yet, they couldn’t. More assault waves were on the way, and the volume of fire was so great that to stay where they were meant certain death. The beach had to be cleared for the incoming waves of infantry, but to move across that open beach also seemed like a death sentence.
He started yelling, ”God damn it, get up. Move in. You’re going to die, anyway. Move in and die.”
And so they did. They crossed that empty expanse of beach to the only cover to be had, a narrow strip of rock shingle at the base of the cliffs, below a short, timber seawall.
Those who made it to the shingle in those first hours…just stopped. Behind them was a carpet of bodes, and a tide that ran red with blood, making the spray from the curling waves a sickly pink. Ahead of them were intact and well-armed German defenders. Those men cowering on the shingle behind the low seawall had seen their units decimated, watched successive waves being slaughtered as they hit the beach. Shocked and disorganized, they stayed beneath the seawall, in the only narrow strip of safety they could find.
Meanwhile, at Point-du-hoc, at 7:00am, the men of the 2nd Ranger battalion came ashore beneath the cliffs. Their mission was to climb the steep cliffs with grappling hooks and ropes, to capture the German heavy artillery threatening the Omaha and Utah landings.
Under heavy fire from the cliffs, they fired back with the small mortars that launched the grappling hooks. With their fellow rangers dying on the beach beside them, they grasped the ropes and climbed. They climbed until German riflemen picked them off. They climbed while they watched their buddies arch in pain, and then fall headlong to the rocky beach below. They climbed as the men above them plummeted into them while falling, threatening to tear their fragile grip from the rope. They climbed and climbed.
And when they got to the top, the Germans were ready for them. But the Rangers were ready, too. So they fought their way through the pillboxes and trenches surrounding the gun emplacements. Pushing through the Germans, killing them to capture the guns.
And when they did, they discovered that the guns weren’t there. The men of the 2nd Ranger battalion had captured empty concrete emplacements, at the cost of half their number.
Back on Omaha Beach, the carnage continued.
Confusion, total confusion. We were just being slaughtered.
And as for the men (Huh. “Men.” Most of them hadn’t yet seen their twentieth summer.) who had survived the holocaust on the beach, and who now hid behind the tiny cover of the shingle? Well, who could have blamed them if they had just quit? Decided that this one taste of violence and death was enough for a lifetime? Decided that they didn’t want to face what must have seemed like inevitable and horrible, painful death?
And yet…they didn’t. Somehow, they gathered whatever courage was left to them, and began to try and figure out how to get off that beach, and move inland.
We were recreating from this mass of twisted bodies a fighting unit again, and it was done by soldiers, not by the officers.
It was C Company of the 116th RCT, accompanied by men from the 5th Ranger Battalion, that began the push. At the top of the seawall was a narrow road, and on the other side of it, protecting a draw, was a mesh of barbed wire. Pvt. Ingram E. Lambert jumped over the wall, crossed the road, and set a Bangalore torpedo in the barbed wire obstacle. He pulled the igniter, but nothing happened. Caught in the open, Pvt. Lambert was cut down by machine gun fire.
His platoon leader, 2d Lt. Stanley M. Schwartz, crossed the road, fixed the igniter, and blew the torpedo. The men of C Company and 5th Rangers began crossing through the gap, some falling to enemy fire. As they left the beach, and assaulted through the draw, others followed. Those men shivering behind the seawall grabbed their rifles, stood up, and began leaving the beach, moving toward the Germans.
Other breaches in the German defenses followed. Company I of the 116th RCT breached the strongpoints defending les Moulins draw. The 1st Section of Company E, 16th RCT, who had come ashore in the first wave, along with elements of two other companies, blew their own gap in the wire, and moved inland. Company G, 16th RCT, needed four Bangalore torpedoes to cut a single lane in the wire and anti-personnel mines that were set up with trip wires.
The breaches were narrow, and tenuous. Follow-on waves still faced murderous fire from the bluffs overlooking the beaches, and there was still confusion as the timetable was set back by the initial fury of German defenses. The 18th RCT was originally scheduled to land at 10:30am, but didn’t get on the beach until 1:00pm. The 118th RCT was delayed even more.
By the end of the day 3393 Americans were dead or missing, 3184 wounded, and 26 captured. But the breaches in the German defenses had been made. The Americans were ashore, and they were moving inland. The “Atlantic Wall” had been broken, but at a heavy cost.
When I was relieved and I walked by, oh God, the guys that died that day — all those beautiful, wonderful friends of mine, the day before, the night before, kidding and joking.
Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt was the German Army’s Commander in Chief, West. He was a crusty old soldier who disdained the flashy accouterments of rank that a German field marshal usually wore. He was content to attach his batons to the shoulders of his old regimental colonel’s uniform. He was also a realist.
Knowing what D-Day meant, he called the Chief of Operations for the German Armed forces, Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl. “What do you suggest we do now, Herr Feldmarschall?” Jodl asked.
“End the war, you fools! What else can you do?” replied the old warrior.
All quotes taken from the PBS documentary, D-Day.
One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The “war on drugs” is a classic example of insanity at a world-wide level. We learned in the early 20th century that prohibition doesn’t work. Our experience with alcohol should have at least given us the basis for rejecting another such prohibition when it came to drugs. However we have charged ahead and for decades waged what can only be termed a horribly expensive, liberty stealing campaign against drug use that has empowered criminal organizations and allowed them to become powerful enough to challenge some governments.
As should be clear to anyone, the “War on Drugs” is an epic failure. If you don’t believe it, imagine numbers like this for any legitimate business and then factor in the ongoing campaign to deny the flow of the product:
It cites UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.
In the face of the full might of the government of the US and many other governments in the world, this illegal enterprise has managed to supply demand that in some cases has increased 35% world wide. And it has cost us billions in “enforcement”, filled our jails and essentially had no effect whatsoever on the net side of things.
What did we learn from our own prohibition era? Apparently nothing. The market that exists today for drugs is eerily similar to that which existed for alcohol during the era of prohibition. It is a “black” market that exists because the demand exists, and government is single-handedly responsible for its existence.
Simple economics spells out how this works. There is an unfulfilled demand and whether or not you agree with the demand, the market will do all in its power to fill it. Government declaring something “illegal” may dampen demand – at least for a while – but the market will still do its best to fill the demand as long as there’s a profit to be made. All government does is change the nature of the market in question. It can be legal (which means regulated, controlled and taxed) or illegal (which usually means unregulated, untaxed and usually dominated by criminals and gangs), but it is not going to go away just because a government declares something “illegal”.
For whatever reason, after observing the results of the existing (and mostly unchanged) drug policies over decades, our political leaders still can’t seem to figure out the fact that they’re not going to “win” this battle. However, they can change the market dynamic tremendously simply by backing off of their desire to control what we consume and understanding that the best way to address such a market is through acceptance, regulation and taxation (yeah, I know, you never thought you’d hear a libertarian say that, but let’s be clear – that’s what we did with alcohol and it has worked).
The argument that people will go hog wild if drugs are legalized I find to be as nonsensical as when the argument was used about alcohol during the prohibition era. Those that are going to use drugs are most likely using them now. Additionally, part of the allure of drugs is their illegality. Yes, those with addictive personalities are probably going to get hooked on something – but given the inability of governments to stop drugs to this point, they’re likely already hooked on something anyway. The point is having this all out in the open and legal removes tremendous costs from “enforcement” and the revenue generated by regulated drug sales could be put toward treatment regimes. It also puts the criminals out of business and ends the drug related violence.
To this point, the War on Drugs has been an epic failure. All it has done is criminalize a behavior, create a market for now powerful criminals, and wasted our tax dollars on trying to control behavior.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.
I agree. Of course, according to the story, the US and Mexican governments disagree. Therefore the war on the border will continue, the funding of criminal (and terror) organizations will continue, and the militarization of the police and the resultant violation of the rights of citizens will also continue. Jails will continue to fill even while drug sales continue to grow.
Our current drug policies are insane. The numbers prove it. It is time to stop the knee-jerk reaction to the term “drugs” and drastically reassess our approach to their control and use. We’ve been through this before. It is time we reviewed that era and applied its lessons.
I have no idea what happened but we were lights out since last night. I think it may have been a problem with our service provider because all the Monday posts have disappeared. That says to me that they may have had to recover from a known point – like Sunday night.
I’ll pop the Monday posts back up here (life in the semi-fast lane I guess) and QandO is back on the air. Thank you for your patience.
UPDATE: OK so I won’t be posting Monday’s blog posts. Apparently I forgot to save local drafts soooo .. welcome to Tuesday which feels like a Monday.
In his response to Obama’s fantasy-based speech about Israel returning to the 1967 borders, Netanyahu basically says that’s a non-starter.
In an unusually sharp rebuke to Israel’s closest ally, Netanyahu told Obama his endorsement of a long-standing Palestinian demand to go back to Israel’s 1967 boundaries — meaning big concessions of occupied land — would leave Israel “indefensible.”
“Peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle East reality,” an unsmiling Netanyahu said as Obama listened intently beside him in the Oval Office.
As usual, it’s the clever Reuter’s wordsmithing that amuses me:
Netanyahu’s firm resistance now raises the question of how hard Obama will push for concessions he is unlikely to get, and whether the peace vision he laid out on Thursday will ever get off the ground. [Emphasis mine]
I don’t really think “vision” is the word that reflects reality here. “Hallucination” would be a lot closer.
Or same song, different verse.
Not much new in this that I was able to discern, especially about Israel. While claiming that the Palestinians have some responsibilities and the Hamas/Fatah reconciliation is troubling, most of the onus for peace is once again placed on Israel with the claim that it should withdraw to the ‘67 borders. Of course the last time they agreed to a withdrawal and did so, they paid a price for it. Doubt this is going to fall for that again.
Couple of interesting things to note. Speaking of Libya:
As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.
About “Arab spring”:
Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. As they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.
Hmmm … anyone else spot a little contradiction here?
Back to the now officially “illegal” war in Libya:
Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Moammar Gaddafi launched a war against his people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.
But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Gaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.
Two points – one, massacres in Iraq, using the Obama reasoning here, were already ongoing. Anyone, was Saddam hunting down opposition like “rats”? Er, yeah. So, what’s the beef with doing what Obama attempts to sell here for that reason only? And if Iraq was a dumb war, notwithstanding the same thing happening as in Libya, does that make Libya a dumb war (as well as “illegal”)?
Two – How does he know that “the transition to a democratic Libya” will be the result? And how does he plan to ensure it?
Obama gave Syria and Iran a tongue lashing, but I expect little else to occur in terms of action. Some sanctions will be imposed which, as they always do, hurt the poorest in the nation. He also mentioned Bahrain and Yemen in the speech.
Conspicuously absent from his bombast was any criticism of Saudi Arabia.
Like I said, nothing much new in the speech.
Seriously – this is just patent nonsense, offensive and a meme which needs to quickly die:
Try applying a different scenario (at the risk of violating Godwin’s law) - Those on the left are celebrating the death of 6 million Jews. Those on the right are celebrating the death of their murderer. If you can find those to be morally equivalent acts, then you’ll agree with the cartoon above.