Free Markets, Free People
More whining from the baby boomers (and yes, I’m a boomer). Joe Nocera of the NYT is 60 and his 401 (k) has just failed to provide for his retirement:
The only thing I haven’t dealt with on my to-do checklist is retirement planning. The reason is simple: I’m not planning to retire. More accurately, I can’t retire. My 401(k) plan, which was supposed to take care of my retirement, is in tatters.
And Old Joe was a fan of 401 (k)s too:
Like millions of other aging baby boomers, I first began putting money into a tax-deferred retirement account a few years after they were legislated into existence in the late 1970s. The great bull market, which began in 1982, was just gearing up. As a young journalist, I couldn’t afford to invest a lot of money, but my account grew as the market rose, and the bull market gave me an inflated sense of my investing skills.
I became such an enthusiast of the new investing culture that I wrote my first book, in the mid-1990s, about what I called “the democratization of money.” It was only right, I argued, that the little guy have the same access to the markets as the wealthy. In the book, I didn’t make much of the decline of pensions. After all, we were in the middle of the tech bubble by then. What fun!
But the tech bubble knocked the poo out his tech heavy portfolio (yeah, everyone took a bit of a soaking, but much of it came back).
Here’s the part that gets me. While you can kinda, sorta, give him a pat on the back for the tech stock thing and say “aw, poor thing”, that’s not why his 401(k) is in “tatters”:
A half-dozen years later, I got divorced, cutting my 401(k) in half again. A few years after that, I bought a house that needed some costly renovations. Since my retirement account was now hopelessly inadequate for actual retirement, I reasoned that I might as well get some use out of the money while I could. So I threw another chunk of my 401(k) at the renovation. That’s where I stand today.
Or said another way – he spent most of it on things that have nothing to do with retirement while also losing half to a divorced spouse.
How is that that fault of the 401(k)?!
Of course, it’s not.
But Nocera spends the rest of his article blaming all of this on the inadequacies of 401(k)s. So what does he do … find an “expert” to buttress his obvious conclusion:
What, then, will people do when they retire? I asked Ghilarducci. “Their retirement plan is faith based,” she replied. “They have faith that it will somehow work out.”
I laughed, but it’s not funny. “The 401(k),” she concluded, “is a failed experiment. It is time to rethink it.”
Uh, no, it’s not.
It’s certainly not as failed an experiment as Social Security. And, by the way, for those for whom it is a failure, it’s a failure with their own money (and not mine or millions of other tax payers). Anyone who looks at Nocera’s explanation as to why there’s nothing in his 401(k) today knows better than to claim it’s the fault of the program or somehow a “failed experiment”.
Clue: when you make huge withdrawals to buy and renovate houses prior to your retirement, you might be gutting your retirement program – you know, the program in which you were able to save a large amount of money for after you retired that you chose to use today? And someone should also clue Mr. Nocera into the fact that his interpersonal relationships which end in divorce aren’t the fault of the 401(k) either.
But hey, in today’s world, it is hip to be a victim, isn’t it? Everyone has to have something or someone to blame for their stupid decisions in life. And Nocera provides a great example of the type. Blame the fund, not the fool making the dumb decisions.
Could. That’s the operative word. “If” is the keyword. We certainly have the assets and infrastructure.
By 2017 the U.S. could be the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, surpassing leading LNG exporters Qatar and Australia. There is one big “if,” however. America can produce more gas, export a surplus, improve the trade deficit, create jobs, generate taxable profits and reduce its dependence on foreign energy if the marketplace is allowed to work and politics doesn’t get in the way.
However, there are few things like this in which politics doesn’t get in the way. And don’t forget the crony capitalists:
But exporters must overcome growing opposition to LNG exports by environmentalists and industrial users of natural gas. Exporters must also get multiple permits from environmentally conscious federal officials. And Rep. Ed Markey (D.-Mass.) has proposed legislation to bar federal approval of any LNG export terminals until 2025. Those who most fear global warming don’t want anyone anywhere to use more fossil fuel, even “cleaner” natural gas.
Of course the most beneficial thing to do would be to let the market for LNG work. But there are vested interests which will lobby against that:
Exporting energy, however, rubs a lot of people the wrong way. [T. Boone] Pickens wants cheap natural gas for his 18-wheelers and opposes LNG exports. Industrial gas users argue that a vibrant LNG industry would propel domestic gas prices higher. A study by Deloitte said that exporting six 6 BCF [billion cubic feet] per day of LNG would raise wellhead gas prices by 12 cents per million BTU (about 1% on a retail basis). Advocates of “energy independence” argue that exporting LNG would tie U.S. natural gas prices to global markets.
The Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy is considering whether exporting LNG is in the public interest. In the meantime — shades of Keystone XL — the department has effectively put a moratorium on new LNG export licenses.
Energy’s decision-making process balances the extent to which exporting LNG drives up prices with the economic benefits of increased production and energy exports. The price assessment comes at a time when U.S. gas fetches the same price in constant dollars as it did in 1975. Producers are now shutting down production and lowering exploration budgets. The shale-gas “job machine” is now in reverse.
So what would be the ideal?
Ideally, the Energy Department should move quickly and recognize free-market principles. And the administration could send a clear policy signal that natural gas is integral to the country’s energy future and that exporting LNG is good economics and consistent with its 2010 State of the Union address to double U.S. exports over five years and create two million new jobs. But Energy is moving slowly, and administration signals on natural gas are mostly lip service. The economic-benefits study should have been done by the end of March. But last week, Energy delayed its release until late summer, and said there is no timeline to review results and develop policy recommendations. Translation: after the election.
We’ve seen this scenario before (*cough* Keystone *cough*).
Here we are in the middle of a recession and we’re seeing the same sort of nonsense being played out as we have with other energy projects. The delays are literally playing with people’s lives and livelihoods:
Estimates of the job benefits from U.S. LNG projects depend on a variety of assumptions. Roughly 25,000 direct construction jobs would be created if all the projects are built. Increasing the U.S. natural-gas production base by another 13 billion cubic feet might translate to 450,000 direct and indirect jobs and $16 billion in annual tax revenue for federal and state coffers.
It’s easier to forecast improved trade balances. Exporting 13 BCF per day of LNG could generate about $45 billion annually. Reaching Pickens’ goals could offset another $70 billion annually of oil imports.
But, instead, the Energy Department is delaying.
And people wonder why coming out of this recession we aren’t adding jobs to the economy as we have in past recessions?
Politics and policy, my friends, politics and policy.
While this happened in Canada, it is something that I’ve come to believe could happen here in the near future given the rise of the nanny state’s intrusion. This incident occurred in Kitchener, Ontario:
Jessie Sansone told the Record newspaper that he was in shock when he was arrested Wednesday and taken to a police station for questioning over the drawing. He was also strip-searched.
"This is completely insane. My daughter drew a gun on a piece of paper at school," he said.
Officials told the newspaper the move was necessary to ensure there were no guns accessible by children in the family’s home. They also said comments by Sansone’s daughter, Neaveh, that the man holding the gun in the picture was her dad and "he uses it to shoot bad guys and monsters," was concerning.
A four year old. Yeah, they have no imagination whatsoever, do they? They never make things up.
Do Canadians not enjoy the right of not being subjected too unnecessary search and seizure? Note the official response – it was “necessary” to ensure there were no “guns accessible by children in the family’s home”?
Really? Was it? It couldn’t have been a 4 year old’s flight of fancy, could it? That never happens, does it?
And beside that, while I hold it is none of the state’s freakin’ business to begin with, a simple knock on the door wouldn’t have been able to determine access to firearms? “Hi, sir. Your 4 year old daughter drew this and we’re concerned about her or other children in the household having access to firearms. Do you own any firearms? “
Yeah, way to easy. What in the hell has happened to common sense?
And it even gets worse:
Police also searched Sansone’s home while he was in custody. His wife and three children were taken to the police station, and the children were interviewed by Family and Children’s Services.
Sansone’s wife, Stephanie Squires, told the newspaper no one told them why her husband had been arrested.
"He had absolutely no idea what this was even about. I just kept telling them, ‘You’re making a mistake.’"
Several hours later, Sansone was released without charges.
Searched the home without permission (no word on whether there was a warrant), didn’t inform the father of the charges against him, strip searched him and then released him without charges hours later?
That’s police state treatment.
Hopefully Mr. Sansone retains a good lawyer and sues the pants off these goons.
If the state will let him.
One of the things I do quite often is throw poll numbers up here. But they’re usually numbers from selected polls. You’re unlikely to see me put up numbers about what percentage of likely voters some candidate holds in an election, especially a year out. They’re essentially worthless.
But three I do find interesting and telling are polls that measure the satisfaction of voters, like the “direction of the country” polls, polls that look at voter enthusiasm for each side and finally, polls that attempt to determine the size of the independent vote pool.
Those three types of polls are usually trending polls, i.e. they measure these things at regular intervals. It is those trends that I find valuable and make it easier for me, personally, to get a handle on the mood of the voting public.
For instance, in the 2010 midterms we saw a decided shift of independents from the Democratic side to the Republican side as well as much more enthusiasm on the right than the left in those elections. The result was a resounding Republican win with them picking up around 60 seats in the House.
Today we have one of those polls from Gallup. It measures where independent voters are trending. So let’s take a look.
The first thing that strikes you is the fact that the pool of independent voters has increased:
The percentage of Americans identifying as political independents increased in 2011, as is common in a non-election year, although the 40% who did so is the highest Gallup has measured, by one percentage point. More Americans continue to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31% to 27%.
Did you catch that last sentence? There is a 4% difference in favor of Democrats with party identification. That’s actually an decrease for the GOP as we’ll see later on. Look at this chart from Gallup:
The key year is 2010. Note that Republicans, as mentioned did very well that year in the mid-terms but still trailed Democrats in percentage of party identification. Also note that increased identification as an independent began almost immediately after 2008, when Democrats controlled both the legislative and executive branches.
But since 2010 Democrat identification has flattened out. In fact, if you look back toward 1988 the current percentage of identification with Democrats is at what one could consider a low. But the same can be said for Republicans.
So what do the trends tell us? Well, to me they indicate a very deep dissatisfaction with both parties. And, in fact, in terms of self-identification, each party is “bottomed out” with those identifying with them being what one would consider their hard-core base. For whatever reason they unswervingly identify with one of the two parties and, if I had to guess, go to the polls and pretty much vote a straight ticket.
Looking at the numbers, however, you realize that they’re obviously not enough, within these bases, for either party to win an election. Democrats have a 4% lead in what they have to make up, but that’s not necessarily as much of an advantage as it might seem. Because it all depends on how many independents they have leaning their way as to whether they can get the required majority of voters.
How dissatisfied is the voting public with the two parties? Well, this little tidbit should give you an idea:
Gallup records from 1951-1988 — based on face-to-face interviewing — indicate that the percentage of independents was generally in the low 30% range during those years, suggesting that the proportion of independents in 2011 was the largest in at least 60 years.
So now the question is, even with that level of dissatisfaction, assuming no third party run, who do (or will) independents side with? First keep in mind that while Democrats enjoy a 4 point lead in party identification, that’s down from the 7 point lead they enjoyed in 2008.
Secondly, in 2008, Democrats enjoyed a 12 point advantage among independents, with 52% leaning Democratic compared to 40% leaning Republican. Now?
Now a virtual tie. The huge advantage that Democrats enjoyed in the last presidential race among independents has dissipated.
Of course everyone knows, or at least those who follow politics know, that the fight for the presidency will be determined by the “big middle” – those who identify as independents.
Given this chart, and despite the fact that their party identification has dropped a couple of points, it would appear that the GOP has made huge gains among independents. This is a trend I’ve been remarking on for quite some time. The 12% advantage is gone.
So now, what if anything does this tell us?
Well, it tells us that the presidential election isn’t a slam dunk on either side, but neither, at least at this point in time, is it a run-away for either side. It will be exceedingly close, no matter who ends up as the nominee for the GOP.
But I’d also say this – so far most of the blood-letting, politically speaking, has been on the Republican side with these interminable debates going on. The numbers you see above reflect one party with its nominee already decided and the other still in the midst of deciding.
So given that point, I’d have to say that being tied among independents at this point is not particularly good news for the incumbent party. Independent voters have trended away from Democrats and, for the most part, stayed away. What one has to wonder is if the tie will be broken when the GOP finally settles on a nominee and which way it will go. If I had to guess, once that is done, we’ll see another fairly significant change in “leaning” independents for one side or the other as they decide whether or not they can indeed support the nominee the GOP has named.
And that’s what is going to be interesting. Instead of talking about who can beat Obama, the GOP needs to be concerned with who can and will attract independent voters.
That will not appeal to the staunch conservatives, especially the social conservatives, because, those independents still to be influenced most likely are moderate or, as some activists like to characterize them, from the “mushy middle”. They are that 10% that don’t show up in the 45-45 tie. They are the prize.
Unfortunately, that means appealing to a group that may be just as likely to vote Democratic as Republican and less likely to be attracted to either side pushing what they consider extremist ideas.
Just a point to consider.
Meanwhile, on the right, another choice is going to have to be made. They are going to have to decide if they’re going to hold out for the perfect candidate or do what is necessary to get Barack Obama out of office. And that means some probable nose-holding and lever pulling (that’s where the enthusiasm gap comes in).
Yes, friends, 2012 promises to be a political junkie’s dream in terms of watching the politics of the day develop. Unfortunately, it promises the same sort of election we’ve had for decades – making another choice among a field of poor choices and then somehow expecting that poor (but best relatively speaking) choice to work miracles.
What was Einstein’s definition of insanity?
Last night on our podcast we discussed some of the economic arguments and statements President Obama has been making lately. Among us we can’t quite figure out if they are the sum of an abysmal understanding of basic economic theory or a result of ideology or a little bit of both (one feeding the other). But I continue to see such statements filter out from various speeches, statements and interviews. For example, this from Steve Kroft’s 60 minute interview:
KROFT: [Republicans] say it’s your insistence on raising the taxes to the wealthiest Americans, that you’re fixated on that. And that there are other ways to raise revenue.
OBAMA: Steve, the math is the math. You can’t lower rates and raise revenue, unless you’re getting revenue from someplace else. Now, either it’s coming from middle-class families or poor families or it’s coming from folks like you and me that can afford to pay a little more. I mean, I think the average American understands that.
Well, Americans certainly understand that the “revenue has to come from someplace else” if the tax base has shrunk, but my guess is they also understand that you can lower taxes and increase revenue in what situation?
Oh, yeah … in a period of economic growth. So perhaps the answer is to work on a long-term solution, you know, like stimulating economic growth, instead of a temporary, short-term half-assed solution like raising taxes on the “rich”? Perhaps?
Not to the smartest man in the room. Not even a mention of economic growth or stimulating it. Instead it’s all about raising taxes on the class he’s attempted to demonize for months.
And he’s invented a new “bargain” for his campaign to do so:
People in the audience at his speech, Obama said, want to know, “What’s happened to the bargain? What’s happened to the American deal that says, you know, we are focused on building a strong middle class?” Americans are “concerned about inequality” and he’s trying to remedy it by placing new rules on Wall Street, by intensifying consumer protections by getting his Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fully up and running, and by asking the rich to pay more in taxes to fund government spending on investments in the future like education and health care.
“To fund government spending on investments in the future like education and health care”? When did we make that a part of any sort of a “bargain”? What “American bargain” is he talking about? I know about the “American dream”, but that has nothing to do with a “bargain”. When did we enter into this so-called bargain that apparently guaranteed a middle class life even if it has to be funded on the back of others? How is that an “American bargain”?
Of course this cobbled up premise takes our man to these sorts of simplistic (but politically expedient) conclusions:
OBAMA: If I can’t get Republicans to move, partly because they’ve made a political, strategic decision that says, “Anything Obama’s for, we’re against, because that’s our best chance of winning an election,” I don’t think the American people would see that as a failure on my part. My preference is that they’d have a different attitude. You know, I’ve been joking with my staff lately that I think in my next speech, I am gonna say, “I am adamantly opposed to investing in education and putting teachers in the classroom. I’m adamantly opposed to rebuilding America and putting construction workers back to work.” And I’m thinking maybe suddenly Republicans might be for it. But, you know, keep in mind, I’m talking about Republican members of Congress. I’m not talking about Republicans around the country.
Mr. Black and White. It is either “I’m totally behind Obama’s plan or I’m totally against it”. Stark but utter nonsense. An attempt at political framing which ignores the reality of the day – we can’t afford most of the things Obama wants and the fact that he continues to want them doesn’t change that. So instead of bowing to reality (like he has most foreign leaders), Obama chooses to pretend that’s not the problem and Republicans oppose him simply because they want to win an election. And throwing lines like this out there about essentially opposing things that might help teachers and construction workers is another among many attempts to demonize the opposition with baseless claims.
In the meantime he’s punted a decision that would indeed employ thousands of construction workers and, oh by the way, raise tax revenues, by delaying the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Did anyone call him on that? Of course not.
Did Steve Kroft remind him he had a majority Democratic Congress for two years and did nothing to address the economic situation or this “American bargain” he’s made up?
Of course not.
The middle class wasn’t important then. And frankly it’s not that important to him now. It’s a political device he hopes to use to distract and demonize. He has to distract the voting populace away from his dismal record (which finds 54% saying in a recent poll that he doesn’t deserve reelection) and he feels he has to demonize his opposition to do that – all the while waving the false flag of concern over the middle class.
For such a smart guy, this is an exceedingly transparent and obvious attempt to change the subject – yet somehow the media seems to have missed it completely (at least to this point). There is no “American bargain”. Never has been. There is no guaranteed level living. There is no short-term fixed to the problem of government insolvency, especially taxing the “rich”. And the opposing party isn’t at all adamantly opposed to the things Obama would like you to believe they are opposed too. What they’re opposed to is the huge debt Mr. Obama’s administration has piled up, the class warfare he wants to conduct rather than work on real solutions and his insistence that the cause of most of the problems we face is also the solution to them.
In this podcast, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss Obama’s “Americans are lazy” comment, the failing EU. and the presidential race.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
I think we can officially call it that, although I’m not necessarily calling the women involved bimbos. It’s a term, a phrase used to describe these sorts of situations that politicians seem to find/get themselves in. Thus the scare quotes. Perhaps it’s unfair to the women. Maybe Cain’s the bimbo.
Anyway, the point of talking about it at all is to point out how poorly the Cain campaign has handled this. No one is talking about Herman Cain’s politics or ideas. Everyone is continuing to talk about this situation. And to make it worse, you have his campaign manager on national TV least night accusing one of the women of having a son who works for POLITICO – the media organization which broke the story on Cain.
Mark Block, on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show:
Her son works at POLITICO," Block said of Karen Kraushaar, whose name POLITICO printed earlier today after other media outlets made her identity public.
"I’ve been hearing that all day – you’ve confirmed that now?" Hannity asked.
"We’ve confirmed that he does indeed work at POLITICO and that’s his mother, yes," said Block.
Uh, no. They confirmed nothing. While Josh Kraushaar did work for POLITICO a while back (he left in 2010 for the National Journal) and happens to have the same last name as one of the Cain accusers, he’s not related at all.
This has been confirmed by none other than Josh Kraushaar. My guess is that’s something Mark Block might have wanted to ask Kraushaar who had been on Twitter tweeting his disbelief at the accusation. But then you have to have been monitoring the social media to have picked that up (or even ask the man yourself).
This is beginning to smell of amateur hour. You have a campaign who had 10 days notice this was coming and did nothing to get in front of it, choosing instead to ignore it. The problem, as you might have noticed, didn’t go away. In fact it got worse. 3 more women have come forward to say they too were sexually harassed by Cain.
These are the sorts of situations where everyone comes out looking worse in my opinion. Cain is being killed in the media (partly I think because when he finally did choose to respond, his response was to lash out at the media) and of course the campaign and its supporters are trying to do everything they can to discredit the women who’ve come forward.
Nasty stuff. Toxic stuff. Stuff that can kill a campaign.
I’ve heard people say “well it didn’t kill politicians like Bill Clinton”. True. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, “well that has nothing to do with his ability to govern”.
However, I think Cain’s problems and sinking poll numbers (and campaign) have more to do with is base than anything. When Bill Clinton was having these sorts of problems, his base simply didn’t regard them as serious enough to write him off. I assume you can ascribe any numbers of reasons for that – not wanting to give up the presidency, not feeling (as often stated) that personal behavior effected his governing, or just feeling it wasn’t as important an issue as the opposition wanted to make it.
Regardless it is about the standards of conduct that are important to the base. On the left, the crowd that talks about women’s rights are pretty flexible about that when it is their ox being gored. But they have no problem denouncing someone on the right if political advantageous. And that’s because on the right there is a higher standard applied. That standard has gotten many a righty politician in trouble when things like this came out. I’ve noticed Newt Gingrich talking about how he’s creeping up in the polls. Newt just hasn’t plateaued yet. He will – soon. He’s going nowhere because he has similar baggage.
Get used to it Republicans. Your candidate, barring the entrance of a dark horse who can and would capture the right’s vote, is Mitt Romney. Perry, by his performances in the debates, has all but eliminated himself. Cain was a contender, but this mess and how it is being handled is just killing him. Gingrich is in fantasy land.
The only one left standing, when all the political smoke clears, is going to be Mr. Flexible – Mitt Romney.
Makes you fell all warm and fuzzy doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to monitor the train wreck Herman Cain finds himself in and, if appropriate, have more to say. But it seems like the Cain campaign is trying its best, at the moment, to develop this into a worst case scenario. And so far they’re doing a bang up job.
For years I’ve heard people say that China isn’t an expansionist military threat on the par of, say, the old Soviet Union. And for the most part, I believe that. I do believe they’re a regional expansionist military threat and I also believe they’re building their military with unprecedented spending to fulfill that role. That’s fairly obvious in their dealings with other Asian countries within the China sea area.
But are they an international threat to peace?
In some ways, absolutely. For instance, their relationship with Iran threatens to make the unstable Middle East even more unstable. And they’re blatantly disregarding UN sanction and breaking promises to the US about weaponry they are exporting:
China is continuing to provide advanced missiles and other conventional arms to Iran and may be doing so in violation of U.N. sanctions against the Tehran regime, according to a draft report by the congressional U.S.-China Commission.
“China continues to provide Iran with what could be considered advanced conventional weapons,” the report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission says.
According to the report, which will be made public Nov. 16, China sold $312 million worth of arms to Iran, second only to Russia, after Congress passed the Iran Freedom Support Act in 2006 that allows the U.S. government to sanction foreign companies that provide advanced arms to Iran.
So, essentially China is calling the US bluff and ignoring the UN. And it is actively trading with a self- declared enemy of the US (and a country which has killed Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan).
Speaking of the US, China has even gone further:
Most of the weapons transfers involved sales of Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles, including C-802 missiles that China promised the United States in 1997 would not be exported to Iran.
China also built an entire missile plant in Iran last year to produce the Nasr-1 anti-ship cruise missile.
While the article goes on to say that technically the sale isn’t a violation of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act of 2006 because the payload and range are below the specified minimums, what it doesn’t say is the value of the advanced technology such a sale brings a country like Iran. Obviously what they learn from the C-802 will be incorporated in their own types of missiles.
The report in which these findings were contained makes a valid conclusion based on them:
The report concludes: “Despite Beijing’s stated claim to be acting as a responsible major power, China continues to place its national interests ahead of regional stability by providing economic and diplomatic support to countries that undermine international security.”
Of course China waves it all away. I mean, what are we going to do about it?
Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong denied China violated U.N. sanctions.
“When it comes to the issue of nonproliferation, China has been strictly adhering to the relevant U.N. resolutions and faithfully carries out its international obligations while strictly implementing its relevant domestic policies and regulations in the field.”
He said the commission “should cast off its Cold War mentality, respect the facts and stop making unwarranted allegations against China.”
Of course what sales like the ones China has been making to Iran do indeed undermine international security, or, at least Middle East regional security. Iran now brags about missiles it has that can hit its avowed enemy, Israel, and most of the world believes they’re pursuing nuclear weapons. These sorts of sales only aggravate that situation.
Israel has to take them seriously and has:
Israel’s test launch of a ballistic missile at Palmachim Air Force Base on Wednesday, in an apparent show of military strength, has ensured the threat of Iran’s nuclear capabilities remains firmly on the public agenda.
International sources quoted in the Israeli media said the test appeared to have been conducted with a ”surface-to-surface” missile known as the Jericho 3, which has a range of between 3000 and 7000 kilometres and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Of course Israel has never publically admitted it has nuclear weapons (but most believe they do) and until this launch never publicly admitted it had a missile with this range. It was indeed a show of force to make it clear to the Iranians that they had best mind their p’s and q’s. But it certainly indicates in increase in tensions and a decrease in stability in a region already dangerously unstable.
So we have China ignoring or circumventing international sanctions to trade critical weaponry with a rogue nation with military and regional aspirations and essentially telling the rest of the world to bug off.
The question is “why?”
Is it because it perceives weakness in the US? Europe? The UN? All three? China has weathered the recession in relatively good shape. It’s economy is still doing well. It has been the recipient of a wealth transfer through trade that has enabled it to spend much more freely on its military and it seems to be recognizing a growing vacuum in the world power balance as the US is perceived to be withdrawing some from its position of dominance.
Is China just interested in a regional role, or does Iran signal that China hopes to expand into much more of an international power player? China watchers who’ve been claiming that it is only regional power which interests the country may have to recalibrate their thinking. It seems, at least to me, that China sees a much broader role for itself (and its self-interest) in the world and may be beginning to make moves internationally to fulfill that role.
Of course time will tell, but Iran (and some of its activities in Africa and the China sea) seems to be a good indicator of a larger desired international role for China than that which was previously assumed for the country.
This may surprise you, but it is the US. In fact, it probably does surprise you, given all the whining about our dependence on foreign oil. You’d think that we were a poor nation when it comes to petroleum resources and the amount we import.
Quite the contrary. And you’d think that it would be in the best interests of the US to exploit its resources to a) give us a larger percentage of secure oil and b) employ oodles and bunches of Americans in an industry that has some pretty good and high paying jobs.
First the news:
The study released Thursday by the National Petroleum Council, a collection of industry, academic, government and other officials convened by the secretary of energy, touted how advanced technology has unlocked vast formations of natural gas previously deemed uneconomic to tap.
But the report also said the same drilling and production techniques that opened up shale gas – combined with success in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, the Canadian oil sands and even surges in conventional oil onshore – are improving the nation’s potential to be more self-reliant for oil, according to the report.
"Contrary to conventional wisdom the North American oil resource base also could provide substantial supply for decades ahead," the report said.
FYI, this isn’t just some industry group turning out reports that favor drilling.
The National Petroleum Council, a collection of industry, academic, government and other officials, convenes several times a year to gather information, give advice and issue reports on topics for the secretary of energy. The most recent report was a 2007 study on global energy supply and demand.
In 2009 Energy Secretary Steven Chu asked the group to look at U.S. natural gas and oil resources based on four concepts: economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, energy security and prudent development.
Optimistically, the Council believes that the US and Canada combined could produce 22.5 million barrels a day when the new resources are added in. Secure oil.
And, if we’d just get to work and try to tap these assets, Goldman Sachs believes we’ll surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer in the world by 2017:
And earlier this month, Goldman Sachs said in a note to investors it expects the U.S. – now the No. 3 oil producer behind Saudi Arabia and Russia – to take the top spot by 2017.
This, given the current economic (and political) conditions, should be a no-brainer, shouldn’t it?
Well shouldn’t it?
Today’s little economic snapshots:
A sharp drop in oil prices reduced import prices by –0.4%. Export prices, conversely, rose by 0.5%. On a year-over-year basis, import prices have risen by 13%, while export prices have gone up by 9.6%.
For the sixth straight month, business confidence has fallen as the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell 1.8 points in August to 88.1.
The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index fell 1.4% in August, with the index reading at 94.62, as nationwide trucking activity dropped slightly.
In weekly retail sales, ICSC-Goldman Store Sales rose 1.3% on a post-Hurricane Irene burst of sales last week, with year-over-year sales up 3.3%. Redbook, meanwhile, reports year-over year sales were up 4.5%.