Monthly Archives: March 2009
I can’t say with any certainty what this forebodes, but this is a staggering amount of debt to pile onto any country, especially within just a few months (my emphasis):
The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s.
New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.
The really scary thing is, the government is not even close to being done spending money. Yet we’ve already committed about 90% of GDP. Where is all that money going to come from?
As we’ve said before, there’s only a few options: (1) taxes; (2) borrowing; and (3) printing press.
Taxes will only raise so much, even when the government starts raising rates on lower income quintiles, and certainly not enough to keep up with the ballooning debt-service payments.
Borrowing just isn’t going to happen because there isn’t anybody else who either wants to or is capable of lending us more money. To wit, here’s some of Peter Murphy’s analysis on our borrowing problems:
The biggest buyers of US Government (and Agency) debt, for the past several years, have been China, Japan, and the Oil States.
However, the supply of loanable funds among these entities from which the US can borrow is drying up.
China’s current-account surplus, the source of the funds for its Treasury purchases, has dropped precipitously as the global economy has contracted over the past several months.
Japan, another major buyer of Treasuries over recent years, is now posting trade deficits for the first time since the early 1970′s. This current account deficit, combined with a significant fiscal shortfall and planned issuance of $33 Trillion Yen ($340 Billion USD) in government debt this year, means that Japan will be, in effect, competing with the US for funds, rather than lending to us.
And, the oil-exporters are in no shape to be buying anything right now, as oil prices have collapsed since last summers $147/barrel peak. Russia is busy selling foreign exchange to prop up its currency.
Brad Sester of the Council of Foreign Relations reports that foreign demand for long-term treasuries has faded, and notes, ominously, that “global reserves aren’t growing”.
Accordingly, borrowing does not look like an option. Which leaves really just one choice.
Printing money in a down economy, which will have to be done, increases inflation and saps purchasing power (potentially leading to hyper-inflation). We may be able to pay off our debts this way, but we’ll wipe out the wealth of the nation doing so. Think post-Franco-Prussian War where France drove its economy into the ground in order to pay off about 22% of its yearly GDP in war reparations to Germany … over three years. That strife led to the Paris Commune uprisings among other things. Or worse, consider post-WWI Germany, with inflation rising so fast that workers had to be paid twice a day and cart around wheelbarrows full of money just to buy a loaf of bread.
Is that what we’re headed for? I sure hope not, but the signs aren’t very encouraging if history is any guide. It is true that a much more dynamic and nimble economy exists today as compared to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But the world tendency right now seems to be to shackle that economy, making it much less dynamic and nimble. The end result must be less wealth produced, and less money to pay these debts. In short, our government is currently cashing checks that our economy can’t pay.
If you’ve not kept up or been unable to keep up (that’s why we’re here), you’ve probably wondered about the references to the “underpants gnomes” when discussing the banking and auto industry situations.
Naturally we have precisely the information you need to be in the know. Just remember, as our own underpants gnomes are discovering, the tricky part is “Phase II”.
I‘m sure some will find this surprising. Others will say, “yeah, baby!” It certainly is the logical extension of what happened to GM’s CEO. I, for one, still find it to be very disturbing:
On the heels of the resignation of General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, the Service Employees International Union is urging President Barack Obama to oust Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis.
“It defies logic, common-sense, and responsible governance to punish the auto industry while letting financial institutions off the hook,” SEIU President Andy Stern said, announcing his call for Lewis’s job Tuesday.
The same could be said for letting the union leadership off the hook.
Aren’t they responsible for declining membership? Aren’t they as much a part of the problem as the management of the auto industry? Why isn’t the SEIU calling for union heads as well?
Of course I ask that facetiously. Obviously we’re now going to hear every whiner and complainer in the world will demand the government fire their boss. Hey, the precedent has been set with one of the worst decisions I’ve seen in a while. Now we begin to see the results of such a blatantly dumb move.
You remember TARP. The “Troubled Asset Rescue Plan”? The plan which the Obama administration and the Treasury Department said they were monitoring closely? In fact, they even put a “watchdog” in charge of its oversight.
Transparency. Oversight. Hope and Change.
And any other buzzword promise that was thrown out there to describe how this administration would be so different from the last.
But apparently all the oversight promised depends heavily on cooperation, not stonewalling, by the Department administering TARP. That would be Treasury:
“We do not seem to be a priority for the Treasury Department,” the Congressional Oversight Panel’s Elizabeth Warren told a Senate Finance Committee hearing today.
“We have sent letters. We have requested that there be someone named so that we can get technical information. And so far, we have not been a first priority,” Warren said. “We use what you give us, and we will exercise the leverage given to us by Congress. In part, that’s why I’m here today. I’m here to talk to you about what’s happened so far, what we have discovered so far, the inquiries that we have in mid-stream and for which we continue to await responses.”
Warren, visibly frustrated with a lack of cooperation from the administration, emphasized, “This problem starts with Treasury.”
Now part of the problem, obviously, is that several key positions in Treasury have yet to be filled, over 60 days into the new administration and in the midst of a financial crisis. Apparently that’s not a priority either.
Oh, and you’ll love this:
Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, voiced similar concerns.
He noted that his office just conducted a survey of all 364 TARP recipients on their use of government funds, something they had requested Treasury do, only for the Department to decline to do so except in the cases of Citigroup and Bank of America.
“One thing is clear: complaints that it was impractical, impossible, or a waste of time to require banks to detail how they used TARP funds were unfounded,” Barofsky said.
I continue to be unimpressed with Tim Geithner and his management and leadership style. What you’re reading here is totally unacceptable. For once, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said the right thing:
“Unfortunately, despite saying all the right things about open government, the new administration has not made any major changes aimed at making TARP more transparent,” he said. “Moreover, I have heard about potential problems with access to information from all three of the oversight bodies testifying.”
Hope and Change.
The person to whom the Navy recently bestowed the formerly prestigious Distingusihed Public Service Award had this to say:
“If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district,” Mr. Murtha said.
Because, you know, there’s obviously no other way to do that than be corrupt.
Shades of Georgia’s Eugene Talmadge:
“Sure, I stole. But I stole for you,”
My latest Examiner column. With housing values tanking, taxes based on that value ought to be going down as well, right?
A study just completed in Spain finds that the creation of so-called “green jobs” doesn’t at all seem to be the employment panacea promised by their advocates. As you recall, President Obama pointed to Spain as the reference point for the establishment of government aid to renewable energy. As the study points out, “No other country has given such broad support to the construction and production of electricity through renewable sources.” But the results are not at all what you might expect given the hype. In fact, they’ve been quite the opposite:
Optimistically treating European Commission partially funded data, we find that for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, Spain’s experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence, by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created, to which we have to add those jobs that non-subsidized investments with the same resources would have created.
Be sure you read that last part of the sentence carefully as well – those jobs would have been created by “non-subsidizsed investments” with the “same resources” – or said another way, they’d have been created in the private sector without government picking winners and losers and spending billions in taxpayer money.
Between 2000 and 2008, Spain was very aggressive in pursuing alternative energy and green jobs. But its results were less than stellar:
Despite its hyper-aggressive (expensive and extensive) “green jobs” policies it appears that Spain likely has created a surprisingly low number of jobs, two-thirds of which came in construction, fabrication and installation, one quarter in administrative positions, marketing and projects engineering, and just one out of ten jobs has been created at the more permanent level of actual operation and maintenance of the renewable sources of electricity.
So 9 out of 10 were temporary jobs, while only 1 in 10 became permanent. And the cost?
The cost to create a “green job”:
The study calculates that since 2000 Spain spent €571,138 to create each “green job”, including subsidies of more than €1 million per wind industry job.
The cost in jobs lost:
Each “green” megawatt installed destroys 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the economy: 8.99 by photovoltaics, 4.27 by wind energy, 5.05 by mini-hydro.
And the eventual cost to consumers:
The price of a comprehensive energy rate (paid by the end consumer) in Spain would have to be increased 31% to being to repay the historic debt generated by this rate deficit mainly produced by the subsidies to renewables, according to Spain’s energy regulator.
Spanish citizens must therefore cope with either an increase of electricity rates or increased taxes (and public deficit), as will the U.S. if it follows Spain’s model
Previous studies have concluded that such increases would impact the poorest quintile the most:
• Reducing emissions, a major rationale for “green jobs” or renewables regimes, hits the poorest hardest. According to the recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, a cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by just 15% will cost the poorest quintile 3% of their annual household income, while benefiting the richest quintile (“Trade-Offs in Allocating Allowances for CO2 Emissions”, U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Economic and Budget Issue Brief, April 25, 2007).
• Raising energy costs loses jobs. According to a Penn State University study, replacing two-thirds of U.S. coal-based energy with higher-priced energy such as renewables, if possible, would cost almost 3 million jobs, and perhaps more than 4 million (Rose, A.Z., and Wei, D., “The Economic Impact of Coal Utilization and Displacement in the Continental United States, 2015,” Pennsylvania State University, July 2006)
So to recap, we have a scheme which would see a net reduction in jobs by its implementation, create jobs of which only 10% were permanent, Cost anywhere from a half a million to a million dollars per job, increase energy costs tremendously and hit the poor the hardest.
Sounds like a winner, doesn’t it?
Will anyone pay attention to the actual experiment conducted by Spain and its results? Or are the blinders firmly in place?
While this scheme would be important to contest at any time, it is critically important to do so now, given the economic situation. One thing that must be avoided is government killing jobs as fast as the private sector creates them. This is truly a time when government should do all it can to enable the private sector to create jobs (tax cuts, etc.) and step back and allow that process to work. What it shouldn’t be doing is picking winners and losers and enacting a scheme which, in Spain at least, has proven to do all the things necessary to kill or at least cripple any economic recovery.
If you’re going to hand out big bucks, you need to do it in a politically correct manner.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Monday criticized the lack of minority participation in the government’s financial bailouts and suggested that President Barack Obama isn’t doing much better than his predecessor to ensure diversity.
These particular vultures are feeling a bit peevish. They’re just not seeing the flow of money to their favored constituencies that they expect – especially with a brother in the Oval Office. I mean, come on – we are talking trillions here, right?
Pro-choice advocates are up in arms about Gov. Tim Kaine’s decision to sign a Virginia bill into law:
Tim Kaine, the Virginia governor and President Barack Obama’s hand-picked choice as the head of the Democratic National Committee, infuriated abortion-rights groups Monday by signing legislation that gives abortion foes a long-sought victory.
Kaine brushed off intense lobbying by abortion rights supporters in Richmond to sign a bill that allows Virginia motorists to advertise their anti-abortion views by sporting “Choose Life” specialty license plates.
The revenue from the specialty plates would go to crisis-pregnancy centers, which many abortion-rights backers believe proslyetize against abortion and encourage women to keep unwanted children.
Do these people even know what they stand for? Their mantra is that whether or not to have a child is a choice of the mother, not to be intruded upon by the state. But in order for it to be a choice, doesn’t one of the options have to be to have the child? So then, why would they be bothered by anyone encouraging women to pick one of the choices, as long as it is left up to the mother to decide? Are they really just pro-abortion advocates (keep the choice)?
Moreover, why would they care if crisis-pregnancy centers encourage birth over abortion? Again, if the choice is legally left up to the mother, then there shouldn’t be an issue. Advocates for choosing life over abortion have just as much right to say their spiel don’t they?
Apparently, these pro-choice folks are upset not just at the message on the license plate, nor that some of the revenue raised will go to crisis-pregnancy centers, but that Kaine took this action while also serving as head of the DNC, which leads to the second bit of confusion (my emphasis):
“It is surprising that Governor Kaine would do this, but it’s all the more surprising that he would do it as chair of the DNC,” said Paulette McElwain, the president of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood.
McElwain exchanged numerous calls with the governor’s office over the license plates and organized a grass roots effort that logged more than 2,000 calls to the governor’s staff.
“We provided him with abundant information,” she said. “We’re terribly disappointed that he decided to sign it.”
In Washington, NARAL/Pro-Choice America channeled more than 17,000 emails and 200 calls to the DNC urging Kaine to veto the bill.
“It is unfortunate that, even after receiving thousands of messages from Virginians and pro-choice activists across the country, Gov. Kaine has opted to sign a bill that advances a divisive political ideology at the expense of women’s health,” NARAL/Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan said in a statement.
First of all, Kaine didn’t sign the bill “as chair of the DNC” because the chair of the DNC doesn’t have that power, the Governor of Virginia does. It was in that capacity, representing the people of the Commonwealth, that Kaine signed the bill.
Secondly, what difference does it make to the Governor of Virginia what people from outside the state think about what’s on our license plates? Especially when it’s something as innocuous as “Choose Life” (would they rather it said “Choose Death”?). Seriously, why do any of their opinions matter here?
The sad truth is that it seems these protesters really are just pro-abortion. Otherwise, I just can’t understand why they’re so exercised over what should be a non-issue.
Thus was the reason, according to former ACORN worker, Anita Moncrief, why the New York Times killed a story about the connections between the activist group and the Obama campaign.
A lawyer involved with legal action against Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) told a House Judiciary subcommittee on March 19 The New York Times had killed a story in October that would have shown a close link between ACORN, Project Vote and the Obama campaign because it would have been a “a game changer.”
Heather Heidelbaugh, who represented the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee in the lawsuit against the group, recounted for the ommittee what she had been told by a former ACORN worker who had worked in the group’s Washington, D.C. office. The former worker, Anita Moncrief, told Ms. Heidelbaugh last October, during the state committee’s litigation against ACORN, she had been a “confidential informant for several months to The New York Times reporter, Stephanie Strom.”
During her testimony, Ms. Heidelbaugh said Ms. Moncrief had told her The New York Times articles stopped when she revealed that the Obama presidential campaign had sent its maxed-out donor list to ACORN’s Washington, D.C. office.
Ms. Moncrief told Ms. Heidelbaugh the [Obama] campaign had asked her and her boss to “reach out to the maxed-out donors and solicit donations from them for Get Out the Vote efforts to be run by ACORN.”
Ms. Heidelbaugh then told the congressional panel:
“Upon learning this information and receiving the list of donors from the Obama campaign, Ms. Strom reported to Ms. Moncrief that her editors at The New York Times wanted her to kill the story because, and I quote, “it was a game changer.”’
ACORN does not exactly deny Moncrief’s allegations, but instead waives her off as a “disgruntled” employee:
“None of this wild and varied list of charges has any credibility and we’re not going to spend our time on it,” said Kevin Whelan, ACORN deputy political director in a statement issued last week.
And the NYT isn’t saying much either:
Ms. Mathis [the New York Times’ Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications] wrote, “In response to your questions to our reporter, Stephanie Strom, we do not discuss our newsgathering and won’t comment except to say that political considerations played no role in our decisions about how to cover this story or any other story about President Obama.”
Strangely, neither the Obama administration nor anyone connected with his campaign comments on the story. Of course, if the allegations regarding handing over the donor list are true, then there may campaign finance law violations to worry about, so they probably wouldn’t say much anyway.
I have to admit, this is almost a dog-bites-man story. There can’t be too many people who will seriously contend that the NYT isn’t a liberal newspaper. And it wasn’t any big secret during the run-up to the election that the MSM was in the tank for Obama. But I do wonder if many people realize the lengths that the MSM would go to in order to see their boy to the finish line. Hillary supporters got the message pretty loud and clear during the primaries, and Palin’s backers can cite chapter and verse on how the MSM dragged her and her family through the gutter. Some people might even remember that story suggesting that McCain had an affair with lobbyist Vicki L. Iseman (for which she sued the NYT and settled out of court).
Yet, how many people realize that the de facto leader of the MSM would spike a story that’s not just critical of their chosen candidate, but that implicates him in illegal activity with a notorious election law violator? Seems like that would be news fit to print. Just not in the NYT apparently.
By the way, keep this story in mind as plans continue to unfold regarding the federal government subsidizing newspapers. If the NYT was willing to spike a story just to help its chosen one, what will they do when that chosen one is paying the bills?