Monthly Archives: August 2012
Another sign or indicator of how the upcoming Presidential election may go may be found in the level of household income. It’s down. In fact it is down to below the levels it had fallen during the recession.
Household income is down sharply since the recession ended three years ago, according to a report released Thursday, providing another sign of the stubborn weakness of the economic recovery.
From June 2009 to June 2012, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 4.8 percent to $50,964, according to a report by Sentier Research, a firm headed by two former Census Bureau executives.
Incomes have dropped more since the beginning of the recovery than they did during the recession itself, when they declined 2.6 percent, according to the report, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The recession, the most severe since the Great Depression, lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.
Overall, median income is 7.2 percent below its December 2007 level and 8.1 percent below where it stood in January 2000, which was at $55,470, according to the report.
Of course, being an average, the impact has been both far reaching and deep. That means personal. We’re not discussing some esoteric issue that seems more abstract than real or some policy which may never effect voters. We’re talking about their family’s income, what they take home, the means by which they support their family.
This drop speaks to millions of jobs lost, those who have found jobs likely to be under employed, belt tightening among households to get by.
If someone asked the question, “are you better off now than you were 4 years ago”, the answer for a very large portion of America would be “no”.
The next question then, maybe not asked out loud, but certainly considered is: “are you willing to give the President 4 more years considering what has or hasn’t been accomplished this 4 years?”
Again, other than the ideologues and the yellow-dog voters, that’s a question a vast majority will answer when they pull the curtain on the voting booth. Given history and the indicators we keep seeing, I believe the answer to that question is also going to be “no”.
From Professor Luigi Zingales:
“There is not a well-understood distinction between being pro-business and being pro-market. Businessmen like free markets until they get into a market; once they are in it they want to block entry to others. Pro-marketeers want free markets at all times. The more conservative pro-marketeers are fearful of criticising business, because they assume they will be seen as criticising the free market. But we need to stand up and criticise business when business is not helping the cause of free markets.”
We talk a lot about crony capitalism. Well what the good professor is talking about when he says that businessmen like free markets until they get in one and then they try to “block entry to others” is part of what we’re talking about.
One aspect of cronyism is where businesses attempt to use the power of government, if they can so influence it, to give their company sweetheart regulations, raise artificial barriers to entry and to otherwise impede competitors to the point that they have an advantage. I’d like to say advantage in the “market”, but the market, at that point, no longer exists as a free one. It is now a distorted market due to government cronyism.
That’s something that badly needs to stop. Whether at this point that’s even possible and if it is, how we’d actually go about it are some interesting questions to discuss.
However, the primary point is being pro-business does not necessarily being pro-market and it certainly doesn’t mean you are necessarily for free markets.
We need to change the way we discuss this. We nee to talk about free markets and roundly condemn any business that attempts to use the coercive power of government to it’s advantage in markets as well as condemning those in government who use its power for such things.
The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:
The FHFA reports the house price index rose 0.7% for June, and is up 3.6% year-over-year.
Initial jobless claims rose 4,000 for a second straight week to 372,000. the 4-week moving average rose 1,000 to 368,000. Continuing claims rose 4,000 to 3.317 million.
The Markit Economics PMI Manufacturing Index Flash rose 0.5 points to 51.9, indicating low but rising manufacturing activity.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell a steep 3.0 points to -47.4 for the sixth straight drop and the lowest reading since December, 2011.
New home sales rose 3.6% in July to an annual unit rate of 372,000, well above consensus, and the best since July 2010.
As Politico says, the poll among non-voters is a good news/bad news poll if you want to look at it that way:
Forty-three percent of nonvoters are Obama supporters, the survey found, while 20 percent of the nonvoters support Romney, 18 percent back a third-party candidate and 15 percent are undecided.
How is this good news? Well here’s the claim. See if you don’t agree the bad news is likely to be the real news here:
“The good news is that there is a treasure chest of voters he doesn’t even have to persuade — they already like him and dislike Mitt Romney. He just needs to unlock the chest and get them out to vote. The bad news is that these people won’t vote because they feel beaten down by empty promises, a bad economy and the negativity of both parties. Obama has lost time — and the key — to open that treasure chest.”
Actually, his poor performance has put the key out of reach. But no one wants to say that, I suppose.
What this indicates to me is the masses that were motivated to vote the last time aren’t at all motivated this time to turn out for Mr. Hope and Change.
His real problem though isn’t with non-voters, it’s with real voters, real voters that have supported him and must turn out in similar numbers as last time for him to win. It would appear many have returned to the non-voting roles.
Netroots Nation, the activist left convention held every year by the Daily Kos may be a reflection of another problem:
“I want to be happy with him,” said Democrat Kristine Vaughan, a 45-year-old school psychologist from Canton, Ohio. “But I am finding that he has succumbed to the corporate influence as much as everyone else. I think he has so much potential to break out of that, but overall he has been a disappointment.”
The sentiment is not unique among the 2,700 people gathered on the first day of this three-day convention. More than a dozen liberals interviewed here indicated some level of frustration with the president, despite widespread praise for his recent decision to support gay marriage and ongoing push to scale back military action in the Middle East.
Of course, Ms. Vaughan –an activist – will turn out and she will vote, but the question is, will she do it enthusiastically? The answer is likely “no”. It’s a duty this time. So what does that say for the non-activist voter that previously voted for Obama? See above.
Kate Hicks points out:
Those who do still plan to vote for Obama, however, report that they’re less willing to put in the same sort of get-out-the-vote effort that they displayed last time. Indeed, part of Obama’s victory in 2008 stemmed from increasing voter mobilization, and while the die-hards will trudge to the polls in November, they’re less likely to work quite so hard to encourage others to do so, too.
And we all know that Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts are key to winning elections. Last time Obama had a massive and effective GOTV effort (and the money with which to do it). This time, not as much money and certainly not as much enthusiasm surrounding the effort.
A final indicator:
A Gallup/USA Today survey released Monday found that 74 percent of Republicans were thinking of the election “quite a lot,” compared with 61 percent of Democrats.
The enthusiasm gap remains and is real. And it’s not good news for the incumbent President (who yesterday visited Oiho, one of the 57 states).
It’s no secret that I’m a pessimist about the economy, as we travel along our current path, and the danger of a collapse of the currency and financial system, and the possibility of civil disturbance that might follow. Because I occasionally make snarky comments on Twitter and elsewhere about being prepared for 20 days of combat operations, I am occasionally asked about what that actually entails.
Of course, the still-remote possibility of civil unrest isn’t the only reason to be prepared to rough it for a while. There are plenty of earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that might require up to several days of living in the pre-industrial era.
So, since I have a couple of hours free this afternoon as I wait for my flight to Albuquerque, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.
First off, there’s all sorts of survival lists on the Internet. This is a good one. There’s about 1,000 others available if you simply Google "survival checklist". That’s just a list of items, which is a good start, but here are some other things you might want to think about.
Map out a route away from urban areas, using roads that are off of the main routes of travel. Highways, freeways, etc., may be jammed with traffic, and you’ll be going nowhere fast. Find the little-used back roads. It’ll require a more circuitous route, but your chances of getting caught in traffic while escaping the city are much smaller. Go sooner rather than later, however, or you still might not get out. If you live in, say, Manhattan, and you wait too long, you’re screwed as far as escaping goes.
If you have a diesel vehicle with a towing package, you’ve got a 12-volt generator. If you don’t have a towing package, but have a cigarette lighter or 12-volt vehicle outlet, you’ve still got a generator, but you’ll need a couple of AC converters, like these.
If your vehicle is not diesel-powered, it should be. You should also have a portable generator, of course. It should also be a diesel. Dependence on gasoline is, in general, not good. If you have a diesel, you can, in an emergency, run it on heating oil, kerosene & vegetable oil, lamp oil, or almost any other low-volatility flammable fuel. You can even make your own bio-diesel fuel. Leveraging your future to gasoline is a Bad Thing if civilization collapses.
Get a small travel trailer, and keep it stocked with your survival supplies. One nice thing about travel trailers is that they already have a 30 or 50 gallon water tank. Drain and fill it every couple of months at minimum, and if you have to leave, you can hook up and go in minutes, and you’re already stocked with food and water for several days. Small used travel trailers are cheap, and easily turned into mobile, pre-stocked, survival shelters.
Have lots of honey on hand. Honey doesn’t spoil, so it keeps for ever. Bacteria cannot live in honey. Archeologists once found a huge pot of honey that was a couple of thousand years old. They ate it, found it very yummy, and suffered no ill effects from it. (They later discovered a body preserved in the bottom of the pot.) In a pinch, honey can be used as an antibiotic covering for wounds, though it does raise the chance of further injuries from bears trying to lick the wound.
Also, if you have honey and salt, you can mix them in water to drink when you get diarrhea, which you almost certainly will in the wilderness, and they will keep you hydrated and supplied with electrolytes so you won’t crap yourself to death, which, prior to 1900, was not an uncommon way to die. So, have salt, too.
Speaking of wounds, if things are really bad, and civilization is actually collapsing, you need to head over to CVS or Walgreens and raid the pharmacy. First, take any drug that ends with "cillin". That’ll be an antibiotic. Also, take anything that ends with "codone" or has "codein" in the name. Those’ll be painkillers. Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin…you know what I’m talking about. If you have antibiotics and painkillers, you’ve got a far better chance of surviving an open wound than if you do not. Like, 1000 times better. Use the painkillers sparingly. Don’t get hooked.
Get a copy of the US Army Field Manual 21-76. It’s easy to find. Here it is. Print it out. Read it. Know it. Live it.
Guns. In general, pistols are useless. Sorry, but there’s nothing you can hit with them with any reliability beyond 25 meters, and in combat, beyond 10 feet. At the OK Corral gunfight, 10 guys were jammed into an enclosure about 20 feet square, and two of them walked away without a scratch, after about 50 rounds being fired. You need rifles, and you need more than one. Two guns is one gun, and one gun is no gun. You need at least two rifles per person in the same caliber.
What caliber? Personally, I prefer the 7.62×39 over the 5.56mm/.223 caliber. It’s a harder-hitting round, punches through brush or obstructions more reliably, and is widely available cheaply, as are the weapons which fire it. It’s a better all-round caliber, in my opinion, for hunting or combat, though hopefully you’ll need it for the former, rather than the latter. You cannot go wrong with an SKS rifle in good condition, and you can find a surplus SKS for cheap as dirt. You can also get 1,000 round cases of 7.62×39 cheaply as well. If you want to spend real money on something more modern than the SKS—though, I stress again, the SKS is as fine, accurate, and dependable rifle as you can buy—then spring for a Czech SA Vz58, and you can add all the cool dongles to it. Do not buy an AK-47. For survival purposes, the SKS or Vz58 are superior in every conceivable way. You should assume a combat day will require 100 rounds of ammunition with a semi-automatic rifle (The combat load for the M1 Garand, for example, was 96 rounds per day in WWII). You should have enough ammunition for at least 20 combat days. If you are in, or going to, a big-game area, a surplus Springfield rifle or a Garand are perfect for elk, moose, bear, or other big game. 30-06 ammo is really expensive, however.
Finally, you have to think about your attitude. There’s no easy way to say this, but if things get really bad, like an asteroid wipes out civilization, then you need to be determined and ruthless to survive. Many ethical concepts that are useful in civilized society will be…how does one put this…counter-productive to survival in the state of nature. Many of the survivors you may encounter will be really bad people. Everyone you encounter will be desperate and/or terrified, which will make them extraordinarily dangerous. You will have to keep this uppermost in your mind at all times, and make the appropriate decisions in your dealings with others to ensure your own survival. And that’s all I have to say about that.
In less extreme circumstances, attitude is still everything. Remain calm. Think before you act. Remain positive.
Happily, we do not, for the most part, have to worry about the complete collapse of civilization as a high-order probability. But there is a chance of some natural disaster in which you may need to be ready to go for two weeks or so living roughly. Ensuring you have adequate food, water, and shelter for those two weeks is not survivalist extremism. It’s just good planning, and good planning may save your life, and will certainly make those two weeks more comfortable.
On the other hand, if you’re also prepared for the asteroid’s arrival…well, you’re prepared for that, too.
Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:
Existing home sales rebounded 2.3% in July to a 4.47 million annual rate. This partially reverses June’s -5.4% drop in sales.
The MBA reports mortgage applications fell -7.4% in the latest week, with purchase applications rising 0.9%, but re-fi applications falling -9.0%.
Stephen Moore does yeoman’s work via the Manhattan Institute debunking the left’s class warfare mantra of “tax the rich”. He does it with thousands of words accompanied by many charts. I’m just going to concentrate on a few the charts (do read the piece, it’s good) since they tell the story quite succinctly.
Remember it’s about those nasty rich paying their “fair share”:
For instance, we’re constantly told by those who would tax us more that we’re woefully under taxed compared to the rest of the world (like that’s a good reason to raise taxes). Well that really depends on what income group you’re in, doesn’t it:
So it’s not really true if you’re among the upper 10% in this country is it?
Who is so under taxed then. Well if you look at the tax rolls you’ll find that almost 40% of those filing tax returns had zero or negative tax liability.
That’s right, they paid nothing or actually got money from the government. I’m not talking about a tax refund either. I’m talking about redistributed wealth.
The United States taxes the top 10% of its “richest” people more than anyone else and well above the average tax found in all OECD nations.
That sort of takes the starch out of the “fair share” nonsense that we constantly hear the left prattle on about doesn’t it?
But wait, there’s more as the old Ronco commercial used to say. What about the share of taxes collected. It’s about “fair share”. Surely they’re not really paying what any thinking adult would consider their fair share of taxes are they? Well I don’t know about you, but yes, I think they are. In fact, the top 1% are paying twice as much in taxes as they were in 1980. That seems to go against the conventional wisdom, or at least the claims of the left, doesn’t it?
Why yes, it does. The chart at the right also shows that the top 20% are paying 84% of all income taxes collected. I don’t know what you consider a “fair share”, but I’d guess for most we’re way beyond fairness with this structure.
How much more? And where does fairness enter the question. Looking at this next chart on the left, why should those on the higher end pay more than they are now given the information available? If you have the bottom 50% paying 3% and the bottom 40% paying nothing or getting money via redistribution, yet benefiting from the infrastructure that the left likes to use to claim “you didn’t build that”, who really did build it?
Those paying 3% or those paying 40%? The government has no money and can’t build anything without taxes so who paid to build all that infrastructure that President Obama likes to claim? The chart tells that story, doesn’t it. In fact the top 25% of taxpayers ought to be yelling back at him every time he says that, “well we paid for it”.
There are a ton more examples and charts. There’s one more I want you to see as the left continues to point to taxes on the rich as some sort of panacea to all the revenue shortfalls that ail us (btw, it’s not about revenue, it’s about spending).
Look at what the recession has done to the “golden goose” of the rich.
Oh, my … they’ve actually seen huge percentage drops. Note how many there are in the bottom rung ($200k and above). Sorry folks but that simply isn’t “rich” in the terms I think of rich. That’s likely to be the guy next door who has a family of 5 and is trying to make ends meet. Anyone who thinks $200k is rich isn’t living in the same world as I am. But many of those in that category are going to be the small-business owners and entrepreneurs that help drive the economy.
The plan? Tax them even more. In France, since their tax the rich scheme has been unveiled, the “rich” are looking across borders into friendlier countries. We’ve seen a reduction in all categories of “rich” since 2007. Do you suppose those in those categories now are going to lay back and just accept more taxation without trying to do something to hold on to their hard earned money?
Anyway, rant ends. Read the whole thing. Peruse the graphs. It is very interesting and telling information.
Apparently job burnout effects about 40% of US doctors a recent survey revealed:
Job burnout strikes doctors more often than it does other employed people in the United States, according to a national survey that included more than 7,000 doctors.
More than four in 10 U.S. physicians said they were emotionally exhausted or felt a high degree of cynicism, or "depersonalization," toward their patients, said researchers whose findings appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
"The high rate of burnout has consequences not only for the individual physicians, but also for the patients they are caring for," said Tait Shanafelt of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the research.
Now imagine the demand that 10 million newly insured that have been given mandated “free stuff” by ObamaCare will add to the load doctors are carrying (don’t forget, we’re supposed to be 90,000 doctors short by 2020).
Yup, again this really isn’t rocket science, but it also obviously hasn’t at all be thought through by our lawmakers, has it?
And the law of unintended consequences will take it’s due course because of that.
The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:
In weekly retail sales, Redbook’s year-on-year chain store sales growth came in at a 1.9% rate, the 5th time in 6 weeks it’s been below 2%. Redbook’s month-on-month rate is -0.3%, signaling weakness in the upcoming government reports on retail sales. ICSC-Goldman showed a -1.5% sales decrease for the week, and a year-on-year rate of 3.1%, which is down -0.5% from last week.