Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 09 Feb 14

This week, Michael and Dale ask why Progressive politics are so attractive.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher 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 Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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Expanding the podcast

Observations, the QandO podcast, is now available on Stitcher! Now you can load it straight up on your smartphone’s Stitcher app. Which you should download. Because I am all about Stitcher, now. Our Stitcher page is here.

You know what would be nice? If you were to go over there and give it a nice rating, and maybe a review if you have a few minutes. This will help us expand the podcast.

And we can now inject the player right into the blog posts, too.


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Economic Statistics for 7 Feb 14

Consumer credit jumped $18.8 billion in December, including a big $5.0 billion increase in revolving credit.

The BLS reported a paltry 113,000 net new jobs were created in January. Yet the unemployment rate laughably fell a tick to 6.6%. Still, 638,000 people came back into the labor force, and the participation rate rose 0.2% to 63%. Average hourly earnings increased by 0.2%, while the average work week remained steady at 34.4 hours.


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Economic Statistics for 6 Feb 14

Chain stores sales are being reported today, and show significant weakness in January, with year-on-year sales rates sharply lower than December.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report shows a jump to 45,107 layoffs in January, versus December’s 30,623.

The Gallup US Payroll to Population rate declined to 42.0% in January from 42.9% in December.

The US trade deficit increased to $38.7 billion in December from $34.6 billion in November, mainly from a -1.8% decline in exports.

Initial jobless claims fell 20,000 to 331,000. The 4-week average rose 1,000 to 334,000, while continuing claims rose 15,000 to 2.964 million.

Non-farm productivity rose at a healthy 3.2% annualized rate, while unit labor costs declined -1.6% annualized.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.3 points to -33.1 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $7.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.109 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $4.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $25.5 billion in the latest week.


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Will the GOP again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

And no, that’s not a rhetorical question – it’s a real concern.

Even the left knows they’re in trouble for the 2014 midterms … or should be.  John Judis of the New Republic:

What I’d point to instead is a comparison between where Obama and the Democrats stood in January 2010 and where they stand today. In January 2010, they were about to lose the Massachusetts senate race, and in November 2010 would lose 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate. If Obama and the Democrats’ numbers are better now than they were then, they may not be in trouble; but if they’re worse, the conventional wisdom is right. And they’re worse.

The most recent standard of comparison is the ABC/Washington Post poll that asked some of the same questions in January 2010. First, there are the questions about Obama. These are relevant because midterm elections are often referenda on the president and his party. In January 2010, Obama’s approval ratings were 53 approval to 44 percent disapproval of his “handling his job as president.” Today, 46 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove—a 13-point swing. In January 2010, 47 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved of his handling of the economy. Today 43 percent approve and 55 percent disapprove—a seven-point swing.

In January 2010, 57 percent of registered voters thought that Obama understood “the problems of people like you.” Forty-two percent did not. Today, it’s 47 to 52 percent—a 20-point swing. And there is a similar 20-point swing in the question of how much confidence voters have in Obama’s ability to “make the right decisions for the country’s future.” In short, the electorate has far less confidence in Obama now than they did in January 2010.

ABC—Washington Post didn’t ask the same questions about Democrats and Republicans in January 2010 that they asked today, but they did ask these questions in October 2010 on the eve of the Republicans’ sweep. In October 2010, voters thought Democrats would do a better job than Republicans handling the economy by 44 to 37 percent. Today, they think Republicans would do a better job by 44 to 37 percent—a 14-point turnaround. In October 2010, voters said (incredibly) that they preferred Democratic House candidates by 49 to 44 percent. Today, they prefer Republicans by 45 to 46 percent. The number for October 2010 may be inaccurate, but in any case, there is nothing in the current numbers to inspire confidence. In midterm elections, the Republicans have a built-in advantage that allows them to maintain their majority without winning a majority of votes.

To be as succinct as possible, the 2014 midterms are the Republican’s to screw up.  And this is where Johnathan Last of the Weekly Standard points us toward the problem (one we’ve been hitting up here lately):

What could have accounted for these diminished prospects for Obama and the Democrats? Oh, it’s hard to say. Probably just tactical brilliance on the part of congressional Republicans. Yes, that’s the ticket. I mean, it’s not like there was a signal event that focused all political attention on a single issue. It’s not like there’s a Topic A that has been demoralizing Democrats, rallying Republicans, moving independents, and providing a constant stream of campaign fodder.

No, no, no, it’s not like there’s one subject which totally unites the Republicans and cuts against Democrats and—mirabile dictu!—where the news keeps getting worse for Obama with every passing week. As Homer Simpson would say, “Right, Lisa. Some wonderful, magical issue.”

Oh, right.

So with the wind at their backs and the Democrats in disarray, late last week the Republican leadership decided that this was the perfect moment to change the conversation to…immigration reform!

To again be as succinct as possible, they’re on their way to screwing it up.

And they wonder why people call them the “stupid party.”

*sigh*

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 4 Feb 14

A plunge in aircraft orders sent December factory orders down -1.5%, but ex-transportation orders actually rose 0.2%.

Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index rose to -16 for January, up from -19 in December.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC Goldman reports a 0.3%  weekly sales increase, but only a 0% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, Redbook says sales rose a weak 2.7% on a year-ago basis.


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ObamaCare – the political gift that keeps on giving

As this Obamanation known as ObamaCare contiunes to unroll and unravell, we find more and more incompetence evident.  At this point, you mostly are so in awe (in a negative way) of how badly this was done, that all you’re left to do is shake your head in wonder.  The latest:

Amy Goldstein of  The Post reveals that the appeals process guaranteed in the Obamacare law does not actually exist. The story outlines an almost comical process that requires citizens who seek a fair hearing to have an innocent, HealthCare.gov-generated mistake corrected to fill out a seven-page paper form that is then inexplicably shipped to Kentucky, where it is entered into a government database that isn’t actually connected to anything. It’s a digital dead end for those who dare to complain. Typical. As a result, 22,000 Americans who have submitted an appeals request remain without proper coverage and they have no recourse. And, according to The Post, in the latest show of non-transparency from this administration, officials have “not made public the fact that the appeals system for the online marketplace is not working.” There is “no indication that infrastructure . . .  necessary for conducting informal reviews and fair hearings had even been created, let alone become operational,” and administration officials are refusing to give any information as to when the appeals process might start moving. This is an administration that wants to hide things rather than fix things.

So, the appeals process is analogus to filling out a long paper form and then just throwing it into a dumpster for all the good it does the person filling out the form.  But has the administration made it clear that the process is – well not broken, how about nonexistent?  Nope.  People are still required to fill our their appeals forms, submit them and wait.  Except there is no mechanism in the current system for anyone to see, much less review, the submission.  The appeal is entered into a data base and that’s the end of the process.  Those waiting are left without recourse.

One more time for the morons in the establishment GOP – here’s your issue.

Or, if you continue to pursue immigration – here’s your sign.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Feb 14

Motor vehicle sales fell 3.1% overall in January, with just over a million vehicles sold, and only Chrysler and Nissan showing gains. GM: -12%, Ford -7%, Toyota: -7.2%, VW: -19%, Honda: -2.1% Fiat Chrysler: 8%, Nissan: 11.8%.

The Gallup US Consumer Spending Measure fell to $78 of daily spending in January, versus $96 in December.

Markit’s PMI Manufacturing Index fell -1.3 points to 53.7 in January.

The ISM manufacturing composite index is down sharply, by -5.7 points to 51.3 in January.

December Construction Spending rose a slight 0.1% in December, a 5.3% gain from the previous year.

Today’s downbeat economic numbers were no help to US stock markets, already under pressure from overnight slumps in world markets. The Dow Industrials ended the day  down -326.05 to 15,372.80.


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Well here’s a surprise – Obama’s Syria policy is failing

Yes, I called it a surprise facetiously.  Does Obama do anything that doesn’t fail (other than campaign)?

Meanwhile, two-faced government continues because, well you know, telling the real truth outloud just isn’t politically smart – especially with this administration’s record:

Two prominent Republican senators say that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told them — along with 13 other members of a bipartisan congressional delegation — that President Barack Obama’s administration is in need of a new, more assertive, Syria policy; that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria pose a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland; that Russia is arming the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is generally subverting chances for a peaceful settlement; that Assad is violating his promise to expeditiously part with his massive stores of chemical weapons; and that, in Kerry’s view, it may be time to consider more dramatic arming of moderate Syrian rebel factions.

Kerry is said to have made these blunt assertions Sunday morning behind the closed doors of a cramped meeting room in the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, as the 50th annual Munich Security Conference was coming to a close in a ballroom two floors below. A day earlier, Kerry, in a joint appearance with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the ballroom stage, gave an uncompromising defense of the Obama administration’s level of foreign engagement: saying that,“I can’t think of a place in the world where we’re retreating.”

Really, Mr. Kerry?

Obama/Kerry’s Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria and Russian policies have been failures.  Israel has taken to actually ridiculing US efforts.  Saudi Arabia is said to be looking for a new patron in the Middle East.

And yet, given all of that, Kerry is still the loyal waterboy making false claims when anyone with an IQ higher than warm spit can see that during the Obama administration we’ve done nothing but retreat.

Being charitable, maybe Kerry meant we’re no longer retreating because, well, we’ve retreated about as far as is possible to retreat.

Oh, and yes, I saw the Obama/O’Reilly interview.  It had the same gripping suspense and entertainment content as the Superbowl.  In the case of Denver it was safety, interception, fumble, collapse. Obama was deny, deny, deny, blame, deny reality some more and then cast even more blame.

Pitiful.

~McQ

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