Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:
Consumer prices were unchanged in January, but the core CPI (ex-food and energy) rose 0.3%. On a year-over-year basis the CPI is up 1.6%, and the core CPI is up 1.9%.
The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators rose 0.2% in January, though the consumer expectations component is still depressed.
The Philadelphia Fed survey fell from -5.8 to a worse than expected -12.5 for February, as mid-Atlantic regional business conditions worsened.
Initial jobless claims surged by 20,000 to 362,000 last week. The 4-week average rose 8,000 to 360.750, and continuing claims rose 11,000 to 3.148 million.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to -33.4, the highest level of the year so far.
Existing home sales rose slightly, up 0.4% to an annual rate of 4.92 million. Sales are up 9.1% on a year-ago basis.
The PMI Manufacturing Index Flash fell -0.3 points to 55.2, though this is still firmly in positive territory.
Given Fast and Furious, I’d suggest that Mexico ask for the names of gun runners instead. We’d top that list with the names “Barack Obama” and “Eric Holder”. However:
On February 18th, Sentinel reported about a new law passed by Mexican legislators – a mandate for a formal request of our US Senate to create and share a gun registry of all commercial firearms in the border states with the Mexican government and police. Private gun ownership names and addresses would then be in the hands of the Mexican government and police that all agree are filled with corruption.
In the past, I’d unhesitatingly say, “yeah, not going to happen”. With this administration, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they tried to comply.
Mexican ambassador to the U.S., Eduardo Medina Mora, said he hopes the Newtown shooting “opens a window of opportunity for President Obama” to pass tighter gun control laws.”
“The Second Amendment and the regulations adopted in the U.S. is not, never was and never should be designed to arm foreign criminal groups,” the nervy ambassador said.
Mexican activists in Mexico City have passed in a petition with 54,000 signatures asking for tighter US gun control.
Of course they have – the murder and mayhem among their criminal class is out of control and epidemic and they need someone to blame. And, of course, this would provide a wonderful premise on which to clamp down on private ownership of firearms, Constitution be damned.
Of course realty says that, stipulated, even if they could and did do this, nothing would change:
George W. Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William and Mary, doubts tighter gun control laws in the U.S. will greatly affect violence in Mexico. Cartels, Grayson said, can easily find AK-47s and other assault weapons on the international market – places such as China, France, Brazil and Israel.
“The lion’s share of weapons used by cartels come from the United States, but having said that, if the Virgin of Guadeloupe were to stop the flow of weapons southward it would be a nuisance for the cartels but it certainly would not end the bloodshed,” Grayson said.
Ultimately, he said, Mexico would do itself a favor by looking domestically for the roots of the drug war – fixes are badly needed to the country’s corrupt judicial system, military and police force.
But reality and facts have never before stopped a political agenda. Arms such as those the cartels use are readily available from dozens of international arms dealers. Screwing the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment wouldn’t change that one iota.
And they know that. But, as pointed out the other day, this isn’t about facts. This is about a social and political agenda. In the case of such agendas, pretty much anything is considered fair, to include ignoring facts, science and the Constitution.
Let’s see if anything develops from this.
Seen today on an MSN newsfeed:
What does it say? It says the GOP is more screwed than we ever understood.
The “old ladies” are still predominant and now are fighting among themselves and attacking the Tea Party, which should, if you believe GOP propaganda, be a natural ally.
As long as that condition prevails, the GOP will remain a minority party in national politics. And yes, I know, there are some new faces attempting to emerge. But between the left, the media and the old ladies, their chances of emerging anytime soon without having their character assassinated are likely slim and none.
Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:
Producer prices rose 0.2% in January, at both the headline and core level. Year over year, the PPI rose 1.4% and was up 1.8% ex-food and energy.
The MBA reports mortgage applications fell again, down -1.7% with both purchases and re-fis down -2.0%.
Housing starts were less than expected at a 0.89 million annual rate in January. Permits, however, rose to a 0.925 million annual rate.
ICSC-Goldman reports retail sales rose 2.7% from last week, and only 1.8% from last year. Redbook, however, reports a 3.1% annual increase.
If ever there was a load of crap on toast, it can be found today in Michael Lind’s atrocious piece in Salon.
He calls it “Southern Poverty Pimps”. I see a more apt name to be “Southern Cliches R Us”.
It is probably one of the more absurd attempts to make the economic success in Texas look bad that I’ve seen in quite some time. You would almost feel it was something Paul Krugman would hack out. One of my bets, concerning all the negative stereotypes Lind uses, is he’s rarely if ever been in the South.
Needless to say, private sector unions that pool worker bargaining power are anathema to today’s suave metropolitan successors to the slave-owning plantocracy. The whole point of the Southern model of economic development is to create a non-union region from Virginia to Texas, to which companies can be induced to move from states with unionized workforces. Besides, unions engage in collective bargaining, in violation of the Southern ideal of employer-worker relations, in which the master gives orders and the fearful worker obeys without question.
Of course the fact that in the great North unions are losing members like water through a sieve would never see the light of day in a Lind expose, one assumes. That would run contradictory to his whole premise that the South has just shifted from racial slavery to economic slavery. No mention of the thousands upon thousands fleeing the horrible economic conditions of Blue states, no mention of Detroit, no mention of the rust belt. No mention of the urban blight found in Blue states or their failing economies.
You see, if the “Southern model”, aka the Red State Model” is allowed to exist, if it isn’t demonized and condemned, if all stops aren’t pulled out to include the usual racial and ethnic accusations the left loves to fling around, well, it might make people think that the Red States are on to something.
Of course, we already know they are, don’t we?
And so does Texas. You see, Texas’ success terrifies them.
Thus Lind’s pitiful attempt to use the divisive language of which the left is so fond. It couldn’t be that people actually are fine with their wages and tired of unions who take their money and really don’t produce much of anything but fat-cat union officials could it?
It’s all about “economic slavery”.
Science and facts dont stand a chance against myth and ideology:
Justice Department researchers have concluded that an assault weapons ban is “unlikely to have an effect on gun violence,” but President Obama has not accepted their report as his administration’s official position.
“Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence,” the DOJ’s National Institute for Justice explains in a January 4 report obtained by the National Rifle Association. “If coupled with a gun buyback and no exemptions then it could be effective.” That idea is also undermined by the acknowledgement that “a complete elimination of assault weapons would not have a large impact on gun homicides.”
The research in that report didn’t stop Obama denouncing “weapons of war” during his State of the Union speech on February 12.
We’ve pointed out any number of times that deaths by rifle, any sort of rifle, are less than 500 a year. Less that blunt objects – clubs, baseball bats, etc.
But that’s not going to stop these people. Facts are inconvenient truths, to borrow from the biggest myth maker of all – Al Gore.
There’s a reason for the desire for this ban. It’s a foot in the door. And, once they declare it’s not enough, the precedent is already set. As I mentioned on the podcast, the left is into incrementalism. They will incrementally sneak up on every freedom we have left. And, if they have their way, take them away. In the name of “safety” and “security”. And you know what Ben Franklin said about that.
Some of you have already seen this graphic. It’s what the United States woud look like if all 50 had the same population, with a few extra factors taken into account so that the borders still make as much sense as they can.
The extra factors include keeping almost all existing counties whole, aiming for compact shapes and not splitting up metro areas unless really necessary. They also try to keep drainage basins together. Click on the picture if you want to see the whole proposal.
The purpose of this exercise is to solve the perceived problem of unequal representation in the federal government. This way, not only do all U.S. senators represent the same number of people, but so do all members of the House of Representatives. So each person has equal representation in the Electoral College as well, though of course some states would still be more competitive than others. (Oh, and DC gets to drop the “Taxation Without Representation” license plates.)
This isn’t intended as a serious proposal, but it mixes two things that I love because they both tug the mind out of its usual grooves of thought:
- altered maps – When you first saw a simple “upside-down” map of the world, didn’t it just demand to be stared at for a while?
- visualizations of unusual political/social reform proposals – It’s easy to think of the status quo as natural, and easier yet not to think of why things are quite the way they are; illustrating the world in a way markedly different from reality challenges the mind to justify the current order. I suspect this has something to do with my enjoyment of sci-fi and historical what-ifs; instinctually turning toward such questioning may be a common trait among libertarians.
I try not to be too hasty in throwing out the current order; Burke and Hayek had useful insights about the limits of knowledge and reason. So I haven’t adopted this reform proposal, but it has been fun thinking about it. I even spent part of today lightly crunching the county-level numbers from the U.S. Senate elections since 2008, just to see how it would affect the balance of power there. (I still haven’t gotten around to checking how it would affect recent presidential elections.)
But beyond the electoral reform, you can spin your mind for hours about the economic and cultural consequences of following these simple and (each taken in isolation) sensible algorithms. The artist who created the map asked people to “take it easy with the emails about the sacred soil of Texas” – though I do wonder whether the four senators from Dallas-Fort Worth and the greater Houston area would be very different from the senators Texas usually elects. What else jumps to mind?
- Just try to picture the kind of senators the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago are likely to elect when they don’t have to appeal to a swath of suburban and rural voters. Picture it!
- The first three of those metro areas got more than 75% of the benefit of housing-related tax benefits like the mortgage-interest tax deduction, according to a 2001 study.
- L.A. and NYC would have less influence on the sources of much of their drinking water; that could easily tip the balance and allow landowners upstate to open their land to energy development.
- For that matter, imagine governing the Great State of People Who Commute to Chicago. “Chicagoland Minus Chicago.”
- Y’know, if you look at how Susan Collins and Kelly Ayotte did in Casco counties in 2008 and 2010, compared to Elizabeth Warren’s margins in her part of the new state, it’s not hard to imagine Republican senators representing Boston. Just sayin’.
- Chinati, the rather heavily Hispanic border state, narrowly voted more for Republican senators than Democratic ones in 2012.
- The Black Belt in the South appears to prevent none of the new states from electing Republican senators, including Ozark, Tidewater, and even Atlanta, though it would have been close in 2008.
- Right now, the heaviest dependence on direct government benefits is particularly concentrated in certain places, and mostly not in urban counties.
- Specifically, the Coal Country patch from West Virginia into southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky would be split between more states, while the patch of heavy dependence in the Ozarks (southern Missouri into northern Arkansas) would be concentrated into… Ozark. The most dependent part of Michigan is combined with the most dependent part of Wisconsin. The most dependent parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado would be combined in Shiprock.
- Would the big cities that were disconnected from poorer hinterlands become less tolerant of federal redistribution? Would Boston, now sharing a much larger territory with more people dependent on benefits, take a dimmer view of state-level redistribution?
- Meanwhile, the urban centers of today’s Colorado would get to be in the same state as the Bakken shale oil boom: Ogallala, which is also a great beneficiary of…
- Agricultural subsidies! You can already see the representatives of Nodaway wearing their Farm Bill buttons. Then there’s Ozark again, straddling both banks of the Mississippi River and getting another dose of federal money. Another notable dependent: Tidewater.
This is going to a lot of trouble to ensure that a voter in Billings has the same level of representation as a voter in Cheyenne, and that a Californian has equal say in the Senate as a Rhode Islander. But maybe all that trouble from such simple rules is why it’s so ripe for speculation.
This week, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss the state of the union. The actual one, not the fantasy one Obama outlined in his speech.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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What will the Republican Party look like when it retakes the lead in governing? I’d bet it will be a coalition that identifies more with what Alex Castellanos is laying out at NewRepublican.org.
Some of it is new messaging for old ideas. Castellanos rebrands spontaneous order and subsidiarity as “open,” “natural,” “organic,” and “bottom-up.” He tags statism, command economies and federal control as “closed,” “artificial,” and “top-down.” Those are elegant ways to tell Whole Foods shoppers and Silicon Valley what we’re about without assigning them F.A. Hayek or a history of the Soviets.
Castellanos also stresses the superiority of private compassion over state welfare, but instead of getting trapped by placing charity in a bidding war with the welfare state, or quibbling over the definition of charity, he casts the state welfare agencies as “machine-like” or “factory-like” and “archaic,” and more importantly labeling them as “social mercenaries” that allow Americans to “distance ourselves from our responsibilities as human beings,” which involve “person-to-person” compassion.
That leads into a much more substantive change: redirecting social conservative energy to where it can actually accomplish something for itself and for the party, namely local and fulfilling private action instead of trying to seize the top and push down, which outsources to politicians and bureaucrats the promotion of our values.
Several items on the list of 67 beliefs of New Republicans (67!) deal with this:
4. We believe in freedom nationally and values locally.
6. We believe that when we allow big-government to enforce our values, we legitimize it to enforce other values, as well.
7. We believe in natural and organic ways of addressing social challenges, not political and artificial controls directed by Washington.
12. We believe Washington should stay out of our wallets, and out of our bedrooms.
39. We believe we are Republican for Everybody, and Republicans Everywhere. We believe our principles are an indispensable force for good, needed now to alleviate poverty, misery, dependency, and family breakdown destroying American lives in our inner cities.
Social conservatives lost the battle to use federal levers to enforce family and religious values, and damaged the good reputation of those values in the attempt, but those beliefs are still popular in many states, towns, and households. They can still gather a majority coalition with libertarians and moderates to carve out the space to practice their values and their faith without interference from the state, with more confidence and optimism than Paul Weyrich had in the late ’90s; if they revert to using top-down power, those potential allies will be embarrassed of their association with social conservatives. That’s coalition politics.
The New Republicans will avoid being associated with Big Everything, including Big Business. What saps the Republican Party’s entrepreneurial spirit and daring to cut government and promote free markets is its reliance on forces that want the state to protect them against change and competition; Milton Friedman repeatedly observed that this makes business community a frequent enemy of free enterprise. But the GOP need not be anti-business, just suspicious to the extent of keeping anything Big at arm’s length.
Finally, Castellanos does stress a couple of times that New Republicans believe in “campaign[ing] for our solutions in the most benighted parts of America, from the barrio to the inner city.” I’ve heard noises to that effect from Republicans for years, but that will only succeed if it’s a major, sustained effort; if we have nothing to say about urban problems beyond school choice, and we don’t learn how to assertively persuade people that we are absolutely superior at addressing poverty, we’re cooked. These things require practice, trials and errors, and personal experience with the poor and with urban life. We have to be able to win at least sometimes, electing mayors and city councils in major metro areas, to show that our way of governing works for the growing portion of the country living in cities.
I said at the beginning that this is how Republicans will think when they regain the lead in governing, and I chose those words instead of “winning elections” because it’s possible the GOP can temporarily get over 50% here and there by other means, but it won’t have the initiative until it accepts the challenge to persuade all of America that its principles are relevant to them. The party could and should also make gains by modernizing the way it learns and reorganizes itself, how it encourages and channels activism, its campaign tactics and strategy, and more. But those things go naturally with a mindset that’s reflexively entrepreneurial and not only open to change but so hungry for it that we’re unafraid to stop doing what isn’t working.