Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 16 Jan 14

Weekly jobless claims fell 2,000 to 326,000. The 4-week average fell 14,000 to 335,000. Continuing claims rose 174,000 to 3.030 million.

Consumer prices rose 0.3% in December, with the core CPI up 0.1%. On a year-over year basis, the CPI is up 1.5%, and the core rate is up 1.7%.

Foreign holdings in long-term US securities fell by $-29.3 billion in November.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -2.7 points to -31.0.

The general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey for December rose 2.4 points to 9.4.

The Housing Market Index for January fell 2 points to 56.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $43.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.072 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $24.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply increased by $24.8 billion last week.


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Administration has no idea who has or hasn’t paid for ObamaCare

You remember the post a couple of days ago when I broadly hinted that you shouldn’t believe a single statistic (or most of anything else) this administration proffers?

More proof.  You might recall a number of administration spokespersons and Democrat mouthpieces telling us that millions have enrolled and paid?

Yeah, not so fast:

An official from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services admitted at a House hearing today that no one knows how many people have actually paid for Obamacare coverage.

“So we don’t know at this point how many people have actually paid for coverage?” asked a member of Congress.

“That’s right,” the CMS official conceded.

Inept, incompetent and unfortunately, in charge.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 15 Jan 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications surged 11.9% last week, with purchases up 12.0% and refinancings up 11.0%.

Producer prices rose 0.4% in December, with the core PPI up 0.3%. On a year-over year basis, the PPI is up 1.2%, and the core rate is up 1.4%.

The Empire State manufacturing index jumped to 12.51 in January, with widespread improvements in NY business conditions.

The Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations survey stayed steady at 1.9%.

The latest Beige Book stated that the economy expanded at a "moderate pace," in 9 of the 12 Fed Districts.


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US drops out of top 10 for economic freedom

I’m not sure that this will surprise anyone, given the size and intrusiveness of our government:

World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.

For 20 years, the index has measured a nation’s commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating 10 categories, including fiscal soundness, government size and property rights. These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.

Obviously the decline began before the Obama administration, but the policies of this administration have certainly hastened the decline and are certainly a primary reason for the US dropping out of the top 10:

Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil’s economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.

It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.

And that’s certainly been the case these past 5 years.  Regulation has exploded, government intrusiveness has increased, freedom is in retreat.

Bottom line:

Despite financial crises and recessions, the global economy has expanded by nearly 70% in 20 years, to $54 trillion in 2012 from $32 trillion in 1993. Hundreds of millions of people have left grinding poverty behind as their economies have become freer. But it is an appalling, avoidable human tragedy how many of the world’s peoples remain unfree—and poor.

The record of increasing economic freedom elsewhere makes it inexcusable that a country like the U.S. continues to pursue policies antithetical to its own growth, while wielding its influence to encourage other countries to chart the same disastrous course. The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom documents a world-wide race to enhance economic opportunity through greater freedom—and this year’s index demonstrates that the U.S. needs a drastic change in direction.

Drastic action needed, dithering and inaction expected, continued decline the result.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 14 Jan 14

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index jumped 1.4 points in December to 93.9.

December retail sales rose 0.2%, with sales less autos up 0.7%, and less autos and gas up 0.6%.

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 2.9% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales decrease of -0.1%, and a 1.3% increase on a year-over-year basis.

Export prices rose 0.4% in December, while import prices were unchanged. On a year-over-year basis, export prices

Business Inventories rose 0.4% in November. A 0.8% sales increase left the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.29.


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ICYMI

Of course “ICYMI” is internet shorthand for “In Case You Missed It“.  And in case you missed a couple of things I found interesting I thought I’d throw them up here.

For instance:

According to the White House, 79% of those enrolled in Obamacare need subsidies because they cannot otherwise afford the premiums that have, in some cases, nearly doubled. Only 21% did not need subsidies.
As Businessweek noted, people “earning up to four times the poverty rate—as much as $96,000 a year for a family of four”—can get Obamacare subsidies from the federal government.

79%.  That’s right, 79%.  And why do they need subsidies?  Because they can’t afford their insurance premiums anymore.  And why can’t they afford their insurance premiums anymore?

ObamaCare.

Catch 22.

Oh, and here’s a great chart on something else you might have missed:

Yes, that’s right … when all is said, done and figured, the real unemployment rate is around 11%, not 6.7%.  No wonder those 79% need subsidies.

I threw that in because this is the state of the job market and that has an effect on who is going to enroll in this boondoggle of a government program.  But right now, it appears young people –  you know, the one’s Obama et al are counting on paying for this – aren’t enrolling.

But hey, is the White House worried?  Nah, they – as usual – have it all figured out:

About 30 percent of new enrollees are under 35. White House officials say that’s an acceptable mix, and they expect more young people to come on board closer to the March 31 deadline. “We think that more and more young people are going to sign up as time goes by, based on the experience in Massachusetts,” Gary Cohen, deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, said on a conference call with reporters. “We’re actually very pleased with the percentage that we have right now, and we expect that percentage to increase.”

This is the usual whistling past the graveyard this administration is so prone too.  They have no idea what will happen.  They “think” more will sign up.

Uh huh …

ObamaCare says it needs an enrollment of 38% of youth to pay for this monstrosity.  24% are enrolled.  And, apparently knowing youth better than I do (“Insurance?  I”m not sick.  Beside, I want that new 60″ TV.”) they’re sure they’ll make the time and effort to enroll and throw their money into the pit before March.

Not going to happen.  I’d suggest those who are going to enroll have, for the most part, enrolled.

Of course that doesn’t mean the administration won’t claim to have 38%.   But I’ll remind you they also claim unemployment is at 6.7%

~McQ

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The politics of personal destruction, v 2.0

And coming to a presidential race near you soon:

“Hillary’s Hit List: The Clintons keep a favor file of saints and sinners, according to this excerpt from ‘HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton,'” out Feb. 11 from Crown, by POLITICO’s Jonathan Allen and The Hill’s Amie Parnes: “There was a special circle of Clinton hell reserved for people who had endorsed Obama or stayed on the fence after Bill and Hillary had raised money for them, appointed them to a political post or written a recommendation to ice their kid’s application to an elite school. On one early draft of the hit list [a post-campaign spreadsheet], each Democratic member of Congress was assigned a numerical grade from 1 to 7, with the most helpful to Hillary earning 1s and the most treacherous drawing 7s. The set of 7s included Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), as well as Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Rob Andrews (D-N.J.). …

“For Hillary, … the spreadsheet was a necessity of modern political warfare, an improvement on what old-school politicians called a “favor file.” It meant that when asks rolled in, she and Bill would have at their fingertips all the information needed to make a quick decision-including extenuating, mitigating and amplifying factors-so that friends could be rewarded and enemies punished.”

Now, Bill and Hill aren’t the first to do this nor will they be the last, but they certainly are an indicator of how awful our politics have become. It is a patronage system which has little at all to do with duty, service or honor and a lot to do with grabbing power and exercising it for the benefit of the politician and the politician’s cronies. The money, time and effort that typically goes into keeping up with this sort of thing is rather interesting in and of itself. Another indicator of the pettiness of politicians and their desire for retributive “justice”.

Of course money is no longer a problem to the former Governor and First Lady of Arkansas.  Bill, who wrote off his underwear for tax purposes is now a multi-millionaire.  Who says politics doesn’t pay off?  And, so is his wife. So they’ve had both the time and money to put together an organization which will be pretty formidable in 2016.

As for the enemies on the Democratic side, well, it will be interesting to see how that plays out, won’t it? Especially if the “enemies” are situated in a strategic area that Hill needs and isn’t doing that well in. Bet that “numerical grade” goes up a bit in situations like that, huh?  Bill Clinton is Mr. Pragmatism himself.  Hill, yeah, not so much I think – not when it comes to “enemies”.

Anyway, I got a chuckle out of the list. Kerry just can’t win can he?

Thank goodness.

~McQ

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