Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 22 Jan 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Existing home sales fell 1.0% in December to a worse-than-expected annual rate of 4.94 million.

Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell to 0.02 in December, as growth fell to just marginally above trend.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index plunged to –12 in January, in a decidedly negative report.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Obama’s second term: Thunder, lightning, but likely little rain

I think Philip Klein has the best read on Obama’s second inaugural speech. Oh, it had lots of things to make the left wet itself in joy, but, well, here’s what Klein thinks (he bases his conclusion on 2 lines in the speech):

This brings us to the two lines in Monday’s speech. He declared that, “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.” This is Barack Obama, bold leader speaking (with an extra twist of irony given that the signature legislative accomplishment of his first term was supposedly aimed at containing the growth of health care costs). Then, he said, “But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.” Translation: he isn’t going to do anything to seriously reform Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, and wants more economic stimulus spending, too. So, within a breath of calling for hard choices, he rejected the need for them. I can think of no more fitting summation of Obama’s presidency.

I pretty much agree. He’ll talk tough and then go to Hawaii. He’ll claim the desire to do all sorts of things and then hit the links.

Leadership takes another 4 year holiday.

In his case, it might be a good thing, although it means nothing with entitlement reform will happen – again. We’re instead going to play around the edges of immigration, gun control and global warming.

Phaa…

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

MLK is spinning in his grave

I wonder what Martin Luther King would say on the day  a black president is sworn in for his second term – a day that also celebrates King’s birth. You hope he’d be pleased. But my guess is, since he was more concerned with the content of your character than the color of your skin, that might not be the case.

Why? Because of the ongoing assault on our rights. For instance the gun control distraction that involves an Attorney General who is possibly the greatest hypocrite and biggest criminal in Washington.

What am I talking about?

Attorney General Eric Holder and his Department of Justice have asked a federal court to indefinitely delay a lawsuit brought by watchdog group Judicial Watch. The lawsuit seeks the enforcement of open records requests relating to Operation Fast and Furious, as required by law.

Judicial Watch had filed, on June 22, 2012, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking all documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious and “specifically [a]ll records subject to the claim of executive privilege invoked by President Barack Obama on or about June 20, 2012.”

The administration has refused to comply with Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, and in mid-September the group filed a lawsuit challenging Holder’s denial. That lawsuit remains ongoing but within the past week President Barack Obama’s administration filed what’s called a “motion to stay” the suit. Such a motion is something that if granted would delay the lawsuit indefinitely.

I don’t care what anyone says what happened with Fast and Furious was criminal. And the ongoing cover-up is also criminal.  The “most transparant administration ever” is, in fact, the most opaque.

As for the hypocrisy, well that’s easy, especially given Fast and Furious.

Attorney General Eric Holder said today that the government will consider “imposing tough penalties on gun traffickers who help funnel weapons to dangerous criminals” while talking about gun control to U.S. mayors.

ERIC HOLDER: And to consider a series of new federal laws imposing tough penalties on gun traffickers who help funnel weapons to dangerous criminals.

Who is the biggest “gun trafficker” we know of?

Eric Holder.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Welcome to the law of unintended consequences

Or here’s what happens when you play the green card and drive up the cost of energy to the point that it is unaffordable:

When the mercury falls, the theft of wood in the country’s woodlands goes up as people turn to cheaper ways to heat their homes. With energy costs escalating, more Germans are turning to wood burning stoves for heat. That, though, has also led to a rise in tree theft in the country’s forests. The problem has been compounded this winter by rising energy costs. The Germany’s Renters Association estimates the heating costs will go up 22 percent this winter alone.

Brilliant!

How much carbon is being emitted by wood burning stoves?  How about the deforestation?

Gee, nukes don’t sound so bad now, do they?

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 20 Jan 13

This week, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss the media and the New Obama Administration.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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 Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

So lift those heavy eyelids

What if people could easily function with much less sleep?

Jon M at Sociological Speculation asked that question after observing that “new drugs such as Modafinil appear to vastly reduce the need for sleep without significant side effects (at least so far).” At extremes, as Jon M noted in a follow-up post, modafinil allows a reduction to 2.5 hours a night, but “the more common experiences seem to be people who reduce their sleep by a few hours habitually and people who use the drugs to stay up for extended periods once in a while without suffering the drastic cognitive declines insomnia normally entails.”  In fact, alertness is not the only reported cognitive benefit of the drug.

The US brand of modafinil, Provigil, did over $1.1 billion in US sales last year, but for the moment let’s dispense with the question of whether modafinil is everything it’s cracked up to be.  We’re speculating about the consequences of cheaply reducing or even eliminating the need for sleep for the masses.

If I can add to what’s already been said by several fine bloggers – Garett Jones at EconLog on the likely effect on wages, then Matt Yglesias at Slate sounding somewhat dour about the prospect, and Megan McArdle at the Daily Beast having fun with the speculation – the bottom line is that widely reducing the need for sleep would be a revolutionary good, as artificial light was.

For a sense of scale, there are about 252 million Americans age 15+, and on average they’re each awake about 5,585 hours a year.  Giving them each two extra hours a night for a year would be equivalent to adding the activity of 33 million people, without having to shelter, clothe, and feed 33 million more people.

Whatever objections critics have, sleeping less will be popular to the extent that people think the costs are low.  For all the billions of dollars spent trying to add years to their older lives, obviously people would spend more to add life to their younger years.  Who ever said, “If only I’d had less time!”?

Consider that the average employed parent usually sleeps 7.6 hours each workday.  He spends 8.8 of his remaining hours on work and related activities, 1.2 hours caring for others, and 2.5 hours on leisure and sports.

If he spends more time working productively (i.e. serving others), that’s good for both him and society.  The time and effort invested in birthing, educating, and sorting people for jobs is tremendous, so getting more out of people who are already born, educated, and sorted is just multiplying the return on sunk costs.

That’s a godsend for any society undergoing a demographic transition after the typical fall in birthrates, because aside from hoping for faster productivity growth, the specific ways to address having fewer workers per retiree – higher taxes, lower benefits, more immigration, or somehow spurring more people to invest in babies for decades – are unpleasant or difficult or both.

And if he uses extra hours to pursue happiness in other ways, that’s generally fine too.  A lot of people may simply get more out of their cable subscription. Others will finally have time for building and maintaining their families, reading, exercising, or learning a skill.

Yes, once a substantial number of people are enhancing their performance, others will likely have to follow suit if they want to compete.  But then, that’s also true of artificial light and many other technologies.  If people naturally slept only four hours a night and felt rested and alert, who would support a law forcing everyone to sleep twice as long, cutting a fifth of their waking hours so that everyone would slow down to the speed that some people prefer to live their lives?

I don’t think most people have such a strong presumption in favor of sleep.  We like feeling rested, or dreaming, but not sleeping as such; a substantial minority of Americans sleep less than advised despite the known costs, and so reveal their preference for waking life over oblivion.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 17 Jan 13

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

Housing starts in December rose a sharp 12.1%, to a pace of 0.954 million units, following Novembers -4.3% drop.

Initial Jobless Claims fell much more than expected, down 37,000 to 335,000. The 4-week average fell 6,750 to 359,250, but continuing claims rose 87,000 to 3.214 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell 1.1 points points to -35.5.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey fell back into negative territory again, coming in at -5.8.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Question of the day: how do you enforce “universal background checks?”

A part of the legislative gun control package and executive orders President Obama has set in motion includes this:

Mr. Obama would require background checks for private sales between individuals, including those at gun shows and via the Internet. Expanding the checks is the “single most important thing we can do,” a senior administration official said.

Sounds reasonable on the surface, right?

But then the deeper question – how would this have to be accomplished?

Well, let’s see – there’s no way to track how well this law is being followed unless you are able to identify all the guns that this requirement would cover.  And, of course, it would cover every existing gun out there now, right?  Isn’t that what “universal” means?

So what is required?

Ah, gun registration.  Every single, solitary gun that is legally held by the public would have to be registered so the Fed could then track sales and ensure that “proper background checks” were executed.  If not, then we have a new crime with which to prosecute citizens and populate our jails.

Oh, and the crimnals?  Yeah, they’ll play along, won’t they?

Can’t wait to watch the gang-bangers in Chicago line up to register their guns and do background checks before selling them.

Absurd.  And useless.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 16 Dec 13

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The MBA reports Purchase Applications rose 15.2% in the latest week, with purchases up 13.0% and re-fis up 15.0%.

Lower energy costs kept the Consumer Price Index restrained with a 0% rise for December. The core rate, ex-food and energy, rose 0.1%.

The Treasury reports foreign demand for long-term US securities rose a net $52.3 billion in November.

The Fed’s reading on Industrial Production rose 0.3% in December, while Capacity Utilization rose 0.4% to 78.8%.

The Housing Market Index is unchanged this month at 47, still below the break-even point of 50.

The Fed’s Beige Book is reporting that all 12 Federal Reserve Districts saw "modest or moderate" economic growth since the last report.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!