Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 30 Apr 14

Real economic growth slowed to an annualized 0.1% in the 1st Quarter of 2014, well short of expectations. The GDP Price Index rose an annualized 1.3%. The ongoing sub-par economic growth we predicted in 2009 continues into its fifth year. As of yet, we have experienced no real recovery from the economic crash that began in October, 2008.

The Employment Cost Index hit a record low increase of 0.3% for 1Q 2014, a level only seen twice before in the 32 years of this index. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 1.8%.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index made a big jump in April to 63.0 from 55.9 in March.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications plummeted -5.9% last week. Purchases fell -4.0% and re-fis -7.0%.

The Federal Open Markets Committee left interest rates unchanged today, with a Federal Funds Rate Target Level of 0% to 0.25%.

ADP’s estimate for private payroll growth in April is for 220,000 net new jobs.


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ObamaCare slapped by reality … again

And that reality is the American people aren’t buying the propaganda being pushed by the administration.  After its celebration of the dubious enrollment of 8 million and unilateral declaration that ObamaCare was a “success”, new poll numbers show no difference among the public’s opinion of the law than before their declaration:

What’s perhaps more telling is that, despite the rare good news of the past few weeks, their perceptions of the law remain basically as-is — that is, pretty dim. To wit:

  • Americans say 50-41 that the implementation of the law has been worse than they expected rather than better.
  • They say 44-24 that the health-care system is getting worse rather than getting better as a result of Obamacare.
  • They say 29-14 that the quality of care is getting worse rather than better.
  • They say 47-8 that their health-care costs are increasing due to the law rather than decreasing.
  • They say 58-11 that the overall cost of health care in the United States is increasing rather than decreasing.

Almost all of these numbers are basically unchanged from in recent months.

What is it politicians like to tell us about politics?  Ah, yes, perception is reality.  And as I pointed out when you mess with people’s health care, the reality becomes very personal.  It isn’t something that you view from afar and doesn’t effect you.  It is something everyone is interested in in some form or fashion.

The numbers above are their perception of that awful law’s impact on their lives.   The propaganda simply isn’t going to change that.   “8 million enrolled” is something the people really don’t care about.  Higher premiums, more red tape and fewer options for health care, not to mention having to give up their doctor and the health insurance they liked is something they care about.  That is the result of the law and it is the reason for the numbers.

As we’ve mentioned previously, the numbers you see above are numbers that exist before the most onerous regulations and requirements (now delayed until after the election) are finally put into effect.  If you think these numbers are bad, wait till after November.

The bottom line is ObamaCare sucks and the people know it and no administration sponsored dog and pony show is going to change that perception.  We see a lot of Democrats now trying to claim that ObamaCare really won’t hurt them in the mid-terms.

I invite them to look at the above numbers, understand that it is they who are going to get “credit” for the law, and rethink their claim prior to their coming unemployment.

That way it won’t come as such a surprise when they’re defeated.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 29 Apr 14

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell -4 points to 119 in April.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales jumped 1.6% for the week, and were up 3.1% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports an 3.8% increase in retail sales over last year.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose 0.8% in February.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence index was unchanged at 82.3 for April.


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Reaping the consequences of “Smart Diplomacy”

Another day another foreign policy gaffe or disaster.

This time we’re in the gaffe department where, as usual, this administration is in the act of further alienating our friends.  In this case it is perhaps the worst Secretary of State we’ve yet had to suffer’s turn … again:

Secretary of State John F. Kerry has stepped in it again — with a gaffe that this time not only makes him look foolish but makes a mess of U.S. foreign policy and destroys any chance he had of realizing his legacy pipe dream of brokering Middle East peace.

In a private meeting with senior international officials Friday, Kerry said that if the Israelis and Palestinians can’t achieve a two-state solution, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state with second-class citizens.”

Israelis are aghast — especially with Kerry’s remarks being reported yesterday on Holocaust Remembrance Day — and have started issuing calls for his resignation. Foreign policy experts are stunned, saying Kerry’s racially charged statements are major setbacks to peace negotiations in the Middle East.

“No wonder our diplomacy in the Middle East is so wretched,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton told the Herald, calling Kerry’s remarks “outrageous and defamatory.”

Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post said, “Kerry’s remark was openly anti-Semitic. Apartheid is a crime of intent. There is no Israeli politician that will ever be in a leadership position that harbors any such bigoted intention towards the Palestinians. On the other hand, there is no Palestinian leader or faction that does not demand the ethnic cleansing of Jews from every inch of any territory that will come under Palestinian control.”

How to explain someone as inept and useless as Kerry rising to this position of power is unfathomable until you see who resides in the White House.  It’s all about politics and paying political debts.

Meanwhile, David Brooks, one of the millions of reasons we’re suffering under this atrocious administration (ask him who he voted for in 2008) today complains that “all around, the fabric of peace and order is fraying.”  Well it likely didn’t have to be this way, but it certainly was predictable when you and others voted to hire clueless freshman Senator as President of the US, Mr. Brooks.  A man who has no respect among other leaders in the world and certainly isn’t feared by anyone.  “Leading from behind” may be a clever way of saying “abrogating leadership”, but it didn’t fool those who are actually playing international hardball out there, did it?  So, unsurprisingly (history … try it some time) we now see them acting.  The phone’s been constantly ringing at 3am and no one — no one — is answering it.

And since the thugs and thieves of the world know no one is home, they’re beginning to take full advantage of the situation.

Wow.  What a freakin’ surprise, no?

Brooks consults an expert for an explanation of what’s going on and he gets an answer – one we’ve been talking about for years:

“The ‘category error’ of our experts is to tell us that our system is doing just fine and proceeding on its eternal course toward ever-greater progress and global goodness. This is whistling past the graveyard.

“The lesson-category within grand strategic history is that when an established international system enters its phase of deterioration, many leaders nonetheless respond with insouciance, obliviousness, and self-congratulation. When the wolves of the world sense this, they, of course, will begin to make their moves to probe the ambiguities of the aging system and pick off choice pieces to devour at their leisure.

Consequences of this nonsense?

“This is what Putin is doing; this is what China has been moving toward doing in the maritime waters of Asia; this is what in the largest sense the upheavals of the Middle East are all about: i.e., who and what politico-ideological force will emerge as hegemon over the region in the new order to come. The old order, once known as ‘the American Century’ has been situated within ‘the modern era,’ an era which appears to be stalling out after some 300-plus years. The replacement era will not be modern and will not be a nice one.”

We’ve certainly gotten a full ration full of obliviousness.  And the world certainly is moving toward a less modern and much more deadly era.  But the obliviousness (or “whistling past the graveyard” as mentioned earlier) is what drives the absurd self-congratulation that this administration tries to heap on itself while they hasten the “the American Century” to a disastrous end.

Realty is a bitch and she keeps slapping these clueless backslappers over and over. But they pay no attention. These petulant fools continue to spin “success” when to anyone with the IQ of a pear, it is clear almost everything in the foreign policy field (and domestically as well) has been an utter failure or foul up.  Behold:  “Reset”, lead from behind, Arab spring, UN, sanctions, “Smart diplomacy”, R2P, blah, blah, blah. They blew Libya, gave Egypt to the Russians, are giving Iraq back to the terrorists along with Afghanistan, reducing the military to pre-WWII levels and have thus signaled our withdrawal to all around the globe.

Unsurprisingly, the wolves of the world are beginning to feed on the sheep because the former shepherd has withdrawn while telling those that want to believe it that everything is just fine.  Just fine.  Peachy.  Trust them.  They’ve got it all figured out.  Nothing to see here. Nothing to worry about.  Move along citizen.  War is so … 20th century. And besides, we’ve blocked their Netflix account!

With all that nonsense circulating, why shouldn’t the wolves feel free to feed?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 24 Apr 14

Durable goods orders rose 2.6% in March, while orders ex-transportation rose a very positive 2.0%.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 24,000 to 329,000. The 4-week average rose 4,750 to 316,750. Continuing claims fell 61,000 to 2.680 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 3.7 points to -25.4 in the latest week.

The Kansas City Fed manufacturing index fell 3 points to 7 in April.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $12.4 billion last week, with total assets of $4.296 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $7.8 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $25.2 billion in the latest week.


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Pretending there’s a way out of our mess

Drew over at Ace of Spades encapsulates what many of us are feeling:

…there’s no need to leave for Red State or anywhere else to join the “Let-it-burn crowd” because it’s everywhere.

Note the actual phrase begins with “let”. It’s a passive word. No one is saying “Start a fire and burn it down”. It is burning already.

Out of control entitlement spending, zero political will to control discretionary spending and an unchecked debt is the fuel that is feeding this fire.

You want to know who is actively fanning the flames of this fire? Mainstream Republican candidates and office holders, not tea party fanatics or people who simply have lost interest in trying to stop the conflagration.

I have sometimes thought about responding to people such as Charles Cooke and Jay Nordlinger at National Review when they tell us that the establishment GOP isn’t that bad, and they really deserve our support, and other rationalizations. They’re just fooling themselves. Responding does no good, however, because if someone can’t see reality at this point, it means they are willfully blind to it and can’t be argued with.

It’s just too painful for them to think about the essential reality: the establishment GOP is never going to change. They are never going to fight for limited government. They are never going to shrink government at all.

They are never going to willingly turn over the power they have amassed to people who do intend to do those things (i.e. Tea Party types and other limited government advocates). They are going to fight those people with every weapon at their disposal – including the dirty ones.

They are the first obstacle that must be removed before any reclamation of freedom from the federal government can be attained.

Many of us on the right figured that out a long time ago. The civility junkies, the excuse makers, the cocktail party attendees, and the “why can’t we all get along” wafflers can’t seem to see what’s right in front of their face. This fight is on. Choose your side.

If you choose based on your principles, you will choose those who are dedicated to reducing government, knowing that their first actions will be to fight hard against the establishment GOP in order to eventually fight the Democrats on an equal footing. If you choose based on who you’ve met as soirées, who posed with you for pictures, and who radiates power because the control the GOP today, then you are effectively casting your lot with those who want to grow government indefinitely, until the debt mountain finally collapses. Because that’s what the establishment GOP is going to do, whether you like it or not.

You will never change their minds, so you better start lining up with the people who already believe in the principles you espouse.When the burning starts accelerating in earnest, they are the ones who might be able to build some firewalls to contain the damage, and repair things afterwards. Squishes such as Boehner and McConnell will look at the flames in horror, and then let the Democrats amass as much power as they ask for. The sooner they lose control of the GOP, the better the implications for freedom and limited government.  

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Why it pays to be an environmental skeptic

Because, you know, their track record is sooooo good.  In the wake of Earth Day, yesterday, let’s revisit another Earth Day – say the first one in 1970 – and take a look at all the predictions we were then treated too in order to scare the devil out of us:

  1. “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” — Harvard biologist George Wald
  2. “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” — Washington University biologist Barry Commoner
  3. “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”New York Times editorial
  4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” — Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich
  5. “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” — Paul Ehrlich
  6. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” — Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day
  7. “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.” — North Texas State University professor Peter Gunter
  8. “In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.”Life magazine
  9. “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.” — Ecologist Kenneth Watt
  10. “Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” — Paul Ehrlich
  11. “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate… that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’” — Ecologist Kenneth Watt
  12. “[One] theory assumes that the earth’s cloud cover will continue to thicken as more dust, fumes, and water vapor are belched into the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks and jet planes. Screened from the sun’s heat, the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born.”Newsweek magazine
  13. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” — Kenneth Watt

Yes, that’s right dear friends … then all this pollution was going to spawn a new Ice Age and we were all going to starve in the cold.

Now add in a dash of Al Gore and a few others and you can see why they’ve been so interested in quelling skepticism.   It goes against the n0nsense they’ve been trying to sell for 50 plus years.  Note all the appeals to authority (Demographers almost unanimously agree?) that came to naught.  Look and the dire conclusions presented without caveat that were just flat wrong.

There is nothing new among the enviro radicals today except we’re headed for a heat wave instead of an Ice Age.  The “science?”  Just as flaky now as it was then.  But their belief in the correctness of what they’re pumping out there now?  Just as total as it was then.

Their only problem, as usual, is reality continues to bitch slap them.   Meanwhile the skeptics are the one’s called names.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 22 Apr 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose 0.4%, and were up 1.9% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports a 3.7% rise in retail sales over last year.

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.6% in February, with a year-on-year rate at 6.9%.

Sales of existing homes weakened, down -0.2% in March, to a 4.59 million annual rate.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index rose from -7 in March to 7 in April.


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