Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

No podcast this week

Apparently Bruce and Michael prefer to watch the Superbowl, our nation’s annual celebration of Communism, than do a podcast that may help spread the word about individual liberty.

Meanwhile, in baseball, the only truly American game, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in 8 days.

~
Dale Franks
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The left’s false moral equivalency concerning guns

Leave it to former White House Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago Rham Emanuel to provide us with the example. George Will tells the sorry story:

Politics becomes amusing when liberalism becomes theatrical with high-minded gestures. Chicago’s government, which is not normally known for elevated thinking, is feeling so morally upright and financially flush that it proposes to rise above the banal business of maximizing the value of its employees’ and retirees’ pension fund assets. Although seven funds have cumulative unfunded liabilities of $25 billion, Chicago will sacrifice the growth of those assets to the striking of a political pose so pure it is untainted by practicality.

Emulating New York and California, two deep-blue states with mammoth unfunded pension liabilities, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) has hectored a $5 billion pension fund into divesting its holdings in companies that manufacture firearms. Now he is urging two large banks to deny financing to such companies “that profit from gun violence.” TD Bank provides a $60 million credit line to Smith & Wesson, and Bank of America provides a $25 million line to Sturm, Ruger & Co.

Chicago’s current and retired public employees might wish the city had invested more in both companies. Barack Obama, for whom Emanuel was chief of staff, has become a potent gun salesman because of suspicions that he wants to make gun ownership more difficult. Since he was inaugurated four years ago, there have been 65 million requests for background checks of gun purchasers. Four years ago, the price of Smith & Wesson stock was $2.45. Last week it was $8.76, up 258 percent. Four years ago, the price of Sturm Ruger stock was $6.46. Last week it was $51.09, up 691 percent. The Wall Street Journal reports that even before “a $1.2 billion balloon payment for pensions comes due” in 2015, “Chicago’s pension funds, which are projected to run dry by the end of the decade, are scraping the bottoms of their barrels.”

So we have the Mayor of Chicago using, well, Chicago style “politics”, to make a “moral statement” that likely few of his citizens agree with and hurting an already failing retirement system by demanding stocks that are doing well be dropped. We call that “moral preening” and, of course, it’s no skin off his back – he’s not the one losing the money – retirees are.  Screw serving the public welfare – his job.  He’s all about hurting the public welfare to make a private moral statement.

As for the false moral equivalency? Here you go:

Nevertheless, liberals are feeling good about themselves — the usual point of liberalism — because New York state’s public pension fund and California’s fund for teachers have, the New York Times says, “frozen or divested” gun holdings, and Calpers, the fund for other California public employees, may join this gesture jamboree this month. All this is being compared to the use of divestment to pressure South Africa to dismantle apartheid in the 1980s.

Guns are as evil as “apartheid” and thus should be dealt with the same way. Because everyone knows that owning a gun is precisely the same as being an oppressive racist using the power of government to enforce your racism.  Or moralism.

Never mind the fact that:

Guns are legal products in America, legally sold under federal, state and local regulations. Most of the guns sold to Americans are made by Americans. Americans have a right — a constitutional right — to own guns, and 47 percent of U.S. households exercise that portion of the Bill of Rights by possessing at least one firearm.

The left, as it usually does, is going to demonize an industry just as they have the fossile fuel industry. Amusingly, that too is one of the left’s “apartheid divestment” moves.

Moral grandstanding, however, offers steady work, and the Chronicle of Higher Education reports a new front in “the battle against climate change”: “Student groups at almost 200 colleges and universities are calling on boards of trustees to divest their colleges’ holdings in large fossil-fuel companies.” Of course, not one share of those companies’ stock will go unsold because academia is so righteous. Others will profit handsomely from such holdings and from being complicit in supplying what the world needs. Fossil fuels, the basis of modern life, supply 82 percent of U.S. energy, and it is projected that they will supply 78 percent of the global increase in energy demand between 2009 and 2035, by which time the number of cars and trucks on the planet will have doubled to 1.7 billion.

Of course, that’s not a problem for fossile fuel companies because their stocks aren’t going to go without a buyer.  Institutional investors who actually are interested in helping build wealth in a portfolio will snap them up.  What will suffer? University endowment funds, that’s what. Most people would call that sort of moral preening a “self-inflicted wound”. It won’t change a thing, it’s moral relativisim at its worst and someone else will be happy to take the dividend income those boobs are foregoing.

Next up?

Institutions of higher education will, presumably, warn donors that their endowments will be wielded in support of the political agenda du jour, which might include divesting from any company having anything to do with corn, source of the sweetener in many of the sodas that make some people fat and New York’s mayor cranky. Or anything to do with red meat, sugar, salt, trans fats, chickens not lovingly raised . . . .

Bet on it.

~McQ

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Speaking plainly about force

One of the most useful things I’ve learned about communication is the importance of stating things plainly and concretely.*  But thinking about that lesson frequently makes politics maddening.

Euphemisms are the health of politics.  If a government really wants to get away with murder, even secrecy can be less useful than making that particular murder sound unremarkable, justifiable, sensible, or even dutiful.

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Economic Statistics for 1 Feb 13

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

It was another lackluster jobs report. Non-farm payrolls increased by 157,000 net new jobs in January. Average weekly hours were unchanged at 34.4, while average hourly earnings rose $0.04 to $23.78. The unemployment rate rose a tick to 7.9%. The labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 63.6%. The number of persons reporting themselves to be unemployed rose by 126,000 to 12,332. Those not in the labor force rose 169,000 to 89.008 million. The U-6 unemployment rate, the broadest gauge of unemployment the BLS produces, remained steady at 14.4%. Calculating the unemployment rate at the historical average of labor force participation, gives a real unemployment rate of 11.5%, up 0.1% from December.

The Reuters/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for January rose 2.5 points to 73.8.

The final PMI Manufacturing Index for January rose 1.8 points to 55.8.

The ISM manufacturing index continued to move into positive territory, up 2.4 points to 53.1 in January.

Construction spending jumped 0.9% in December, and is up 7.8% on a year-over-year basis.

Car manufacturers are reporting monthly sales for January today. Ford, GM, and Chrysler all saw double-digit sales increases. GM: 15.9%, Ford: 22%, Chrysler: 16%. Other sales results today saw Volkswagen with a 7% increase, and Toyota with 27%. Overall, automakers are on track to sell 15 million to 15.5 million vehicles this year.

~
Dale Franks
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And this person votes …

Really, no words from me needed:

Chicago safer than anywhere?  C-section babies?  And that old inconvenient Constitution and stuff.  Yes indeed, let’s all go for this more “modern” way of living, okay?

You’d almost think it was a parody but it isn’t.  Just a “proud Democrat”.

So much for an informed (and semi-intelligent) electorate (and yeah, some Republicans don’t get off much easier – just ask a few running for office about rape).

~McQ

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Reality smacks the left again – this time unions

Funny how this works, isn’t it?  Make up all sorts of grand claims about something and then when it is passed into law find out that making up stuff doesn’t change reality one iota:

Labor unions enthusiastically backed the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul when it was up for debate. Now that the law is rolling out, some are turning sour.

Union leaders say many of the law’s requirements will drive up the costs for their health-care plans and make unionized workers less competitive. Among other things, the law eliminates the caps on medical benefits and prescription drugs used as cost-containment measures in many health-care plans. It also allows children to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.

To offset that, the nation’s largest labor groups want their lower-paid members to be able to get federal insurance subsidies while remaining on their plans. In the law, these subsidies were designed only for low-income workers without employer coverage as a way to help them buy private insurance.

You have got to love the outrageousness of the union’s desire I’ve emphasized.  In essence it says, “we voted for something, got it wrong, and it it up to the taxpayer to bail us out”.

Oh, wait, that’s not outrageous at all is it?

That pretty much sums up the entitlement/welfare culture being so carefully nurtured by the left to a tee, doesn’t it?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 31 Jan 13

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort index continued its decline, falling to -37.5 this week. The index has lost 5.7 points so far this year.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index rose to 55.6 for January, on increases in new orders and production.

The Employment Cost Index rose 0.5% in the 1st Quarter, while the year-over-year increase was 1.9%, as wage inflation remains restrained.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report shows a total of 40,430 announced layoffs for January.

Initial jobless claims rose 38,000 to 360,000 last week, erasing last week’s sharp decline. The 4-week average fell 7,000 to 352,000. Continuing claims rose 22,000 to 3.197 million.

Personal income rose a sharp 2.6% in December, while consumer spending rose 0.2%. The PCE Price index, an inflation measure, was unchanged at both the headline and core levels. On a year-over-year basis, personal income rose 6.9%, while spending rose 3.6%. The PCE price index rose 1.3%, with a core rate increase of 1.4%.

~
Dale Franks
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Another country from which to “learn”

The question, as posed earlier concerning Britain and France, is will we?

Electricity prices are rising in Germany – and citizen with a low-income are suffering particularly. They are at risk of fuel poverty. 10 to 15 percent of Germans are now struggling to pay their energy bills. 600,000 households have the electricity turned off every year.

Remember, Germany ran scared after the Fukushima disaster and dumped nuclear power (because, you know, German has so many earthquakes and tsunamis).  They then went “green”.  Result?  See above?

Other result?

The CEOs of manufacturing industries are warning that production in Germany is at risk because of low energy prices in the United States. The energy prices there are now only a third of those in Germany. “Many industrial companies are planning to build new factories in the U.S. and not in Europe because of low energy prices there,” said Gisbert Rühl, chief of steel trader Kloeckner. “We are now reacting to this development and plan new business units in the United States.” To move production to the U.S. is especially attractive for companies in energy-intensive industries such as steel and aluminium or chemistry.

That would seem to be good news for us, no?

Well, it should be … except for the Democrats plan to raise taxes on the oil companies.  And Obama’s new wave of regulations.  Oh, and the Obama desire to see fuel prices “skyrocket”, ably aided by his Secretaries of Energy and the Interior.  And the EPA.

Etc.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 30 Jan 13

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Commerce Department reports that 4th Quarter GDP came in well below expectations, declining -0.1%. The GDP Price Index, an inflation measure, rose 0.6%. Government purchases fell by 6.6%, leading the decline, but the rest of the report is generally more sluggish than in the 3rd quarter, with final sales of domestic product rising only 1.1%, versus 2.4% in the 3rd quarter.

MBA Purchase applications fell -8.1% last week, with mortgages down -2.0% and re-fis down -10.0%.

ADP estimates a gain of 192,000 private payroll jobs in December.

~
Dale Franks
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