Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Let’s make the US like Germany … er, Mississippi?

The “social democracy” or “democratic socialism” model that many of the left want so badly is showing it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  For instance:

Since Sweden is held up as a sort of promised land by American socialists, let’s compare it first. We find that, if it were to join the US as a state, Sweden would be poorer than all but 12 states, with a median income of $27,167.
Median residents in states like Colorado ($35,830), Massachusetts ($37,626), Virginia ($39,291), Washington ($36,343), and Utah ($36,036) have considerably higher incomes than Sweden.
With the exception of Luxembourg ($38,502), Norway ($35,528), and Switzerland ($35,083), all countries shown would fail to rank as high-income states were they to become part of the United States. In fact, most would fare worse than Mississippi, the poorest state.
Oh, my!  Say it ain’t so, Bernie!
Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, has a median income ($25,528) level below all but 9 US states. Finland ranks with Germany in this regard ($25,730), and France’s median income ($24,233) is lower than both Germany and Finland. Denmark fares better and has a median income ($27,304) below all but  13 US states.
And Mississippi? Well, when adjusted for purchasing power, we find a funny thing (heh … I couldn’t help myself):
Now that we’ve accounted for the low cost of living in Mississippi, we find that Mississippi ($26,517) is no longer the state with the lowest median income in real terms. New York ($26,152) is now the state with the lowest median income due to its very high cost of living.
More importantly, when the European countries are adjusted for purchasing power, they fare even worse:
Once purchasing power among the US states is taken into account, we find that Sweden’s median income ($27,167) is higher than only six states: Arkansas ($26,804), Louisiana ($25,643), Mississippi ($26,517), New Mexico ($26,762), New York ($26,152) and North Carolina ($26,819).
We find something similar when we look at Germany, but in Germany’s case, every single US state shows a higher median income than Germany. Germany’s median income is $25,528. Things look even worse for the United Kingdom which has a median income of $21,033, compared to $26,517 in Mississippi.
So? So, myth busted.  If you want everyone to be the equal of  … well, now, New York … just listen to the siren song of social democracy. High taxes, marginal benefits and low purchasing power.  When you can’t even point to them being better than Mississippi in terms of median income, maybe it would be better not to hold up European social democracies as something to “strive” to be like.
~McQ
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Economic Statistics for 4 Mar 16

A -2.1% decline in exports outpaced a -1.3% drop in imports to increase January’s trade deficit to $-45.7 billion.

242,000 net new jobs were created in February, as the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9%. The labor participation rate rose to 62.9%. On the negative side, however, average hourly earnings fell -0.1%, as did the average work week, down -0.2 hours to 34.4 hours. The U-6 unemployment rate, the broadest measure of underemployment, fell -0.2% to 9.7%.


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Stray Voltage

Power Line calls it “Desperately Seeking Islamaphobia“.  Seems there was a burglary at a mosque there this week.  And oh my goodness, it had to be a result of “Islamaphobia”, because, you know, CAIR shilled for it to be considered as such:

A burglary this week at a Minneapolis Islamic center prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to issue a statement of concern Friday.

Jaylani Hussein, director of CAIR-MN, said surveillance video captured images of a man breaking into the Umatul Islam Center on Lake Street and 2nd Avenue S. between 11 p.m. and midnight Wednesday.

[…]
He said the break-in is the first major incident involving a mosque in the Twin Cities since comments made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump touched off a wave of anti-Muslim commentary and some incidents of harassment nationwide.

Overreaction time!

Gov. Mark Dayton met with about two dozen Muslim community leaders and imams Sunday morning at the Umatul Islam Center in south Minneapolis and commiserated with them about a break-in and vandalism at the mosque last Wednesday.

And the Gov even held a press conference. Turns out it was a well known burger who randomly targeted the mosque.

Meanwhile, in other Twin City news (Mar 1):

Computer equipment, electronics and musical instruments known as “Singing Bowls” were stolen from two Minneapolis churches on the night of March 1, prompting a warning from police for religious institutions.

And no, the Governor didn’t show up to console the Christian leaders at these churches or hold a press conference to condemn them, because  …. ?

Meanwhile, “The New Red Guard” has found another unreliable sort. This one was so bad she screwed up in her “self-criticism” session:

We students in the class began discussing possible ways to bring these issues up in our classes when COMS 930 instructor Dr. Andrea Quenette abruptly interjected with deeply disturbing remarks. Those remarks began with her admitted lack of knowledge of how to talk about racism with her students because she is white. “As a white woman I just never have seen the racism… It’s not like I see ‘Nigger’ spray-painted on walls…” she said.

That’s what you get on campus now when you try to discuss any topic The New Red Guard (in this case, at KU) deems taboo or you use a taboo word even as you are describing your “white privilege” and didn’t aim it at anyone.  Their answer is to purge the offender.  So they’re boycotting her class.  But, as usual, there is probably a much simpler reason – bad grades.  And Dr. Quenette had the temerity to point out that perhaps some of those people of color weren’t dropping out because of “racism” but instead of bad grades:

This statement reinforces several negative ideas: that violence against students of color is only physical, that students of color are less academically inclined and able, and that structural and institutional cultures, policies, and support systems have no role in shaping academic outcomes. Dr. Quenette’s discourse was uncomfortable, unhelpful, and blatantly discriminatory.

Or said another way, the spoiled children didn’t like being confronted with an uncomfortable truth.  And they want their participation trophy … now!

On another SJW front, the University of Pittsburg is still recovering from having to endure a visit by a  … conservative!

The University of Pittsburgh’s Student Government Board held a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss the traumatizing visit the night before from “dangerous” homosexual and Breitbart Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos, during which students described themselves as feeling “hurt” and “unsafe.”

Now don’t forget the most important thing about this event. It was a non-compulsory and extracurricular event featuring a gay journalist expressing a difference of opinion from the mainstream at the college.

Yeah, that was it. Read the whole thing to see how badly traumatized these special social flowers were because of it and how the whole earth, or at least much of Pitt, is being moved to accommodate this “hurt”.  Simply amazing.

Hey Bernie, how you going to pay for all that “free” stuff?

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has proposed $15.3 trillion in tax increases, according to a new report, and would raise rates on virtually everyone, including the politically all-important middle class.

Not surprisingly for a candidate who has made income inequality his central issue, Sanders’s plan would wallop the rich, an analysis released Friday by the Tax Policy Center shows.

[…]

But Sanders, going where few politicians dare, would also raise taxes on middle- and low-income families, with those in the dead center of the income spectrum facing a $4,700 tax increase. That would reduce their after-tax incomes by 8.5 percent, the report said.

Wait!  I thought you said it would be “free” for me!?

Hey, guess what?  He lied.

And, finally, the one silver lining if there is ever a Trump presidency?  Miley Cyrus will leave the US:

“We’re all just f—ing jam between his rich ass toes!” she wrote. “Honestly f— this s— I am moving if this is my president! I don’t say things I don’t mean!”

Hmmm … almost makes one reconsider, huh?  Yeah, but I’ll only reconsider if she takes Kanye West, the Kardashians and Rosie O’Donnell with her.

Have a great weekend!

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Mar 16

Chain stores that still report monthly sales growth are mostly reporting stronger rates of year-on-year sales in February than January.

Non-farm productivity for the 4th quarter of 2015 was revised upwards to -2.2%, and labor cost increased were revised down to 3.3%.

Factory orders rose a strong 1.6% in January thanks to wide strength in durable goods. Core capital goods orders rose 3.4%.

Markit’s PMI Services index for February fell to a contractionary 49.7 from 53.2. The ISM Non-Manufacturing index held steady, down only -0.1 point to 53.4.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report came in at 62,599 layoffs announced in February.

The Gallup Good Jobs rate in the U.S. was 44.6% in February, down just -0.1% from the previous month.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 6,000 to 278,000. The 4-week average fell 1,750 to 270,250. Continuing claims  rose 3,000 to 2.257 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.6 points to 43.6 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-11.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.479 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-8.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $34.2 billion in the latest week.


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Dilemma

Thomas Sowell observes:

The “Super Tuesday” primaries may be a turning point for America — and quite possibly a turn for the worse. After seven long years of domestic disasters and increasing international dangers, the next President of the United States will need extraordinary wisdom, maturity, depth of knowledge and personal character to rescue America.

Instead, if the polls are an indication, what we may get is someone with the opposite of all these things, a glib egomaniac with a checkered record in business and no track record at all in government — Donald Trump.

If so, the downward trajectory of America over the past seven years may well continue on into the future, to the point of no return.

Donald Trump is the wrong guy at the right time (much like Obama in 2008) and that, at least to me, is what is so dangerous about this manifestation of anger that is suddenly sweeping the country, at least on the right.  We get another 4 years, at least, of incoherence and dangerous ineptness.  About the only hilarity would be the Republicans initiating impeachment proceedings on a “Republican” president … and I could actually see that happening.  So watch who Trump names as VP if he’s the nominee. By the way, I’m fine with the anger and like the movement, just not happy with the choice of “candidate” to represent it.

Not that the alternative is any better.  If you want a high level grifter in the White House,  Clinton fills the bill.  In Clinton’s case it’s influence peddling among many other things:

In June 2009, Clinton emailed Neera Tanden, a former Clinton campaign operative, then a top aide to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and now the president of the Center for American Progress.

Clinton wanted Tanden to arrange a meeting between three doctors and Nancy Ann DeParle, the White House official leading its health care reform efforts.

“I can arrange it, no worries,” Tanden assured her. “I know Dean Ornish from the Obama campaign,” Tanden said, referring to one of the trio.

Ornish is a high-dollar Democratic donor. According to federal campaign finance records, he’s given more than $700,000 to Democratic campaigns, party organs, and outside groups since the 1990s.

His organization, the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, previously received $3.5 million in earmarks courtesy of then-House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), one of the recipients of his political contributions.

Ornish has donated to both of Clinton’s presidential campaigns, and co-hosted a fundraiser for the campaign in 2007. He is also a high-dollar donor to the Clinton Foundation, having given between $100,000 and $250,000, according to the Foundation’s website.

Tanden apparently arranged the meeting between Ornish and DeParle. “Thanks for following thru,” Clinton wrote five days later.

We’ll be back to selling the Lincoln bedroom, and why not?  They got away with it the last time.

What’s interesting is not that the two probable choices are so awful and are likely to do irreparable harm, but that on the right, there’s an open revolution going on and on the left it is the blessing and intrenchment of machine politics designed to “win” at any cost and certainly ignoring any moral problems with their candidate.  The right is so mad they’ll take anyone who spits in the establishment’s face and the left is committed to fixing the establishment even more firmly in Washington DC.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 2 Mar 15

The Fed’s Beige Book characterizes the economy as relatively flat, with most districts reporting modest to moderate growth.

February’s ADP Employment Report indicates that 214,000 new private sector jobs were created during the month.

The Gallup US Job creation Index was unchanged at 29 in February.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -4.8% last week, with purchases down -1.0% and refis down -7.0%.


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Summing up the state of America

Zero Hedge sums up both the “Super Tuesday” results and the broader political and policy situation in the US very well:

Negative interest rates. The war on cash. More quantitative easing. Monetary policy described as a “helicopter drop”. An avowed socialist running for President – and competing well. Another candidate under investigation by the FBI for mishandling classified information. A debate that featured a candidate begging for someone to attack him so he could get some air time. One candidate accusing another of stealing from the party and calling another a liar. The closed captioning for most of the debate reading “unintelligible yelling”. An accomplished, serious-minded governor getting drowned out by three buffoons competing to see who can get the biggest guffaws from a crowd that makes the audience at a professional wrestling match look reserved and intellectual.

It’s getting weird and the market is having a tough time figuring out what to take seriously, what to ignore, what to laugh nervously about and what to just laugh at. Are we really about to put up our very own American version of Silvio Berlusconi as the Presidential candidate of a formerly serious political party? Is the other party really having a competitive race with one candidate running on an overtly socialist agenda that is barely distinguishable from his opponent’s? Who doesn’t claim to be a socialist? Are central banks actually considering pushing interest rates more negative after getting basically no positive response from the initial push below the previously sacrosanct zero bound? Has the Federal Reserve actually told banks to prepare for negative interest rates here in the US right after raising rates for the first time in years? Are serious economists actually have a debate about whether it is a good idea to just print up cash and pass it out? Is that really monetary policy? Are governments really talking about banning actual currency, the very money created by that government? Money that depends, oh by the way, solely on people’s trust that the government will stand behind the money they are about to outlaw? Has everyone lost their freaking minds?

My sentiments to a tee.  This is probably the most awful domestic political climate I’ve seen in my lifetime.  I’ve can’t remember having such a horrible “choice” before.  And for me, there really isn’t a choice given who is likely to win on either side.

Yes, there’s anger out there on both sides toward the political establishment.  They took a great country and have run it into the ditch.  Got it and agree with the anger.  But what this is boiling down to is the white version of Obama and a crook that makes Nixon look like an altar boy in comparison.  The voting public obviously wants some sort of political change but it also seems to be demanding change that will make a bad situation worse.

The pregnant question is “how did we get here?”  The Republican party obviously got here by a fairly conventional route – promise them anything to get elected and then, basically, ignore them.  The “them” being the GOP faithful.  So how did Trump become the answer, unless you’re a low information voter who is content to let a more unstable version of the current resident of the White House call the shots? How can anyone spend anytime researching the guy and come away with a positive feeling about what he’d do if he were in the Oval Office?  I’m sorry, but this bombastic political chameleon, who has duped and used people his whole life, will be as large if not a larger disaster than Obama has been.

And as for the crook on the other side, if anyone wants to firmly establish corruption at the highest levels of the country just to say we have a “woman president”, then you deserve to be horsewhipped.  Machine politics will survive and become even more pervasive and controlling.  Is this what everyone wants?   The Democrats are sliding hard left.  Sanders is popular because he too has a vast support group that is willfully (or not) ignorant and wants “free” stuff.

For goodness sake this is about what is best for the country, not some ideological check mark.  Certainly a woman should be our chief executive at some time.  But Clinton?  As a whole, those who voted for Obama willfully ignored the glaring and obvious reasons not to elect him to make sure the race check mark was made.  And what did it give us?  The worst president in my lifetime.  Now, it seems, the voting public is going to double down and make him the second worst president in my lifetime regardless of who wins in November.

 

“The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage & whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

That’s where we’re headed.  Those that want to see it “all burn down” may be in the middle of seeing just that.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 1 Mar 16

Motor Vehicle Sales were strong in February,  at a 17.5 million annualized pace overall, and 14.1 million for NorthAmerican models. 

Construction spending rose a strong 1.5% in January, with a year-on-year increase of 10.4%.

The ISM Manufacturing Index rose 1.3 points to a still-slightly-contractionary 49.5 in February. Meanwhile, the PMI Manufacturing Index held steady at 51.3.

Gallup’s economic confidence index averaged -13 in February. This is significantly below the reading of +1 recorded in February, 2015.

Retail sales weakness continues, as Rebook reports that last week’s retail sales fell to 0.6% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.2%.


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