Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 28 Sep 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

Personal income in August advanced 0.1%, while consumer spending increased 0.5%. Headline inflation rose 0.4%, while the core rate showed a 0.1% increase. On a year –over-year basis, incomes rose 3.5%, but spending rose 3.6%. The price index rose 1.5% overall, and the core rate rose 1.6%.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell to 78.3 from this month’s earlier reading of 79.2.

The Chicago PMI posted at 49.7 in September, down 3.3 points from the prior month. This report is often a preview of the national PMI, due out Monday. New orders fell a steep 7.4 points, and backlog orders also fell. The steep, sudden decline in Chicago business conditions took analysts by surprise.

~
Dale Franks
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Libertarians break for Romney

CATO has the news:

The Reason-Rupe September 2012 poll includes our favorite ideological questions to differentiate libertarians from liberals and conservatives. Using three questions, we can define libertarians as respondents who believe “the less government the better,” who prefer the “free market” to handle problems, and who want government to “favor no particular set of values.” These fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters represent 20% of the public in the Reason-Rupe poll, in line with previous estimates.

Among these likely libertarian voters, the presidential horserace currently stands:

Romney 77%
Obama 20%
Other 3%

Romney’s share of the libertarian vote represents a high water mark for Republican presidential candidates in recent elections.

I find it difficult to believe 20% of the “libertarian” vote would go to Obama, but whatever.

Bush pulled 70% of the libertarian vote in 2000. But that percentage dropped to 59 in 2004.

So what if Gary Johnson is included?

Romney 70%
Obama 13%
Johnson 14%
Other 3%

A pretty even split between libertarians voting for Romney and Obama (7% each).

This is all interesting for a number of reasons.  One is that many libertarians like to argue that “true” libertarians would never vote for any Republican or Democrat.  Yet when you look at the numbers, and unless you’re willing to exclude about 97% of self-identified libertarians, that’s just not at all the case.  In fact, in the last two presidential elections (2004 and 2008), third party candidates have pulled a whopping 3% of the libertarian vote.  Yeah big “L” libertarian party types, it’s not selling.    A lot of that has to do with “principles” which simply aren’t realistic (you know, like isolationism and open borders?  Both have been overcome by events in case you haven’t noticed.).  Once the Libertarian party begins dealing with the problems and realities of the here and now, and not how they’d like it to be, you may see those numbers change.

Until then, the lesser of two evils prevails.  The reason for the record break this year?  Probably because most libertarians understand that Obama and the Democrats pose the biggest internal danger to freedom and liberty this country has faced in quite some time.   Is Romney/Ryan the panacea?  Are you kidding?  But first you have to remove the danger.  Then you can work on repairing the damage.

And it won’t be quickly done as all of us know.  I look for many “ones step forward, two steps back” days even after Obama is sent into retirement.

But one thing is for sure – this nation cannot afford another 4 years of Barack Obama.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 27 Sep 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

Durable goods orders collapsed in August, posting a –13.2% decline overall, and a –1.6% decline ex-transportation. It is the worst monthly drop in 3 1/2 years. Aircraft orders fell –101.8%.

GDP growth for the second quarter for the final revision was unexpectedly revised down to 1.3% annualized. The GDP price index rose 1.6%

The Bureau of Economic Analysis says that corporate profits in the 2nd quarter decreased to $1.665 trillion annualized, compared to $1.671 trillion in the first quarter.

Initial jobless claims for last week were down a sharp 26,000 to 359,000, while the 4-week average dropped 4,500 to 374,000. Continuing claims  fell 4,000 to 3.271 million.

The Kansas City Fed manufacturing index in August posted at 2 for September, down from 8 last month.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to –39.6 from –40.8 last week.

The pending home sales index fell –2.6% in August to 99.2, erasing last month’s 2.4% increase.

~
Dale Franks
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The “Great Scare” tries to get its second wind

Apparently it’s time to double down on “global warming”:

More than 100 million people will die and global economic growth will be cut by 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change, a report commissioned by 20 governments said on Wednesday.

Of course, if the world, considering the economic position it’s in now, does decide to spend the money it thinks is necessary to do this, my guess is the result will be as bad if not worse. As has been pointed out many times, the effort to “tackle climate change” would require that trillions be spent on containing the human portion (which is tiny) of a trace gas while the natural sources, necessarily, continue on unabated.

Sounds like a brilliant plan, no?

And all of that with absolutely no assurance that it will change anything except the poverty level.  And that will go up markedly.

Then there’s the so-called “science” backing this nonsense.  It has been shredded.  Because it has been shredded, the public’s interest in the scare tactics from the doomsday environmentalists is at a low ebb.  They’re just no buying it.

Finally, there’s nature’s cycles.  Oh, my, nature has cycles?  Yeah, for billions of years.  And the one thing constant about the earth’s climate is change.  That means it is always either getting hotter or cooling off.  Go figure.

All this to say, “here we go again”.  The good news?  No interest, no science to back it all up and most of all, no money.

And yes, that’s good news.

~McQ

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Americans down on more regulation of US businesses

Gallup has a poll out saying fewer and fewer Americans want more regulation of US businesses.  That shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, given the current economic situation (I say that because it’s anyone’s guess how the population would feel if we were going great guns economically):

Americans say there is too much (47%) rather than too little (26%) government regulation of business and industry, with 24% saying the amount of regulation is about right. Americans have been most likely to say there is too much regulation of business over the last several years, but prior to 2006, Americans’ views on the issue of government regulation of business were more mixed.

Here’s what I found fascinating about this particular poll:

The collapse of Lehman Bros., the failure of the secondary mortgage market, and other business problems in 2008 and 2009 might have been expected to increase Americans’ desire for more government control of business and industry. But that was not the case. Americans’ views that there is too much government regulation in fact began to rise in 2009, perhaps in response to the new Obama administration and new business regulation policies such as Dodd-Frank, reaching an all-time high of 50% in 2011 before settling down slightly this year to 47%.

Now it is well disguised in there, but the bottom line is that Gallup is saying that the American public didn’t buy into the notion that the financial collapse was all the fault of “Big Money” or “Big Business”, despite the administration and politician’s best efforts to spin it that way.  There’s obviously some fault to be found on the private side, but it appears the public also puts a lot of it on government and government policy.  That’s encouraging.

Of course the unsurprising aspect of this poll was the breakdown of who didn’t think there was too much regulation of US businesses and, in fact, thought there ought to be more:

Another, in a long line of reasons I find the Democrats to be much more dangerous to our future freedom (at least at the moment) than the GOP.

~McQ

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Islamic violence brings out our domestic would-be oppressors

Eric Posner wants us to understand that we “value” freedom of speech much too much. Because, after all, the rest of the world doesn’t see it the way we do, and thus, one gathers from his article, we should become more like them.  In the title to his article he says we “overvalue” the right of freedom of speech. Here’s what the hoary whisper of oppression sounds like:

This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order. Our own history suggests that they might have a point.

He goes on to give examples of our history where government has been less than supportive of the right.

Notice what he values more than free speech?  Order.  I wish I had a dollar for every pop-gun totalitarian whose clarion call was for “order” over other rights.

You see one of the acknowledged problems with freedom is it’s messy.  That’s right, people get to make choices you don’t agree with and, even more importantly, get to act on them without your permission.

That’s just too “messy” for some, like Posner.  Instead we sh0uld voluntarily curtail our freedoms to placate mobs and murderers half a world away because they choose to become violent over something someone said.

Posner spends the rest of the article trying to defend his premise and sound reasonable.  Interestingly it devolves into a secondary attack on conservatives who apparently use this wretched overvalued freedom to oppose such wonderful and valuable things like  hate speech laws and political correctness.

Make no mistake about it, at bottom, this is an appeal for speech codes and legal remedy for speech those like Posner find to be “invaluable” for whatever reason – in this case “order”.

Putting this to the old libertarian test, i.e. “freedom = choice”, it flunks.  It limits or removes choice in the face of mob violence half a world away.  It gives in to people who chose to be violent.

Anyone with more than a day on this earth knows that such a move would only encourage more acting out by those mobs.  They sack an embassy, we clamp down on our own rights.  Any time they can dictate a limiting of our freedoms with their actions we essentially play right into their hand and they win.  For some reason, those like Posner can’t see the dark hand of al Qaeda and other violent radical Islamic gangs behind this.  And the first thing these cut-and-run cowards suggest we do is limit our freedoms to placate those who would willingly kill us if given the chance?

No thanks.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 25 Sep 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell 4 points to 86.9 as appetite for risk declined among institutional investors.

In retail sales, Redbook reports a 2% year-on-year sales increase. ICSC-Goldman reports an increase of 0.6% over last week, and 2.9% over last year. Both are trending slightly lower than last month.

The FHFA purchase only house price index extended a run of gains with a less than expected 0.2% rise for July, which is 3.7% over last year.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index jumped nearly 10 points in September to 70.3.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city seasonally adjusted home price index reported a 0.4% rise in July. On a year over year basis, the index was up 1.2%.

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index for September rose to 4, the first positive reading since May.

~
Dale Franks
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Markets vs. central planners … learning the lessons all over again

Here’s how markets work.  From Toyota:

It said today it will not release its proposed mass-market mini e-car, the eQ. The reason: there’s no demand for it, not while battery technology is failing to provide comparable range to a tank of petrol. The natural gas boom in the US has seen prices of the fuel plummet, in turn reducing the cost of electricity generated by burning it. The Japanese car maker said today it will release 21 hybrid gas-electric models in its line-up by 2015.

Reality rules:

“The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” said, Uchiyamada, who spearheaded Toyota’s development of the Prius hybrid in the 1990s.

Here’s the market not working because of government intrusion (and ownership):

Nearly two years after the introduction of the path-breaking plug-in hybrid, GM is still losing as much as $49,000 on each Volt it builds, according to estimates provided to Reuters by industry analysts and manufacturing experts.

Cheap Volt lease offers meant to drive more customers to Chevy showrooms this summer may have pushed that loss even higher. There are some Americans paying just $5,050 to drive around for two years in a vehicle that cost as much as $89,000 to produce.

[...]

It currently costs GM “at least” $75,000 to build the Volt, including development costs, Munro said. That’s nearly twice the base price of the Volt before a $7,500 federal tax credit provided as part ofPresident Barack Obama‘s green energy policy.

A pity these things have to be continually pointed out.  But, of course, it won’t stop those who want government to decide what we should be driving instead of consumers and think subsidies will foster that desired behavior.

Two non-partisan government agencies — the Congressional Budget Office in Washington, D.C. and Parliament’s Select Transport Committee — conclude that during the next decade at least, the giveaways will have little impact on sales of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles, or on gasoline consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions. Their main beneficiaries: affluent purchasers who’d buy the vehicles anyway.

“… during the next decade at least …?”  Love that caveat, don’t you?  They never work if it is something consumers don’t want. See current example for proof.  In the case of the market, it’s moved on … and much faster than government can react.  As usual, government has backed a loser.

The frenzy over shale gas deep under Ohio and other states has the makings of a different kind of rush on the nation’s highways. Businesses, cities, metropolitan transit systems and even school districts across the nation are edging toward a switch from diesel and gasoline to natural gas. Converting cars and light trucks to use either gasoline or natural gas is expensive. And heavy trucks designed specifically for natural gas also cost more than conventional diesels. But at current prices, engines that can run on natural gas cut fuel bills in half or better.

And GM has the Volt.  You have to laugh at the fact that the central planners invariably always get it wrong.

You’d have think we’d have learned that by now, wouldn’t you?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 24 Sep 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Dallas Fed general business activity index improved but remained in negative territory, posting at –0.9 versus –1.6 in August. Production, however, jumped to 10.0 from 6.4 while new orders rose to 5.3 from 0.2, both pointing to future improvements in Texas business conditions.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell to -0.87 in August from a revised -0.12 in July. This pulled the 3-month average deeper into contractionary territory, with the average falling to –0.47 from –0.26.


Dale Franks
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