Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 13 May 16

Retail sales snapped back in April, with an increase of 1.3%. Sales less autos rose 0.8% and sales less auto and gas rose 0.6%.

Producer prices for final demand rose 0.2% in April. Prices less food and energy rose 0.1%, and prices less food, energy, and trade services, rose 0.3%. On a year-over-year basis:
PPI-FD: 0.0%
Less food & energy: 0.9%
Less food, energy, and trade services: 0.9%

Business inventories rose 0.4% in March, but a 0.3% rise in sales kept the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.41.

May consumer sentiment is soaring, up 6.8 points to 95.8 for the mid-month flash reading.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

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

Stray Voltage

Is it Friday already?  Why, yes, yes it is.

So, on with the show.  Our first “Gee, I told you so” of the day comes from the fast food chain, Wendys:

Self-service kiosks will be made available to the more than 6,000 Wendy’s franchises in the United States, the company announced on Thursday. Individual restaurant managers will decide whether to install them as an alternative to having human beings take customers’ orders.

According to Investors Business Daily, which reported the news, Wendy’s executives said the decision was driven by a tight labor market and higher minimum wages in many states.

After all, a computer kiosk doesn’t need to be paid $15 an hour to take orders.

Wendy’s President Todd Penegor told IBD that franchise locations have been raising prices to offset wage hikes and said the company is wary about both wage hikes and a possible recovery in commodity prices and is “working so hard to find efficiencies.”

McDonald’s is also experimenting with self-service kiosks. Wendy’s might also introduce mobile ordering and payment systems next year, according to IBD.

A kiosk also needs no days off, sick leave, paternity leave, benefits or wage hikes.  And note the last line – Mickey D is also in the kiosk business (I’ve seen a few there myself).

Of course to anyone with common sense and a basic understanding of economics (you know, like labor is a “cost” to business) this comes as no surprise.  To the “feel the Bern” crowd, and many on the left who lack both of those qualities, this is an “outrage”!

Meh.  It’s kind of like ObamaCare insurance – you may have it, but if doctors won’t accept it, it’s not much use to you is it?  Same with $15 an hour times zero hours.

Meanwhile in academia, the stronghold of bureaucratic authoritarians, it seems they look for any opportunity to ban an action unilaterally for no other reason than they fear someone’s feelings (other than those effected by the ban, of course) will possibly be hurt:

Face painting at an Illinois college has been banned because it’s “cultural appropriation,” dontchya know? There’s just one problem: Which culture?

Because it’s the latest thing to be offended by, officials at Millikin University in Decatur have told a fraternity that they can’t wear face or body paint, or wigs because they might “depict an ethnicity or culture.”

The fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, traditionally puts on body and face paint during an annual recruitment for new members, CampusReform is reporting.

Yup, my blue-faced, bare assed Scots ancestors would surely be offended.  Oh, wait, they’re white aren’t they?  Never mind:

“Millikin University is committed to fostering a community of inclusiveness that respects difference amongst all students,” Nicki Rowlett, assistant director of the Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement, writes in a letter on the issue. “It is my hope that the men of [Tau Kappa Epsilon] utilize this as an educational opportunity to explore the concept of intent vs. impact with regard to cultural appropriation.”

“Members [of the fraternity] are prohibited from wearing black and red paint, wigs and/or clothing items that mimic or depict an ethnicity or culture,” she writes. “Failure to comply with the expectation will result in immediate removal from the event and additional student conduct sanctions.”

Prohibited by some small-time bureaucrat with the jumped up title of “Assistant Director/Greek Advisor, Office of Student Inclusion and Engagement”.

Her words are quite “inclusive” and just ooze “student engagement” don’t they – in a petty, dictatorial way.  “Off with the face paint. The mighty Nichole has spoken!”

What a farce.

Apparently it is no longer about the “country” in politics, but instead, the party:

In 1960, 5% of Republicans and 4% of Democrats said that they would feel “displeased” if their son or daughter married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers skyrocketed: to 49% and 33%, respectively. We’re probably not yet at the point where Republicans would be more upset if their child married a Democrat than someone of the same sex — but we are heading in that direction.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed how party politics seems to eclipse what is really important about where we’re headed.  It’s all about winning now and it’s all about the party winning.  I’ve been asking for years, “where did all the statesmen go”.  We’ll we drove them off with the anal exams and the insistence that the party deliver certain things whether or not they were good for the country or not.

That has gotten decidedly worse over the intervening decades to the point that we’re now governed by the worst political class I’ve ever seen in my lifetime and we’re stuck with the inevitable candidates that system was bound to finally produce.

Enjoy!

Speaking of our political class (or lack thereof), there’s a book coming out supposedly written anonymously by a sitting member of Congress (purportedly a Democrat) who uses that anonymity to tell the “truth” about what happens there, like:

  • “Most of my colleagues are dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that’s lavished upon them.”
  • “My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything.”
  • “Fundraising is so time consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on. Like many of my colleagues, I don’t know how the legislation will be implemented, or what it’ll cost.”

Those three quotes might shock someone but it was simply an affirmation for me.  We’ve seen this for years and years and have done absolutely nothing but re-elect these crooks.  And they know they’ll bet re-elected because they haven’t underestimated their esteemed constituents/voters one bit:

  • “The average man on the street actually thinks he influences how I vote. Unless it’s a hot-button issue, his thoughts are generally meaningless. I’ll politely listen, but I follow the money.”
  • “Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works.”
  • “It’s far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.”

Yes, he (or she) is saying exactly what many of us have known for years – this government and those who run it are a product of the voting public – one which has no use for freedom and no time to monitor and overwatch those they put in positions of power.  Result?  A huge but visibly declining banana republic.

Finally, the transgender nonsense the government seems bound and determined to cram down everyone’s throats.  Is it a real “civil rights” dilemma or is it a mental health issue?

Frankly, I go with the latter.  Here’s why:

There are several reasons for this absence of coherence in our mental health system. Important among them is the fact that both the state and federal governments are actively seeking to block any treatments that can be construed as challenging the assumptions and choices of transgendered youngsters. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama.

In two states, a doctor who would look into the psychological history of a transgendered boy or girl in search of a resolvable conflict could lose his or her license to practice medicine. By contrast, such a physician would not be penalized if he or she started such a patient on hormones that would block puberty and might stunt growth.

What is needed now is public clamor for coherent science—biological and therapeutic science—examining the real effects of these efforts to “support” transgendering. Although much is made of a rare “intersex” individual, no evidence supports the claim that people such as Bruce Jenner have a biological source for their transgender assumptions. Plenty of evidence demonstrates that with him and most others, transgendering is a psychological rather than a biological matter.

In fact, gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction. The treatment should strive to correct the false, problematic nature of the assumption and to resolve the psychosocial conflicts provoking it. With youngsters, this is best done in family therapy.

Dr. Paul McHugh wrote that.  He also wrote this:

For forty years as the University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School—twenty-six of which were also spent as Psychiatrist in Chief of Johns Hopkins Hospital—I’ve been studying people who claim to be transgender. Over that time, I’ve watched the phenomenon change and expand in remarkable ways.

And this:

 Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All (including Bruce Jenner) become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they “identify.” In that lies their problematic future.

That’s the root of the problem.  It has now become politicized and is a political football for a radical agenda and the government is attempting to satisfy this radical minority (and I don’t necessarily mean the “transgendered”) by imposing that agenda by force.

Me?  I’ll go with McHugh and science.

Have a good weekend!

~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 12 May 16

April import prices rose 0.3%, and export prices rose 0.5%. On a year-over-year basis prices are down -5.7% for imports and -5.0% for exports.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 20,000 to 294,000. The 4-week average rose 10,250 to 268,250. Continuing claims rose 31,000 to 2.161 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.3 points to 41.7 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.478 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $1.1 billion. The Fed’s balance sheet has been stable for months, but I continue to monitor it for signs that the Fed is unwinding the $4 trillion in debt it has absorbed since 2008.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $28.5 billion in the latest week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

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

First shot in a successful Constitutional war against ObamaCare?

We can only hope so … but then, one should remember that John Roberts sold his soul and his intellectual reputation to make payment for it into a tax.  So we shall see.  But some heartening news today if you’re someone who believes those in government should be held to the Constitution’s restrictions on government.

In a major ruling, Judge Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said the administration does not have the power to spend money on “cost sharing reduction payments” to insurers without an appropriation from Congress.

Collyer’s decision doesn’t immediately go into effect, however, so that the administration can appeal it.

“This is an historic win for the Constitution and the American people,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “The court ruled that the administration overreached by spending taxpayer money without approval from the people’s representatives.”
At issue are billions of dollars paid to insurance companies participating in ObamaCare so they can reduce customers’ out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles for low-income people.

The House GOP argued that the administration was unconstitutionally spending money on these payments without Congress’s approval.

Of course that’s an almost daily occurrence for the past few decades.  The lines have blurred and no one is held accountable. Oversight? What a joke.

How far this will go and whether the decision will be upheld is a mystery at this point, but not much of one … see again the first sentence.

The administration, of course, had an answer:

But the administration said it did not need an appropriation from Congress because the funds were already guaranteed by the healthcare reform law in the same section as its better-known tax credits that help people pay for coverage.

Yup, the executive needs no permission to spend your money anymore, just as he or she no longer needs permission to wage war.  Blurred lines becoming even blurrier.  Separation of powers?  Get real.

Imperial presidency?  For quite a while.  The Judge, though, wasn’t buying the explanation:

Collyer ruled that the section only appropriated funds for tax credits and said the cost sharing reductions require a separate congressional appropriation, which the administration does not currently have.

“Such an appropriation cannot be inferred,” Collyer wrote. “None of Secretaries’ extra-textual arguments — whether based on economics, ‘unintended’ results, or legislative history — is persuasive. The Court will enter judgment in favor of the House of Representatives and enjoin the use of unappropriated monies to fund reimbursements due to insurers under Section 1402.”

Good for her. It won’t dismantle the dreadful system, but it does take another chink out of its funding. It’s a start.  But whether the start will later faulter and fail to be upheld is still to be seen.  In today’s world, unfortunately, the likelihood of that sort of a failure is much more prevalent than had this ruling come down 40 or 50 years ago when most people still believed in a much more limited government constrained by the Constitution.

Brave new world … one that promises to be much like the old and oppressive world if some have their way.

~McQ

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

Is Europe moving away from “Social Democracy”?

The “Feel the Bern” gang want to be just like the European social democracies, but as I’ve pointed out before, if any of the European countries were a state in the US, they’d be among the bottom two or so.  And while the benefits are wonderful when you’re living off of other people’s productivity, that can only go on for so long.

France … yes, that’s right, France … seems to be at least figuring it out a little bit.

The French cabinet has given the go-ahead for Prime Minister Manuel Valls to force through highly controversial labour reforms.

An extraordinary cabinet meeting invoked the French constitution’s rarely used Article 49.3, allowing the government to bypass parliament.It came after rebel MPs from the governing Socialist party had vowed to vote down the bill.The reforms will make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.

[…]

The government says relaxing workers’ protection will encourage businesses to hire more people and help to combat chronic unemployment.

As one is prone to say, “baby steps” are necessary when learning to walk.  And apparently those old nasty laws of economics are finally bitch slapping France enough that they’re at least willing to do something positive to help stimulate business and hopefully then grow their economy.

The American Interest notes:

Valls’ decision is part of a long-running trend: For decades, the decline of the blue social model has been pushing many European countries, including ones we think of as social democracies, to abandon some of the more statist features of their economic agendas. Policies that worked relatively well in closed, stable, national economies of the mid-20th century fail to deliver in the open, dynamic economies of the 21st—and even center-left governments are forced to adapt to this reality once they take power.

Indeed, the “blue social model”, the Bernie Sanders (and to a slightly lesser extent, the Hillary Clinton) model, is, in fact, been running off the rails and not at all delivering what it has promised.  But that seems to be the case with all blue social models and their components (ObamaCare anyone?).

Of course the trending away from that model is being roundly ignored by the left in the US.  Just as the economic wrecks that are Cuba and Venezuela are blamed on “extenuating circumstances.”

The left will never face the reality of their utopian central control’s failure everywhere and in whatever flavor it is tried.  There’s a reason for that.  It goes against everything that actually works.  Without “perfect knowledge” and then the means to implement it in a direct and timely fashion – two things which will never be achieved – it will always fail.  Most importantly, central control simply runs against human nature and therefore authoritarian governance to impose true socialism on the citizens.  And yes, the light form of that is indeed “social democracy” but to become anymore “socialist” requires government to move in a more authoritarian way to enable those sorts of “reforms”.  Instead, what you see in Europe is resistance coupled with a realization that this just isn’t working as advertised.

Thus the “trend” as discussed.  As more of the blue model is scrapped and countries begin to realize gains, other European countries will likely follow suit.

Meanwhile, in the US, we’re apparently considering adopting the model they’re moving away from.  And it certainly will be a rousing success.  They can’t make it work in countries with about one-eighth our population, but with the “competent” politicians and bureaucrats we have here, we’re sure to make it work.

Uh, huh.  Really.

~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 10 May 16

The Fed’s Labor Market Conditions index rose 1.2 points, but remained negative at -0.9 in April.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 1.0 points to 93.6 in April.

The Labor Department’s JOLTS report showed a jump to 5.575 million job openings in March, versus 5.445 million in February.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.1% in March, but a 0.7% sales increase kept the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.36.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth rose to a still-weak 1.1% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.6%.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

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

Stray Voltage

I’ve been having internet access problems this week and am awaiting a new router from my provider.  It is supposed to be here today, but the day continues to pass.  Ah, well, such is life.

Speaking of life, I noticed the other day that mention of David Duke and the KKK bobbed to the surface of the media cess pool.  No mention of this that I can find, however:

A prominent leader in the Ku Klux Klan said the group is officially endorsing Hillary Clinton for president and has already donated $20,000 to her campaign.

Klan leader Will Quigg told Vocativ over the weekend, “For the KKK, Clinton is our choice,” adding, “She is friends with the Klan,” Quigg said. “A lot of people don’t realize that. She’s friends with [the late] Senator [Robert] Byrd. He’s been an Exulted Cyclops in the Klan. He’s been King Kleagle.”

The West Virginia senator was the leader of his state’s Klan chapter in the 1940s, according to Vocativ. In 2005, he publicly disavowed his involvement in the KKK, saying it was wrong. Upon his death in 2010, Clinton described Byrd as a “friend and mentor.” Byrd was among the longest serving senators in the body’s history, holding his seat continuously from 1959 until his passing.

Indeed.  And, in fact, he sets the record straight about the Klan:

As for Clinton, “All the stuff she’s saying now, she’s saying so she can get into office, okay? She doesn’t care about illegal immigrants—she’s acting like she does so she can get into office. Once she’s in office, then she’ll implement her policies. She’s a Democrat. The Klan has always been a Democratic organization,” Quigg said.

It certainly has.

John Cleese of Monty Python fame lets us in on his opinion concerning political correctness.  He’s not a fan:

And that’s why I’ve been warned recently, don’t go to most university campuses because the political correctness has been taken from being a good idea — which is, let’s not be mean particularly to people who are not able to look after themselves very well, that’s a good idea — to the point where any kind of criticism of any individual or group can be labelled cruel.

And the whole point about humor, the whole point about comedy — and believe you me, I’ve thought about it — is that all comedy is critical. Even if you make a very inclusive joke — like, “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans” — that’s about the human condition, it’s not excluding anyone, it’s saying we all have all these plans that probably won’t come and isn’t it funny that we still believe they’re going to happen. So that’s a very inclusive joke, but it’s still critical.

All humor is critical. If we start saying, “oh, we mustn’t criticize or offend them,” then humor is gone, and with humor goes a sense of proportion, and then, as far as I’m concerned, you’re living in 1984.

Welcome to “1984”, John.

John McCain:

“If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life,” McCain said, according to a recording of the event obtained by POLITICO. “If you listen or watch Hispanic media in the state and in the country, you will see that it is all anti-Trump. The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I’ve never seen in 30 years.”

Translation: “If Trump’s the nominee, I’m screwed.”

The one and only good reason I’ve found so far for Trump to be the GOP’s nominee.

The meddling of government in the health insurance business is having the predicted results.  Insurers are now considering dropping the “bronze” coverage plans … you know the one’s with the lowest payments and the highest deductibles?  Guess who buys those?  Right … the young and healthy because government has, by force of law, required them to be insured.  So if the bronze plans go the way of the former “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” plans, what is then predictable?

If insurers do drop their bronze plans, it would have the effect of further destabilizing the marketplace, according to Sean Mullin, a senior director at Leavitt Partners. That’s because such enrollees, which tend to be lower-risk and want the cheapest plans, will likely leave the marketplace altogether, further depleting the exchanges’ share of healthier enrollees.

Because, you see, the fine will be cheaper than the available “silver” plans.

Brilliant.  Great job, Bammy.

Speaking of predicted, here’s another one:

Entry-level McDonald’s jobs will go to self-service kiosks rather than to humans under a $15 minimum wage, a former chief of the fast-food giant has warned.

In a guest article written on the Forbes site, former McDonald’s USA CEO Ed Rensi wrote that instituting a $15 minimum wage would mean “wiping out thousands of entry-level opportunities for people without many other options.”

Arguing that McDonald’s franchisees would not be able to absorb the additional labor costs that would come with a minimum wage of $15, Rensi suggested that the restaurant instead would turn to self-service kiosks to replace some employees. Customers don’t mind the kiosks and they have been successfully implemented in Europe, he said.

Watch the idiots who haven’t a clue about what are called the laws of economic blow a gasket when they discover that math too has laws, and $15 times 0 hours equals … $0.

Ah well, such is life.  Got my new router in while doing this and it makes all the difference in the world.  In fact, the speed test says I’m getting double the mps I was getting before.

At least for a moment, life is good!

Have a great weekend!

~McQ

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!