Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 7 Mar 14

The Labor Department reports that 175,000 net new jobs were created in February. The unemployment rate rose a tick to 6.7%. Average hourly earnings rose 0.4%, while the average work week fell from 34.4 to 34.2 hours. The labor force participation rate held steady at 63.0%.  The real unemployment rate, using the historical average rate of labor force participation, rose slightly, from 11.14% to 11.19%.

The nation’s trade deficit was $-39.1 billion in January.

January consumer credit rose by $13.7 billion, though this hides a decline of $0.2 billion in revolving credit.


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

Science in the service of politics

We’ve talked about this at other times in the past but there are some examples in a recent Victor Davis Hanson peice that make the point again.  Science is science.  It should not be something in service to anything, especially politics.  It should stand alone and we should deal with its findings as objectively as possible.  Unfortunately, today we have “science” (and yes the quote marks do indicate that what I’m going to note has nothing to do with real science) in the service of politics and for hire to whomever can provide it the most grant money.  It’s become a bit like expert witnesses in court.  Need one to conclude a certain way?  We can find that “expert” for you.

Anyway, there is one particularly egregious example in the VDH piece (at least more egregious than some, at least to me) that I want to note because it has so recently been in the news and used in politics to further an agenda:

The president still talks of “settled science” in the global-warming debate. He recently flew to California to attribute the near-record drought there to human-induced global warming.

There is no scientific basis for the president’s assertion about the drought. Periodic droughts are characteristic of California’s climate, both in the distant past and over a century and a half of modern record-keeping. If the president were empirical rather than political, he would instead have cited the logical reasons for the fact that this drought is far more serious than those of the late 1970s.

California has not built additional major mountain storage reservoirs to capture Sierra Nevada runoff in decades. The population of the state’s water consumers has almost doubled since the last severe drought. Several million acre-feet of stored fresh water have been in recent years diverted to the sea — on the dubious science that the endangered delta smelt suffers mostly from irrigation-related water diversions rather than pollutants, and that year-round river flows for salmon, from the mountains to the sea, existed before the reserve water storage available from the construction of mountain reservoirs.

In other words, government has been lax (no forward planning or construction for the water needs of an expanded population), environmentalists have been extreme (demanding an entire valley be dried up for a mostly useless fish) and the result has been to aggrevate a natural penomenon to disaster levels.

But they will tell you that it has to do with “global warming”, not poor government, not environmental extremism.  What Obama is pushing is pseudo-science, fashioned to support a political position.  There is no reason that this drought should be as severe as it has been.  And again – it isn’t global warming causing the severity.

Remember, this was the guy who promised he’s put science back in the place it belonged.  Apparently that place is the same place he claimed it was before he took office.  As a political tool to push an ideological agenda.  That’s precisely what he was doing in California.

But then, the fact that he lied shouldn’t suprise anyone, given his track record.

~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 6 Mar 14

Those chain stores that still report monthly sales generally reported improved year-on-year sales results in February.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report fell to 41,835 layoffs in February from 45,107 in January and 55,356 a year ago.

Gallup’s U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate was 43.1% in February up from 42.0% in January.

Initial jobless claims fell 26,000 to 323,000. The 4-week average fell 1,750 to 336,500, while continuing claims fell 8,000 to 2.907 million.

Productivity in the 4th quarter of 2013 rose a revised1.8%, more than half a percent below expectations.Unit labor costs fell an annualized -0.1%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.1 points to -28.5 in the latest week, a seven-month high.

Factory orders declined by -0.7% in February, following a January drop that was revised downwards to -2.0%.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $11.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.172 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $6.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-8.1 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

Obama polls sinking along with Democrat chances in mid-terms

Congressional “mid-term” elections have, for years, been seen as a referrendum on the President.  When the nation is pleased with a President, his party gains seats in Congress and when not pleased, that party suffers by losing seats in Congress.  Well, Democrats, gird thy loins, because here it comes:

President Obama’s job approval rating hits a record low this week, as a majority of Americans say his administration has mostly failed at growing the economy, creating jobs, improving health care and the country’s image.

That’s according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday.

For the first time in a Fox News poll, fewer than four voters in ten — 38 percent — approve of President Obama’s job performance. Fifty-four percent disapprove. Before now Obama’s worst job rating was 40-55 percent in November 2013. Last month 42 percent approved and 53 percent disapproved (February 2014).

Approval of Obama among Democrats stands at 71 percent, near its 69 percent record low (September 2013). For independents, 28 percent approve, which is also near the 25 percent all-time low among this group (July 2013). And approval of Obama among Republicans hits a new low of five percent.

Overall, a 59-percent majority thinks the White House has mostly failed at creating jobs, up from 52 percent who said the same in October 2012. Likewise, 56 percent feel it has failed on growing the economy. That’s also up from 52 percent.

Etc. Etc. Etc.  Even the Senate majority now is seen to be at risk and no one believes the Dems have a chance in the House.

And the only consistent thing in Obama poll numbers is the drop.  He’s near historic lows in approval among many groups to include Democrats. They’re not likely to get better anytime soon.

The empty suit is finally beginning to wear on the electorate.

But I have to ask, how can a country stay so willingly blind that it took until now to see this inept imposter for what he really is?

~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 5 Mar 14

The Fed’s Beige Book says that unseasonably cold weather reduced economic activity in two districts, but the rest showed modest to moderate improvement.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose wildly, up 9.4% last week, with purchases up 9.0% and re-fis up 10.0%.

ADP employment report estimates that private payrolls will rise by 139,000 in February.

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index rose to 21 in February from 19 the previous month.

Markit’s services PMI slowed from 56.7 in January to 53.3 in February.

ISM non-manufacturing data moved lower to 51.6 in February from 54 in January.


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

Thomas Friedman: “You know how you beat Putin? Tax Americans, that’s how.”

Ah the left, you can count on them to come up with some way to get into your wallet in answer to any crisis.  Thomas Friedman, the man who admires China’s abilty to control almost all aspects of its citizens life, has a great solution to the recent aggression by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.  Tax Americans:

I don’t want to go to war with Putin, but it is time we expose his real weakness and our real strength. That, though, requires a long-term strategy — not just fulminating on “Meet the Press.” It requires going after the twin pillars of his regime: oil and gas. Just as the oil glut of the 1980s, partly engineered by the Saudis, brought down global oil prices to a level that helped collapse Soviet Communism, we could do the same today to Putinism by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead. I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).

Of course one of the real problems to doing what Friedman wants, i.e. exploiting our “natural gas bounty” is found in the parenthetic statement right after that.  Government and environmentalists stand in the way because “the highest environmental standards” is a moveable goal post that is pushed further and further out each time industry approaches it.  And, of course, Friedman apparently isn’t cognizant of the fact that the “standards” are one of the major cost factors in keeping prices up.

Naturally Friedman also wants the other lefty dream.  The Crimea is as good of an excuse as any.  The Global Warming scam has been exposed.  The chances of getting that carbon tax based in that nonsense seem ever more remote.  But wait, we now have the Crimea!  Perfect.  Lets tax ourselves to do in Putin.  Friedman knows that whatever the excuse, taxes are rarely dropped after they’re once implemented.  So, with a “whatever it takes” philosophy guiding this, Friedman has his newest and latest excuse to raise taxes.  And note – it’s a long term strategy (which apparently assumes that Russia won’t make adjustments to the threat to its business) which means that these aren’t temporary taxes we’re talking about.  No.  Not by any stretch.

Oh, and for a guy who is so in love with China, I wonder if he has any idea where Russian oil and gas would go if the EU decided to buy from us?

Yeah, probably not.

~McQ

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

It certainly gets harder to be an Obama cheerleader anymore ….

Not that some aren’t still trying their hardest to pull it off.  Face it, his has been one of the most dismal presidencies in history and it isn’t getting any better.  However, reading through the headlines about the Ukraine, I came across an Orwellian piece that declares, “No, American weakness didn’t encourage Putin to invade the Ukraine“.  Instead, it’s all about how the US has, in fact, broadened it’s power, expanding east, that encouraged Putin’s invasion.

No.  Really.  That’s the case that the author of the piece is trying to convey.  We’re not weaker, we’re not in retreat, in fact, we’re more powerful than ever.

Gee, how about that.  In the anarchy that is world politics, we now have the weak trying to counter the strong by invading another country instead of the more inuitive and usual reaction to a power vacuum caused by the retreat of a once great power.  The author claims that the expansion of NATO threatened Russia.  Wait, isn’t that 20th century thinking?  Aren’t we being chided for dropping back on those old cold war theories?

Well, not when you’re tying to defend “The One” and you haven’t much to work with in a particular case.

The fact remains that Putin did what he did because he knew he could and he knew the reaction would be loud, but the response would be tepid.  And, of course, when you look at a map of the pipelines that flow from Russia through the Ukraine and into Europe you know that any attempted sanctions will likely be met with counter sanctions by limiting fuel and, in the end,  imposing a much higher cost on Europe than Russia.

Putin is a 20th century cold warrior and he knows how to play this game, even in the 21st century.  Our leaders?  They’re in denial.

Putin knows when he’s faced by a weak willed, “can’t we all just get along” Western leadership.  He learned that with Georgia and Syria.  Why in the world would he fret about the West’s reaction to Ukraine?

But the apologists want you to know that it isn’t Barry’s fault.  He may have be weak willed and prefer “leadership from the rear”, but it realty the Ukraine was invaded beause we’re so strong and powerful.  And black is white, up is down and right is wrong.  The only 20th century date you can apply to this piece is “1984”.

~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 3 Mar 14

US auto sales remained relatively flat for the 3rd straight month, at a 15.3 million annual rate.

Gallup’s self-reported Consumer Spending measure rose to $87 per day in February, vice $78 in January.

Personal income rose 0.3% in February, while spending rose 0.4%. The PCE Price index rose 0.3% overall, but only 0.1% at the core level. On a year-over-year basis, income rose4.1%, while spending rose 3.5%. The PCE Price index rose 1.2% overall, and 1.1% at the core level.

Markit’s PMI Manufacturing Index for February rose to 57.1  from January’s 53.7.

The ISM manufacturing index for February rose to 53.2  from January’s 51.3.

The J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI was 53.3 for March, up from 53.0 in February.

Construction spending rose 0.1% in January. On a year-ago basis, spending is up 9.3%.


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

Why is Russia in the Ukraine? See Syria …

With the Olympics safely over, Vladimir Putin felt safe to invade the Ukraine and annex the Crimea.  Anyone want to take a guess why?

It has to do with “red lines” and words, not action.  Those red lines were first drawn in Syria.  And when they were crossed … nothing happened.  So:

“Putin smelled blood in the water when the airstrikes against the Assad regime were suddenly called off,” Oubai Shahbandar, a senior advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, the U.S.-backed opposition group, said of the Ukraine invasion. “We’ve seen this movie play out before, sadly, as Russian-supplied planes, tanks and even some mercenaries continue to arrive in Syria uninterrupted.”

“Hope won’t stop Russian aggression,” Shahbandar added.

Ah, but we’re talking about “hope and change”.  You know, the stuff that will calm the tides, still the wind and, well, fix anything.  All the Great One has to do is speak the words and the world trembles in fear. Our first post-modern President is of the ilk that believes talk equals action.  And he’s talked about it now, so its time to move on and bash Israel.
Meanwhile, all those red lines drawn and crossed in Syria rightfully have the Syrians leary of any promises from the US:

The Syrian opposition had long held out hope for significant U.S. support for their uprising, from heavy weapons and surface-to-air missiles to a no-fly zone. They argued that Assad’s main allies — Russia and Iran — had been steadfast in boosting his regime with arms and money, and in the latter case, with boots on the ground.

Many Syrians were deeply disappointed when Obama failed to enforce his famous “red line” on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons with air strikes — opting instead for a Moscow-initiated deal for the regime to give up its stockpile of chemical arms. “Do not develop strategies that are based on any assumption that the U.S. or EU will demonstrate assertive leadership to deter Russian aggression,” said Amr al-Azm, a U.S.-based member of the Syrian opposition and a professor at Shawnee State University.

And Ukraine, that treaty you have the the US?

“The last thing anybody wants is a military option,” Kerry said Sunday.

Seems to me Russia has already used in Mr. Kerry.

Do I want our military involved in another war?  Not under this leadership, no.  When the leaders are both gutless and clueless, our troops need to stay home.  But that’s really not the point here.  The point is the happenings in the Ukraine are a direct result of some of the worst foreign policy ineptness we’ve had to suffer under in a couple of centuries.  It almost makes one pine for Jimmy Carter.

~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!