Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 27 Aug 15

GDP for the 2nd Quarter of 2015 was revised sharply upwards to an annualized 3.7%, with the GDP Price Index up 2.1%.

Corporate profits in the second quarter came in at $1.824 trillion, up a year-on-year 7.3%.

The Pending Home Sales Index rose 0.5% in July to 110.9.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index declined by -2 points to -9 as the district’s manufacturing contraction deepened.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 6,000 to 271,000. The 4-week average rose 1,000 to 272,500. Continuing claims rose 13,000 to 2.269 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.9 points to 42.0 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-12.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.475 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $70.8 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply increased by $33.4 billion in the latest week.


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How to crash a country

If you want a recent example, try Venezuela where socialism was “installed” and the inevitable happened … the economy finally crashed.  In fact, its so bad that we’re now headed into hyper-inflation territory:

Venezuela is preparing to issue bank notes in higher denominations next year as rampant inflation reduces the value of a 100-bolivar bill to just 14 cents on the black market.

The new notes — of 500 and possibly 1,000 bolivars — are expected to be released sometime after congressional elections are held on Dec. 6, said a senior government official who isn’t authorized to talk about the plans publicly.

Many Venezuelans have to carry wads of cash in bags instead of wallets as soaring inflation and a declining currency increase the number of bills needed for everyday purchases. The situation is set to get worse. Inflation, already the fastest in the world, could end the year at 150 percent, said the official.

The government stopped releasing regular economic statistics in December, when it reported inflation had reached 69 percent.

We’ve chronicled and discussed the failure of Venezuela as a “socialist republic” for a few years.  Of course, as reported earlier this month, not everyone there is poor.  Apparently the daughter of Hugo Chavez is suddenly worth $4 billion.  I’m sure all of that is from Hugo’s army retirement pay.

All of that to say, I’m not sure what sort of example some people need to understand that socialism doesn’t work.  It didn’t work in the USSR.  It hasn’t worked in Cuba. And Venezuela is just the latest example of its failure.

But this is America, where a good portion of the population apparently lives in a fantasy land, is ignorant of the laws of economics or actually believes that the government has money.  And if they don’t believe the government has money, they do believe it has a “right” to yours.  Your progressive agenda from the only progressive Democrat brave enough to call himself what the rest are as well … a Socialist:

 

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We call it the “Venezuela plan”.

~McQ

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White House politicizes a tragedy … again

Can’t take a break from ideology and politics to simply comment on a tragedy.  The newswoman and cameraman who were shot and killed on a live TV feed this morning were apparently the perfect fodder for the White House’s anti-gun campaign:

The White House on Wednesday redoubled its call for tougher gun laws in the wake of a shooting that killed two television journalists in Virginia.
“This is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small all across the United States,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday.
Earnest said there are “common sense” steps Congress can take to reduce gun violence in America without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
Well, as Charles C. Cooke points out, this is simply wrong. I.e. the facts (you know, those pesky little things) don’t support the implication.  For instance:
National rates of gun homicide and other violent gun crimes are strikingly lower now than during their peak in the mid-1990s, paralleling a general decline in violent crime, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. Beneath the long-term trend, though, are big differences by decade: Violence plunged through the 1990s, but has declined less dramatically since 2000.
Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.

The facts simply don’t support the statement that this is becoming “all too common” anywhere.  In fact, they say the opposite.  It’s becoming less common.

Don’t forget, the Charleston SC mass murderer was given a government OK to buy a gun even though we found out the background check was faulty. That’s one of those common sense steps that we entrusted to the government and guess what failed?

Cooke frames their argument in the only way that makes any (common) sense and then takes it apart:

If there is an argument to be made, it’s that America has too many gun-related deaths in absolute numbers, and that this drop does not make up for that. Personally, I don’t know what people who say this really mean. As always, we start from where we are, and we are going in the right direction. That’s good, especially given that the positive changes have come at the same time as the laws have been liberalized and the number of guns increased vastly. Either way, though, it is simply not true that there is an “epidemic” or a “surge” or that shootings are becoming “more common.” It’s not even true that mass shootings are up.

In absolute numbers, the people dying in car crashes every day is too high, but you don’t see anyone pushing for the abolishment of cars. Unlike guns, they hold the drunk or reckless or incompetent driver at fault.

But in the era of postmodernism, “facts” are passe.  Now it’s all about the narrative, and the White House has again pushed the narrative forward over the still warm bodies in Roanoke.

Never let a crisis (or apparently a tragedy) go to waste, huh?

~McQ
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Economic Statistics for 25 Aug 15

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales remained weak, but rose to 1.7% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.6%.

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.2% in June. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 5.6%.

In contrast to the FHFA, the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index fell -0.1% in June, and is up 5.0% on a year-over-year basis.

The PMI Services Flash for August is unchanged from the final July number, at 55.2.

New home sales had a solid rise in June, up 5.4% to a 507,000 annual pace, bringing the surging year-over-year rate to 26%.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index took a huge, 10.6-point jump in August to 101.5, as assessment of the labor market improved.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index plunged -13 points to a disappointing reading of 0, well below expectations.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index eased to 108.7 in August from 114.6 in July.


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“Cultural libertarians” v. “Social Justice Warriors”

Or said another way, anti-authoritarians v. authoritarians.  Although the author of the cited article would like you to believe his “coined phrase’ describes a new movement, yeah, not so much.  Some of us have been fighting this battle for over 25 years.  That said, it’s an interesting article.  Here’s the intro (read the whole thing):

A new force is emerging in the culture wars. Authoritarians of all stripes, from religious reactionaries to left-wing “social justice warriors,” are coming under fire from a new wave of thinkers, commentators, and new media stars who reject virtually all of their political values.

From the banning of Charlie Hebdo magazine across British university campuses on the grounds that it promoted islamophobia, to the removal of the video game Grand Theft Auto V from major retailers in Australia on the grounds that it promoted sexism, threats to cultural freedom proliferate.

But a growing number of commentators, media personalities and academics reject the arguments that underpin these assaults on free expression, in particular the idea that people are either too emotionally fragile to deal with “offence” or too corruptible to be exposed to dangerous ideas.

In a recent co-authored feature for BreitbartI coined a term to describe this new trend: cultural libertarianism. The concept was critically discussed by Daniel Pryor at the Centre for a Stateless Society, who drew attention to the increasing viciousness of cultural politics in the internet age.

There is a reason for the sound and fury. Like all insurgent movements, the emergence of cultural libertarianism is creating tensions, border skirmishes, and even the occasional war with lazy incumbent elites. Some of these rows can be breathtakingly vitriolic, as self-righteous anger from social justice types collides with mocking and occasionally caustic humour from cultural libertarians.

It’s not a new trend, folks.  It is as old as anti-authoritarianism – and that’s hardly new.  But it seems, given the nature of man, that opposition to authoritarianism has always been an “insurgent movement”.  For whatever reason, but primarily false “security”, we, as human beings seem to tend toward various aspects of authoritarianism.  My guess is because freedom is hard and it allows a lot of things many of us find a bit hard to tolerate (which is part of the irony, since SJW claim to be “tolerant” but are mostly intolerant of any ideas but their own – and don’t mind looking for ways to stifle those they don’t agree with).

Anyway, I’ve been fighting that battle in this format (blog) for 12 years.  Before that, a few years on usenet, and before the internet, on multiple BBS sites (you remember BBS’s where you used your dial up and nifty PK zip and PK unzip to send message packets).  Authoritarianism didn’t begin when the internet was invented nor has resistance to it been a recent phenomenon.

That said, it’s good that it continues and, in the age of the internet, is growing even more than it was prior to the internet.  That’s because people can find each other no matter where they may be.  And, it seems, they’re doing so.  That’s a very good thing.  It allows “calls to arms” and those of a like mind to rally in opposition.  Of course, that works for the other side as well, but, as has been my experience, when confronted with their own words, especially as they’ve tried to redefine them (especially when you deconstruct them), well, they are rarely ever able to explain the hypocrisy. The phrase “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” has never been more true with confronting SJWs.

The other important thing that happens is the anti-authoritarian arguments are now broadcast more widely, so for those who are interested, they’re readily available.  Some folks know that what they’re hearing from the SJWs isn’t quite right, but they can’t put their finger on the explanation or counter argument.  With the number of well written arguments now published on line in opposition to the authoritarian/SJW arguments, that’s no longer a problem.

Because of the internet, that formerly insurgent movement isn’t necessarily isolated to a geographic region or cultural group.  It’s no longer necessarily “insurgent”.  It now has the ability to spread and spread quickly.  I find that to be a consummate “good thing”, even if some guy at Breitbart who is likely in his mid 20s, thinks this is all “new”.

~McQ

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Is Trump worse than that?

Donald Trump – wow, how did we get here?    How do we get to the point where Donald Trump is polling as a serious candidate for President of the United States?

Right out of the gate, “The Donald” would not have been my first choice for a Presidential candidate, or second choice, or, wait, my choice ever. I question his commitments to conservative values, I question his loyalty to smaller government, there’s a whole list of things about him I question, including being a Republican (not that that means much these days anyway). He’s a flamboyant showman. Once I would have ruled him out completely, utterly, as nothing more than a modern P.T. Barnum putting on a show.

Well, that was up until 2015 and my watching Washingtonian showmen for about 50 years. Now he’s certainly starting to sound sensible when he talks about national topics the squishes in the GOP Gentry have been completely talking around, or just plain lying about.

I stood at the sink this morning cleaning the scrambled egg bits out of the cast iron fry pan and it hit me – why the hell not? For a while now I’ve been thinking the whole sordid kleptocratic oligarchy needed to be brought down like the Hindenburg, so why not give Trump a shot at it. The usual critics on both sides have been yelling about how he’s everything I said above and more, implying, sometimes openly saying, only emotional, angry, STUPID, dangerous, low information voters will support him.

I mean, he could…what? Then it hit me. WHAT?????? What was he going to do that was worse than what I already have? – and worse yet, some of which I helped create in voting for people who think they can lie to me every day and I won’t notice.

Could he do a worse job than Barack Hussein Obama has done? Could he be hated by the world and the Democrats more than George W. Bush? Would he be more likely to pocket cash and grant favors and have Oval office sex (not with each other you understand) than Bill and Hillary Clinton? Could he in fact run a more corrupt/lawless government than the one we have at the moment?

Pause for a second.

Ask yourself, is he a bigger joke than the current Democratic candidates? A former governor no one knows or talks about? An avowed Socialist. Or the leader of ‘em all, a woman whose sole accomplishment is notoriety derived from being married to the former Philanderer in Chief of the United States. A woman who shrugs like a 10 year old and pretends the whole secret and secure Secretary of State server/government documents thing is beneath her or too much trouble or too complicated or too inconvenient or just too confusing for her widdle brainy brain. And that’s not even starting on the plethora of pay for play glad-handing arrangements her ‘charity’ is probably involved in and also manages to completely ignore the scandals from a time when her job description was chief cuckquean of Little Rock Arkansas and Washington DC. Exactly what was it again that qualified her to be a US Senator or a Secretary of State aside from her last name?

Has Trump less real world experience than the Marxist constitutional scholar who has worked diligently and consistently over his two terms to degrade the standing of the United States in the world while he invents new Presidential powers? A guy who’s busy using his EPA to screw up something as intrinsic as our electrical grid and our coal production and stops us from achieving full energy independence from the Middle East. The President whose prior positions were largely achieved thru hatchet jobs on his competitors and whose chief qualifications seem to be an affection for golf and the ability to read a teleprompter and speak at the same time without falling over. Do you think Trump is going to go out and disrespect our allies and long standing international friends? Will he appoint tax cheats to head Treasury? Maybe run guns to Mexico? Create the most opaquely transparent administration EVER? Is he going to tell NASA their new job is making casino owners feel better about themselves and their contributions to space travel? Insert himself into local incidents where people with comb overs are involved in altercations with the police?

Think about it! The current President is going to be a tough act to follow! From Lois “the logjam” Lerner in the IRS holding up 501c Non-profit designations, through the alphabet soup Obama government agency thugs to Eric “the Enforcer” Holder in the Justice Department, what would Trump do that was worse? Is Trump going to strong arm us into another National Health Care plan? Screw up the implementation, move the goalposts on it and lie about how well it’s going? Is he going to sign a nuclear treaty with Iran, chief Islamic terrorist enabler in the Middle East? Will he agree to let them inspect their own weapon sites to see if they’ve been working on proscribed weapons? Will he lead from behind in deposing weak foreign governments to curry favor with Islamic fundamentalists?

Is Trump worse than that?

How about the pseudo conservative side then –

Is Trump going to campaign on and then betray conservative values any more so than the 2014 Republican Congress has? Is he likely to be worse than the many RINO clowns in the Republican controlled House and Senate? The guys who said they were going to rein in government, rein in spending, rein in the imperial pen and phone Presidency, if only we’d elect them. Remember they were going to FIX immigration? They were going to dismantle Obamacare? The guys who in fact had hardly convened the new year in Congress before they started acting like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi? John Boehner, Mitch McConnell? King of the WackoBird Hobbits John McCain?

Is Trump going to, as George Will seems to fret over, single handedly launch nukes at the first country that comments disrespectfully about his comb over? As an aside, does super intelligent George Will really understand how the whole nuclear arsenal checks and balances thing works or is he just confused about Presidential powers these days because no one puts a stop to Preznit Precious when he starts using his pen?

Is Trump going to lead a party that will sabotage its conservative wing with underhanded politics and throw its support to its opponents rather than see an honestly or even pseudo-honestly conservative candidate get the job, will he actively try and break the back of genuinely conservative voting efforts and ‘crush’ their candidates so he can ensure the jobs go to squishy GOP gentry office holders.

Will Trump grant amnesty to millions of people who broke our laws because enforcing those laws is toooo haaaaarrrrdddd and the New York Times columnists, reporters and editorial staff will say Republicans are mean!? Will Trump NOT build the wall that 40 years of previous administrations promised they’d build? Will Trump NOT enforce the laws? Or will he just selectively enforce the laws, as we do now, making sure to punish people who piss him off while rewarding his cronies? Is Trump going to use his position to increase his wealth like the insider traders in the House and the Senate and the former Secretary of State? Will Trump allow himself to be bought by the cool megarich?

Is Trump worse than that?

 

How about the man on the street –

Is Trump more ignorant than the people who twice elected the current disaster? The people who bought into ‘hope and change’ as if they were tangibles and without any evidence apart from an Olympian Temple stage set? Does Trump know less about the economy than an army of government appointees and workers that lie about unemployment every quarter and seem actively engaged in keeping us locked in a recession they pretend we’ve been out of for years? Is Trump less wise than pundits and people who think Hillary is a good candidate, who think Barack Obama has no scandals, who believe we can trust Iran, who think unemployment really IS only 5.3% and that the economy is beginning to surge?

What about the Republican Presidential candidate circus?

If you are hoping for Scott Walker, or Ted Cruz, about the only 2 Republican candidates who I might trust in this crop, forget it. The GOP Gentry have been bought and paid for. They have a donor empire to protect even if it means opening the borders to everyone in Central and South America and spending every last dime in your pockets and your kid’s pockets on ever larger versions of ‘small’ government. By many indications Walker and Cruz are likely to try and do some of the really conservative things they claim they want to do. That isn’t going to be permitted.

 

So if it’s not Walker, or Cruz, and the GOP Gentry will do its damnedest to make sure it’s not… who will it be?

Carson? Drone strikes on our border? And George Will thinks Trump is dangerous?

Immigration flip flop Rubio?

“Act of love” Jeb Bush?

“Skinny dip” Biden?

Hillary Clinton?

Is Trump worse than that?

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Economic Statistics for 20 Aug 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 3.6% last week, with purchases down -1.0% but refis up 7.0%.

Consumer prices rose 0.1% in July, with the core CPI up 0.1% as well. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 0.2% overall, and 1.8% at the core.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey rose from 5.7 to 8.3 in August, indicating the huge plunge in Tuesday’s Empire State survey was a fluke.

Existing home sales rose 2.0% in July to a greater-than-expected 5.59 million annual rate. Sales are up 10.3% from last July.

The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators fell 0.2% in July.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 3,000 to 277,000. The 4-week average rose 5,250 to 271,500. Continuing claims fell 24,000 to 2.254 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.4 points to 41.1 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-2.0 billion last week, with total assets of $4.487 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $10.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $26.5 billion in the latest week.


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