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Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 25 Sep 15

The final revision to 2nd Quarter GDP came in with an increase to 3.9% annualized, while the GDP Price index was unchanged at 2.1%.

Corporate profits in the second quarter came in at a revised $1.845 trillion, up a year-on-year 8.5%. 

The PMI Service flash for September rose 0.4 points to 55.6.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index jumped 1.5 points in September to 87.2.

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“They can’t get to yes” = “They won’t give the Democrats everything they want”

In case you had not yet heard, Speaker Boehner is resigning.

As we say in the South, that’s fine and all, but it won’t really change anything. He will likely be replaced by Kevin McCarthy, who has been Boehner’s lieutenant for a long time. McCarthy is apparently better at soft-soaping the limited government Republicans in Congress, so it looks like they will go along with his election. They might even think he’ll make a difference, though I hope most of them are not that naive.

When I was reading the NYT article linked above, however, one sentence by Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania stood out to me:

Mr. Dent said there was “a lot of sadness in the room” when Mr. Boehner made his announcement to colleagues. He blamed the hard-right members, who he said were unwilling to govern. “It’s clear to me that the rejectionist members of our conference clearly had an influence on his decision,” Mr. Dent said. “That’s why I’m not happy about what happened today. We still have important issues to deal with, and this will not be easier for the next guy.”

“The fundamental dynamics don’t change,” Mr. Dent said. “The dynamics are this: There are anywhere from two to four dozen members who don’t have an affirmative sense of governance. They can’t get to yes. [Emphasis mine] They just can’t get to yes, and so they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead. And not only do they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead, but they undermine the entire Republican conference and also help to weaken the institution of Congress itself.

This is a consummate member of the political class spinning excuses for why nothing ever changes, and we get ever-increasing government. It’s the “dynamics”. Opposing more government “undermines the ability of the speaker to lead”. Those who do so are “rejectionist”.

I’m not surprised the Times sought out such a pathetic specimen of the Political Class (GOP Kabuki Failure Theater Division). They’re totally in on the gag. They know that the easiest way to get big government is to make it look inevitable, and to paint anyone who opposes it as one step short of ready for commitment to an insane asylum.

“They can’t get to yes.” Meaning they won’t cave. They won’t give Democrats yet another round of big spending, more regulation, more debt, more secrecy, and more corruption.

When means Dent is right in on it. Oh, I’m sure when he looks at himself in the mirror, he sees a fine, upstanding practical politician, constantly grappling with important issues and making wise decisions about how government will solve them. Because, like so many in the political class bubble, he lacks the context and awareness to see what he really is: a pathetic liar and coward who pretends to his constituents that he cares about limited, responsible government, and then does everything in his power to satisfy collectivists so that he can get a nice mention in the New York Times.


On a related subject, I think Boehner’s exit is connected, at least peripherally, with the rise of Trump.

(Oh, and could we please, please, please avoid another “Trump is not conservative, and he’s a fraud, and he’s a collectivist at heart, and a crony capitalist, and blah, blah, blah” argument in the comments? I don’t know how others feel, but that has been done to death. Everyone has made their points, and going over it another round isn’t doing anything but pissing people off.)

No matter what you think of Trump, he is effectively running against the GOP establishment just as much (or more) as he is running against the other primary candidates. I said so over at Daily Pundit when the rumors of Boehner’s exit first surfaced. I think Trump would have probably preferred for Boehner to stay where he was until the nomination was locked up.

I have to wonder if at least part of Boehner’s exit was due to the GOP establishment wanting to defuse Trump’s appeal by saying “See? We get your anger. We’re doing something about it. So you don’t need to nominate Trump, who will be a disaster, blah blah.”

I wonder, too, if part of Boehner’s motivation is to see the chaos that results, and tell himself that he really was the indispensable man. The timing means that the whole shutdown debate will happen right after he leaves. He strikes me as just the sort of guy to hope for vindication by seeing bad things happen.

But, as I said above, in the end it won’t mean much either way. The GOP will find a way to cave. Another establishment drone will take Boehner’s place. The government will spend more, oppress more people via regulation and security theater, keep letting millions on new Democratic voters illegally enter the country, keep on colluding with crony capitalists and financial types to extract more money by any means necessary, and keep on giving spiffs to the media to blunt the effects.

That’s called “getting to yes”.

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Economic Statistics for 24 Sep 15

Durable Goods orders fell 0-.2% in August, while ex-transportation orders were unchanged. Core capital goods orders also fell -0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, Durable goods orders are down -2.3%, ex-trasportation orders are down -3.9%, and core capital goods are up 0.8%.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index joins other Fed indexes in moving to negative territory, falling from 0.34 to -0.41 in August.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index rose just 1 point to -8 in September.

New home sales hit a surprising annual rate of 552,000, the highest since February, 2008. Supply to sales dropped to 4.7 months.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 3,000 to 267,000. The 4-week average fell 750 to 271,750. Continuing claims fell 25,000 to 2.242 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.7 points to 41.9 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $9.7 billion last week, with total assets of $4.498 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $10.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $36.7 billion in the latest week.

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Obama’s weakness is Russia’s strength

One of the many lowlights of this administration has been its many foreign policy failures.  Many, if not most, are attributable to a lack of leadership and an abdication of the US’s role in world politics.  As most observers of international politics have understood for centuries, when one power withdraws or becomes weak, other powers will both test it and fill the vacuum their withdrawal creates.

The NY Post editorial board provides a perfect example of this administration’s poor “policy” concerning Syria:

Secretary of State John Kerry says Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad has got to go. Where have we heard that one before?

Of course, it’s been a regular refrain of President Obama and both of his secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton even more than Kerry — for years now.

Kerry repeated the demand after talks with the British foreign secretary last week — but with one new wrinkle: Assad must step aside, said Kerry — but there’ s no rush. He added: “We’re not being doctrinaire about the specific date or time; we’re open.”

Not only is he not being “doctrinaire” he’s broadcasting weakness like a clear channel radio station.  “We’re open” tells the world they haven’t a plan, a demand, or frankly, a clue.  He’s telling Syria, and specifically Assad, that there is nothing to fear from the US.  Nothing.

Remember those red lines we drew?  Disappearing ink.  Once they were crossed, it was like they never existed.

Cue the power vacuum.  And, who moves in?

And the situation just got infinitely more complicated by Russia’s active military involvement in Syria. As Kerry said, the Russians “are bringing in more equipment to shore up Assad at the same time they say they are going after” ISIS.

That position, he said, has “a lack of logic.”

No: It makes perfect sense when Washington has abdicated leadership. Nature abhors a vacuum — especially on the world stage.

Exactly.  What, you may ask, is in it for Russia?  Well, for one it can put a thumb in the eye of the US (and it is).   But it also helps reestablish old “client links” that the former USSR had in the area.  And, as Russia works with Iran to defeat ISIS, it establishes links there and it is in a position to have a big say in Iraq.  And it certainly makes sense that should Russia help Assad hang on and retake the country, Putin would have a solid client state in the middle east from which to base Russia’s influence operation.

So what has the US done?  Well, according to testimony given last week before Congress, we’ve spent half a billion dollars training up 4 or 5 soldiers in an anti-ISIS effort.  In fact, the effort has been so poor and haphazard that the chief anti-ISIS coordinator, ex-Gen. John Allen, is leaving out of frustration with the lack of a strategy or results.

Meanwhile our Secretary of State is left weakly complaining:

Meanwhile, Kerry complains that “Assad has refused to have a serious discussion and Russia has refused to help bring him to the table in order to do that. So that’s why we are where we are.”

Why in the world should Assad have a serious discussion with a paper tiger?  Or Russia for that matter?  What in the world is the downside for either if they don’t cooperate?

More disappearing red lines?


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Hillary Clinton’s latest position of political convenience – opposition to the Keystone pipeline

As one might imagine, her opposition comes as somewhat of a surprise:

Her comments made her the last major Democratic presidential candidate to come out against Keystone, a project that has dragged through more than seven years of wrangling and several environmental reviews that appeared to favor the pipeline — most of them produced by the State Department when Clinton was secretary. Obama remains the project’s biggest wildcard: He hasn’t said whether he will grant or deny a permit for the pipeline, or when he’ll decide, even as Republicans lambaste him for repeatedly postponing the issue.

As secretary, Clinton had galvanized a nationwide activist campaign against Keystone with her off-the-cuff remarks in 2010 that the department was “inclined” to approve the $8 billion-plus project. That was her last substantive public statement on the issue until Tuesday.

But then, when poll numbers are sinking and momentum is waning, what better than to flip-flop (when you favor the candidate, it’s called a “pivot”) and throw a bone to a particular core constituency to shore up that vote? Its a move any political opportunist would surely applaud.

Why the Keystone XL pipeline has remained such a political football remains a mystery.  All the past routing problems that first held up the pipeline have been satisfactorily resolved.   And, after all, there are 2.3 million miles of existing oil and natural gas pipelines in the US.  Why has this one remained in the news?

Simple answer?  Politics.  It’s about voting constituencies and keeping them happy.  It certainly isn’t about what is best for the US.

As The Hill points out, it has now officially taken longer for the federal government to review the Keystone XL pipeline’s permit application than it did to build the entire transcontinental railroad 150 years ago.

Amazing and typical.  As for the party that continues to tell us it is for jobs and economic growth, it blatantly turns its back on both with its opposition to the pipeline’s approval:

Consider the economic opportunity this $5.4 billion pipeline presents. The Canadian Economic Research Institute estimates it could add $172 billion in U.S. economic growth over 25 years. Meanwhile, President Obama’s own U.S. State Department estimates construction would support over 42,000 jobs. Nearly 10,000 would be skilled—aka, well-paying—jobs like steel welders, pipefitters, electricians, and heavy equipment operators.

There’s also the potential for gas prices to go even lower than they are today. According to a February 2015 report from IHS, a leading energy research firm, the “vast majority” of Keystone XL’s refined oil will stay right here in the U.S. In other words, it could further add to America’s surging oil supply that has sent gas prices plummeting over the past year.

And yes, as mentioned, that’s the US State Department estimate made while Hillary Clinton was SecState.

Environmentalists live with the fantasy that if the Keystone pipeline is blocked, the oil to be found in the oil sands of Canada and in North Dakota will simply have to be left in the ground.  Of course, that’s nonsense.  Instead is it is shipped by rail, a much less safe and less efficient means of transportation (but one that does amply reward a Democratic donor) than a state of the art pipeline :

This is especially so when you consider pipelines—particularly new, state-of-the-art ones like Keystone XL—are the safest mode of transportation. Ensuring we’re using the safest and most efficient methods possible only makes sense.

Indeed.  So, why is Hillary Clinton opposed to safe transportation of oil and gas, the jobs and income that would come from the construction of the pipeline and economic boost it would give our economy?

Perhaps someone will ask her that at the first Democratic debate.

Yeah, I know, I’m laughing too.


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Economic Statistics for 22 Sep 15

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales plunged to 0.9% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s already-soft 1.7%.

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.6% in July, with year-on-year growth of 5.8%.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index joined other Fed manufacturing indexes in going negative, falling to -5 in September.

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No surprise here: Half of Americans see government as a threat

One of Mr. Obama’s stated campaign goals was to make big government “cool” again.  If the latest Gallup poll is to be believed, he and his administration have done precisely the opposite.

Almost half of Americans, 49%, say the federal government poses “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens,” similar to what was found in previous surveys conducted over the last five years. When this question was first asked in 2003, less than a third of Americans held this attitude.

The reasons vary but the top four are telling:


Gallup does a bit of equivocating in its analysis, but finally makes a fairly obvious point about its results:

Still, the persistent finding in recent years that half of the population views the government as an immediate threat underscores the degree to which the role and power of government remains a key issue of our time. As a case in point, a question in this same survey asked Americans to name the most important problem facing the nation, and found that issues related to government were the most frequently mentioned. Plus, numerous other measures show that the people give their government some of the lowest approval and trust ratings in the measures’ history.

In the age of terror, citizens are finally waking up to what its cost in freedom has been.  They’re finally beginning to notice that government has grown much more powerful, intrusive and costly.  There seems to be more corruption and cronyism.  They’ve also noticed it has become much less responsive and efficient.  In fact, in many areas it is downright inefficient and broken.  If you look at the top 4 reasons though, it’s the intrusiveness of government that has most people worried.

The survey deals with government as a perceived threat and it is clear, since 2003, that perception has grown by 19 points from 30% to 49%.  That’s significant and, if I had to guess, will only go higher in the last part of the Obama administration.

The man who planned to make government “cool” again, as he has with so many of his other plans, has failed.   In the long run, that’s a good thing.


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Using the Pope to propagandize “climate change”

The newest Pope has found he has many detractors.  He’s been called a Peronist, Marxist and Communist. He’s also been accused of issuing statements on subjects he has no apparent knowledge.  But when all is said and done, he is the head of the still powerful Catholic Church.  And that is very useful to the President of the United States.  So Mr. Obama plans on using Pope Francis’ visit to the US to again propagandize climate change by attempting to use the authority of the Catholic Church (i.e. Pope Francis) to sway the masses.

The pope has been a prominent supporter of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that many scientists blame for causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, causing more floods, droughts and other catastrophes.

Francis has framed climate change as a moral issue. Obama will likely use the pope’s time in Washington to draw attention to the challenge of global warming, and the need for putting away political differences in support of actions to reduce emissions.

The pope will also address a joint session of Congress following talks at the White House. In that address, he is expected to underscore points he made earlier this year in issuing his climate change “encyclical,” which outlines his thoughts on the issue of global warming. In the encyclical, he advocates for reductions in manmade emissions from fossil fuels.

But so far, “climate change” has been a political bust for Obama.  The US public is unenthusiastic about the subject, and certainly not buying into either the urgency or the sweeping changes he’d like to see his administration put in place.  Even US Bishops aren’t enthusiastic about the subject of “climate change”.

Obama, however, has declared “climate change” (the newest code phrase for “man-made global warming”) as one of the top priorities of his administration.  The problem is, it has no political traction.  So the job of Pope Francis, whether he knows it or not, is to be a source of traction.  His job is to give the administration a sort of “divine” blessing in its pursuit of “solutions” as well as serve as a propagandist for the cause to a still powerful segment of the US population.

You can expect him to fulfill his role, science be damned.

All of this is conveniently happening prior to the big December UN sponsored climate control talks in Paris. The obvious intent is to gain some momentum from the Pope’s visit even if real science has killed most of the momentum the alarmist side had prior to the discovery of fudged numbers, model inaccuracy and questionable “science” they used to support their hypothesis.

Expect Obama to ignore the evidence as well, and to embrace the Pope’s presentation as the “real deal”.

Who says the US can’t do propaganda?


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