Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 13 Apr 16

The Fed’s Beige Book reports today that US economic growth remains modest to moderate, though the labor market continues to grow.

March retail sales fell a disappointing -0.3%, though sales less autos rose 0.2% and sales less autos and gas rose 0.1%.

Producer Prices for Final Demand fell -0.1% in March. Prices less food and energy fell -0.1%, and prices less food, energy, and trade services were unchanged. On a year-over-year basis, PPI-FD is down -0.1%, Prices less food and energy are up 1.0%, and prices less food, energy, and trade services are up 0.9%.

Business inventories fell -0.1% in February, but a -0.4% drop in sales kept the stock-to-sales ratio at a high 1.41.

The Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations outlook for the next 12 months dipped -0.1% to 1.7% in April.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications, driven by interest rate drops, rose 10.0% last week, with purchases up 8.0% and refis up 11.0%.


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

When leadership counts, Obama has failed on all levels

If Obama was where someone was pouring leadership into a glass for others to partake, he would have his glass turned over. He is the antithesis of a leader. He is, without a doubt, one of the worst leaders this country has ever suffered. And that’s not just my opinion.

James P. Cain, a former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark. He lost his son-in-law in the recent Brussels bombing. In a eulogy for his son-in-law he makes it clear what he thinks of the current US “leadership” in the face of a deadly and intractable enemy that much of the West and specifically the US, refuses to either recognize or confront.

Let’s be clear. This fight is not only against America and Europe, and it is not against Christianity. It is a fight against individualism, reason and independence of thought that began during the Enlightenment over 350 years ago in France, and found its greatest expression in the grand experiment launched by our Founding Fathers in Philadelphia.

This freedom is now under attack by the henchmen of the Dark Ages wherever they detect it—from Paris to Pakistan, San Bernardino to Istanbul, Nairobi to Brussels. Those who embrace this freedom, in what was once permissible to call the civilized world, are awakening to the battle lines that are forming. And like the battles that liberated Europe 70 years ago, the civilized world now demands coordination, willpower and leadership.

[snip]

More important, where is American leadership?

Even before the horrifying attacks in Brussels, I was hearing grave concern from many friends in Europe about America’s withdrawal from the global stage: Our leaving Iraq without putting adequate security measures in place; our rebuffing of traditional allies in the region; our passivity as hundreds of thousands of Syrians were slaughtered; our paralysis as Islamic State made a grotesque spectacle of beheading “infidels,” including Americans. Since the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the worried chorus from Europe has grown louder.

Of course the chorus has grown louder.  Europe has invested little in its own defense.  The US has always been there for them … until now.

It’s one thing to make the case that it is the job of Europe to begin to shoulder more of the burden of its own defense and then begin a well-thought out plan to which they’ve agreed to shift some of that burden.  That’s leadership.  Abandoning them is not leadership.  And Obama has, essentially, abandoned them by not leading.  He’s helped create the crisis, by lack of leadership, and he’s now exacerbating the problem by continuing his lack of leadership.

He simply isn’t nor has he ever been a leader.

And the world has suffered because of that.

While you may believe that the US needs to back down from the role of world policeman, that’s something a leader would do with a plan and gradually.

You don’t just quit doing it.

That is, unless you’re unqualified for the job you hold, have never held a leadership position previously and are not a particularly deep thinker when it comes to figuring out the consequences of your actions or lack thereof.

But then, I just described Barack Obama.

~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 Apr 16

Increased costs for Medicare and especially net interest payments drove the Treasury’s budget deficit in March to $-108.0 billion. The deficit-to-date is 4.9% higher than April 2015.

Import prices rose 0.2% in March, while export prices were unchanged. On a year-over-year basis, import prices are down -6.2% and export prices were down -6.1%.

The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index fell -0.3 points to 92.6 in March.

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

An update of a couple of topics we’ve been following

First, the University of Missouri, where the SJWs, with the help of a professor who didn’t think much of the 1st Amendment and was fine with committing battery to deny it, is having a rough year.  Consequences from this bit of nonsense have really hit the bottom line:

Following a drop in students applying for housing, the University of Missouri will not be placing students in two dorms for the fall 2016 semester.

Mizzou will be closing the Respect and Excellence halls (ironic names, given the circumstances) in order to utilize dorm space “in the most efficient manner” to keep costs down.

In March, the university announced that it saw a sharp drop in admissions for the coming school year, and will have 1,500 fewer students. This will lead to a $32 million budget shortfall for the school, prompting the need to close the dorms in order to save money.

“Dear university community,” wrote interim chancellor Hank Foley in an email to the school back in March. “I am writing to you today to confirm that we project a very significant budget shortfall due to an unexpected sharp decline in first-year enrollments and student retention this coming fall. I wish I had better news.”

You see, those who are looking for a college have alternatives.  And when they see a college or university that they perceive, right or wrong, to be out of control, they are likely to take their business elsewhere.  Afterall, they’re paying the bill.  So, take note all you institutions of higher learning who tend to fold like a wet paper box when a few students protest, you too may end up closing a couple of dorms if it goes the way of Mizzou.  Fair warning.

Oh, and speaking of alternatives, New York government has decided to be “wonderful” with other people’s money and has hiked the minimum wage to $15 (over a time period).  That’s double the wage of today.  White Castle, an NY institution, isn’t taking that well since it will have a very heavy impact on their profitability (they make a 1 to 2% profit after expenses, including labor).  White Castle’s CEO says there are few alternatives.  If it was about price increases only, they’d have to increase their prices by 50%.  He’s pretty sure that’s a no-go because of competition for dining out dollars.  So, what’s he left with?

In the hyper-competitive restaurant industry, margins are slim — Richardson says that, in a typical year, White Castle hopes to achieve a net profit of between 1 and 2 percent — and if labor costs go up, many restaurants will turn toward labor-cost-cutting automation or business models that don’t require many employees. That means a lot of kids won’t get that first job. After decades of baggage check-in kiosks at airports, ATMs, and self-check-out lines at the supermarket, is it really so hard to imagine automation replacing the kid behind the counter at burger joints?

And what is lost to more young, inexperienced and thereby low-wage workers?

“We know that Millennials aren’t thinking they’ll stay at White Castle for 30 years,” Richardson says. “We view it as the start of the path. That’s true if you stay at White Castle or move on to something else. The skills you gain, you can take to the next role: learning how to apply for and get a job, learning how to show up, learning a work ethic, making a paycheck, and having fun.”

But this is about more than wages — White Castle has offered benefits and retirement programs for decades. It’s about the opportunity to work, to take the first step up the ladder of life, to get started.

“Out-of-work kids who don’t have an opportunity to work get in trouble. We want to offer kids jobs, offer kids work,” Richardson says. “There’s dignity in that.”

Somehow, though, the concept of starter jobs that pay low wages (and with the minimum wage, it’s usually more than they are worth) has become lost in all of this and we see government stepping in to make them “career” jobs for some idiotic and economically unsound reason. The result is predictable, although it will likely be hidden. You won’t see numbers because the numbers in question are those who are never hired because the wage floor is too high. And they’re going to be the “out-of-work” kids who don’t get that first chance to experience a job and what it takes to succeed.

Instead an alternative will do the work. A kiosk will greet the customer, takes his order and money and do so at a price point well below a $15 an hour worker. This isn’t rocket science and the math isn’t hard at all – $15 times 0 hours equals what?

~McQ

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

Stray Voltage

Is the “open borders” movement coming to an end in Europe because of Islamic terrorism?

Germans appear to be losing faith in the idea of a borderless Europe, as the results of a poll published on Tuesday showed that two-thirds would prefer the government to end the Schengen free-movement zone.

The survey by French pollsters Ifop found that while 60 percent of Italians were against Schengen – an agreement which allows people to travel within the EU without showing a passport – across the Rhine the number of French people wanting borders closed was as high as 72 percent.

The apparent “thank you for allowing us in” from the Brussels bombers has helped pour cold water on the idea that borders between countries in Europe should be uncontrolled. And:

With 79 percent of Germans now believing that some migrants may be potential terrorists, numbers are similar to those in France (80 percent) and a little behind those in Italy (84 percent).

My goodness, who knew so many “Islamaphobic” people lived in … Europe?  I thought that was strictly a “right-wing” American problem.

A “New Red Guard” update.  This time at Dartmouth where protesters got a sorority to cancel its “Kentucky Derby Party” because it was  … “racist and elitist.”  Yes, that’s right friends, the NRG thought it was elitist because it was a private party (apparently, in The New Red Guard’s world, those are verboten) and racist because it reminded certain special snowflakes of the ‘Old South’ and gave them the vapors.

“We realized that if anyone on campus felt uncomfortable or upset with the theme, then we obviously shouldn’t have it,” said KDE social chair Jehanna Axelrod.

KDE vice president Nikol Oydanich said house members were convinced by critics that the party was racially offensive because it evoked the aesthetics of the plantation-era South.

“[It is] related to pre-war Southern culture,” she said. “Derby was a party that had the power to upset a lot of our classmates.”

As the article notes, the first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 and had, therefore, no relation to the “plantation era” South, but was instead a post war sporting event that became a tradition.

But, hey, those are facts and we all know that the historically illiterate who populate our colleges and universities anymore aren’t interested in facts.  It’s all about feelings and perception.  What it’s not about, at least for the NRG, is anyone’s feelings or perceptions but their own.  And they’re they’re certainly not going to let facts stand in the way of those!

Big article in The Guardian about how the rest of them have to halt the “far right” in Europe, because …!  Yeah, that’s the part that never gets fully explained, but there were some laugh-out-loud paragraphs that simplicity explain why the “far-right” are making gains there.

For example:

Citizens’ lack of trust in the capacity of governments to get on top of problems is what fuels the growth of far-right parties. These, in turn, threaten Europe’s democratic fabric and social cohesion. If these movements continue proliferating, they will spell the end of the EU as a project, and possibly the end of stability and peace in our region.

Citizen’s lack that trust because government has consistently failed over decades to get on top of the “problems” in question.  It is the same reason Trump is so popular here (although I’d hardly call him “far-right).  None of the politicians on either side of the pond seem to get this.  And that causes what?

European citizens will migrate to political extremes in even higher numbers if EU institutions and governments don’t manage to build trust in the system. Right now, that can be done only if decisive steps are taken both against terrorism and uncontrolled migration. It may sound cynical, but lofty idealism simply won’t do the trick.

And we all know that’s not the prescription the leadership of various European nations are pushing is it?  As usual, both here and in Europe, the voice of the people is being ignored for those “lofty ideals” which lead precisely down the road now being traveled.

So?

Tolerance was once described by Merkel as “the heart and soul of Europe”. The painful paradox today is that halting the advance of parties that promote intolerance, want to bury the EU, and feel empowered by recent tragic events, may require some maximalist moral postures to be abandoned.

 Or to translate the progressive type who wrote the article, maybe a degree of “intolerance” (i.e. protecting citizens from people who are much more “intolerant” to their way of life than the other way around) is the answer.  Because,  you know, mindless tolerance has been so well rewarded, hasn’t it?

Speaking of progressives and history, you have to wonder how in the world that movement has been so successful in redefining itself over the years that it has apparently hidden its very nasty roots:

You don’t have to take my word for it. Read the excellent new book by Princeton’s Thomas Leonard, Illiberal Reformers: Race Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Era. Under the banner of a “New Nationalism,” progressives called for a centralized administrative state manned by expert managers and planners, who would use “scientific methods” to enhance human welfare.

Believing that social progress “required the individual to be controlled, liberated and expanded by collective actions,” progressive intellectuals perceived human persons as “lumps of human dough” to be formed on the “social kneading board.”

That molding, Leonard points out, was to be done “by the best and the brightest, those who, uniquely, ignored profit and power to serve the common good – which is to say, the progressives themselves.”

These experts denied inalienable rights. Their hero, Woodrow Wilson, called them “nonsense.” The editors of the progressive journal, The New Republic, spoke for the movement when it ridiculed individual liberties as “quaint and retrograde.” The leading progressive legal scholar, Roscoe Pound (1879-1964) author of Social Control Through Law, argued the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights “were not needed in the [founders time] and they are not desired in our own.”

Believing that the State superseded even God, progressives encouraged government officials to embrace eugenics – “the social control of human breeding” to rid the nation of perceived undesirables.

Progressive-era eugenics, Leonard writes, “required agreement upon three things only – the primacy of heredity, human hierarchy rather than human equality, and the necessary illiberal idea that human heredity must be socially controlled rather than left to individual choice.”

In 1911, N.J. governor, Woodrow Wilson, signed into forcible sterilization legislation aimed at “the hopelessly defective and criminal classes.” Numerous states and municipalities followed Wilson’s lead.

Read the whole article.  How they are able to maintain the veneer of freedom loving individuals who are there to right wrongs when their history is a litany of subjugation, class warfare, elitism, social control and discrimination based on race is beyond me, but – aided and abetted by the media – they have.  They pushed eugenics, for heaven sake! Government sponsored eugenics. Remind you of anyone?

Bill Clinton tangled with the Black Live Matter gang and frankly came out on top.

Oh, no, no, no … he can’t do that, say various progressives, because they’re one of the protected minorities.  Or so the implication goes.  In fact one writer at Slate, after this particular episode, called on Hillary to fire him:

It was a mess, but it’s not the first mess he’s caused for his wife’s campaign. Just a couple of weeks ago, he decried “the awful legacy of the last eight years,” which sounded a lot like a condemnation of the Obama presidency—a presidency that Hillary Clinton is doing her best to tie herself to. And in February, Clinton said that if the system is rigged, it’s because Americans “don’t have a president that’s a changemaker.”

One might attribute this repeated clumsiness to the fact that Bill Clinton is getting old; his hearing is bad, and on the trail he looks frail and wan. Perhaps he’s simply slipping, mentally. But let’s remember that Clinton caused similar problems for Hillary in 2008. There was the time he tried to diminish Obama’s victory in South Carolina by noting that Jesse Jackson won there as well. The time he described the idea that Obama had gotten the Iraq war right as “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.” The time—it hurts to remember it—when he complained that the Obama campaign “played the race card on me.”

And yet, after all that, once Hillary had lost and Bill Clinton was supporting Obama, the sloppiness ceased and he was back to performing superbly. (Witness, for example, his celebrated speech at the 2008 Democratic convention.) It is somehow only when he is working on his wife’s behalf that he veers into sabotage. What is needed here is probably a shrink, not a neurologist. Either he doesn’t want her to overtake him, or he doesn’t want her to repudiate him. Regardless, Hillary should shut him down. She can’t divorce him, but she can fire him.

Yup … can’t be talkin’ truth to stupidity now, can we?  Especially when the black vote is once again important.  Give it a year, black folks … they’ll go right back to forgetting about you as they always have in the past.  Meanwhile, Bill, the old codger, is apparently shaking up the myth by telling more truth than he has in his life.  Ain’t old age wonderful?

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

Economic Statistics for 7 Apr 16

Chain stores that reported sales today are reporting weaker sales for March than February.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 9,000 to 267,000. The 4-week average rose 3,500 to 266,750. Continuing claims rose 19,000 to 2.191 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.2 points to 42.6 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.2 billion last week, with total assets of $4.484 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-1.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $69.3 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

Venezuela gives new meaning to black (out) Friday

Indeed, not only can you not get any staples at grocery stores in the socialist paradise of Venezuela, now there’s an energy shortage.

Solution!?  Take Friday off for a couple of months (because no one uses electricity at home)!

President Nicolas Maduro said Venezuelans will have “long weekends” in an appearance on state television on Wednesday night, announcing the measure as part of a 60-day plan to fight a power crunch.

“This plan for 60 days, for two months, will allow the country to get through the most difficult period with the most risk. I call on families, on the youth, to join this plan with discipline, with conscience and extreme collaboration to confront this extreme situation,” Maduro said.

Yes, discipline, conscience and extreme collaboration because your government has so screwed the pooch that the poor thing is dying.  And it is your responsibility, dear Venezuelans, to do with out to fix their mess.

You see, they’ve flat run out of yours and other people’s money and they’re now calling on you to sacrifice even more!

And even with Venezuela and Cuba as prime examples of what Senator Sanders is pushing, there is a significant portion of the voting public that is trying to “feel the Bern”.

All the Venezuelans want is to “feel” a little electricity, oh, and milk and toilet paper, and diapers, and vegetables and meat, meat would be nice, and …

~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!