Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Seriously Unserious

Reporting from the ‘hot zone’ here in Dallas it strikes me that our Federal government is seriously unserious about the many serious situations confronting the country today.   Maybe it’s selfish, but my main concern right now is the seriously unserious way that Ebola Patient Zero and his immediate “family” and contancts have been dealt with here since before it was confirmed he WAS Ebola Patient Zero.

Hey, the good news is now I’m not as seriously concerned about ISIS sneaking across the border and causing mayhem here in the homeland, but that’s not because the problem went away, it’s because I went from minor worrying maybe about Islamic ‘splodedopes to worrying about being hit by a for real here now biological WMD.

Let’s start with the after the fact assurances we get from the “gentleman” in the White House.  Last night we’re told we’re prepared to stop Ebola from gaining a foothold here in the US.   Weeeeeeeeellllll, I feel so much better now.   They’ll stop it from gaining a foothold.   That’s as opposed to stopping it from getting here, which they told us a couple weeks ago was almost a certainty.   Part of the plan to stop it involved the point of entry at Dulles – which is where Ebola Patient Zero deplanned from Liberia to get on his plane to Dallas 2 weeks ago.  Yep, we’ll stop em at Dulles.   Oh, wait.   Welcome to America, have a nice day sir.

I don’t blame the Federal government for the action of the local hospital sending the guy home after he told them he was from Liberia and had flu like symptoms.   Maybe I should.  I do blame the Feds for letting the guy GET to the local hospital so the second in a long series of screw ups could occur.  I understand medical pros in Dallas  might not make a connection between flu symptoms, and Liberia and Ebola – sadly a lot of Americans don’t know where Liberia is (that’s between France and Italy, right?)  and they are or were probably not tuned in to Ebola because they’re kinda worried about Kendra and Hank right now and there’s just no time for that Ebola stuff which is very unlikely to be a problem here in the US because, as we see now, hope.

I do blame the Federal government for the way those in contact with the guy have been handled – 4 people quarantined in the apartment where the sweaty sheets from Ebola Patient Zero were still on the bed or in plastic garbage bags until yesterday.   It’s like someone is trying to ensure the 4 people in that apartment are infected.  You know, the odds weren’t high enough from them interacting with him, let’s make sure they get it by leaving them in the apartment where his ‘bodily fluids’ are still available to them.   This is a virus.   You can catch the flu when someone sneezes, or wipes their nose, touches a counter, and you wander by an hour later, touch the same counter, and then rub your eyes.   The bodily fluids thing is a form of lie the government keep tossing out to imply that since we probably didn’t have sex with the guy, swap spit with him or shoot up some drugs on a shared needle, we’re pretty much all good, don’t worry.   Just don’t touch that grocery cart handle after he sneezed into his hand and then went to buy Tylenol Cold and Flu, okay?

Now,  the President, who thinks he personally can authorize the admission of several millions of illegal immigrants, tells us that he is NOT going to bar travel from the countries where Ebola is running loose.   That doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to do, or unreasonable. It doesn’t even seem like it would be considered “mean’ if we did so.  They’ve done it in the UK and they’re highly PC these days.  And TSA, the people who won’t let you bring a bottle of water on the airplane, are waving people possibly infected with a virus that has a better kill rate than smallpox off the planes and telling them to have a pleasant stay.

Yesterday, about 5 days after Ebola Zero is confirmed and isolated, they show up to the apartment he got sick in, in HAZMAT suits and seal the place off.   Oh, goody.   It only took 5 days.   Hurrah.   Government pretending they’re serious about the job they claim we need them for.  5 days of serious.

Based on the number of stories, story versions, stonewalling and outright lies that this administration has told us, and I won’t recount them here, again – are YOU feeling real good about the Federal government stopping this?   At this point they have me wondering if someone thinks we don’t have enough patients diagnosed with Ebola, that there aren’t enough situations yet and we need more.   Maybe they think this will sell ObamaCare, maybe they want a crisis they can save us from.

I don’t know, but I do know if I ever trusted them I don’t any more.   I know if I was in a position to hand out bonuses right now we can bet I’d also be in a position to fire people.  Guess which of the two I’d be contemplating.    Most of us who work for a living are expected to be at least marginally good at what we’re paid for.   This isn’t supposed to be rocket science where they have to think on their feet, there are ALREADY supposed to be procedures in place for this.      5 days to HAZMAT the place, 5 days to take the possible vectors to some kind of secure medical facility where I think it’s pretty certain they’re going to come down with Ebola, given their level of contact with Ebola Patient Zero.

Last year in January the DFW area was in the grip of the common flu – over half the area hospitals that were checked by a station doing a news report were claiming they were at capacity for the number of flu patients they could handle.   There had been about 40 deaths at that point.   Now remember flu usually only manages to kill the very young, the old or the immune system challenged.   But it was reported as a crisis, that so many of the hospitals were at capacity dealing with flu patients.

Flu…  Think about that and consider a virus that has a kill rate of somewhere between 40 and 90 percent depending on where you’re being treated and, largely, what facilities and personnel are available to treat you.   Then consider they have 100 people under observation in the Dallas Metroplex with their finger crossed hoping they aren’t already infected with the virus.

Consider one of the 4 quarantined victims went to school last Wednesday after she’d been quarantined.   Consider they were just recently (yesterday) taken from the apartment and placed in a ‘secure’ and ‘secret’ location and the apartment was cleaned and sealed.  Consider President PGA has no intention of halting flights from the Ebola infected countries.

Consider the previous promises that it was unlikely to ever get here, and consider the new promises that they’ll prevent it from spreading.

Seriously, why should we believe them?

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Economic Statistics for 3 Oct 14

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 248,000 net new jobs were created in September, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.9%. Average weekly hours rose to 34.6 hours from 34.5 hours, while average hourly income was unchanged at $20.67. All good so far. However, 97,000 people left the labor force last month, sending the labor force participation rate down -0.1% to 62.7%, the lowest since February of 1978. That means that 8,609,000 people who would have jobs with a historical participation rate average of 66.2%, do not now have jobs. In real terms, the unemployment rate is actually 10.87%, based on the historical labor force participation rate.

The US trade deficit fell by $400,000 to $-40.1 billion in August.

The Markit PMI services index for September fell -0.6 points to 58.9.

The ISM non-manufacturing index fell -1 point to 58.6 in September.

The JP Morgan Global Composite PMI fell -0.2 points to 54.9, while the Services PMI fell -0.2 points to 55.3 in September.


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Economic Statistics for 2 Oct 14

Challenger’s count of layoff announcement totals 30,477 in September, the lowest since June 2000. 

Gallup’s U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate fell a slight -0.1% to 44.8% in September.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 8,000 to 287,000. The 4-week average fell 3,750 to 294,750. Continuing claims fell 45,000 to 2.441 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.7 points to 34.8 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-8.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4,493 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-9.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-10.0 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 1 Oct 14

September motor vehicle sales fell a sharp -6.3% to a worse-than-expected 16.4 million annual rate. The domestic sales rate was 13.2 million annualized. September faced a tough comparison to a very strong August, but sales were expected to be stronger.

ADP’s estimate for private payroll growth for September is 213,000.

Markit’s PMI Manufacturing Index for September fell just -0.4 points to a still-strong 57.5.

The ISM Manufacturing Index fell -2.4 points to 56.6.

Construction spending fell -0.8% in August after a 1.2% increase in July. Market expectations were for a 0.5% increase. On a year-over-year basis, spending rose 5.0%.

The J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI edged down -0.4 points to a still-positive 52.2.

Gallup’s US Job Creation Index reached a six-year high of 30 in September.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -0.2% last week, with purchases unchanged, but refis down -0.3%.


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Economic Statistics for 30 Sep 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -0.2%, and rose 3.6% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 4.3% on a year-ago basis.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index fell a sharp 0.5% in July, the steepest drop since November 2011. This is the third straight monthly decline. Once again, the numbers from the housing sector show a lot of weakness.  On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 6.7%.

The Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index fell 3.8 points in September to 60.5.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index in fell sharply from 92.4 to 86.0 in September.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index rose 1.1 points to 123.9 in September, on rising confidence among European institutional investors.


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Economic growth and national security? Or taxes?

The Financial Times [subscription] is reporting that the US is poised to become the world’s largest producer of liquid petroleum (oil and natural gas liquids):

US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.

With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991. [...]

Rising oil and gas production has caused the US trade deficit in energy to shrink, and prompted a wave of investment in petrochemicals and other related industries. [...] It is also having an impact on global security. Imports are expected to provide just 21 per cent of US liquid fuel consumption next year, down from 60 per cent in 2005.

The reason?  Fracking.  As Walter Russell Mead points out:

With productivity continuing to rise, the United States has a chance to become the single biggest producer of crude oil sometime in the near future. If you had said that a decade ago, you would’ve been laughed at and called a fool. What a difference fracking makes.

Indeed.  The “peak oil” pundits were sure we were on the precipice of running out of oil.  Now, it seems, the sky is indeed the limit.  Which is why it makes little sense, given the state of climate science, that our President is busily engaged via the UN and other domestic agencies, in throttling back one of the most economically viable growth engines the American economy has at the moment (and for the foreseeable future).

Instead of working on a policy to limit future use of hydrocarbons, this White House should be pushing a policy that helps us safely and sustainably exploit these assets for all.  Additionally, while petroleum is indeed a global commodity, this level of production would go a long way toward the promise of energy independence in time of crisis.  It helps remove oil as a weapon of choice by various less than friendly states and allies of convenience.

Two winners for the US: economic growth and national security.

Instead we get an attempt to establish an new tax based on specious science.

Sort of par for the course, no pun intended.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 29 Sep 14

Personal income rose 0.3% in August, while personal spending rose 0.5%. The PCE Price index was unchanged overall, but up 0.1% at the core level. On a year over year basis, personal income rose 4.3%, spending rose 4.1%, and the PCE Price index rose 1.5% at both the headline and core rate.

The pending home sales index for August fell 1.0% to 104.7, as the housing sector remains stubbornly flat.

The Dallas Fed general business activity index for September rose 3.7 points to 10.8, while the production index rocketed from 6.8 to 17.6.


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