Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 6 Jan 16

November factory orders slipped back into negative territory, falling -0.2%, with core capital goods down -0.3%.

The nation’s trade deficit narrowed to $-42.2 billion in November, as exports fell -0.9% and imports dropped -1.7%.

In December, the PMI Services index fell -1.8 points to 54.3, while the ISM’s Non-Manufacturing Index fell -0.7 points to 55.3.

ADP’s Employment Report is calling for an unusually sharp increase of 257,000 new private-sector jobs in December.

Gallup’s US Job Creation Index fell a point to 30 in December.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications plunged -27.0% last week, with purchases down -15% and refis down -37%. This is a volatile index during shortened holiday weeks.


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The political strategy of a crocodile tear

Mr. Obama shed a tear yesterday as he told us why he was going to bypass Congress and enact gun control (at least a small part of it) by executive order.  Speaking of “gun violence” instead of violence in general, he said:

“We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom,” Obama said.

That’s simply poppycock. We don’t have to like it but freedom, as has been said any thousands of times, is not free.  Nor is it pretty or neat.  Nor are there those who don’t suffer because of it. It always has a cost – a price. But the alternative, what most Democrats seem to want, is the state deciding everything you can or cannot do, everything you can or cannot own.  That alternative is unacceptable to those who value freedom and are willing to suffer the cost.

No one is in favor of “carnage”.  But it isn’t the guns which cause the violence, sir.  Figure it out please.  When you tell me that abortion instruments are what kill about a million unborn human beings in the US each year, perhaps I’ll at least consider your thinking to be somewhat consistent.  And of course, that means cars and pools and rope, well you name it, also need to be controlled even more because the “carnage” they cause rivals anything to do with that involving guns.

Gee, given the numbers, perhaps he ought to be going after Planned Parenthood instead of demonizing the NRA.

Oh, and this was rich:

“No matter how many times people try to twist my words around, I taught constitutional law, I know a little bit about this. I get it,” he said. “But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.”

Apparently he thinks he knows the Constitution, but if true, he’d know it doesn’t allow aristocracy, and certainly it doesn’t allow kings.  Laws are passed through Congress and if the President doesn’t have the heft or gravitas or whatever he needs to see it done, then it doesn’t get done. Obama doesn’t have any of that. And the people have been quite clear that they don’t consider guns or gun control to be much of an issue.  In fact, it barely registers, no pun intended. So instead he  does “work arounds” with executive orders.  Tell us again about how you know the Constitution, please?

But let’s get to the nuts and bolts of what went on yesterday, shall we?  It is about, get ready for it, ideology:

Despite professing an unflinching commitment to curbing gun violence, Obama and Biden have been thwarted by Congress and what Obama calls a lack of national will to change the way Americans think about guns.

Got it.  It’s about changing the way you think about guns.  Its about making them the equivalent of a cigarette.  You remember when cigarettes were popular?   And what happened?  Well, think about it.  It wasn’t about people making poor choices and suffering for them that was the “cause” of their diseases. It wasn’t about their refusal to heed the strident warnings about smoking.  It became “the cigarette”.  That was the “cause”. And it was the cigarette that was killing people, not the people’s choices.  The object became the problem.  People were excused for making poor decisions even though the information that cigarettes caused horrific health problems had been out for years … decades.

The same sort of argument is being made about guns and “the strategy of a tear” was just the latest emotional appeal to a people who’ve been pretty darn logical about guns so far and aren’t buying into the argument as readily as they did with cigarettes.  In fact, they’re not buying into it at all and are, instead, buying more and more guns.  If you can’t get them to swing your way, cry on national TV.  That’ll show ’em how sincere you are.   And, of course, it seems to have fooled a good number of people out there already.

But to the point – this is frustration for Obama because you and most Americans won’t think the way he wants you to.  So?  So screw you, he’ll stamp his feet, hold his breath and make you do it by taking unilateral action.  But he knows the Constitution, by George.

This is just another in a long line of tantrums by this man.  When he can’t get his way, he simply looks for a means to impose his will.  He has no concept of what a President is or what one is supposed to do and he’s certainly no Constitutional scholar.  This is just the latest example.

So why is the cigarette model not working for the left?  For the most part it is because there really is no redeeming value to a cigarette.  But there is tremendous positive value to a gun.  You can’t defend yourself or your family with a cigarette.  You can’t feel more secure in your person with a cigarette.  You can’t protect your life or your property with a cigarette.  So despite the demonization of the object the left has committed itself too, the positive aspects of gun ownership simply won’t be buried, even with a tear.

The bottom line however should be clear – the left will do whatever it thinks necessary to strip Americans of their right to own firearms.  You will see every sort of argument tendered and numbers that, without context, seem horrific.  Such as “30,000” gun deaths – 62% of which are suicides.  Anyone who believes removing guns will prevent suicide just isn’t very serious about discussing suicide.  Japan, which has strict gun control laws, has more suicides than the US.  The problem isn’t the means.  It is the mental state of the person.  35% are homicides, most gang related.  No matter the laws passed, criminals are not going to obey them.  This seems to be a point the left can’t comprehend.  And finally accidents claim most of the remainder (about 606 in 2010).  “Mass shootings”?  A small minority of the final total.  And, in fact, gun violence and gun homicides are and have been trending down for quite some time.

However, like “climate change”, the alarmist hysteria continues despite the fact that the data doesn’t support it.

So now, it is all about an emotion.  A tear.

My freedom isn’t for sale for a tear, crocodile or otherwise, Mr. Obama.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 5 Jan 15

December auto sales fell a sharp -5.0% to an annualized 17.3 million, hinting at a bad month for retail sales, overall.

December’s economic confidence index from Gallup averaged -11 in December, up from November’s -13.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales rose to 2.9% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 2.5%. Still not great numbers.


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Welcome to 2016

You know, I got to thinking about it over the holidays.  I needed a break.  I feel somewhat refreshed and ready to face a brand new shiny year that will, unfortunately, contain the same old political dreck … times 10, since it is a presidential election year.  As has been pointed out here, many times, we are woefully served by our political class.  And, frankly, that’s our fault.  Complain all you want about government and politicians, but the bottom line is, the incumbents continue to be reelected  and give away the farm and the bureaucrats continue to siphon off our freedoms through unaccountable fiefdoms imposing freedom killing regulations.

The one good thing this year brings is seeing the Obamas ushered out of the White House.  The two bad things are the front runners for president in each major party.  I’m sorry, I see no intrinsic leadership value in either of them.  One is a blowhard opportunist with no concept of how to do what he claims he can get done and the other is, plain and simple, a crook and a liar.  This is what present day presidential politics has come down to.  What a non-choice.

Well, that’s not true.  We always have a choice, don’t we?  Even if it is to do nothing.  And if those are the two running in November, that will be my choice.  But, as with just about everything to do with today’s political and the class of politicians we suffer, this is an old complaint and frankly, I see nothing on the horizon to change that.  The polity is who makes these decisions, and it appears, for the most part, they believe that the government has money and can give them “free” things.  The depth of ignorance, especially about basic economic principles and how government functions is appalling, but that’s with what we continue to deal.

I’ve decided I need to take a little more time with my posts than with last year.  So I’m going to attempt to rearrange my schedule to where I have more time to devote to them.  That may mean posting in the evening when the work day is done.  Or not … depends.  But what doesn’t “depend” is the desire to be less reactive, less prosaic and more thoughtful.  Anyone can be outraged (and I will be) and upset, but it’s time to do more than state that.  It’s time to talk about the whys and wherefores.  It’s time to talk about alternatives.  It is time to take a good look at this grand experiment and dissect it to find out where the pathogen introduced itself and began to corrupt the system.  My guess is it will mostly boil down to human nature, opportunity and the quest for power.

Anyway, that’s my desire for this year.  Hopefully, I’ll keep this in mind and not let myself wander into the rut I found myself in last year.

Welcome to 2016.  Let’s see how it goes.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 4 Jan 15

The PMI Manufacturing Index fell -1.6 points to 51.3 in December.

The ISM Manufacturing Index fell another -0.4% in December to 48.2, the lowest reading since July, 2009.

Construction spending unexpectedly fell -0.4% in November, but the year-on-year gain is still at 10.5%.

Gallup’s US Consumer Spending Measure rose from a daily average of $92 to $99 in December.


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Economic Statistics for 31 Dec 15

The Chicago PMI plunged -5.8 points to a recessionary 42.9. I suspect the national PMI will be significantly better, though.

Initial weekly jobless claims jumped 20,000 to 287,000. The 4-week average rose 4,500 to 277,000. Continuing claims rose 3,000 to 2.198 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.4 points to 43.6 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-9.9 billion last week, with total assets of $4.487 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-6.1 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $53.1 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 29 Dec 15

November’s international trade goods deficit narrowed to $-60.5 billion from the revised $-63.0 billion in October. Exports fell -2.0%, while imports fell -1.8%.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index rose to 108.3, up 1.0 point from November’s revised reading of 107.3. 

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose 6.1 points in December to 96.5.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose 0.9% in October, and is up 5.5% on a year-over-year basis.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales rose to 2.5% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.8%.


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Economic Statistics for 23 Dec 15

November durable goods orders were unchanged—which counts as good news now, I guess—while ex-transportation orders fell -0.1%, and core capital goods orders fell -0.4%. On a year-over year basis, Durables orders rose 1.2% overall, but ex-transportation orders fell -1.9% and core capital goods orders fell -1.8%.

Both personal income and spending rose 0.3% in November, while the PCE Price Index was unchanged overall, and up 0.1% at the core. On a year-over-year basis, the PCE Price index is up 0.4% overall, and 1.3% ex-food and -energy.

New home sales rose 4.3% in November to what is still a lower-than-expected annualized rate of 490,000.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose 0.8 points to 92.6 in December.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 7.3% last week, with purchases up 4.0% and refis up 11.0%.


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