Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

“Economic patriotism” equals “stay here and pay punitive taxes to cover our ruinous spending habit”

“Economic patriotism” is the new meme that Democrats are throwing around to demonize companies that try to avoid taxes here in the US, i.e. you’re not a patriotic company if you attempt to avoid taxes the Dems think you should be paying.  Kevin Williamson covers it:

Jack Lew, late of Citigroup and currently of the Obama administration, has issued a call for “economic patriotism.” This phrase, which is without meaningful intellectual content, is popular in Democratic circles these days. Ted Strickland, the clownish xenophobe and nearly lifelong suckler upon all available taxpayer teats who once served as governor of Ohio, famously denounced Mitt Romney as a man lacking “economic patriotism” during the 2012 Democratic convention. President Barack Obama has used the phrase. It’s not that I do not appreciate lectures on “economic patriotism” from feckless former executives of dodgy Wall Street enterprises, guys who get rich monetizing their political celebrity, and second-rate ward-heelers from third-rate states; it’s just that nobody ever has been able to explain to me what the term is intended to mean.

The proximate cause of Mr. Lew’s distress is the fact that many U.S. firms either are up and leaving the country entirely or are acquiring foreign competitors in order to reorganize themselves as companies legally domiciled in friendly tax jurisdictions.

Now we’re not talking about 3rd world countries here … just countries that are much friendlier to business and have a lower tax rate.  For instance:

U.S. pharmaceutical firms in particular have been in a rush to acquire partners in order to escape punitive U.S. corporate taxes for the relatively hospitable climates of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Walgreen’s, a venerable firm that, like the lamentable political career of Barack Obama, has its origins in Chicago, is considering abandoning its hometown of 113 years for Switzerland. Eaton, a Cleveland-based manufacturer of electronic components, moved to Ireland. The list goes on.

Note that in spite of the would-be class warriors’ “race to the bottom” rhetoric, these firms are not moving to relatively low-wage countries such as China or India. Switzerland is not a Third World hellhole — especially if your immediate point of comparison is murderlicious Chicago, which endures more homicides in a typical July than gun-loving Switzerland sees in a typical year. The Netherlands is not Haiti, and Ireland is not Bangladesh.

Got an ironic chuckle out of his point about Chicago. Maybe some might consider they’re moving out of a 3rd world country if they’re Chicago (or Detroit) based.

Anyway, all of these places have one thing in common – lower taxes, less regulation and a friendlier business climate than exists in the US.  What they face here is the reason they’re becoming “unpatriotic”.  It is more than just taxes:

Mr. Lew is correct in his assertion that relative tax rates are a main driver in the desire of firms to relocate, though it is not the only driver — arbitrary and unpredictable regulation, a lousy tort environment, and unstable public finances surely play a role as well. The United States has the highest statutory corporate-income-tax rate in the developed world, and though effective rates are typically lower than the nominal rate, that is more of a bug than a feature: Our corporate-income-tax regime is riddled with handouts and political favoritism. Crony capitalism is not an inspiring condition for firms looking to make long-term investments.

The point of Democrats and their use of “economic patriotism”, of course, is to demonize and attempt to shame companies that seek relief from the business crippling effects of this government.  If the company doesn’t stay to be bled dry by the Dems to finance their utopian and big government schemes, well, they’re just “unpatriotic”.

Williamson summarizes:

“Economic patriotism” and its kissing cousin, economic nationalism, are ideas with a fairly stinky history, having been a mainstay of fascist rhetoric during the heyday of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite “admirable Italian gentleman.” My colleague Jonah Goldberg has labored mightily in the task of illustrating the similarities between old-school fascist thinking and modern progressive thinking on matters political and social, but it is on economic questions that contemporary Democrats and vintage fascists are remarkably alike. In fact, their approaches are for all intents and purposes identical: As most economic historians agree, neither the Italian fascists nor the German national-socialists nor any similar movement of great significance had anything that could be described as a coherent economic philosophy. The Italian fascists put forward a number of different and incompatible economic theories during their reign, and the Third Reich, under the influence of Adolf Hitler’s heroic conception of history, mostly subordinated economic questions as such to purportedly grander concerns involving destiny and other abstractions.

Which is to say, what the economic nationalism of Benito Mussolini most has in common with the prattling and blockheaded talk of “economic patriotism” coming out of the mealy mouths of 21st-century Democrats is the habit of subordinating everything to immediate political concerns. In this context, “patriotism” doesn’t mean doing what’s best for your country — it means doing what is best for the Obama administration and its congressional allies.“Economic patriotism” and its kissing cousin, economic nationalism, are ideas with a fairly stinky history, having been a mainstay of fascist rhetoric during the heyday of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite “admirable Italian gentleman.” My colleague Jonah Goldberg has labored mightily in the task of illustrating the similarities between old-school fascist thinking and modern progressive thinking on matters political and social, but it is on economic questions that contemporary Democrats and vintage fascists are remarkably alike. In fact, their approaches are for all intents and purposes identical: As most economic historians agree, neither the Italian fascists nor the German national-socialists nor any similar movement of great significance had anything that could be described as a coherent economic philosophy. The Italian fascists put forward a number of different and incompatible economic theories during their reign, and the Third Reich, under the influence of Adolf Hitler’s heroic conception of history, mostly subordinated economic questions as such to purportedly grander concerns involving destiny and other abstractions.

Which is to say, what the economic nationalism of Benito Mussolini most has in common with the prattling and blockheaded talk of “economic patriotism” coming out of the mealy mouths of 21st-century Democrats is the habit of subordinating everything to immediate political concerns. In this context, “patriotism” doesn’t mean doing what’s best for your country — it means doing what is best for the Obama administration and its congressional allies.

Another adventure in short-term political gain trumping a coherent economic policy that is pro-growth, pro-jobs, etc.  Nothing new in that, but I think the summary helps focus it’s purpose. And it has nothing to do with “patriotism” or “economics”.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 16-17 Jul 14

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 4.1% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales increase of 0.1%, and a 4.5% increase on a year-over-year basis.

The government’s retail sales figures for June show a 0.2% sales increase, with sales less autos, and less autos and gas both up 0.4%.

The New York Fed’s Empire State manufacturing index rose from 19.28 to 25.60 for July.

Business inventories rose 0.5% in May, while a 0.4% rise in business sales leaves the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.29.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -3.6% last week, with purchases dowm -8.0% and refinancings down -0.1%.

Producer prices rose a sharp 0.4% in June, but less food and energy rose only 0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, the PPI rose 1.9% at the headline level, and 1.7% less food and energy.

The Treasury reported that net foreign demand for US securities rose $19.4 billion in May.

The Fed reported that industrial production rose 0.2% in June, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories was unchanged at 79.1%.

The Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations survey for July shows an expected inflation rate of 1.9% for the next year.

The National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index rose 4 points to 53 in July.

In today’s Beige Book report from the Fed, us economic growth was said to be Modest to Moderate.


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CBO budget forecast? Debt, debt and more debt

CBO has extrapolated the budget for the government out to 2039 and using current law paint a picture of the same old crap with a continuing rise in public debt:

Note that the spending an revenue lines are essentially as close as they’re going to get this year, with spending outpacing revenue and widening the gap from now on.

Oh, and this little goodie:

  • Federal spending for Social Security and the government’s major health care programs—Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act—would rise sharply, to a total of 14 percent of GDP by 2039, twice the 7 percent average seen over the past 40 years. That boost in spending is expected to occur because of the aging of the population, growth in per capita spending on health care, and an expansion of federal health care programs.

So much for “and we’ll save every family $2,500 a year on their health care insurance”.   Costs aren’t going anywhere but up.  Of course, you can count on the propagandists to now claim they’ll be going up slower than had they let the market work.  As with most of the “facts” these yahoos throw around, it will be a baseless claim meant to excuse their failure.

And as the debt piles up even more, so does the amount of money it takes to pay the interest:

  • The government’s net interest payments would grow to 4½ percent of GDP by 2039, compared with an average of 2 percent over the past four decades. Net interest payments would be larger than that average mainly because federal debt would be much larger.

No kidding.  Which means:

  • In contrast, total spending on everything other than Social Security, the major health care programs, and net interest payments would decline to 7 percent of GDP by 2039—well below the 11 percent average of the past 40 years and a smaller share of the economy than at any time since the late 1930s.

Can anyone yet guess the solution to this problem?  That’s right, is some form or another, a tax increase.  One of the reasons a carbon tax is so popular among some politicians is it taxes thin air and creates a revenue stream out of it.

This is the continuing situation the incompetents who run this government (and yes that includes both parties) have managed to produce for this once proud nation.  A debtor nation which is slowly dying under the weight of its own debt, brought to us by spendthrift politicians who will all deny they’re the problem.

But that single picture tells a different story doesn’t it?

Here’s our future:

  • The large amount of federal borrowing would draw money away from private investment in productive capital in the long term, because the portion of people’s savings used to buy government securities would not be available to finance private investment. The result would be a smaller stock of capital and lower output and income than would otherwise be the case, all else being equal. (Despite those reductions, the continued growth of productivity would make output and income per person, adjusted for inflation, higher in the future than they are now.)
  • Federal spending on interest payments would rise, thus requiring higher taxes, lower spending for benefits and services, or both to achieve any chosen targets for budget deficits and debt.
  • The large amount of debt would restrict policymakers’ ability to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges, such as economic downturns or financial crises. As a result, those challenges would tend to have larger negative effects on the economy and on people’s well-being than they would otherwise. The large amount of debt could also compromise national security by constraining defense spending in times of international crisis or by limiting the country’s ability to prepare for such a crisis.

Brilliant!

~McQ

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DOJ to investigate “racist” Nebraska parade float

While the DOJ won’t even look into voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia in 2008, it certainly will move itself to check out what Nebraska Democrats claim is the “worst shows of racism and disrespect for the office of the presidency that Nebraska has ever seen.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has sent a member of its Community Relations Service team to investigate a Nebraska parade float that criticized President Obama.

Here’s a description of the float:

A Fourth of July parade float featured at the annual Independence Day parade in Norfolk sparked criticism when it depicted a zombie-like figure resembling Mr. Obama standing outside an outhouse, which was labeled the “Obama Presidential Library.”

It was a “zombie-like figure” of Obama?  Now, as far as I know, zombies aren’t race specific. Anyone of any race can be a “zombie”, no?  However, they are defined as an “animated corpse”. That a pretty fair description of the man who now holds the office of the Presidency.  And my statement, I guess, is somehow a horrible show of disrespect for the office of the presidency.

Uh, no. No it’s not.

It is certainly a bit of disrespect for the man holding the office.  And I have to wonder where Nebraska Democrats were when George W Bush was in office, if this is the “worst” they’ve ever seen.  Frankly, I think it is exceedingly mild.

And, the outhouse?  Precisely where I’d say this presidency belongs.  The man in the White House is awful.  He’s the worst president I’ve seen during my lifetime and I thought Jimmy Carter was hard to beat.

So an animated corpse outside an outhouse is a pretty good bit of political satire if you ask me.

But apparently our DOJ now tries intimidate those exercising their right to free speech (you know, the 1st Amendment?  The one that prohibits government from trying to stifle it?).  Not that the DOJ or this administration is in anyway worried about allowing the Constitution or Bill of Rights to get in their way of a political vendetta.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 11 Jul 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about arresting Lois lerner and suing the president.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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Time to put the IRS back in its place

This should be interesting:

A federal judge has ordered the IRS to explain “under oath” how the agency lost a trove of emails from the official at the heart of the Tea Party targeting scandal.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan gave the tax agency 30 days to file a declaration by an “appropriate official” to address the computer issues with ex-official Lois Lerner.

The decision came Thursday as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which along with GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has questioned how the IRS lost the emails and, in some cases, had no apparent way to retrieve them.

The IRS first acknowledged it lost the emails in a letter to senators last month.

“In our view, there has been a cover-up that has been going on,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “The Department of Justice, the IRS, had an obligation, an absolute obligation … to alert the court and alert Judicial Watch as soon as they knew when these records were supposedly lost.”

This isn’t Congress we’re talking about here.  Dissembling “under oath” in a Federal Court has (or at least used to have) severe consequences.  That ass that is the director of the IRS won’t be able to play his arrogant games this time.  And, his agency will actually have to have a plausible explanation and proof instead of hand-waves and fake outrage at the questions asked and answers demanded.

As polls have demonstrated, almost no one in the country believes the IRS’s convenient explanations – convenient for them.  And, as others have pointed out, they were in violation of the law when they didn’t archive all correspondence pending lawsuits they were involved in.  This wasn’t just some “slip up”.  The IRS knows what its legal responsibilities are and have exercised them in the past.  Their legal department knew that they were required, under the law, to ensure all internal correspondence was available.

This isn’t about a couple of “rogue agents in Cincinnati”.  This is about a rogue agency … period.  Time to bring it under control again and for once, figuratively speaking, seeing some bureaucratic heads roll.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 10 Jul 14

Chain stores reporting June sales today note generally modest rates of sales growth, with no changes to earnings guidance.

Initial jobless claims fell 11,000 last week to 304,000. The 4-week moving average fell 3,500 to 311,500. Continuing claims rose 10,000 to 2.584 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.2 points to 37.6.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.5% in May, against a 0.7% sales increase, leaving the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at a lean 1.18.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $6.4 billion last week, with total assets of $4.383 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $6.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply fell by $-3.9 billion last week.


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Economic Statistics for 9 Jul 14

Gallup’s self-reported Consumer Spending measure for June fell $-7 to $91.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell -2.0 points to 95.0 in June.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC-Goldman reports a 1.7% increase from last week, but down 1.3% to a year-on-year rate of 3.3%. Redbook, however, reports a big 6.0% year-over-year sales increase.

Consumer credit rose $19.6 billion in May, with revolving credit up $1.8 billion. Strong credit card use is a big plus for retailers.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 1.9% last week, with purchases up 4.0% and refinancings up 0.4%.


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Obama’s “blame game” attempt on immigration crisis is weak broth

As usual our “Blamer-in-Chief” is trying to lay off the blame for the crisis at the border on others.  Adriana Cohen of the Boston Herald points out why that dog won’t hunt:

The massive crisis of tens of thousands of illegal children and hundreds of thousands of illegal adults flooding over our borders is, no surprise, not President Obama’s fault. It may have been entirely preventable, and certainly was highly predictable. But as usual, six years after he took office, the blame belongs elsewhere.

It’s the Republicans, blocking immigration reform, the Obama administration wants you to believe. They’re even trying to hang it on Obama’s favorite blame target, George W. Bush, saying deportations are being slowed by a bipartisan 2008 law aimed at human trafficking — a claim none other than Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein says doesn’t hold water, while other critics note it’s a little thin, blaming a crisis now on a law that’s been around for six years.

As Mitt Romney noted in 2012, “For two years, this president had huge majorities in the House and Senate — he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system.

The crisis is in fact wholly owned by the Democrats.

Democrats — here and elsewhere — have been pushing for years to let people without Social Security numbers have driver’s licenses and welfare benefits. They’ve pushed for in-state university tuition for people who don’t belong here. Obama himself acted to dramatically reduce deportations — specifically of children — and has broadly signaled he wants to legalize the estimated 12 million illegals.

Who can blame the hundreds of thousands flooding across our borders for thinking they are welcome? The Democrats told them so. Never mind that 92 million Americans are unemployed or no longer looking for jobs.

And now he’s out fundraising while refusing yet again to take a leadership role in solving the crisis.  While in Texas, one of the states effected by this crisis, he refused the governor’s invitation to visit the border, preferring again, to talk about it instead (another of his endless and useless roundtables that solve zip).

Can the President really come to Texas to fundraise and avoid going to the border? Now two Southwest Democrat congressmen have spoken out, saying it’s an important issue and he should schedule a visit. Henry Cuellar said exactly that while making the comment that this issue could be Obama’s Katrina Moment, and then Raul Grijalva, representing Arizona’s 3rd district, chimed in,urging the President to go.

The answer to the question is “yes”.  And not only that he can then go to Colorado, swill beer, play pool and pretend all is well.  Beer and pool – the modern version of Nero’s fiddle.

I see the left hyperventilating over all this impeachment talk, but if ever a guy was working hard to give good cause to be removed, it is this clown.

~McQ

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The downside of central planning – minimum wage version

Nothing new here, but let’s repeat it for the umpteenth time so perhaps somewhere some lefty will actually figure out why minimum wages are a bad idea:

One of the results of the state and local minimum wage increases across the country is more young people out of work, according to Puzder. The more entry-level jobs pay, the more willing experienced, qualified workers will be to take them, thereby bumping the young and inexperienced out of the work force. Puzder says that is causing a real problem for the young people of America.

“The real problem with youth is: You have to have these entry-level jobs to get the experience you need to move forward in your life. If they don’t have those jobs, they’re sitting at home – I don’t know – looking at the posters from the last election or waiting for mom to make dinner, as opposed to being out there actually working and getting the experience that they need to go forward in life,” argues Puzder. “The experience is the important part and we’ve got a whole generation of kids ages 16 to 29 who are missing out on that.”

So how does the economy regulate the price of labor?

“When there’s a demand for labor, the cost of labor goes up. When there’s no demand for labor, it goes down and you can’t solve that problem by having the government artificially mandate a wage increase when there’s no economic growth to support that,” says Puzder. “What businesses do is they increase their prices and they move to automation so you have less jobs.”

Yes, as usual, central planning will fail and have negative consequences.  I know, you’re shocked.

Oh, and this:

“When politicians tell people, ‘We’re going to increase the minimum wage and your check will be bigger,’ what they don’t say and [what] the next sentence should be [is]: ‘However, it’s not going to be worth as much as the increase, because everybody’s going to increase their prices so you’re not going to be able to buy as much as you could have if we’d just had economic growth that justified that increase.”

So what does Andy Puzder propose instead of artificially inflated minimum wages? “Government needs to get out of the way. If government gets out of the way, businesses will create jobs,” he says. “Wages will go up and the country will go back to a state of prosperity instead of what we’re in now.”

So you get the usual self-serving half-truth from pols when they claim they’re doing something to help the “little people”. By the way, Andy Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants.  He and I disagree on one thing:

Puzder says he believes states and municipalities have the right to raise the minimum wage, but he believes people need to understand the consequences, including higher prices and increased automation, which his company is undertaking using iPads to take orders at some restaurants instead of people.

Uh, no, Mr. Puzder … states have the power to raise the minimum wage, but unless you believe some entity other than yourself has a “right” to mandate how you spend your labor dollar, they have no “right”.

Anyway, prepare for some lefty to come by and assure us that the laws of economics aren’t really iron-clad at all, that supply and demand regulated by the market is old thinking and that central planning has a much better chance of assuring a “living wage” … if, given their skills, anyone can find a job at that price.

~McQ

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