Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 5 Aug 14

June factory orders rose a generally strong 1.1%, led by a big 3.3 percent jump for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft.

The non-manufacturing ISM index rose 2.7 points in July to 58.7.

The JP Morgan Global composite PMI for July rose a slight 0.1 points to 55.5. The Global Services PMI rose 0.2 points to 56.0.

US Services Purchasing Managers’ Index fell -0.2 points to 60.8 in July.

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index fell -2 points to -17 in July.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose 0.2%, and were up a strong 4.5% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook also reports a strong 4.6% rise in retail sales over last year.


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

Trying to change the argument

The New Republic publishes an article saying, in essence, “see, the ObamaCare increases are nothing to really get excited about“.  And to emphasize the point, they issue this Price-Waterhouse map (the reason they use it is as an appeal to authority):

If you look at it, you’d likely conclude that they were mostly right … where’s the problem?  Only Indiana seems to have a real problem and its increases are only around 15%.

And, you know, if Price-Waterhouse says it, it must be true.

Researching it beyond that, well, that would be journalism:

INDIANA: 2015 premiums increases ‘as high as … 46-percent’ “Initial 2015 premiums filed for the Obamacare exchanges in Indiana ranged from as high as a 46-percent hike to as low as a 9-percent cut.” (Indianapolis Business Journal, 5/19/14)

MARYLAND: 2015 premiums could increase up to 30% “Maryland’s dominant insurance company, CareFirst, is proposing hefty premium increases of 23 to 30 percent for consumers buying individual plans next year under the federal health-care law, according to filings released Friday.” (The Washington Post, 6/6/14)

WASHINGTON: 2015 premiums could increase ‘up to 26%’ “If approved, rate increases for 2015 individual health plans proposed by 12 insurance companies may affect most policyholders… [up] to an increase of 26 percent…” (The Seattle Times, 5/13/14)

ARIZONA: 2015 premium increases up to 25.5 percent “New filings trickling into the Arizona Department of Insurance show at least two health insurers plan to increase rates more than 10 percent. Cigna Wants To Increase Rates An Average Of 14.4 Percent And Humana, 25.5 Percent.” (The Arizona Republic, 6/2/14)

LOUISIANA: ‘Double-digit increases’ up to 24% possible “Some Louisiana private health insurers filed for double-digit percentage increases in 2015 for policies sold under the Affordable Care Act’s health exchange, according to filings this week with the Louisiana Department of Insurance.” (New Orleans Times Picayune, 7/15/14)

·         “Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, the state’s largest provider, is proposing rate increases of between 18.3 percent and 19.7 percent for policyholders in its Blue Saver, Blue Max and its Multi-State individual health plans. The plans cover 52,638 people. … The 4,947 people who signed up with Human Louisiana facea hike of 15.7 percent, while the 966 insured residents with Time Insurance Company face a hike of 24 percent, according to the filings made public this week.”(New Orleans Times Picayune, 7/15/14)

TENNESSEE: 2015 Premiums Could Increase up to 21.7% “BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee — the state’s dominant health insurance provider — is asking to raise rates by an average of 19 percent for its exchange plans in 2015, according to documents filed with the state of Tennessee. …the consumer will experience a rate increase between 6.1 percent and 21.7 percent, depending on the product he or she has bought.” (Chattanooga Times Free Press, 7/17/14)

·         “Meanwhile, Cigna is requesting an average rate increase of 7.5 percent in 2015, while Kentucky-based Humana would like to boost marketplace rates by an average of 14.4 percent.” (Chattanooga Times Free Press, 7/17/14)

NEW YORK: 2015 premiums could increase up to 19.7% “Insurance firms participating in New York’s ObamaCare health exchange are seeking double-digit hikes for patient medical premiums in 2015, new figures reviewed by The Post reveal. The average hike sought by insurers for individual plans is 12 percent—but a number of firms serving large numbers of patients want to boost individual premiums by nearly 20 percent. Leading the charge is Excellus Health Plan, which is seeking to sock more than 24,000 customers with a 19.7 percent hike.” (New York Post, 7/3/14)

VERMONT: 2015 premiums could increase up to 18.3% “The two companies that sell policies on the state’s online health insurance marketplace — Vermont Health Connect — have filed requests with state regulators for big rate increases for 2015. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont has asked for an average increase for its plans of 9.8 percent. … the increases would have averaged 3.3 percent if not for federal and state mandates. … MVP Health Care proposed an even bigger rate increase — an average 15.4 percent, with a range starting at 10.7 percent and rising to 18.3 percent.” (Burlington Free Press, 6/3/14)

MICHIGAN: 2015 premium increases up to 18 percent “Most people buying their own health insurance in Michigan could see near double-digit premium increases next year. State insurance regulators said Wednesday that dominant insurers Blue Care Network and Blue Cross Blue Shield want to raise rates by an average of 9.3 percent or 9.7 percent in 2015. … Humana is the insurer with the third most customers in Michigan’s individual market and seeks an average 18 percent rate increase affecting 16,600 customers.” (The Associated Press, 6/26/14)

VIRGINIA: 2015 premiums could increase up to 14.9% “…the Anthem HealthKeepers Inc. plan offered by a unit of WellPoint Inc. said it would raise premiums by an average of 8.5% across its individual plans in Virginia, which cover about 110,000 people and are sold on the online insurance exchange set up by the health law, as well as directly to consumers. … The Virginia filings show other health plans proposing rate increases ranging from 3.3% for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., with around 10,000 members in the state, to 14.9% for CareFirst BlueChoice Inc., which said it had about 32,000 members.” (The Wall Street Journal, 5/11/14)

IOWA: 2015 premium increases up to 14.5 percent “About a quarter of a million Iowans would see their insurance rates rise next year should the state approve a request from Iowa’s dominant health insurer. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced Friday that it is seeking to raise premium rates for 253,000 policyholders in Iowa. Those rate increases would affect individual policyholders and small businesses. Most — 92 percent — of the proposed rate increases would be less than 5.9 percent, according to numbers provided by Wellmark. … For the remaining 7.5 percent of policyholders — those who have post-Affordable Care Act plans for individuals under 65 — Wellmark is asking for a rate increase between 11.9 percent and 14.5 percent.” (Des Moines Register, 6/20/14)

OHIO: “Premiums would increase 13 percent next year for Ohioans who buy health coverage through the federally run insurance exchange, the Ohio Department of Insurance said yesterday.” (The Columbus Dispatch, 5/30/14)

OREGON: 2015 premiums could increase up to 12.5% “Moda Health captured more than 40 percent of the state’s exchange enrollees this year, with about 95,000 people covered under its plans. The company is proposing to increase prices by an average of 12.5 percent. Only one other carrier proposed a double-digit price increase.” (The Hill, 6/11/14)

RHODE ISLAND: 2015 premium increases ‘averaging 12 percent’ Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is proposing 2015 premium increases averaging 12 percent for individuals and families, and 8 percent for small groups.” (Providence Journal, 5/19/14)

DELAWARE: 2015 premiums could increase 5% “Delawareans could face higher insurance costs under the Affordable Care Act next year under new rate requests from insurers. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is seeking average premium increases of 5 percent for individuals who bought insurance through Delaware’s exchange.”(The Associated Press, 7/15/14)

And Florida?

Premiums would rise an average 13.2 percent for Floridians, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. But actual increases would vary greatly on families’ size, financial circumstances, county of residence and the types of plans they select.

All that said, that’s not the argument is it?  Wasn’t the promise that ObamaCare would save families an average of $2,500 a  year?

That’s what I remember.

But, you know, it’s a great success.

~McQ

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

17 trillion in debt and no relief in sight

As the world collapses around us, our borders are overrun, our leaders dither and procrastinate and the world in general thumbs their collective noses at “American power”, this sort of stuff could get lost in the shuffle:

When President Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, the total federal debt was $10,626,877,048,913.08. As of the close of business on July 30, 2014, it had risen to $17,618,599,653,160.19–up $6,991,722,604,247.11 from Obama’s first inauguration day.

By the close of business on July 31, 2014, it had risen to $17,687,136,723,410.59—up $7,060,259,674,497.51 since Obama first inauguration day.

Now the easy thing to do would be to go on a “it’s Obama’s fault” tirade, but that would only be partially true.  He certainly holds some responsibility for doing nothing to stem the red ink, and, in most cases, actually encouraging it.  He’s certainly exerted no leadership in trying to get the two parties together on a budget either.

But it is Congress that appropriates and spends.  Not the executive branch, now matter how bad it is.  For the first two years of Obama’s first term, it was all Democrats all the time.  And they set in motion horrendous spending programs like ObamaCare.  And there were a number more.

The fact of the matter is Congress also holds major share of the blame for this – no budget has been passed by the Senate during Obama’s entire tenure – and again, the majority of the Senate has been Democrat for these 6 years.

So what had been a horrific 10 plus trillion debt that was piled up over 40 years, became an even more horrific 17 trillion dollar debt in 6 short years – with no end in sight.

Yet most of the idiots who’ve put us in this fiscal hole will be running for re-election in the midterms and most of them will be re-elected.

Once more, the definition of insanity seems to loom large, doesn’t it?

~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 1 Aug 14

In July, 209,000 net new jobs were created as the unemployment rate rose 0.1% to 6.2%.  Weekly earnings were unchanged, as were weekly hours at 34.5. The labor force participation rate increased 0.1% to 62.9%. The real rate of unemployment, assuming a historical average labor force participation rate of 66.2%, is 10.86%, down more than -2% since the 12.03% rate of October 2013.

Both personal income and spending rose 0.4% in June, while the PCE price index rose 0.2%. The core PCE price index rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, the PCE price index is up 1.6% at the headline level and 1.5% at the core.

The Markit PMI manufacturing flash index for July slowed by -1.5 points to 55.8.

The July global manufacturing PMI edged down to a reading of 52.5 from the revised June reading of 52.6.

The July ISM Manufacturing Index rose 1.8 points to 57.1.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for July rose 0.5 points to 81.8.

Construction spending unexpectedly fell  -1.8% in June. On a year-over-year basis, spending is up 5.5%.


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

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 01 Aug 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about all kinds of stuff.

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.

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

Why is the West so afraid of Islam?

That’s the title of an article written by Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week.

But Ernesto Galli della Loggia, the lead editorial writer for Corriere Della Sera, offered one provocative suggestion for Europe’s unwillingness to get involved: fear of Islam. In an editorial titled “The Indifference That Kills,” he writes (translated here) that Europe fears what he calls “Arab Islam” and its ability to commit economic blackmail. He writes:

“At the same time, and above all, it fears the ruthless terrorism, the many guerrillas that claim to be inspired by Islam, their cruel barbarity, as well as the movements of revolt that periodically deeply stir the masses of that world, always permeated by a sensibility that is extremely easy to light up and to break loose in violent xenophobia.” [Corriere Della Sera]

There is something to this. Consider: When Pope Benedict XVI, in an academic setting, merely quoted a medieval critique of Islam, the result was riots across the Islamic world, including the murder of Christian nuns. There was similar rioting and threats over satirical cartoons in a Danish newspaper that if made about Christianity would elicit almost no reaction beyond a letter or a few digital comments.

He goes on excruciatingly offering reasons that may have some validity but really don’t hit on the real reason.

The West fears Islam (that’s radical Islam) because it hasn’t the intestinal fortitude to do what is necessary to combat it.  If  you’ve been watching in horror what ISIS has been doing as it moves through Iraq, or Hamas in Gaza, you understand that with radical Islam, there are not boundaries of decency or humanity that constrain them. They will do whatever it takes to win the day, no matter how many lives it costs on both sides. There is no such thing as an atrocity except the existence of infidels.

The West fears Islam because to do what is necessary to combat and defeat it, the West would have to throw over decades of liberal hogwash about the equality of cultures and how we must respect them. Its a bit like claiming you have to respect and endure a rabid skunk because it is a living being and thus our equal.

Instead of admitting that radical Islam is a rabid skunk that needs to be exterminated, we continue to see the liberal game being played as is. And the results are predictable. Knowing that there’s really no downside to their actions (in their terms not ours – martyrdom is martyrdom regardless of how it is achieved) they continue to push the envelope and receive the equivalent of “red lines” that are never enforced in answer.

The West has become a collective of cowards who will be taken piecemeal by this pernicious and unrelenting force who is focused on conquest by any means necessary. As it single-mindedly pursues that goal, the West dithers, argues, laments, has meetings and generally believes that at some point it will be able to reason with a movement which is as savage as any pack of beasts. It won’t meet that savagery with equal savagery – something necessary to get the attention of this malevolent movement.

Instead the West will continue to insist on “rules” in a game with no rules, morality from a group who has demonstrated none and eventually capitulate when all of this becomes clear too late to survive the stupidity. The West is either going to have to wake up and act in a manner that will ensure its survival or prepare to be overwhelmed and become a part of the Caliphate. And, as ISIS and others have more than amply demonstrated, the takeover will be horrific.

The West has a real reason to fear radical Islam. Most of it has to do with its own spinelessness.  I mean, consider this – me saying what I’ve said would be condemned by most of the liberal West in no uncertain terms.  Yet it is precisely what needs to be done to excise this threat from the face of the earth and ensure the survival of the very people that would condemn my words.

~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 31 Jul 14

The employment cost index rose 0.7% in the 2nd Quarter of 2014, versus a record low 0.3% rise in Q1.

Challenger reports that the 18,000 layoff announcement from Microsoft inflated the July layoff count to 46,887 vs. 31,434 in June.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index plunged 10.0 points to 52.6 in July. This is a volatile index, however.

Gallup’s July Payroll to Population employment rate was stable at 45.1%, rising just 0.1% for the month.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.3 points to 36.3 in the latest week, the lowest level in two months.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 23,000 to 302,000. The 4-week average fell 2,750 to 297,250. Continuing claims rose 31,000 to 2.539 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-4.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.407 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $-0.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $23.5 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

Wondering why there are few women in tech? Here’s the perspective of someone in tech.

Via Instapundit and Bill Quick, I’ve noticed discussion about this Forbes article on why females are under-represented in technology companies.

As someone who has spent an adult lifetime in the tech industry, let me suggest an angle that I didn’t see in this article, and which I have not seen in other similar articles.

Most jobs of any consequence in tech companies require people to successfully write code at some point in their careers. Writing code is a very unusual human activity. In addition to logic skills and some other cognitive capabilities that the articles usually do touch on, there is one aspect of it most people outside the industry have never thought about: you must be comfortable being wrong and prepared to constantly acknowledge and fix your own mistakes.  

You are wrong a few dozen times a day. The computer tells you (via a compiler error or problem in the running program) that you are unambiguously wrong, and you *must* figure out how to fix the mistake before you proceed. The mistake can’t be overlooked or ignored. It must be fixed, and to the exacting standards of a machine with no emotions.

And here’s where I think the problem results in disparate impact between males and females: the computer is invulnerable to pleading, sweet-talking, eye blinking, hair tossing, lip licking, or any of the other things a substantial fraction of young women have learned to use to get their way in the world, via persuading a male to take care of it or overlook it.

Think, for example, about all those famous stratagems for getting out of traffic tickets, and the jokes about wanting to use one and finding out the cop is female. Whether feminists like it or not, that behavior is common among young women, and it’s common because it works in many social situations.

Whether you think it’s cultural or genetic, woman are less comfortable in the harsh reality, hard edged world of writing code. I think it’s at least partially because it goes against how they have learned to deal with the world around them. Because the computer isn’t a person, and certainly not a male, their best social skills avail them nothing. Plus, they have to be completely comfortable being told flat out “you are wrong about this – deal with it” many times a day, every day.

This is hard. No one likes being told that they are wrong. I know plenty of men who can’t deal with it either. But I think women, on average, have less experience with it than men.

There is evidence to back that up. For example, there is research confirming that teachers pamper girls in school. So, from a young age, and given our current educational system, I think a male is less likely to have someone overlook their mistakes.

There are certainly amazing and talented women developers. I know some and I’ve hired some. In fact, I’ve hired a larger percentage of the women candidates who interviewed with me than men. I just don’t see that many of them.

I strongly challenge the idea that the disparate numbers are due to sexism at the level of the technology companies. In the ruthlessly competitive world of tech, we’ll take talent where we find it. I don’t care about a candidate’s gender, race, religion, sexual preference, or anything else irrelevant to the prime consideration: can they effectively write software? 

In fact, given the current lop-sided proportion of men in the industry, in many cases a qualified woman actually has an advantage! Men are hardwired by eons of evolution to prefer to look at a woman across a conference table than another scruffy, bearded, overweight male nerd. Male decision makers, in my experience, simply never turn down a qualified woman due to sexism. (I supposed there are Neanderthal male decision makers out there who do, but in a long tech career, I’ve never met one.)

So, to the extent that gender matters at all, women typically have the better of it. But decision makers can’t afford to let that factor override the need to perform. Anyone running a software development team knows the dangers of having someone who can’t deal with the harsh realities of being told they are wrong and figuring out how to fix it many times a day. One of the prime characteristics I look for in interviews is defensiveness, which usually indicates an inability to deal with being wrong a lot. Such a person (male or female) not only fails to contribute much, they degrade the overall ability of the team to get things done.

I don’t know how to fix this comparative lack of women in the industry, and I would certainly like to see it fixed. But expecting university computer science departments or tech companies to do it is silly. Any solution is going to have to go a lot further back in a female’s life than young adulthood, and involve a much bigger effort than just encouraging more girls to enter science fairs.

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

Assuming rights that no one has

That’s precisely what this pediatrician is claiming when he talks about what he has a right to do as it pertains to his patients and guns in the house:

As a pediatrician, I have one, straightforward professional obligation: to safeguard and support the health and wellbeing of my patients. In my case, those patients are children, but you could change the age range of the people coming into the office and apply that statement to any medical provider.

Every question I ask and every part of the physical examination, no matter how uncomfortable or invasive they might sometimes seem, is directed toward that one goal. I don’t ask about my patients’ sexual habits for the sake of prurience, for example, but rather to assess their risk for problems like sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancy.

Asking about guns in the house is no exception. When I ask parents if there are firearms in the home, and if so how they are secured, it is for the sole purpose of keeping their children safe. Given that access to guns in the home has been shown to increase the risk of death from suicide or homicide, to say nothing of the risk of accidental death, these questions are important. I ask because the answer matters.

He won’t ask you if you have a pool.  Or a car.  Or knives.  Just a gun.

He assumes a right to ask based on the false notion that it is his job to “keep children safe”.  Well, it’s not.

So when asked by anyone about guns in my house, I will invoke my real right – that of privacy – and look an intrusive bastard like this right in the face and say, “that’s none of your ‘effing business.”

Question asked and answered.

~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 30 Jul 14

The Commerce Department’s initial GDP estimate for 2Q 2014 came in at a 4.0% annualized rate of growth. The GDP price index rose at an annualized 2.0%. The Commerce Department says the high growth in the quarter is a rebound from the weather-related GDP declines in 1Q.

The Federal Open Markets Committee met today, and left interest rates unchanged, with a Fed Funds target rate of 0.0%-0.25%.

ADP’s estimate for private payroll growth in July is 218,000 jobs. Econoday’s analyst consensus is a bit higher at 235,000.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.2% last week. Purchases rose 0.2% but re-fis fell -4.0%.


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

Buy Dale’s Book!