Saturday, July 17, 2010

Our Economic Katrina

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For example, the new financial regulation bill includes nearly 500 “rule-makings,” studies, and reports, compared with just 14 in total for the controversial Sarbanes-Oxley bill, passed after the financial scandals of Enron and WorldCom. The disillusionment has spread to the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which represents small businesses that normally account for roughly 60 percent of job creation.

The chief economist of the NFIB, William Dunkelberg, put it clearly: Small business owners “do not trust the economic policies in place or proposed.” He also said, “The U.S. economy faces hurricane force headwinds and the government is at the center of the storm, making an economic recovery very difficult.”

Our economic Katrina, in short.

I’d say that the Hopeandchangillusion has worn off from Zuckerman and the entire business community — and the rest of those not living within ivory towers.

The Problem

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"I think this is not being forthcoming with us, the people, about the nature of his concerns."

"In 2003, he was all deflation all the time. Well now the Cleveland Fed's median CPI was like 1.7 percent year-over-year, now it's 0.5 percent year-over-year. So where is the concern?"

"I think the concern will surface. We'll see more on Friday when the CPI comes out. But I think something ahead of the markets is a likelihood of the Fed stepping on the gas once more, so called quantitative easing - I think that's likely to happen…The Fed is already clearing its throat. You can see this in the newspaper leaks."

Mutual Contempt

Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed; that is a foundational principle of our republic. To a stunning degree, however, Americans don't believe that their own government meets that standard. Scott Rasmussen finds that only 23 percent of voters believe that "the federal government today has the consent of the governed." A remarkable 62 percent of voters say that our government does not enjoy that consent.

The immediate cause is the fact that the Obama administration and its Congressional allies have embarked on an ambitious, left-wing program that seeks to transform America into a country quite different from what most Americans want.
I think the more significant cause, however, is the general one--a growing conviction that America is governed by a political class that has its own agenda, involving its own enrichment as well as the endless expansion of its own power, and that this political class is contemptuous of the opinions of ordinary Americans

Bird Kill

The ghosts of Kamaoa are not alone in warning us. Five other abandoned wind sites dot the Hawaiian Isles -- but it is in California where the impact of past mandates and subsidies is felt most strongly. Thousands of abandoned wind turbines littered the landscape of wind energy's California "big three" locations -- Altamont Pass, Tehachapi, and San Gorgonio -- considered among the world's best wind sites. 
 Built in 1985, at the end of the boom, Kamaoa soon suffered from lack of maintenance. In 1994, the site lease was purchased by Redwood City, CA-based Apollo Energy. 
California's wind farms -- then comprising about 80% of the world's wind generation capacity -- ceased to generate much more quickly than Kamaoa.  In the best wind spots on earth, over 14,000 turbines were simply abandoned.  Spinning, post-industrial junk which generates nothing but bird kills.

Outsourcing "Outrage"

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A union, outraged over the fact that non-union workers were being used in the construction of a Washington office building decided to protest and picket. 

But, uh, it was just too hard or too much of a hassle to have real union people do it, so they hired some non-union unemployed at minimum wage instead:

"For a lot of our members, it’s really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage—$8.25 an hour—to walk picket lines.

Which I’m sure has the developer and non-union workers in the building just quaking in their boots.

The article goes on to say that a lot of protest groups and advocacy groups have hit a bonanza with the unemployed.  They can hire them for peanuts (min. wage) and swell their groups and pad their numbers in public.

I just stole the title on this one it's so delicious... RTWT


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Deaf And Dumb

Warning signs are everywhere -- most of them carefully phrased and nuanced, but warnings, nevertheless. Greece and, closer to home, California are painful reminders of what could happen. CNBC is reporting that the Dow is repeating patterns that prevailed just before the Great Depression. The U.S. workforce suffered one its sharpest declines ever -- a drop of 652,000 -- in June. Economists claim that "wages are flirting with deflation." It's hard to find good news on the financial front. Now, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just released its "Long-Term Budget Outlook" to confirm what people already feared: The national debt is devastating for the future of America.
To compound the alarm, the CBO admits to understating the severity of the problem because its report does not include the negative impact that "substantial amounts of additional federal debt" would have on other aspects of the nation's economy.

We've been warned; is anybody listening?

Decision Time

"Are we going to reclaim the American idea -- an entrepreneurial economy where you make the most of your life, you tap your potential, we reinvigorate the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise -- and defend the morality of that -- or are we going to abandon that and switch over toward a European-style, cradle-to-grave welfare state where we drain people of their incentive and will to make the most of their lives and make them more dependent on the government?"

"[Progressives] believe that we ought to have the government so much more involved in our lives, as the more determining factor in our lives, rather than ourselves. So we have to ask ourselves a question: Do we want an entrepreneurial society that gets prosperity turned back on in the 21st century, where individual merit, entrepreneurial activity defines the American economy, or are we going to have more and more people dependent on the government for their livelihoods?

Rules Change

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But what about when the rules change? For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters -- and scares over alleged ones -- help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it.
And yet none of these rules seem to be applying; at least not too strongly. Big government seems more unpopular today than ever. The Gulf oil spill should be a Gaiasend for environmentalists, and yet three quarters of the American people oppose Obama's drilling ban. Sixty percent of likely voters want their newly minted right to health care repealed.

But even on the continent the rules are changing. European governments have turned into deficit hawks to the point where the American president feels the need to lecture them on their stinginess.

Nobody Here Is Surprised By What I Think

Thursday, July 15, 2010


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He Who Controls The Present

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3. The struggle over economic policy in the 1930's was really an episode in the long, historical conflict between business participants in the market and anti-business academics. Roosevelt gave free rein to the professors, until the start of the Second World War led him to realize that he would need the tycoons to help mobilize to defeat Hitler. I suspect that one reason that Roosevelt and the New Deal come off so well in the conventional wisdom is that history books are written by professors, not by entrepreneurs.


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ACCORDING TO WASHINGTON POST WRITER STEPHEN PEARLSTEIN ON NPR, we’re stuck in a recession because businessmen are dumb and just parrot whatever they hear in the country club locker room. It’s good to know that we have people with such penetrating insight covering our economy, and one can only wish that the business community at large had the kind of financial savvy that has made the Washington Post so profitable an enterprise.

Regime Uncertainty Update (Part 49,567b)

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In reality annual private fixed nonresidential investment has fallen by $327 billion since the recession started— a 19 percent drop. Businesses are not investing because of the vast economic uncertainties the Obama administration is creating.

Will secured creditor contracts be honored in court? Or will the Obama administration rip up those contracts? How much does it cost to hire a new employee? No one will know until thousands of pages of Obamacare regulations emanate from the IRS and HHS. How much will energy cost? That depends on how draconian the Obama EPA global warming regulations are. What are the rules for financial markets? You better have the cash for an army of good lawyers, because the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank bill touches every aspect of financial markets and requires 243 new rule-makings by 11 different federal agencies.

The Obama administration’s massive spending and regulatory expansion is not helping economic recovery. It is actively thwarting it.

Epic Fail

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Today, President Barack Obama will attend a groundbreaking ceremony in Holland, Mich., for a South Korean-owned factory that will make batteries for electric cars. The purpose of the trip is to highlight the “success” of the President’s $862 billion economic stimulus package which the White House claimed yesterday has already “saved or created” 3 million jobs. Specifically, this factory is being subsidized by $151 million of stimulus funds from an even larger $2 billion honey pot of stimulus money set aside for electric car battery investments. This one plant is expected to employ 300 workers. That works out to more than $500,000 per job created. $500,000 per job. This plant, in a nutshell, explains why the President’s stimulus plan has been an objective failure.

The American people know the President’s stimulus has failed. A new CBS poll out today shows that 74 percent of Americans believe the Obama stimulus either damaged the economy or had no effect.

Regime Uncertainty Update (Part 49,567)

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I’M SURPRISED IT TOOK THIS LONG: War between Chamber of Commerce and White House spills into open. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday rejected a request from top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to speak at a jobs summit hosted by the business group, the latest escalation in an ongoing war between the two camps. . . . The letter did not specify which comments they were referring to, but top business leaders have spoken out with increasing frequency in recent weeks to criticize Obama’s policies, saying he has created crippling uncertainty for business because of the massive regulatory regimes being constructed by the health care and financial regulation legislation.”


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TRANSPARENCY! Democrats block amendment to ensure press access to oil spill. “Media outlets such as The New York Times, Columbia Journalism Review, and NPR have written damning reports of the government’s unreasonable attempts to limit access to the spill. The New Orleans Times-Picayune was prohibited from flying a plane over the spill so a photographer could get pictures. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., was denied permission to take a boat out to the spill with reporters and examine the catastrophe affecting his state. The Associated Press sent a letter of protest with the White House over the arbitrary restrictions. A CBS camera crew was threatened with arrest for trying to report from a beach affected by the spill.” Duh. That’s because there is no oil spill. It’s all a cover story to keep people away from the crashed alien spaceship. Wake up, sheeple!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

And Don't Forget The Chinese!

As the Administration's stunts cause drilling rigs to leave the Gulf for Africa and elsewhere, Russia moves in.

From Stratfor:  

Russia: Oil Company To Drill Off Cuba

July 14, 2010

Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft plans to drill a shelf at the L block near Cuba beginning in 2011, company CEO Nikolai Brunich said on July 14, RIA Novosti reported. Zarubezhneft signed four contracts with the Cuban national oil company, Cubapetroleo, in November 2009 regarding geological exploration and hydrocarbon production.


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That didn't take long:

The Obama administration has officially approved the first instance of taxpayer funded abortions under the new national government-run health care program. …

The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new "high-risk" insurance program under a provision of the federal health care legislation enacted in March.

It has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of pro-abortion Governor Edward Rendell under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.

So much for the laughable claims by "principled" Demonrats like the baby-killer Bart Stupak that Obama's patently phony executive order would prevent this from happening.

Promises that ObamaCare would not coercively finance abortion were lies. Promises that it would not cause the deficit to explode were lies.


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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


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In old Soviet Union things got better each year until the whole edifice suddenly collapsed. The characteristic of managed news is that events never approach with the slowness of a ship making is appearance in the offing. Rather they materialize with the suddeness of a vessel that has risen from the depths and is firing broadside after broadside at you like the Flying Dutchman in Pirates of the Caribbean. This must have been the impression conveyed by Robert Gibbs when he predicted that Democrats would lose the House in November.

“I think I did what is maybe uncommon in this town,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “I opened my mouth and stated the obvious.”

‘Whaaat?’ or is it ‘Why only now?’ Gibbs was immediately at daggers drawn with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

None of this is news to those following events but its sudden debut on prime time MSM, which had until recently been minimizing and pooh-pooing the President’s woes, may be the story itself.

COTD: Jefferson On Banks

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"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the
issue of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the
banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the
people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the
continent their fathers conquered."
—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Albert Gallatin, 1802

Control Is Compassion

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In The Hole

The current amount of government debt -- $16 trillion in bonds and other securities and $109 trillion in unfunded commitments to programs like Social Security and Medicare -- is too staggering to grasp.
Ken posits a family of four living in Richmond and making $125,000, which he says is the median income for an American two-income professional couple. This hypothetical (I assume) family owns a home worth $450,000 on which it owes $266,000. It also owes $34,000 in loans on two cars.

Finally, the couple has savings and investments that add up to $76,000.

The young couple believes its net worth to be about $270,000, the amount by which its assets exceeds its liabilities -- the debt on the house and the cars. But this calculation fails to consider the household's portion of federal, local, and state debt and unfunded government financial commitments.

That amount, according to Ken, is $1,069,100. If it's considered a liability, the family is suddenly almost $800,000 in the hole.


Now, this morning, with less than four months to go before his first midterm election, a growing number of voters appear to be preparing to take political revenge for such White House inattention.

The same poll shows approval of Obama's job on the economy has dropped 7 points in only one month, from 50% to 43%, his lowest level yet.

Meanwhile, 54% disapprove, a new high.

Despite the $787-billion stimulus bill and proclamations of a "recovery summer," unemployment stands at 9.5%, when the stimulus spending was supposed to hold it to 8%.

Democrats are most threatened by that revenge because over the last four years they had built commanding majorities in both houses of Congress. So they now have the most to lose. Which doesn't mean Republican incumbents are safe, either.

Despite the Obama administration's professions of economic improvement and frequent heaping of copious blame on eight years of failed you-know-what by you-know-who, only 27% of Americans see any improvement.


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The environmentalist news website Grist
(former tagline: "Gloom and Doom with a Sense of Humor,' now
replaced with "A Beacon in the Smog") is running an article by Fred
Pearce that forthrightly (and finally)
that the population bomb is a dud:

A green myth is on the march. It wants to blame the world's
overbreeding poor people for the planet's peril. It stinks. And on
World Population Day, I encourage fellow environmentalists not to
be seduced.

Some greens think all efforts to save the world are doomed
unless we "do something" about continuing population growth. But
this is nonsense. Worse, it is dangerous nonsense. 

For a start, the population bomb that I remember being scared by
40 years ago as a schoolkid is being defused fast. Back then, most
women round the world had five or six children. Today's women have
just half as many as their mothers -- an average of 2.6. Not just
in the rich world, but almost everywhere. 

I Am America

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HFT: Beyond First Grade

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In moving away from a traditional and simplistic Gaussian frame, Smith isolates the very nature of the problem, which like any other non-linear system, and thus prone to Black Swanness, has to be sought in the plane of fractal geometry. Luckily, the author provides the one elusive observation which many market participants (at least those whose livelihoods are not tied into the perpetuation of the destructive HFT processes) had long sensed was on the tips of their tongues, yet the only comprehensible elucidation was the trite and overworn "the market is broken." At least now we know that this is a fact.

Unfortunately, as the paper requires slightly more than first grade comprehension and math skills, it will never be read by anyone at the SEC, or those in Congress, who are pretending to be conducting Financial Regulation Reform, when the items described in this paper are precisely the things that any reform should be addressing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Up Is Down

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  • Our Ministry of Sound Money had a goal of controlling prices. One dollar in 1950 is now worth 12 cents.  

  • Our Ministry of Sound Government had a goal to reward citizens for voting appropriately. For the past 15 years our politicians have used ultra-long-term debt to purchase votes in the next election.

  • Mathematically it has become impossible to pay back this liability with future income, so by definition it is a Ponzi scheme.

  • Our Ministry of Sound Accounting has created bookkeeping techniques to hide
    the Ministry of Sound Government's Ponzi scheme.

Presently our Ministry of Truth is saying we need to borrow large amounts of money from hostile foreign nations to increase our children's standard of living and keep them safe in the future.

Debt and consumption are good. Saving is very, very bad. Our government and our financial sector are good. The corporate sector is evil. Up is down. And left is right.


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Tommaso Dorigo, a physicist
at the University of Padua, has said in his blog that there has been talk
coming out of the Fermi
National Accelerator Laboratory
in Batavia, Illinois, that the Higgs has
been discovered.

The Tevatron, the huge particle accelerator at Fermi - the most powerful in
the world after the LHC
- is expected to be retired when the CERN accelerator becomes fully
operational, but may have struck a final blow before it becomes obsolete.

If one form of the rumour is to be believed - and Prof Dorigo is extremely
circumspect about it - then it is a "three-sigma" signature,
meaning that there is a statistical likelihood of 99.7 per cent that it is
correct. But, of course, that is only if the rumour is to be believed.

In the post, titled "Rumors
about a light Higgs
", Prof Dorigo said: "It reached my ear,
from two different, possibly independent sources, that an experiment at the
Tevatron is about to release some evidence of a light Higgs boson signal.

Transparent O(K)

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I thought we were supposed to take the European feelings seriously? Or was that before they became ummm...inconveniently inconvenient.

...And there is considerable disdain for the rhetoric of President Obama and his advisers regarding Germany's export-orientated economic progress. Particular derision is reserved for the rhetoric of Nobel prize-winner Paul Krugman, who with his recent diatribes against an allegedly inflationary bias in German policies is widely regarded in Berlin as somewhat imbalanced.

"Obama is becoming increasingly transparent1," says one satisfied German official. "With his arguments that we should become a bit less reliant on exports and allow the others to catch up, he's just trying to weaken us. Well, we're not going to take his advice." ...
1 "Transparent" == "buffoonish and clown like"

No One Knows

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A Wednesday report from the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), an independent watchdog within the IRS, backed those claims, finding that the agency currently lacks the resources to take on the new duties. …

“Before ObamaCare passed, [Minority Leader John Boehner] and others warned that it would require an army of new IRS agents,” Boehner (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel said in an email. “Democrats denied it. Now we know the truth.”

So how much will the IRS need?  No one knows — and that’s the point that Republicans have been making all along.  The NTA can’t figure it out, the IRS can’t estimate it, and the Democrats never seriously attempted to determine it at all.  Like many other provisions of ObamaCare, they simply made up cost numbers in order to argue that the bill would be deficit neutral.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Du'O (Part 86,936)

The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans -- the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries," Simpson said.

"We can't grow our way out of this," Bowles said. "We could have decades of double-digit growth and not grow our way out of this enormous debt problem. We can't tax our way out. . . . The reality is we've got to do exactly what you all do every day as governors. We've got to cut spending or increase revenues or do some combination of that."

The Senor

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Beyond Parasites

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Was there a direct connection between springing a terrorist and BP getting an extremely cozy oil drilling deal in Libya? Bret Stephens of the WSJ has a jaw-dropping report that suggests the oil giant profited immensely from the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.

Yesterday, the chairman of Libya's National Oil Co. told Zawya Dow Jones that he would urge Libya's sovereign wealth fund to buy a strategic stake in the troubled oil giant. That follows news that Libya will allow BP to begin deepwater drilling next month off Libya's coast as part of a $900 million exploration deal initially agreed upon in 2007.

Ask What You Can Do...

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The "Stretch"

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Below is another way of visualizing the Fed's balance sheet, splitting up assets into securities purchased outright by the Fed, versus liquidity measures:

Both have essentially gone flat.

What we see is that Bernanke has indeed stopped those programs for all intents and purposes. The net printing shown above has come through a decline in bank Excess Reserves. Whereas before such declines in Excess Reserves were met by Fed sterilization through a shrinkage of the Fed's own balance sheet (for example, see May - July 2009), nothing of the sort has happened this time. That money is just being allowed to enter the system, period.

The next logical question is where the bank lending that has replaced the Excess Reserves is heading. Well, we know it is not hitting the consumer debt market
My theory is that the money has floated into the Treasury market.
Is it that much of a stretch to posit that the Fed reached an agreement with them whereby the banks would take over where the Fed left off?