Student Loan Debt is Rising while Household Incomes are Falling

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

Universities are doing well.  They rarely suffer during a recession.  Because one thing government does during a recession is encourage people to go back to college.  And get a new education.  So there is always money flowing into our houses of higher education.  But the people getting these degrees aren’t making out as well (see Number of U.S. households with student debt surges by Tiffany Hsu posted 9/28/2012 on the Los Angeles Times).

The share of American households with student debt has more than doubled in the last two decades, soaring to a record 19% in 2010 from 9% in 1989, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data…

In addition, overall household incomes continue their decade-long slide, according to the government. The median annual income slipped 1.5% last year to $50,054 compared with 2010. That’s 8.1% below the income level in 2007 and 8.9% less than the median in 1999.

More people are going to college.  Yet household incomes fell this last decade.  What can we conclude about this?  A couple of things.  A college education is not a guarantee to higher wages.  For it matters what that degree is in.  A degree in math or science will probably get you a high paying job.  A degree in philosophy or women’s studies is not likely to get you a high paying job.  If it can get you a job at all.  So a lot of universities are encouraging kids to go into debt to get a degree that will bring money into the university.  But it will probably not get them a job.

Another thing to take away from this is that even college students apparently want to earn a lot of money.  Despite the fact they typically vote for Democrats.  Who attack those who earn a lot of money.  So these newly degreed kids should not be surprised that their costly degrees are not bringing them higher earnings.  Because their political party makes it difficult for businesses to do well so they can hire new employees.  And provide high earnings and generous benefits.  Because high taxes and costly regulatory policies increases the cost of business.  Reducing what businesses can spend on employees.

If newly degreed kids out of college want high paying jobs (and want to more easily repay their student loans) they would be better off voting Republican.  Something to think about with the 2012 elections around the corner.  And kids going to college should consider getting a degree that has market value.  Even if these degrees are harder than degrees in philosophy or women’s studies.

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France is Raising Taxes on Wealthy Individuals and Businesses to Stimulate Economic Activity

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

When a store wants to increase sales what do they do?  Raise prices?  Or lower prices?  Well, based on those sales papers, one has to say they lower prices to increase sales.  Because if someone stops buying from a store raising prices just isn’t going to bring them back to that store.  For how many people ever say they would shop more at a store if only they would raise their prices?  Zero people.  For no one ever shops where their money will buy less.

The higher the price of something the less we buy.  Something few people will dispute.  Unless, of course, it’s rich people investing in job-creating businesses.  As government people believe that rich investors will spend more money the less they can make from their investments.  Especially in France (see Hollande opts to punish French rich with €20bn of new taxes by John Lichfield posted 9/29/2012 on The Independent).

France’s Socialist government insisted yesterday that it could solve the conundrum of simultaneous deficit-cutting and growth which has eluded every other European country from Greece to Britain.

As new clouds gathered over the eurozone, President François Hollande pushed ahead with the country’s toughest budget for three decades, taking €20bn (£16bn) of new taxes from big businesses and the wealthy but imposing relatively moderate €10bn cuts on state spending.

With growth stagnant and unemployment rising sharply, the success or failure of the 2013 budget could decide whether Europe’s second-largest economy becomes part of solution to the eurozone crisis or a new, and devastating, part of the problem.

If we can learn anything from history it’s this.  Tax cuts stimulate economic activity.  Tax hikes don’t.  So growth will remain stagnant in France.  And unemployment will rise even further.  Especially when they will tax very successful business people at 75% on earnings and eliminate business tax breaks.

Among other things, the budget introduces Mr Hollande’s “temporary” 75 per cent tax on personal earnings over €1m and abolishes the tax breaks on large firms introduced by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, spoke of a “fighting budget” which would help to get France “back on track” after 38 years of successive state deficits. He insisted the target of 0.8 per cent growth next year was realistic and would be achieved.

But opposition politicians said the budget had been “muddled together”, and was more concerned with preserving Mr Hollande’s campaign promises than addressing France’s – and Europe’s – deepening economic crisis. They pointed out that, while almost all European countries were cutting back spending, the French budget for 2013 preserved the 56 per cent of GDP spent by the state and marginally increased the number of state employees, by 6,000…

Critics complained, however, that the budget did nothing to tackle the erosion of France’s international competitiveness, which has been blamed for large-scale redundancies in the car industry and other sectors. The cost of employing a worker in France has increase by 28 per cent in the past decade, compared with an 8 per cent increase in Germany.

A growth rate of 0.8%?  They’ll be able to achieve what many call a recessionary level of growth?  Not much of a goal.  No wonder France has one of the most uncompetitive workforces.  That massive welfare state costs money.  And there’s only one way to get the money to pay for that massive welfare state.  Taxes.  Even if a government runs a deficit they finance with borrowing.  Because they have to pay the interest on that debt with taxes.

Everything comes back to jobs.  The more jobs there are the more tax revenue the government can collect.  But to create more jobs businesses have to grow larger.  But when governments tax businesses (and business investors) so excessively there is little incentive to grow these businesses larger.  So France’s actions are not likely to have any of the intended results.  In fact they will probably only make a bad situation worse.  And may make them part of the problem in the Eurozone crisis.

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Price of Beef and Dairy Goods rise as Midwest Drought leaves less Corn for Food and Ethanol

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The Midwest drought has reduced corn yields.  Greatly raising the price of corn.  Good for famers who have corn to sell.  But not so good for people who buy that corn.  From those who make ethanol.  To those who feed livestock with it.  And the drought also reduced the amount of food available to export to impoverished, hungry nations.  As well as raising food prices in U.S. grocery stores.  From beef to eggs to milk to cheese.  It has hit dairy farms in California especially hard (see Calif dairies going broke due to feed, milk prices by GOSIA WOZNIACKA, Associated Press, posted 9/29/2012 on Yahoo! News).

Across California, the nation’s largest dairy state, dozens of dairy operators large and small have filed for bankruptcy in recent months and many teeter on the edge of insolvency. Others have sold their herds or sent them to slaughter and given up on the business.

Experts say California dairymen face a double whammy: exorbitant feed costs and lower milk prices. The Midwest drought has led to corn and soybean costs increasing by more than 50 percent this summer, stressing dairymen from Wisconsin and Minnesota to Missouri. But in California, milk prices have also lagged behind those in the rest of the nation, exacerbating the crisis.

Not helping those “exorbitant feed costs” is the ethanol mandate that requires us to burn some of this reduced food crop in our cars as fuel.  Which the government has refused to waive.  Despite fervent requests from those who have to cull their herds because they can’t afford to feed them.  But environmentalism wins out over people.  And cows.  More people go hungry because of the cost of food.  And dairy farmers send their cows to slaughter because they can’t afford to feed them.

Save the planet.  Kill the people.  And cows.  Especially when you have to please your environmentalist base when going into the 2012 elections.

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Automakers can’t sell All-Electric Cars and Hybrids because Car Buyers don’t Want Them

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The American car buyer has looked at all-electric and hybrid cars.  And after about two years of looking at them they are telling us what they think about them.  They don’t like them.  They don’t want to buy them.  And the automakers are starting to get the message (see Buyers, automakers raise doubts about electric cars by Chris Woodyard posted 9/28/2012 on USA Today).

Having largely exhausted a pool of electric-car devotees as buyers, automakers are facing headwinds in trying to make plug-in cars a mass-market product.

Nissan joined General Motors last week in offering deeper lease discounts on its premier electric car. The latest deal on the all-electric Leaf brings the lease payment closer to the level of a comparable non-electric car, not counting the gas savings, an analysis for USA TODAY by Edmunds.com finds…

Yet, some automakers are stepping back when it comes to battery-only electrics:

Toyota, for instance, announced this week that it will bring as few as 100 of its electric version of the Scion iQ to the U.S., not the thousands expected earlier. Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada warned that current all-electric cars just don’t meet the range requirements of most drivers.

The electric car is perfect for someone who doesn’t drive anywhere.  Where the range of the all-electric car isn’t an issue.  If you have a short commute to work or all your needs are satisfied within a 10 minute drive from your house than the all-electric car is for you.  Well, that.  Or walking.  But if you have a 30 minute drive home from work in a winter blizzard you’re going to want a gasoline engine under the hood.  To keep you warm.  To keep your windows defrosted and ice free.  To keep your headlights shining bright.  And best of all, to get you home so you don’t have to walk home through that blizzard.

EV start-ups aren’t having any easier time. Tesla warned in a filing this week that production of its new $57,000-and-up all-electric Model S sedan has fallen far behind schedule.

The higher price also has put off buyers, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently issued a report concluding that the government’s up-to-$7,500 tax subsidy for buying an electric car will cost taxpayers $7.5 billion over seven years but does not make up for the extra cost of the cars. It found that electric cars average $16,000 to $19,000 more than a comparable gas-engine or hybrid vehicles.

But cheap leases, along with the savings on fuel costs, have closed that gap some, at least for the Volt and Leaf.

GM has sold 13,497 Volts in the first eight months of this year, according to Autodata, more than three times as many as in the same period last year. The total has been helped by the fact that on the $39,995 Volt, Chevy is offering a $299 monthly lease after a $1,529 down payment.

The Edmunds.com analysis finds that before adding in fuel savings, this amounts to 34 cents a mile for the life of the lease, compared with 22 cents a mile for a comparable, non-electric Chevrolet Cruze, which has a sticker price of less than half a Volt’s.

This is the big problem with all-electric and hybrid cars.  They cost too much.  And people only buy them because the government slaps fat subsidies of taxpayer money on them.  Or by the sales of gasoline-powered cars.  For when they sell a car below cost they have to recover that cost elsewhere.  And the only place they can is in the price of the cars people want and are buying.  Those cars with a gasoline engine under the hood.

So if you want one of these electric cars you have to make big sacrifices in your life.  From not driving anyplace more than a 10 minute trip from your home.  To not buying other things because you’re paying so much more for a car than you have to.

It is clear that the all-electric and hybrid cars are just not viable business models now.  That could change.  But for now any more taxpayer money invested in electric and hybrid cars is money wasted.  Because car buyers simply don’t want to buy them.  Now all we need is for our government to learn what our automakers have learned.

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The NHS is gearing up to make the NHS more like the American Health Care System prior to Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

Big change is coming to the NHS.  Their great centralized National Health Service is about to become decentralized.  In an effort to cut out of control costs.  And improve the quality of care (see NHS ‘could get worse from 2013’ by Branwen Jeffreys and Nick Triggle posted 9/27/2012 on BBC News Health).

The health service is currently busy getting ready for the government’s reforms to go live in April…

Under the reforms, GP-led bodies, called clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), will take charge of much of the NHS budget, replacing primary care trusts (PCTs) which will be scrapped…

The NHS is at the start of a savings drive – it has been told to save £20bn by 2015 through becoming more productive.

Britain’s aging population has increased the demands on the NHS.  The number of patients are rising as retirees leave the workforce and suffer the ailments of age.  While the number of new workers entering the workforce to replace them is falling.  As is the tax revenue from those working.  Hence the savings drive.  Because of that aging population.  And the reforms are a decentralization of the NHS.  Putting local doctors in charge of treatment decisions for their patients.  And in charge of the money.  Taking health care back a little to how it used to be.  When a person’s family doctor was in charge of their treatment.  Not a distant bureaucrat.  Like it currently is in the U.S. prior to the full implementation of Obamacare.  But soon will be no more.  Something for the Americans to look forward to once they fully implement Obamacare.  Perhaps sooner than the British.  As the Americans are jumping into a national health care system with all the problems the British now have.

Meanwhile, a BBC survey of 1,005 people suggested 60% believed services would have to be cut…

Some 61% agreed that they expected the NHS would have to stop providing some treatments and services in the future due to rising costs and increasing demands.

Nearly three-quarters also said they did not trust the government with the health service…

“The end of the public sector pay freeze next April may add to financial pressure and increase the strain on services.

“The difficulty will be finding ways to absorb these costs without compromising the quality of care for patients.”

But health minister Lord Howe maintained the NHS was “on track” to achieve its savings target…

Waiting times have been kept low, infections have been reduced, there are more doctors, more diagnostic tests and more planned operations,” he added.

This is, of course, what that aging population will do to a national health care system.  As more patients enter the health service than the population grows to pay for it (with an expanding tax base) you get longer wait times, more infections, fewer doctors relative to patients, fewer diagnostic tests and fewer planned operations.  Which forces the health service to find ways to make their limited resources cover more of that expanding patient base.  And key to their reforms is making health care more efficient.  By putting the people closest to their patients in charge of their patients’ treatments.  So they can get more from their NHS funds.

The U.S. has the same problem Britain has.  An aging population.  And yet the U.S. and Britain are moving in two different directions with their health care systems.  Who is right?  The one making changes based on the accepted reality of the impact of an aging population?  Britain.  Or the one making changes based on their confidence that they can do national health care better than everyone who has ever tried?  The U.S.  Despite that aging population.

Britain is moving in the right direction.  Because they have no choice but to move in that direction.  Whereas the U.S. has a choice.  Because their health care has been in the private sector up until Obamacare.  In fact that has worked so well that the British are moving in that direction.  Which makes us scratch our heads at those moving away from it.  Are they so full of themselves, are they suffering from such delusions of grandeur, that they think they can do the same thing (national health care) and expect to get different results?  Albert Einstein had a word for thinking like that.  Insanity.

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