October 2013 Employment Situation Summary

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 11th, 2013

Economics 101

Although there were 204,000 New Jobs in October 720,000 Workers left the Labor Force

The worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression continues (see Employment Situation Summary by the Bureau of Labor Statistics posted 11/8/2013).

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 204,000 in October, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 7.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today…

Both the number of unemployed persons, at 11.3 million, and the unemployment rate, at 7.3 percent, changed little in October…

The civilian labor force was down by 720,000 in October.

If the Obama administration was an employment agency that found people jobs someone would have fired the management team by now with numbers like this.  204,000 new jobs for 11.3 million unemployed people is a success rate of 1.81%.  Worse, although there were 204,000 new jobs 720,000 workers left the labor force.  Which means that for every new job we lost 3.5 existing jobs.  So for one step forward in fixing the economy the administration takes 3.5 steps backwards.  Which means we’re moving in the wrong direction with the economy.

After a near-trillion dollar stimulus bill and quantitative easing up the wazoo what do we have to show for it?  Not a whole hell of a lot.  Other than more debt.  And inflationary pressures just waiting to be unleashed.  Taking us back to the stagflation and misery of the Seventies.  The heyday of Keynesian economics.

Solid Economic Growth starts at Raw Material Extraction

Before John Maynard Keynes gave us Keynesian economics the economy hummed along based on classical economic principles.  Including, but not limited to, thrift.  Savings.  Investment.  A sound banking system.  And a strong currency.  People saved their money.  Banks accumulated their savings into investment capital.  Banks made this capital available to investors.  And interest rates were determined by our savings rate.  The more we saved (i.e., the more thrifty we were) the lower interest rates were.  These are the economic principles that made the United States the number one economy in the world.

Another key concept of classical economics is the stages of production.  From the extraction of raw materials to manufacturing to wholesale goods to retail goods.  In a healthy economy there is growth at all stages.  And solid economic growth starts at raw material extraction.  For this feeds manufacturing.  Which feeds wholesale goods.  Which feeds retail goods.  Where consumers spend their money.  The fatal flaw of Keynesian economics is that it focuses only on consumer spending.  Not at these higher-order stages of production.  And when Keynesians try to end a recession while ignoring them they fail.  And get job numbers like these.

Employment in retail trade increased by 44,000 in October, compared with an average monthly gain of 31,000 over the prior 12 months…

Manufacturing added 19,000 jobs in October, with job growth occurring in motor vehicles and parts (+6,000), wood products (+3,000), and furniture and related products (+3,000). On net, manufacturing employment has changed little since February 2013…

In October, employment showed little or no change elsewhere in the private sector, including mining and logging, construction, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities.

This is not the picture of an improving economy.  Consumers are spending money.  Thanks to low interest rates and a record amount of government benefits.  But the economic activity is greatest at the consumer level.  As evidenced by the largest increase in jobs at the retail level.  There are fewer job gains at manufacturing.  And even less at the whole sale level and raw material extraction.  Meaning the new economic activity is greatest at the consumer level.  Because of cheap (and free) money.  But there are no new jobs at the highest stage of production.  Raw material extraction.  Because they see no real economic recovery.  Only Keynesian ‘hot’ money that will cause a surge in consumer spending.  And a surge in inflation.  Leading to a continued sluggish economic recovery.  Or a fall back into recession.  And the last thing they want should that happen is higher costs.  Or more debt.  So they don’t spend more or invest during periods of Keynesian stimulus.

President Obama’s Greatest Supporters are suffering some of the Greatest Unemployment

The October 2013 Employment Situation Summary paints a grim economic picture.  People continue to leave the labor force.  And the government’s efforts to stimulate economic activity isn’t stimulating anything above the consumer level.  As the higher stages of production fear the coming inflation.  And possible recession.  This after 5 years of President Obama’s Keynesian economic policies.  Further proving the futility of Keynesian economics.  And the failure of the Obama administration.  Whose policies have stalled new hiring.  And pushed people from full-time to part-time.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 8.1 million in October. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

Those individuals who had their hours cut or can’t find a full-time job are in large part due to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  Which is not only destroying any economic recovery.  But the Affordable Care Act is also making health insurance unaffordable.  Which will make these economic numbers worse as the carnage spreads to employer-provided health insurance.  As people will have to both pay for health insurance AND pay for all of their health care out-of-pocket thanks to those high deductibles.  Which won’t help the unemployment numbers.  For as consumer spending falls so does hiring.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (7.0 percent), adult women (6.4 percent), teenagers (22.2 percent), whites (6.3 percent), blacks (13.1 percent), and Hispanics (9.1 percent) showed little or no change in October. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.2 percent.

It is interesting, or rather ironic, that the president’s greatest supporters are suffering some of the greatest unemployment.  Teenagers.  Blacks.  And Hispanics.  Who seem to never lose their faith.  No matter how much President Obama’s policies favor old white men and women.  And Asians.  It’s not for the lack of spending, either.  For the Obama administration has spent more domestically than any other president.  But it is only his rich Wall Street cronies who are doing well.  And other rich people.  Not the rank and file Obama supporters.  Yet they remain Obama supporters.  So far, at least.  These continual bad job numbers AND the unaffordable Affordable Care Act may change things.  Especially when these continue to fall disproportionally on teenagers, blacks and Hispanics. 



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The Threat of Default on the Debt is from the Left not the Right

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 10th, 2013

Politics 101

We have a Debt and Spending Problem as we are Spending so much that we have to Raise the Debt Ceiling

Contrary to popular belief the government doesn’t just borrow money.  They also raise money by taxing us and charging us fees.  A lot of it.  In this past fiscal year (October 2012 to September 2013) they raised $2,450,200,000,000.  That’s $2.45 trillion dollars.  Sadly, they spent $3,537,100,000,000.  Or $3.5 trillion.  Giving us a deficit of $1,086,900,000,000.  Or $1.1 trillion.  Which is why we’re having a debt crisis.

Interestingly, the left does not believe that we have a debt problem.  Or a spending problem. For they see no problem with these numbers.  The only problem they have is with Republicans.  Who do believe we have a debt problem.  As well as a spending problem.  And they want to do something about it.  Before the debt grows so big that it threatens the full faith and credit of the United States.

Now the Democrats, who don’t think we have a debt or a spending problem, are saying the Republicans are threatening the full faith and credit of the United States.  With their shutting down of government.  And their demand for spending cuts before raising the debt ceiling.  Which proves the Republicans point.  We have a debt and a spending problem.  Because we are spending so much that we have to raise the debt limit.

The Interest on the Debt is only 11.75% of the Available Revenue so there is no Danger of Default

Of course, this explains the $1.1 trillion deficit.  Out of control spending.  That the government is funding with more and more borrowing.  Which threatens the full faith and credit of the United States.  Because the more debt we accumulate the less likely we’ll ever be able to pay it off.

But are we risking default on the debt now?  With this battle over the debt ceiling?  No.  Yes, the debt is huge.  Currently it is in excess of $16 trillion.  About six and a half times total federal revenue.  To get an idea what that means consider you have the median household income which is approximately $51,000.  If you carried the same amount of debt the federal government carries you would have approximately $331,500 in credit card debt.  Any household with a median income of $51,000 with credit card debt of $331,500 has a bleak future.  And unless they win the lottery they will not escape bankruptcy.

So $16 trillion in debt is recklessly high.  And impossible to pay off.  But as bad as that is the amount of revenue the federal government collects via taxes and fees greatly exceeds the interest on the debt.  The interest on the debt is $415.7 billion.  This is the amount the government has to pay to avoid defaulting on the debt.  Which is easy to do with $2.45 trillion in revenue.  The interest on the debt is only 11.75% of the available revenue.  So even if the Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling there is no way in hell the government will be unable to pay the interest on the debt.  Unless the government chooses NOT to pay the interest on the debt.  Even when they have the ability to pay the interest on the debt.

The Democrats become Chicken Little whenever anyone ever Threatens their Spending Authority

So why all the talk of defaulting on the debt?  And ruining the full faith and credit of the United States?  Simple.  Democrats are liars.  And what do liars do?  They lie.  The interest on the debt is in no danger of going unpaid.  It’s all that other government spending that is in danger of going unspent.  That spending that makes people dependent on government.  And buys votes.

The left tries to frighten the people so they can keep spending.  And keep buying votes.  They try to scare Social Security and Medicare recipients.  Telling them they will lose their benefits if the Republicans don’t stop what they’re doing.  Even though they won’t.  First of all we pay into our own retirement account. At least that’s what the government tells us.  And there is a Social Security Trust Fund.  Full of our money just waiting to pay our benefits.  Or so they say.  But the Trust Fund doesn’t have money in it.  It has government IOUs.  Because the government spent that money.

So that’s why Democrats lie.  So they can keep spending and buying votes.  Which they won’t be able to do if they can’t borrow more money to spend.  And they’re spending so much that they can’t afford to lose their charging privileges.  This is why they warned the sky would fall if the sequestration spending cuts went into effect.  But as we all witnessed the sky did NOT fall with those spending cuts.  There was some discomfort.  But nowhere near the calamity the Democrats warned would befall us if they didn’t get their way.  Bringing us to their greatest fear.  That life can go on with a large spending cut.  And telling us that the government can cut spending even more.  Far more.  Which is a threat to their ability to buy votes.  And to their power.  Which is why they become Chicken Little whenever anyone ever threatens their spending authority.



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The Democrats have refused to Raise the Debt Ceiling for Republican Presidents

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 8th, 2013

History 101

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President Dwight Eisenhower

President Obama and the House Republicans are at a standoff.  At the center of the debate is Obamacare.  The House Republicans want to defund Obamacare.  They didn’t like it when it cost $1 trillion over ten years.  And they like it even less now that the CBO has revised its cost to $3 trillion.  It has frozen hiring.  And pushed people from full-time to part-time.  President Obama has also revised the law.  Taking on legislative powers that the Constitution gives only to Congress.  With the one year delay for the business mandate being especially galling to Republicans.  As well as the 75% subsidy members of Congress and their staff get.

The House Republicans have reduced their demands to basically giving the president a continuing resolution to fund all of government if he would only give the American people what he gave to his friends in Big Business.  A one year waiver of the individual mandate.  Infuriating the president.  Saying he will not negotiate with terrorists taking the American people hostage.  However, he said he will negotiate with the Republicans.  After they give him everything he wants.  Including raising the debt limit.  For shutting down the government is one thing.  But messing with the full faith and credit of the United States is another.  With the Republicans having the gall to demand spending cuts before raising the debt ceiling.  This was just unprecedented.  Never before did anyone use the debt ceiling to bully a president before.  In the past Congresses always raised the debt ceiling whenever a president requested.  Whistling a happy tune in the process.  Except, of course, in 1953 (see Can Debt Ceiling Debates Be Useful? History Says Maybe. by Joseph J. Thorndike posted 8/28/2013 on the Huffington Post).

The idea of using the debt ceiling for leverage is not new. Indeed, the nation’s first debt limit crisis hinged on it. In the summer of 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower asked Congress for a modest boost in the debt ceiling. When austerity-minded lawmakers refused, it prompted a crisis that brought the nation to the brink of default – or to its fiscal senses, depending on your point of view…

Eisenhower didn’t believe that spending cuts would be sufficient to keep federal debt under the cap. “Despite our joint vigorous efforts to reduce expenditures,” he told Congress, “it is inevitable that the public debt will undergo some further increase.” On July 30, Eisenhower asked Congress for an increase in the debt ceiling from $275 billion to $290 billion…

Sen. Harry F. Byrd, D-Va., took the lead in fighting the increase. Raising the limit would be “an invitation to extravagance,” he declared. Keeping the present cap, moreover, would encourage much-needed economy. “It may be that the administration would be forced to operate on a very prudent and conservative budget in order to avoid an increase in the debt limit,” he predicted.

A host of senators joined Byrd’s campaign to reject the increase. The New York Times reported that Democratic opposition was “almost solid,” and many Republicans were also prepared to break with the president…

As a leverage goes, it was pretty effective. Almost immediately, Eisenhower told his department heads to cut their spending. “It is absolutely essential that you begin immediately to take every possible step progressively to reduce the expenditures of your department during the fiscal year 1954,” he told them.

So it started early.  And it started with the Democrats.  Holding the debt limit hostage to get what they want.  And in 1953, the Democrats got what they wanted.  They forced President Eisenhower to make spending cuts.  Just like the Republicans asked for in 2011.  And will ask again now.  But President Obama was not as reasonable in 2011 as President Eisenhower was.  And he is saying he will be even less reasonably now.

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President Ronald Reagan

So was 1953 an isolated incident?  Were the Democrats more accommodating at other times when a president asked them to raise the debt ceiling?  As President Obama would have us believe?  Well, they weren’t very accommodating in 1984.  When President Ronald Reagan asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling (see In 1984, debt debate looked different to Biden, GOP by Stephen Dinan posted 7/19/2011 on The Washington Times).

With time running out on a looming debt crisis, the president and his allies in the Senate are fighting to win a raise in the government’s borrowing limit, only to be stymied by a minority insisting that a spending freeze be part of the deal.

Sounds like present day, but it was October 1984 — when the partisan roles were reversed. Republicans controlled the White House and the Senate, while Democrats controlled the House. Democrats also could sustain filibusters in the Senate and were balking at raising the debt ceiling unless it was attached to big spending cuts…

One of the leaders of that 1984 Democratic revolt — a man who tried to impose a spending freeze and fought for a smaller debt increase than President Reagan wanted — was none other than current Vice President Joseph R. Biden, then a senator from Delaware and now President Obama’s right-hand man in negotiations with Congress.

“I must express my protest against continually increasing the debt without taking positive steps to slow its growth. Therefore, I am voting against any further increase in the national debt,” Mr. Biden said in a floor speech just before helping fellow Democrats defeat an increase of $251 billion on a 46-14 vote.

Once again the Democrat-controlled House refused to raise the debt ceiling.  So 1953 was not an isolated incident.  But the beginning of a pattern of Democrat willingness to risk the full faith and credit of the United States for political reasons.  To get their way despite losing the election to President Reagan.  Apparently back then elections didn’t have consequences.

How embarrassing it must be for the vice president.  Being part of an administration trying to do what the Reagan administration did when he stood in opposition.  Imagine trying to argue for something you argued against previously?  Thankfully, it was only the vice president that had such a hypocritical past.  Imagine how embarrassing it would be if the president had such hypocrisy in his past.

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President George W. Bush

Well, as it turns out, another young Democrat senator went toe-to-toe with another Republican president over the debt ceiling.  And he just didn’t vote against it.  He made a speech.  On the record.  For posterity.  To prove he was no spendthrift.  At least, not when a Republican was in the White House.  That president was George W. Bush.  And that senator was, of course, Barack Obama (see Obama Really Wishes He Never Gave This Speech About The Debt Ceiling by Walter Hickey posted 1/14/2013 on the Business Insider).

In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama gave a floor speech defending his decision to vote against an increase in the debt ceiling under President George W. Bush…

Here are some of the key parts of Obama’s speech:

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.


Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

In the midst of the first debt-ceiling standoff in 2011, Obama was asked about his flip by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. He chalked it up as a “political vote” and said his mindset changed as President.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Barack Obama.

Interesting.  It was okay for him to do what the House Republicans are doing now when he was in Congress.  When there was less debt.  And less of a debt crisis.  But it’s not okay for the House Republicans to do so now.  When there is more debt.  And a greater debt crisis.

So what is the right thing to do?  Well, if you’re President Obama the right thing to do is what he wants to do.  Not what is best for the country.  For if you argue both sides of the same issue at different times it means you’re more interested in what’s best for yourself.  Not the country.  Unless he evolved on this issue, too.  If so, perhaps we should ask for President Obama’s resignation.  For if he keeps evolving on issues he must be too ill-informed or naïve to be president.



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The Opportunity Cost of Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2013

Economics 101

Housing Sales drive the Economy because almost Everything for Sale is for the Household

Once upon a time the rule of thumb was to buy the most expensive house we could possibly afford.  We saved 20% for a down payment on a conventional mortgage.  We lived on a shoestring budget and paid our mortgage no matter what.  Even if we had to live on meatloaf and macaroni and cheese for the next five years.  Or longer.  We did this because we would be paying that mortgage payment for 30 years.  And though tough at first during those 30 years we advanced in our careers.  And made more money along the way.  Making that mortgage payment easier to pay as time went by.

So that was the way it used to be.  And it was that way for a long time.  Until the Federal Reserve started playing with interest rates to stimulate economic activity.  Altering the banking system forever.  Instead of encouraging people to save their money so banks could loan money to homebuyers they printed money.  Flooded the market with it.  Ignited inflation.  And caused housing bubbles.  Then the government took it up a notch.

Housing sales drive the economy.  Almost everything for sale is for the household.  Furniture and appliances.  Beds and ceiling fans.  Tile and paint.  Cleaning supplies and groceries.  Dishes and cutlery.  Pots and pans.  Towels and linen.  Lawnmowers and weed-whackers.  Decks and patio furniture.  When people buy a house they start buying all of these things.  And more.  Creating a lot of economic activity with every house sold.  So the government did everything they could to encourage home ownership.  And few governments did more than the Clinton administration.  By applying pressure on lenders to qualify the unqualified for mortgages.  Which gave us the subprime mortgage crisis.

Lenders used Subprime Lending to Qualify the Unqualified to Comply with the Clinton Administration

People in poor neighbors tended to be poor.  And unable to qualify for a mortgage because they couldn’t afford the house payments.  When these poor people happened to be black the Clinton administration said the banks were racist.  They were redlining.  And advised these lenders that if they don’t start qualifying these people who couldn’t afford a house that the full weight of the government will make things difficult for them to remain in the lending business.  So they complied with the Clinton administration.  Using subprime lending to put people into homes they couldn’t afford.

The main reason why people can’t afford to buy a house is the size of the mortgage payment.  Which can be pretty high if they can’t afford much of a down payment.  So these lenders used special mortgages to bring that monthly payment down.  The adjustable rate mortgage (ARM).  Which had a lower interest rate than conventional mortgages.  Because they could raise it later if interest rates rose.  Zero-down mortgages.  Which eliminated the need for a down payment.  Coupled with an ARM when interest rates were low could put a poor person into a good sized house.  No-documentation loans.  Which removed the trouble of having to document your earnings to prove you will be able to make your house payment.  Making it easier to approve applicants when you don’t have to question what they write on their application.  Interest-only loans where you only had to pay the interest for, say, 5 years.  Greatly reducing the size of the monthly payment.  But after those 5 years you had to pay that loan back in full with a new mortgage for the full value of the house.  Which may be more costly in 5 years.

So these lenders were able to meet the Clinton administration directive.  They were putting people into homes they couldn’t afford.  Just barely.  These people had house payments they could just barely afford.  Thanks to the low interest rate of their ARM.  But then interest rates rose.  Making those mortgage payments unaffordable.  With zero-down they had little to lose by walking away.  And a lot of them did.

The Interest on the Debt is so large we have to Borrow Money to Pay for the Cost of Borrowing Money

Buying a house is a huge investment.  One that we finance.  That is, we borrow money.  Sometimes a lot of it.  Because we don’t want to wait and save money for a down payment.  And because we want so much right now we buy as much as we can with those borrowings.  Doing whatever we can to lower the monthly payment.  With little regard to long-term costs.  For example, assume a fixed 30-year interest rate of 4.5%.  And we finance a $150,000 house with zero down.  Because we have saved nothing.  The monthly payment will be $790.03.  But if we waited until we saved enough for a 10% down payment that monthly payment will only be $684.03.  And if we saved enough for 20% down the monthly payment will only be $608.02.  That’s $182.01 less each month.  The total interest paid over the life of this mortgage for zero down, 10% down and 20% down is $123,610.07, $111,249.06 and $98,888.05, respectively.  Adding that to the price of the house brings the total cost for that house to $273,010.07, $246,249.06 and $218,888.05, respectively.  So if we wait until we save a 20% down payment we will be able to buy a $150,000 house and $54,723.02 of other stuff during those 30 years.  This is the opportunity cost of debt.

We are better off the less we finance.  Because long-term debts are with us for a long time.  And they don’t go away if we lose our job.  Or if interest rates go up.  Like with an ARM.  A large driver of the subprime mortgage crisis.  Let’s see what was happening before the housing bubble burst.  Let’s say we could buy that $150,000 house with a zero down mortgage with an adjustable interest rate of 2%.  Giving us a monthly payment of $554.43.  Very affordable.  Which helped get a lot of people into houses they couldn’t afford.  But then the interest rate went up.  And what did that do to someone who could just barely pay their house payment when it was $554.43?  Well, if it reset to 4% that payment increased to $716.12 ($161.69 more per month).  If it reset to 6% that payment increased to $899.33 ($344.90 more per month).  Bringing the total cost of the house to $323,757.28 ($150,000 principle + 173,757.28 interest).  Which is why a lot of these people walked away from these houses.  There was just no way they could afford them at these higher interest rates.

Interest payments on long-term debt at high interest rates can overwhelm a borrower.  Making the Clinton administration’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending insidious.  It destroyed people’s lives.  Putting them into houses they couldn’t afford with subprime lending.  But if you think that’s bad consider the national debt.  These are long-term obligations just like mortgages.  And currently we owe $16,738,533,025,135.63 (as of 9/13/2013).  At an interest rate of 3.9% the annual interest we must pay on this debt comes to $652,802,787,980.29.  That’s $652.8 billion.  Which is more than we spend on welfare ($430.4 billion).  Almost what we spend on Social Security ($866.3 billion).  And more than half of the federal deficit ($972.9 billion).  This is the opportunity cost of debt.  It limits what we can spend elsewhere.  On welfare.  Social Security.  Etc.  The interest on the debt has grown so large that we even have to borrow money to pay for the cost of borrowing money.  And there is only one way this can end.  Just like the subprime mortgage crisis.  Only worse.



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Like Greece Japan looks forward to the Economic Stimulus from Hosting the Olympics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 15th, 2013

Week in Review

During the Eighties Japan was an economic powerhouse.  The government partnered with business.  Creating what became known as Japan Inc.  It was the way of the future.  Way better than free market capitalism.  Because smart government people were tweaking the free market.  Making it better.  Or so they thought.  All that tweaking came in the form of a credit expansion.  Which created a huge asset bubble.  And when it burst Japan fell into a deflationary spiral.  Through their Lost Decade.  The Nineties.  And beyond.

Tired of sluggish economic growth since their Lost Decade their prime minister, Shinzō Abe, returned to the ways of their past.  And starting pumping yen into the economy like there is no tomorrow.  And the economy has turned.  Of course, the economy was going gangbusters before it collapsed into its deflationary spiral. So this spurt of economic activity may be nothing but that.  A spurt.  And sluggish economic growth will return.  With more inflation to wring out of the economy.  And this will probably not make things better (see Hopes Japan’s win to host Olympics could kickstart the economy by Bill Birtles posted 9/10/2013 on Radio Australia).

Japan could get an economic boost from hosting the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo…

As Japan begins its largest project in 42 years in preparation for the Olympics, there is still plenty left to do.

Just last week, Abe’s government pledged $US500 million to fix Fukushima.

In addition, Japan faces the problem of massive debt and an ageing population.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also need to take a call on raising the country’s sales tax.

The Chief Economist at RBS Securities, Junko Nishioka, says for now though, keeping spending under control will be a priority for the country of about 130 million.

Greece was talking the same way in the run-up to the 2004 Summer Games.  Where Greece went on an expansionary binge.  Then came the Great Recession.  Greek economic activity fell.  As did their tax revenue.  All the while they had a new boatload of debt on the books from the Olympics.  They had to borrow money to pay for what their tax revenue did not.  Borrowing more and more increased their debt.  And their borrowing costs.  Until they could borrow no more. Kicking off the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.  And an economic malaise that continues to this day.

So with Japan’s past history and Greece’s past history a surge in more spending to get ready for the Olympics is not likely to solve any problems.  Or bring back Japan Inc.  As this kind of spending has a history of causing problems more than solving problems.



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China’s Continuing Credit Expansion is Starting to Worry the IMF

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 15th, 2013

Week in Review

As the U.S. fiscal year draws to a close the Republicans and Democrats are digging in their heels over the upcoming debt ceiling debate.  The Republicans want to cut spending and taxes to rein in out-of-control spending.  So they don’t have to keep borrowing money.  Running up the national debt.  The Democrats, on the other hand, say, “Who cares about the debt?  We’ll be dead and buried when the nation collapses under the weight of this mammoth debt load.  As long as we get what we want why should we care about future generations?”  At least, that’s what their actions say.

A lot of leading economists on the left, Keynesians economists, see no problem in running up the debt.  Print that money, they say.  Keep that expansion growing.  What could possibly go wrong?  Especially when the federal government has the power to print money?  Just look at what the Japanese did in the Eighties.  And what the Chinese are doing now (see As the West Faltered, China’s Growth Was Fueled by Debt by Christina Larson posted 9/12/2013 on Bloomberg Businessweek).

As demand for Chinese exports diminished in the wake of the financial meltdown, the Chinese economy kept humming at more than 9 percent annual gross domestic product growth each year from 2008 to 2011. The trick? “A huge monetary expansion and lending boom,” says Patrick Chovanec, chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management and a former professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management in Beijing. With bank lending restrictions loosened in late 2008, “Total debt accelerated from 148 percent to 205 percent of GDP over 2008-12,” according to a May 2013 report from research firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. When Beijing tried to rein in the banks beginning in late 2010, shadow banking—lending outside the formal sector—exploded. Today “China is addicted to debt to fuel growth,” according to the CLSA report, with the economy hampered by “high debt and huge excess capacity with only 60 percent utilization.”

The Beijing-based firm J. Capital Research dubbed 2012 the “Year of the (White) Elephant” in a report detailing some of China’s questionable infrastructure build-out. To take one example, 70 percent of the country’s airports lose money, yet more are being built in small and remote cities. At the shiny new Karamay Airport in far western Xinjiang province, there are four check-in counters serving two flights daily. Local governments have splurged on “new towns” and “special zones,” many of which have already fallen into disrepair. The $5 million Changchun Zhenzhuxi Park, intended as a scenic area, is now a large public garbage dump, as the local landscaping bureau never agreed to provide maintenance. Near the southern city of Hangzhou, a forlorn replica of the Eiffel Tower overlooks a faux Paris—the ersatz arrondissement attracted hardly any residents, and local media have dubbed it a ghost town.

“In China, you often hear people say they’re building for the future,” explains Chovanec. “But if you build something and it’s empty for 20 years, does that make any sense? By that point, it may already be falling apart.”

The classic Keynesian argument for economic stimulus is the one about paying people to dig a ditch.  Then paying them to fill in the ditch they just dug.  The ditch itself having no economic value.  But the people digging it and filling it in do.  For they will take their earnings and spend it in the economy.  But the fallacy of this argument is that money given to the ditch-diggers and the fillers-in could have been spent on something else that does have economic value.  Money that was pulled out of the private sector economy via taxation.  Or money that was borrowed adding to the national debt.  And increasing the interest expense of the nation.  Which negates any stimulus.

If that money was invested to expand a business that was struggling to keep up with demand that money would have created a return on investment.  That would last long after the people who built the expansion spent their wages.  This is why Keynesian stimulus doesn’t work.  It is at best temporary.  While the long-term costs are not.  It’s like getting a 30-year loan to by a new car.  If you finance $35,000 over 5 years at a 4.5% annual interest rate your car payment will be $652.51 and the total interest you’ll pay will be $4,018.95.  That’s $39,018.95 ($35,000 + 4,018.95) of other stuff you won’t be able to buy because of buying this car.  If you extend that loan to 30 years your car payment will fall to $177.34.  But you will be paying that for 30 years.  Perhaps 20-25 years longer than you will actually use that car.  Worse, the total interest expense will be $23,620.24 over those 30 years.  That’s $58,620.24 ($35,000 + 23,620.24) of stuff you won’t be able to buy because of buying this car.  Increasing the total cost of that car by 50.2%.

This is why Keynesian stimulus does not work.  Building stuff just to build stuff even when that stuff isn’t needed will have long-term costs beyond any stimulus it provides.  And when you have a “high debt and huge excess capacity with only 60 percent utilization” bad things will be coming (see IMF WARNS: China Is Taking Ever Greater Risks And Putting The Financial System In Danger by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph, posted 9/13/2013 on Business Insider).

The International Monetary Fund has warned that China is taking ever greater risks as surging credit endangers the financial system, and called for far-reaching reforms to wean the economy off excess investment…

The country has relied on loan growth to keep the economy firing on all cylinders but the law of diminishing returns has set in, with the each yuan of extra debt yielding just 0.20 yuan of economic growth, compared with 0.85 five years ago. Credit of all types has risen from $9 trillion to $23 trillion in five years, pushing the total to 200pc of GDP, much higher than in emerging market peers…

China’s investment rate is the world’s highest at almost 50pc of GDP, an effect largely caused by the structure of the state behemoths that gobble up credit. This has led to massive over-capacity and wastage.

“Existing distortions direct the flow of credit toward local governments and state-owned enterprises rather to households, perpetuating high investment, misallocation of resources, and low private consumption. A broad package of reforms is needed,” said the IMF.

Just like the miracle of Japan Inc. couldn’t last neither will China Inc. last.  Japan Inc. put Japan into a deflationary spiral in the Nineties that hasn’t quite yet ended.  Chances are that China’s deflationary spiral will be worse.  Which is what happens after every Keynesian credit expansion.  And the greater the credit expansion the more painful the contraction.  And with half of all Chinese spending being government spending financed by printing money the Chinese contraction promises to be a spectacular one.  And with them being a primary holder of US treasury debt their problems will ricochet through the world economy.  Hence the IMF warning.

Bad things are coming thanks to Keynesian economics.  Governments should have learned by now.  As Keynesian economics turned a recession into the Great Depression.  It gave us stagflation and misery in the Seventies.  It gave the Japanese their Lost Decade (though that decade actually was closer 2-3 decades).  It caused Greece’s economic collapse.  The Eurozone crisis.  And gave the U.S. record deficits and debt under President Obama.

The history is replete with examples of Keynesian failures.  But governments refuse to learn these lessons of history.  Why?  Because Keynesian economics empowers the growth of Big Government.  Something free market capitalism just won’t do.  Which is why communists (China), socialists (the European social democracies) and liberal Democrats (in the United States) all embrace Keynesian economics and relentlessly attack free market capitalism as corrupt and unfair.  Despite people enjoying the greatest liberty and economic prosperity under free market capitalism (Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, etc.).  While suffering the most oppression and poverty under communism and socialism (Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the communist countries behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, the People’s Republic of China under Mao, North Korea, Cuba, etc.).



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President Obama sees Restaurant Servers as Rich People not Paying their Fair Share

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 14th, 2013

Week in Review

People are all for raising taxes on the rich.  Little did these people realize that they, too, were rich (see IRS wants more tax money from restaurant servers by JOEL GEHRKE posted 9/9/2013 on the Washington Examiner).

President Obama’s policies are doing a number on income for restaurant workers. First, Obamacare’s employer mandates led major restaurant chains to cut server hours. Now, the Internal Revenue Service has proposed a new rule to collect more tax money from servers.

The IRS, beginning in 2014, will require restaurants to withhold the automatic gratuity added to large checks, rather than allow servers to take the tip money home with them each night…

The new rule could lead restaurants to stop mandating the tips for large groups.

Rarely are restaurant servers lumped in with that greedy 1%.  Those greedy rich people.  But here they are.  Being treated as greedy one-percenters who don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

Interesting that the same people who support an increase in the minimum wage and expressed solidarity for the fast-food and Wal-Mart workers recently on strike want to take away a server’s tips.  People who actually earn below the minimum wage and depend on their tips to earn a living wage.

This is yet another example of the true cost of the welfare state.  Why we can’t keep increasing government spending.  And increasing the debt to pay for it.  Because someone has to pay the taxes that pays for this spending.  Or pay the taxes that pay for the interest on the debt that pays for this spending.  And guess what?  The rich 1% isn’t rich enough to pay it all.  Even if we taxed them at 100%.  So the IRS is going to shake down single mothers struggling to support their children by withholding their tips.  And after that they will tell these single mothers’ children that there is no such thing as Santa Clause.  Just to be mean.  For it appears they enjoy being mean.



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The Cost of Higher Education rose Twice as Much as Health Care Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 31st, 2013

Week in Review

It’s bad enough that higher education is programming our kids to become good liberals.  But their getting rich in the process is just rubbing salt into the wound (see College Costs Surge 500% in U.S. Since 1985: Chart of the Day by Michelle Jamrisko & Ilan Kolet posted 8/26/2013 on Bloomberg).

The cost of higher education has surged more than 500 percent since 1985, illustrating why there have been renewed calls for change from both political parties.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows that tuition expenses have increased 538 percent in the 28-year period, compared with a 286 percent jump in medical costs and a 121 percent gain in the consumer price index. The ballooning charges have generated swelling demand for educational loans while threatening to make college unaffordable for domestic and international students.

What expenses does a college have?  There are shelters (i.e., buildings) where students sit and learn.  But shelter costs rose nowhere near the amount going to college did.  So it’s not the buildings.  So what else do colleges have?  That tuition pays for?  Excluding books and living expenses that are above and beyond tuition expenses?  Well, the only other thing they really have are people.

College administrators and college professors.  If the high tuition costs are not due the costs of the buildings on the college campus then we must be paying the people too much.  In pay and benefits.  So let’s crunch some numbers.

The average annual cost for a 4-year public college is about $18,000 (see The Average Cost of a U.S. College Education posted 8/24/2010 in US News and World Repot).  Based on a typical enrollment of 40,000 students that comes to an annual college revenue of $720,000,000.  If the college has $1.5 billion in debt on its books for capital improvements on average at 6% that comes to an annual interest expense of $90 million.  Let’s assume they retire $50 million in debt every year.  And their operating costs (everything else but pay and benefits for administrators and professors) are, say, $25 million.  Subtracting all this from the annual tuition revenue leaves $555 million for pay and benefits each year.  Assuming a professor/administrator for each 20 students that gives us 900 professors/administrators.  Dividing this into that $555 million gives us about $617,000 per professor/administrator annually.

This is just a rough estimate but it does give you an idea about the amount of money we’re talking about here.  Not all professors are making $617,000 but if you’re tenured you’re living well.  Very well.  And administrators typically live far better than tenured professors.  This is what students are going in debt for.  To give a privileged few a life others can only dream about.  Worse, a lot of these students who graduate have an unmarketable degree.  In an economy where employers are looking for people with math and science skills people with degrees in romantic languages or gender studies will not fare well.  But the people who sold them those degrees will be doing very well.  This is why we have a student loan debt problem.  Students took on enormous debt for a degree they can’t use.

Everyone loves to complain about the high cost of health care.  And demand that government do something about it.  Well, they did.  They gave us Obamacare.  Which promises to squeeze hospitals and doctors.  To make them do more for less.  Obamacare is so bad that it is causing some doctors to retire early.  Just so they don’t have to deal with it.  Yet the cost of college has gone up at twice the rate of health care costs.  But where is the outcry over that?  Where are the people demanding that government do something?   To squeeze those universities, professors and administrators?  Why should they get rich at providing education.  If doctors shouldn’t get rich saving lives why should educators be allowed to get rich selling unmarketable degrees?  Just why is it educators can get away with being the greediest of the greedy and escape government scrutiny?

Because they teach their students to be good liberals, that’s why.  And this is so valuable to Democrats that they are willing to raise the taxes on their constituents as much as it takes.  Because without the programming higher education provides few would vote Democrat.



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FT184: “If our big Democrat-controlled cities seceded from the US to form a liberal utopia they’d all become like Detroit.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 23rd, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The President basically said he doesn’t like Representative Government

President Obama recently said that some Republicans in Congress told him in private that they agree with his policies.  And would like to vote for his policies.  To do what is right for the American people.  But they won’t because they have a primary election coming up.  And if they agree with the president that will hurt them in that election if they go up against some Tea Party candidate.  And they’re afraid what Rush Limbaugh will say.  Him and his conservative extremists.

Now think about what the president is saying.  He said that these Republicans would vote for his policies if they weren’t afraid to vote against the will of the people they represent.  For if these Republicans are afraid they will lose a primary election by voting for the president’s policies that could only mean the people they represent don’t want them voting for the president’s policies.

This is very telling.  For what the president is really saying is that he could do what he wants to do if it wasn’t for representative government.  That is the big obstacle preventing him from passing policies the people oppose.  The people.  Which is why his administration is full of czars to help write and execute policy.  Because they have no elections to worry about.  And can do things against the will of the people all day long without worrying about the consequences of doing so.

If you want to see the Result of Failed Liberal Policies just look at the Big Democrat-Controlled Cities

There’s a reason why those who want to implement liberal policies like the president have to use deceit.  The nation is about twice as conservative as it is liberal (see Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S. by Lydia Saad posted 1/12/2012 on Gallup).  This is why Republicans in Congress fear the Tea Party.  Because the Tea Party represent about twice as many of the people than they and their liberal friends in Congress do.

There’s a reason why the number of people who call themselves liberal has hovered around 20% for decades.  Because liberal policies are not good for America.  They are only good for the ‘connected’ class.  Those with friends in high places.  America’s aristocracy.  Who hate the Tea Party.  And most of America.  As they talk condescendingly down to them from their lofty perches in academia, the mainstream media, union leadership, Hollywood, government bureaucracies, etc.  People who are wealthier than most.  Who like to force people to live the way they want them to live through the heavy hand of government.  While exempting themselves from the laws they pass for us.  Like Obamacare.

If you want to see the result of their failed policies just look at the big Democrat-controlled cities.  Like Detroit.  Detroit was controlled by Democrats for decades.  Democrats there ushered in their liberal utopia.  They raised taxes so much to fund a massive city government that they chased business out of the city.  While layer upon layer of costly regulatory policies helped chase even more businesses away.  And with the jobs gone the people soon followed.  Now they have half the population they once did.  With their tax base imploded they are now left with unfunded pension and retiree health care obligations for their public sector that can never pay.  Sending them into bankruptcy.

Just imagine all the Good that could come from Paying an Entry-Level Worker $75,000

There are a lot of people on the left that want a federal bailout for Detroit.  They want people who have long suffered the high taxation and the job-killing legislation that caused Detroit’s problems in the first place to bail out the city.  People who do not benefit from those generous pension and retiree health insurance benefits.  And who will not benefit from a bailout.  They will only see higher taxes.  More federal debt.  Or more inflation to eat away the money THEY saved for their own retirements (if the government chooses to monetize the debt).  Just so the people in the public sector can enjoy better and longer retirements than they will enjoy.  Because they’ll have to work closer to their own death as they will never be able to save enough to enjoy a ‘public sector’ retirement if they have to pay for the public sector’s retirement as well as their own.

Here’s a thought, why not have the other big Democrat-controlled cities bail out Detroit?  Oh, wait a minute, they can’t.  Because their public sectors have left them greatly indebted, too.  These cities are irresponsibly running up debts that they never will be able to repay.  No matter how much they raise taxes and implement new taxes.  There’s never enough.  In fact, in creating their little liberal utopias they have chased a lot of business, and their tax base, out of their cities.  Yet these cities vote overwhelmingly Democrat.  Perhaps these cities should band together.  If they are so much more enlightened than the rest of the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals in this country perhaps they should secede from the US.  Declare themselves city-states.  And join a federation with other Democrat city-states.  Then they can live like they want to live.  And tell the rest of us (the 80% or so who don’t think like they do) to go someplace warm but not at all pleasant.

They could raise taxes on everyone to really redistribute wealth.  They can do away with drug laws.  Lessen the severity of our criminal laws so there isn’t such a disparity of offenders in our jails.  Make it a hate crime to criticize anyone who isn’t a conservative.  Have government-funded birth control, abortion and morning-after pills.  Government-funded housing.  Government-funded food.  And government-funded health care.  They can outlaw profits and force businesses to maximize the social good.  Raise the minimum wage to a true living wage.  Say, $75,000 a year.  Just imagine all the good that could come from paying an entry-level worker $75,000.  There would be no more student loan debt.  For there would be no reason to go to college to become engineers, doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics, pharmacists, etc.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?  Wouldn’t you love to work and live in a city where you could do any kind of drug wherever you wanted?  Even while you were cooking food in an entry-level job?  Where there was no punishment for breaking the law?  And no one was so puritanical to tell us not to have sex as often or with as many people as we wanted?  Wouldn’t women love this?  Sure, there would be an epidemic of venereal disease but there would be free health care to treat that (if anyone still worked hard to learn to become a doctor, nurse, dentist, paramedic or pharmacist, that is).  Can you just see these utopian city-states?

Actually, you can see it right now.  For I dare say anyone wanting to open a business or raise a family would NOT want to do so in a city like this.  The jobs would leave first.  Then the people.  Imploding the tax base.  Until you’d have nothing but Detroits dotting the landscape of this utopian federation of liberal city-states.  This is what the president and those in the 20% want.  While of course exempting themselves from this world.  Living in their gated fortresses.  Comfortably.  Where they’ll blame the people who abandoned their utopian city-states as unpatriotic.  Who wouldn’t have fled if it wasn’t for the Tea Party.  Rush Limbaugh.  And, of course, George W. Bush.  Who the left will never tire of hating.  Or blaming.



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Vietnamese Coffee Industry suffers because Communist Vietnam puts People before Profits

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 17th, 2013

Week in Review

The American left wants more government intervention into the free market.  Because they hate and don’t trust corporations.  Because they are motivated by profit.  Even putting profits before people.  Whereas government puts people before profits.  So everything is better when government intervenes.  Which is why the left loved Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.  They love Cuba.  They loved the former Soviet Union.  Because they were all socialist utopias.  Where they put people before profits.  Of course, people are robbing women of their hair in Venezuelan streets.  Cubans have risked their lives crossing the ocean to reach Florida on just about anything that floats.  And the Soviet Union is no more.  Because they couldn’t provide for their people.  Despite putting their people before profits.

Another communist country the left likes is Vietnam.  Especially since the communists got the Americans to give up and go home.  Vietnam is still communist.  But like China they add a sprinkling of capitalism to the communist stew.  A sort of state-capitalism.  Capitalism with the heavy hand of the government involved.  The way the American left likes it.  And how are things there?  Well, they are having quite the problem in their coffee industry (see Crippling debts brew a coffee crisis in Vietnam by Nguyen Phuong Linh, Ho Binh Minh and Lewa Pardomuan posted 8/15/2013 on The Globe and Mail).

But its coffee industry is now in crisis, plagued by tax evasion, mismanagement, insolvency, high interest rates and a credit squeeze. Many coffee operators are trapped with crippling debt and banks are reluctant to lend them more money.

Vietnam’s credit crunch is blamed largely on state-owned enterprises that borrowed big during the economic boom of the past decade and squandered cash on failed investments, which has left banks crippled by one of Asia’s highest bad-debt ratios…

Few coffee exporters are willing to talk about their financial problems. In communist Vietnam, people are often reluctant to speak publicly about politics and business, especially to foreign media…

Vietnam’s 2013-2014 coffee crop is forecast to be a bumper harvest, around 17 million to 29.5 million 60-kg bags, based on a Reuters poll. This will add to a global oversupply and pressure coffee prices which have lost about 10 per cent since October…

A government assessment of the coffee industry paints a bleak picture. The value of non-performing loans or debts in the sector likely to go unpaid stands at 8 trillion dong ($379-million), or 60 per cent of all coffee industry loans, said a July circular signed by the Deputy Agriculture Minister Vu Van Tam…

Unscrupulous middlemen have also played a part in the crisis, cheating exporters by selling them weighted coffee bags and inferior beans which are difficult to sell or fetch lower prices.

“What I found out is the market there is quite dirty. Middlemen often sell poor beans to exporters. They even put metal bolts in the bags to outweigh them,” said Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

You don’t have middlemen putting bolts into bags to make them heavier in free market capitalism.  For any inferior product in a free market doesn’t remain long in a free market.  As people will simply stop buying an inferior product.  And it could take years for a company to rebuild its tarnished image.  If they ever can.  This is what happens when you put profits before people.  People win.

So who caused the credit crunch?  State-owned enterprises.  As people in government are horrible at business.  For if they were good at it they would be in it.  But they’re not so they regulate it.  Or run a state-owned business.  Not because of their business acumen.  But because they had friends in higher places in government than anyone else.

Loans are important in any agricultural business.  Because all of your expenses come long before you can sell anything.  So they take on big debts at the beginning of the season.  That they plan on repaying after the harvest.  As long as prices don’t fall because there is a bumper crop.  But if they do they may not be able to earn enough to repay their bank loans.  Which is why 60% of all coffee industry loans will likely go unpaid.  And why bankers don’t want to loan them any more money.  Or charge a really high interest rate when they do.  For if a banker knows that every other loan he or she writes will never be repaid it makes a banker very reluctant to loan any money.  And what they do loan has to have such high interest rates to cover the loans that are never paid back.

This is why governments should not interfere with free markets.  For when they do they just make everything worse.  Because they’re just not good at it.  Unlike oppressing their people.  That they’re very good at.  Which is why people are “reluctant to speak publicly about politics and business, especially to foreign media.”  Something unheard of in free market economies.  But quite common in these socialist utopias.  Yet the left still favors them over free market capitalism.  Go figure.



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