No Economic Recovery, Crushing Debt and a Credit Downgrade, the U.S. inching closer to European-Style Crisis

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2011

The Unemployment Rate is Down even though more People are Unemployed

That stubbornly high unemployment rate that has been dogging the Obama recovery has finally dropped (see Jobs report: A pig in lipstick by Nin-Hai Tseng posted 8/5/2011 on CNN Money).

The unemployment rate in July fell slightly to 9.1% from 9.2%

But…

The unemployment rate might have fallen slightly but that’s mostly because the number of people actively looking for jobs fell back – signaling that perhaps workers are feeling less confident about entering the job market.

So the only reason why it dropped is that more people have just given up looking for a job.  And the smaller the group is that is looking for a job the smaller percentage this group is of the total working population.  Ergo, smaller unemployment rate.  So the actual employment picture isn’t better.  It’s worse.

In July, labor participation fell by 193,000.

What’s more, though the economy added 117,000 jobs, it falls short of the 125,000 jobs a month needed just to keep up with population growth and prevent the unemployment rate from trending higher. And it would take at least twice that many to rapidly reduce unemployment.

“The bigger picture, then, is that two years after the recession ended the labor market has not really recovered at all, and may even have gone backwards,” writes economist Paul Dales of Capital Economics.

The economy is worse.  Not better.  So just how much ‘not better’ is the economy?

The Real Economic Recovery not as good as the Made-up One

Apparently pretty ‘not better’ according to the people who count the numbers.  They revised their past numbers.  And the new numbers are even worse than the not-so-great numbers of numbers past (see Distress signal by R.A. posted 7/29/2011 on The Economist)

BEA revised its national accounts numbers back to 2007 for this release, and the picture revealed is far darker than anyone previously believed. From 2007 to 2010, real output declined by 0.3% per year on average. Previously, BEA had estimated annual growth of 0.1% over that period…

Projected growth rates were simply overstated, and current unemployment is exactly what we’d expect given such a feeble recovery. Those overly optimistic assessments of the likely impact of interventions, from fiscal stimulus to QE, also make much more sense now. Policymakers were fighting a fire far more intense than they recognised.

So I guess the Obama administration was a little premature with that Recovery Summer talk.  Or they are not good at reading economic numbers.  Or they are good at reading economic numbers but they were stretching the truth a bit for political purposes in hopes that the real economic recovery would catch up with the made up one.

All right, so the economy isn’t doing so well.  What do we do?

The dire economic situation undergirds this point: Washington should delay immediate fiscal cuts. Indeed, it ought to be spending more now and revisiting the possibility of a payroll tax cut.

Really?  After the recent budget debate to raise the debt ceiling to avoid default and a credit downgrade because of excessive spending and debt?  The same kind of excessive spending and debt that has put Europe in an even worse financial crisis?  Shouldn’t we take a lesson from the European Union sovereign debt crisis?  And not follow them into a similar sovereign debt crisis? 

I mean, it was going to be Armageddon if they lowered our bond rating.  Don’t we care about that anymore?  (By the way, S&P did lower their bond rating today.  So hello Armageddon.)

A Small Negative Return in the U.S. is Preferred over any Investment in the Eurozone

Apparently not.  At least investors appear to be more worried about the debt crisis in Europe.  They’re so worried, in fact, that they’re dumping their European holdings and running to the safe harbor of U.S. banks.  Despite that possible downgrade (which has since happened).  And Armageddon (see Thanks a lot, Europe by Cyrus Sanati posted 8/5/2011 on CNN Money).

The massive selloff in U.S. markets on Thursday appears rooted in Europe as fears of a sovereign debt default in Italy and Spain caused traders to panic and run for cover…

The European Central Bank attempted to ease the market’s fears, but it seemed to have only exacerbated the problem. European leaders are now scrambling to avoid an all-out run on the euro as the European sovereign debt crisis enters a possible terminal phase. They will need to act fast to restore market confidence or the current correction could turn to capitulation.

This crippling debt crisis may very well take down the European Central Bank.  With the fear of default, investors don’t want to buy anything in the Eurozone.  They fear anything they buy today may lose most of its value in the not so distant future.  So they’re pulling their cash out of Europe and parking it in the United States.

All this cash is being dumped into custodial banks in the U.S. This led the Bank of New York Mellon (BK), the largest custodial bank, to start charging its institutional clients a fee for depositing what they consider an “extraordinarily high” amount of cash — it has no place to invest it either, and higher cash levels mean higher FDIC fees.

You know it’s bad when even the banks don’t want your money.

Indeed it is.  So investors will pay a bank to hold their cash.  Because that’s the safe ‘investment’ right now.  A small negative return versus what could be a catastrophic negative return.

The Economy may not be able to Survive much more Government Help

Employment numbers are bad.  GDP is bad.  Talks of an economic recovery appear to have been hopelessly premature.  Debt crises have gripped Europe.  And S&P downgraded U.S. credit and pushed them towards Armageddon.  The Keynesians advice, though, is the same.  More government spending.  Only this can stimulate the economy back to recovery.  Even though it was excessive government spending that gave Europe and the U.S. their crises in the first place.

It’s like Ronald Reagan said.  Government isn’t the answer to our problems.  Government is the problem.  It needs to do the things it does best.  And leave the economy to the private sector.  Because the economy just may not be able to survive much more government help.

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Team Obama Lying to Scare Americans to Increase the Debt Limit so they can Continue their Orgy of Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 10th, 2011

Talking up the Horrible Economy in 2010

Back in August of 2010, Timothy Geithner took to the New York Times to tell everyone how wonderful the economic recovery was (see Welcome to the Recovery by Timothy Geithner posted 8/2/2010 on The New York Times).

The recession that began in late 2007 was extraordinarily severe, but the actions we took at its height to stimulate the economy helped arrest the freefall, preventing an even deeper collapse and putting the economy on the road to recovery…

Private job growth has returned — not as fast as we would like, but at an earlier stage of this recovery than in the last two recoveries. Manufacturing has generated 136,000 new jobs in the past six months…

Wow.  In only 6 months their policies have created 136,000 new jobs.  And their swift and bold action prevented the freefall loss of gosh knows how many jobs.  That’s good.  So how bad was that freefall?

The new data show that this recession was even deeper than previously estimated. The plunge in economic activity started an entire year before President Obama took office and was accelerating at the end of 2008, when G.D.P. fell at an annual rate of roughly 7 percent.

Panicked by the collapse in demand and financing and fearing a prolonged slump, the private sector cut payrolls and investment savagely. The rate of job loss worsened with time: by early last year, 750,000 jobs vanished every month. The economic collapse drove tax revenue down, pushing the annual deficit up to $1.3 trillion by last January.

Okay, first he has to get the obligatory blame George W. Bush first out of the way.  So then we get to the good news.  The amount of damage they prevented.  We were losing 750,000 jobs every month.  Which would be 4,500,000 in a 6-month period.  Humph.  Getting back 136,000 of the 4,500,000 jobs lost is being on the road to recovery?  That’s like one job back for every 33 lost.  Are you sure this is a recovery? 

Oh, and that $1.3 trillion deficit?  It wasn’t from a lack of revenue.  It was from an orgy of spending.

The economic rescue package that President Obama put in place was essential to turning the economy around. The combined effect of government actions taken over the past two years — the stimulus package, the stress tests and recapitalization of the banks, the restructuring of the American car industry and the many steps taken by the Federal Reserve — were extremely effective in stopping the freefall and restarting the economy.

According to a report released last week by Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi, advisers to President Bill Clinton and Senator John McCain, respectively, the combined actions since the fall of 2007 of the Federal Reserve, the White House and Congress helped save 8.5 million jobs and increased gross domestic product by 6.5 percent relative to what would have happened had we done nothing. The study showed that government action delivered a powerful bang for the buck, and that the bank rescue on its own will turn a profit for taxpayers.

A powerful bang for the buck?  I don’t know.  Saying how great your actions were by what didn’t happen is a bit spurious.  I mean, I could say that thanks to George W. Bush and the policies he implemented after 9/11 he saved the lives of 8.5 million Americans that would have otherwise died in terrorist attacks.  Simply by scaring a lot of bad guys from trying anything now that there was a new sheriff in town.  It’s as plausible as that Blinder and Zandi report.  You can’t prove either.  Or disprove either.  So it’s a license to lie.

Still Talking up the Horrible Economy in 2011

It’s almost been a year since Geithner’s NYT piece.  If he was right things should be a whole lot better now.  The Obama administration took full credit then for the ‘recovery’.  So the current economic numbers are now theirs.  Which means they can’t blame George W. Bush anymore.  And how are those numbers?  Still horrible (see You are what your record says you are by Conn Carroll posted 7/10/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

Last month, David Gregory tripped up new DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz up with a chart detailing President Obama’s economic record. It showed unemployment up 25 percent since Obama was inaugurated, debt up 35 percent, and gas up more than 100 percent. Wasserman Schultz lamely tried to argue that the economy was getting better, to which Gregory replied: “Americans don’t believe that’s the case.”

This Sunday was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s turn and he fared no better. At one point he even blamed the weather for Obama’s terrible economic record.

The numbers are horrible now.  And they were horrible a year ago.  There’s been no recovery.  And all of the administration’s actions haven’t done anything but explode the federal debt.  Which is at a record high.  As are the deficits under Obama.  And what does Team Obama want to do about that?  Why, borrow some more.  To spend some more.  Of course.

The U.S. isn’t close to Running out of Money

Despite the great economic news last August and the current great news (per the Obama administration, not per reality), things are pretty bad on the debt front.  In fact, those rascally Republicans with their opposition to raising the debt limit may place this glorious economic recovery into jeopardy.  Worse, they may destroy America as we know it (see ‘No delaying’ deadline to lift US debt ceiling posted 7/10/2011 on the BBC).

The US faces running out of money and defaulting if Congress does not allow the government to take on more debt.

If no agreement is reached, the government would be unable to pay civil servants, government contractors, pensioners or holders of government debt.

Economists and the White House have warned that such a default could push the US back into recession and have a global economic impact.

This is actually BS.  And I don’t mean Barbara Streisand.  The federal government is awash in cash.  Just not enough to further increase spending.  How much?  Well, let’s look at some of the numbers per the Tax Policy Center.  Tax receipts (i.e., actual cash dollars the government collects) for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 were $2.5 trillion, $2.1 trillion and $2.2 trillion, respectively.  That doesn’t include any borrowing.  That’s pure cash on the barrelhead.  That’s a lot of cash that can pay a lot of bills.  It’s in the neighborhood of $180 billion a month.  And the projection for 2011?  Holding steady at about $2.2 trillion.  Again, that’s cash flowing into Washington from taxpayers.  Nothing borrowed.  Or printed.

Despite this staggering amount of cash raining down on Washington it’s not enough.  For the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, the deficits were $458 billion, $1.4 trillion and $1.2 trillion, respectively.  And the projected deficit for 2011 is $1.6 trillion.  Again, it’s the orgy of spending that is the problem.  It’s not a revenue problem.  The U.S. isn’t close to running out of money.  Team Obama is just lying to try and scare the pants off of people to get them to hate Republicans.  And to pressure them to raise the debt limit.  So they can borrow more.  And go on another spending bender.

Green Energy can only Survive when heavily Subsidized by the Government 

So what, exactly, did they spend all that money on?  Well, there was the stimulus.  The financial and auto bailouts (which should have been left to the bankruptcy courts).  And all their tweaking of the private sector economy.  Especially the green one.  For that’s America’s future.  Green energy.  And they were going to help make it happen.  By subsidizing the crap out of it (see Michigan town shows promise and pitfalls of job retraining by Don Lee posted 7/10/2011 on The Los Angeles Times).

Uni-Solar began with a hiring surge that by 2009 had climbed to 422 workers… But the Greenville plant’s primary market is Europe, and when sales in Italy and France declined as a result of the recession and other factors, Uni-Solar cut back…

Greenville and Uni-Solar also were hurt because state and federal policies simply weren’t in place to support them. Unlike the United States, for instance, Canada subsidizes consumers who adopt solar power, but only if they buy solar panels with domestically manufactured contents…

Canada is not alone in adopting comprehensive programs of subsidies, tax provisions and other incentives to foster domestic industries. Germany has an elaborate program to support automobile, electronics and other manufacturing and to discourage its companies from moving operations overseas.

That’s right, the green energy sector can only survive when heavily subsidized by the government.  To help the green energy market compete with the more reliable and less expensive fossil fuel market.  In the U.S.  As well as in Europe.  Worse, all this government help has only created a green energy bubble.  Created a lot of supply for a demand that wasn’t there.  Just like this plant in Greenville, Michigan.

The only way to make Green Energy practical is to make Consumers pay more for Electricity

The U.S. should consider itself lucky that their government is cutting subsidies.  Because it at least gives consumers a chance at a better economy.  Perhaps Washington will cut its spending.  And let the taxpayers keep more of their money so they can make it in an economy with rising prices.  Unlike in the UK (see Power bills to soar by 30% in ‘green’ reforms by Rowena Mason and David Barrett posted 7/9/2011 on The Telegraph).

Costly new incentives to encourage energy companies to invest in renewable power sources such as wind farms will put an extra £160 a year on the average household bill over the next 20 years…

Mr Huhne is expected to announce on Tuesday that energy companies, such as Centrica and EDF, will get a fixed price for electricity generated from nuclear power and wind farms, which will be higher than the market price.

The financial incentives will be funded by consumers, who will see their electricity bills rise by 30 per cent over the next 20 years from an average of £493 per year to £655 per year.

You see, renewable energy is a money losing investment.  It’s just too costly.  So power companies won’t venture into these green markets unless someone makes it worth their while.  And in the UK the government is doing just that.  By giving them lucrative cash incentives.  Which the government will pay for via higher electricity bills.  Leaving the consumer with less money to live on in an economy with rising prices.

The costly package due to be outlined in full this week is designed to reassure generation companies that Britain is an attractive place to build nuclear power stations and wind farms.

Mr Huhne admitted in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph last year that there was no money available for direct state subsidies for a new generation of nuclear plants, so this week’s announcement sets out how consumers will shoulder the cost of incentives directly.

Yes, the only way to make green energy practical is to make consumers pay more for electricity.

The changes to be outlined by Mr Huhne this week will hand billions of pounds in subsidies to the energy companies and kick-start a construction programme creating thousands of jobs.

But combined with further green taxes, such as the European emissions trading scheme, and upgrades to Britain’s national grid the measures could see Britain’s gas and electricity bills rise by 50 per cent – or £500 per average household bill – according to Ofgem, the energy regulator.

Create ‘thousands of jobs’ by making all consumers live on less.  At least those who use electricity.

By the time you factor in the other costs of green living the average Briton could see a 50% increase in their utility costs.  Which is a staggering cost to pay for a few thousand jobs.  The economy, and the consumer, would be better off with coal.  It’s more reliable.  It’s cheaper.  And one plant out of site can provide power to hundreds of thousands.  Which is better than dotting the landscape with windmills as far as the eye can see.  To produce power only when the wind blows.

The Government has a Spending Addiction

Team Obama has made a mess of things with their orgy of spending.  More than tripled the deficit since coming into office.  Requiring ever more borrowing to ‘save the country’.  Which is, of course, a lie.  Washington is awash in cash.  Over $2 trillion a year.  And if that isn’t enough to pay the bills then this administration should just resign.

The economy is stalled.  The recession never ended.  Money poured into the green energy sector was money wasted.  And is only creating a green energy bubble by building supply for demand that isn’t there.  Like in Greenville, Michigan.  Yes, supply can create demand per Say’s Law.  If that supply is something that people want.  And that’s the problem.  People don’t want more expensive and less reliable energy.  Especially in an economy with rising prices.

The facts and figures all confirm one thing.  The U.S. has a spending problem.  Not a revenue problem.  The government is like an addict with a spending addiction.  Who will lie and say anything to satisfy that addiction.  Only this addict is worse than your run of the mill junkie.  For if Team Obama overdoses it will take a nation with it.  In fact, this administration is in such denial that perhaps an intervention is in order.  Which is really what the budget debate is.  The Republicans need to be strong.  For Obama.  And the nation.  They have to hold the line on the debt limit.  Do not give them more money to spend.  Because with over $2 trillion a year, they have enough already.

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Democrats get Liberal Arts Degrees because there’s less Math Required

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 25th, 2011

Mathematically Challenged when it comes to the Stimulus

You know it’s pretty bad when they can’t project a spending amount correctly when they themselves determine the amount (see Stimulus price tag once again lurches higher by Stephen Dinan posted 5/25/2011 on The Washington Times).

Congress’s chief scorekeeper said Wednesday that the price tag on President Obama’s stimulus law has risen once again, this time to $830 billion — or more than $40 billion more than first projected…

When it passed, the stimulus was expected to cost $787 billion over 10 years, with most of that being front-loaded. But the CBO has regularly adjusted that cost — usually upward — and now says the 10-year price tag will be $830 billion. That’s a $9 billion jump from the last estimate in February.

When you say you’re going to give everyone quality yet affordable health care you know there are a lot of guesstimates in the proposed price tag.  No one knows what the future holds.  So you know that actual costs are going to exceed whatever they project.  Because they can’t even guess the number right when they set the number themselves.

Imagine the stimulus bill as your grandparent coming over and giving you $20 so you can go out and buy something.  The grandparent gives you one of his or her $20 bills.  When your grandparent goes home that day, he or she has $20 less.  He or she spent $20.  A week later that spending was still $20.  A year later that spending was still $20.

You’d think that if the government put $787 billion into a fund for stimulus spending that they’d spend that money until that $787 billion was gone.  Simple, yes?  Instead, they accidentally spent more than they said they would.  It’s like they’re taking a test from a school textbook.  Only they have a teacher’s edition.  With the answers next to the questions.  And they still get the answers wrong.  Doesn’t give you much confidence in their number crunching abilities.

Republican Sponsored Tax Cuts Stimulated the Clinton Years

But those in Washington were always a little fuzzy with their math.  When they crunch the economic numbers for the Nineties, they show how higher taxes spurred economic activity (see The Graph That All Tax Hike Mystics Need to Grapple With by Romina Boccia and Curtis Dubay posted 5/25/2011 on The Foundry).

Economic growth was so impressive in the latter half of the ’90s, in fact, that some claim the Clinton-era tax hikes spurred the economy to prosper…

The data tell a different story. Growth in the first half of the decade following the Clinton tax hike was clearly subpar, and real wages actually fell. The economy didn’t take off until later in the decade, and not coincidentally after a 1997 Republican-sponsored tax cut.

Remember that Clinton‘s first term wasn’t a very good one.  Though he campaigned as a moderate, he governed as a liberal.  Remember Hillarycare?  The secret meetings to take over and nationalized U.S. health care?  That didn’t go over well with the voters.  The Democrats lost the House of Representatives at the midterm election.  And it was the republicans that yanked him back to the center.  And pushed for tax cuts.

As the Heritage chart shows, a closer examination of the economic growth data during the Clinton era reveals a very different story than the one Ezra Klein and the CBPP told. Despite the unusually favorable economic environment during the period, the Clinton tax hikes likely dampened real output and real wage growth. Economic growth, measured as real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was a moderate 3.3 percent in the period from 1993 through 1996, and real wages actually fell for the entire period. In contrast, the 1997 tax cuts, which significantly lowered the capital gains tax rate, coincided with a period of strong business investment, strong real GDP growth at 4.4 percent, and strong real wage growth of 1.7 percent.

Before the Republican takeover of the House GDP did rise.  But real wages fell.  After the Republican takeover, both GDP and real wages rose.  Proving again tax cuts makes life better for the people.  Not tax increases.

The principles of economics still hold: If you make something more expensive, you get less of it. Taxes on capital and labor, ignoring all other factors, reduce economic and real wage growth. The real story of the Clinton-era tax changes is that the 1993 tax hikes resulted in slower economic growth than expected, while the 1997 tax relief unleashed economic and real wage growth—and a cottage industry of liberal history re-writes.

The numbers are all there.  Anyone can check them.  Just like the economic data from the Reagan years.  But the facts don’t help those who want to buy votes with continued spending.  So they rewrite history.  And belittle anyone who dares to disagree with them. 

Fuzzy, Pragmatic Math

When it comes to the economy, there are some like Raymond in Rain Man.  Brilliant people with their Ivy League degrees.  But put a dollar sign in front of something and they will inevitably get it wrong.  Like they did with the stimulus bill.  With Reaganomics.  With the Clinton years.  As they will get it wrong with Obamacare.  You see, their math has political ends. 

Their math is pragmatic.  It’s fuzzy.  So it can add up differently as needed.  In their world, the ends justify the means.  They want to raise taxes so they can spend and social engineer.  So the facts don’t mean what they appear to.  A low unemployment rate is too high under Reagan and Bush.  While a higher unemployment rate is not that bad under Obama.  A $200 billion deficit is too high under Reagan.  A $1.4 trillion deficit is not that bad under Obama.  And we can’t afford tax cuts for the ‘rich’ but we can afford to give everyone health care.  In short, anytime the flow of money increases from the people to Washington it’s a good thing.  Whenever that flow decreases it’s a bad thing.

That’s why getting the stimulus amount wrong doesn’t bother them.  Or that Obamacare will cost far more than they said it would.  Because both have or will increase the amount of money flowing from the people to Washington.  And that’s always a good thing in their pragmatic world.

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