Archive for April, 2008

 

Inflation Yet Again

Monday, April 28th, 2008

When the Wall Street Journal is telling you that your policies are designed to rob Main Street to give the money to Wall Street, you know it’s gotten bad:

So Federal Reserve officials are whispering to reporters that they will consider a “pause” after another interest-rate cut this week. Perhaps we should be more respectful, but this sounds like the alcoholic who tells his wife he’ll quit drinking next weekend, after one more bender. What Chairman Ben Bernanke needs isn’t a gradual withdrawal from easy money but membership in Central Bankers Anonymous.

* * *

Eight months into the Fed’s most recent rate-cutting spree, the evidence is overwhelming that it has been a major policy mistake. Aggressive rate cutting – taking the fed funds rate to 2.25% from 5.25% last September – has had little effect on the banking crisis it was supposed to ease.[...]

The practical impact has been to send energy and food prices soaring. This is a direct tax on both the world’s poor and America’s middle class. Just when the U.S. economy needs a resilient consumer given the fall in housing prices, these price increases have eviscerated consumer pocketbooks. In its attempt to help Wall Street and the financial system, Fed policy is punishing average Americans. The public is frustrated and angry with these price increases, and it has a right to be. Inflation is the thief of the thrifty middle class.

And we wonder why people refuse to save.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

 
 

Riehl on Snipes

Friday, April 25th, 2008

So Wesley Snipes is going to jail for 3 years for not filing tax returns. Dan Riehl understands the implications:

But what’s perfectly clear in America today is one thing – you don’t screw with the tax man. Never let it be said that our government doesn’t know from whence its power springs.

It would be wise to consider that when debating hyper-regulative responses to issues like global warming and supporting politicians who love big government. It always comes with a price. And ultimately that price is freedom, just as much as it is dollars.

In relative terms, there will be little or no liberal hand-wringing over the Snipes conviction, which causes one to wonder if they really understand freedom at all. Snipes appears to be guilty, but he WAS striking Big Brother at its heart in a way few if any anti-war protesters ever do.

And the message is clear – Big Brother knows how to deal with threats to its collective heart when they really matter.

It’s all about the money, which is all about controlling your life.

Read Dan Riehl.

 
 

Good Grandparenting

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

(via kung foo)

 
 

Education

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

So apparently it’s not good enough to tank the mortgage market and then have the US taxpayers finance a bailout. Now we have to have a repeat performance with the education market:

To summarize: Congress mandated a return on student loans that is too low to attract private capital in the current market. So Congress will now use your money to create artificial investor demand. Taxpayers will bear more risk so that Congress can fashion a new business model to replace the one it just destroyed. The Bush Administration, unwisely but typically, has endorsed this approach.[...]

Daniel Akaka, Bob Casey, Tom Carper, Chris Dodd, Tim Johnson, Bob Menendez and Jon Tester are desperately seeking a bureaucrat with a large checkbook to rescue them from their self-made political disaster. Last Thursday they wrote Mr. Bernanke asking him to accept student loans as collateral under the Fed’s new Term Securities Lending Facility. They sent a similar letter to Treasury Secretary Paulson asking him to order the Federal Financing Bank to buy student-loan-backed securities.

So having raised solemn alarms when the Fed began to accept dodgy mortgage-backed securities as collateral, the Senators are now demanding that the Fed accept dodgy student-loan paper too. The Senators helpfully note in their letter that a virtue of their proposals is that they can be implemented quickly. Indeed, November is just around the corner.

Of course, as George Will points out, out free education sector is a mess (which is probably why so many people need to pay to go to college; to learn what they should have learned in high school):

In 1994, Congress grandly decreed that by 2000 the high school graduation rate would be “at least” 90 percent and that American students would be “first in the world in mathematics and science achievement.” Moynihan, likening such goals to Soviet grain quotas — solemnly avowed, never fulfilled — said: “That will not happen.” It did not.

Moynihan was a neoconservative before neoconservatism became a doctrine of foreign policy hubris. Originally, it taught domestic policy humility. Moynihan, a social scientist, understood that social science tells us not what to do but what is not working, which today includes No Child Left Behind. Finn thinks NCLB got things backward: “The law should have set uniform standards and measures for the nation, then freed states, districts and schools to produce those results as they think best.” Instead, it left standards up to the states, which have an incentive to dumb them down to make compliance easier.

Great. Oh, and let’s not forget, our schools are super easy compared to intellectual strongholds like Bangladesh

 
 

What Do You Call This?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Question has been bugging my friend, I promised I’d blog it for him. Click to enlarge.

 
 

Inflation

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Please, Lord, when will it end???

Caught this interesting link over at Instapundit. Basically, fuel and food prices correlate 90% to the decline in the dollar. Go figure:

The chart below shows the price of 100 pounds of rice against the euro’s parity against the US dollar during the past 12 months. The regression fit is 90%. There is an even tighter relationship between the price of rice and the price of oil, another store of value against dollar depreciation.

As the chart makes clear, the ascent of the cost of rice to $24 from $10 per hundredweight over the past year tracks the declining value of the American dollar. The link between the declining parity of the US unit and the rising price of commodities, including oil as well as rice and other wares, is indisputable. China has bid aggressively for rice all year, and last week banned rice exports, along with Vietnam and several other producers.

For developing countries whose currencies track the American dollar and whose purchasing power declines along with the American unit, this is a catastrophe, as World Bank president Robert Zoellick warned the Group of Seven industrial nations in Washington last week. Food security suddenly has become the top item on the strategic agenda.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Also, Robert Samuelson today talks about the effects that changing demographics have on the economy:

The “life cycle” (aka demographics) also promoted the shopping extravaganza. People borrow and spend more in their 30s and 40s, as they buy homes and raise children. In the 1980s and 1990s, many baby boomers were passing through their peak spending years. That reinforced the wealth effect. Finally, the “democratization of credit” supported the shopping spree. At the end of World War II, it was hard for most Americans to borrow. Since then, mortgages, auto loans and personal credit have been liberalized. By 2004, three-quarters of U.S. households had debt.

All these forces for more debt and spending are now reversing. The stock and real-estate “bubbles” have burst. Feeling poorer, people may save more from their annual incomes; it’s already much harder to borrow against higher home values. Demographics tell the same story. “Life-cycle spending drops among 55- to 64-year-olds” — they borrow less and their incomes decline — “and that’s where our household growth is now,” says Susan Sterne of Economic Analysis Associates.

And credit “democratization”? Well, the message of the subprime-mortgage debacle is that it went too far. Up to a point, the spread of credit was a boon. Homeownership increased; people had more flexibility in planning major purchases. But aggressive — and often abusive — marketers peddled credit to people who couldn’t handle it. There are no longer large unserved markets of creditworthy consumers. Indeed, many Americans are overextended. In 2007, household debt (including mortgages) totaled $14.4 trillion, or 139 percent of personal disposable income. As recently as 2000, those figures were $7.4 trillion and 103 percent of income.

The resulting retrenchment of consumer spending is already being felt. “Retailing Chains Caught in a Wave of Bankruptcies,” headlined The New York Times last week. [...]

[W]hat if nothing takes the place of the debt-driven consumption boom? Its sequel is an extended period of lackluster growth and job creation. Somber thought. The ebbing shopping spree may challenge the next president in ways that none of the candidates has yet contemplated.

Now put those both together. Inflation while the economy is showing down due to an aging population. Remember the Jimmy Carter years, when senior citizens ate dog food because inflation has turned their SS check into nothing? I do…

The future looks bleak indeed.

 
 

Pennsylvania

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

I don’t have much to say about it. It was relatively close. Hillary picked up a few delegates, which will be negated by the upcoming Indiana and North Carolina primaries. Obama will still be the nominee. The only question is what Hillary does with herself once that happens.

 
 

First Casualty From The WSJ

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Its editor resigns:

In the highest-profile sign of change at The Wall Street Journal in the five months since Rupert Murdoch became its owner, Marcus Brauchli resigned his post on Apr. 22 as the top editor.

Brauchli, 46, had been managing editor, the Journal’s top editorial position, for less than a year. He was named to his position, one of the world’s most powerful in newspaper journalism, mere days before Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.’s (NWS) unsolicited bid for Wall Street Journal parent company Dow Jones became public.

He says that the new ownership deserves the opportunity to choose their own editor. Sure that’s why he’s leaving.

Read more here.

 
 

Earth Day

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

So here a few bits from Earth Day. First the founder of Greenpeace explains why he left:

The breaking point was a Greenpeace decision to support a world-wide ban on chlorine. Science shows that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. And the majority of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry. Simply put, chlorine is essential for our health.

My former colleagues ignored science and supported the ban, forcing my departure. Despite science concluding no known health risks – and ample benefits – from chlorine in drinking water, Greenpeace and other environmental groups have opposed its use for more than 20 years.

John Cox celebrates Earth Day; with a finger up the nose.

David exhorts us not to buy the hype.

And on a different note, check out the Solatube.

 
 

George Will On The Fed

Monday, April 21st, 2008

George Will is on fire over the recent Fed moves. Welcome to the party:

The late Sen. William Proxmire, a populist Democrat who represented Wisconsin for 32 years, wanted all members of Congress to write on their bathroom mirrors, so it is the first thing they read each day, this: “The Fed is a creature of Congress.”[...]

Today’s argument is that Bear Stearns was so connected to the financial system in opaque ways that no one could guess the radiating consequences of its failure — the financial consequences or, which sometimes is much the same thing, psychological.

But what is now the principle by which other distressed firms will elicit Fed interventions in future uncertainties? By what criteria does Washington henceforth determine whether a large entity is “too connected to fail”?

The Fed has no mandate to be the dealmaker for Wall Street socialism. The Fed’s mission is to preserve the currency as a store of value by preventing inflation. Its duty is not to avoid a recession at all costs; the way to get a big recession is to engage in frenzied improvisations because a small recession, aka a correction, is deemed intolerable. The Fed should not try to produce this or that rate of economic growth or unemployment.[...]

If Congress cannot suppress its itch to “do something” while markets are correcting the prices of housing and money, Congress could pass a law saying: No company benefiting from a substantial federal subvention (which would now include Morgan) may pay any executive more than the highest pay of a federal civil servant ($124,010). That would dampen Wall Street’s enthusiasm for measures that socialize losses while keeping profits private.

Read George Will.