Tag Archives: economy

Russia in perspective

The coming dark age: This column today attempts to put the present economic shape of Russia into context with the rest of the world. Russia does not come off well.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s most recent data, the Russian economy is approximately the same size as Australia and slightly smaller than South Korea. As an exporter, it is now less important than Belgium, Mexico, and Singapore. And it is poor. The World Bank ranks Russia’s GDP per capita below Lithuania, Equatorial Guinea, and Kazakhstan. A larger proportion of its population lives below the poverty rate than in Indonesia, India, or Sri Lanka. It is ranked 67th in the world in the Global Competitive Index and 66th in the UN’s Human Development Index.

I find this news very disturbing and worrisome. As much as I might consider Russia a competitor to the U.S., I also want it as a nation to thrive, because otherwise it can only be a threat to the rest of the world. If Russia can’t figure out how to be a successful, competitive, and vigorous first world capitalist nation, it can only become something none of us will like. These are the same circumstances that made the rise of Hitler and Mussolini possible.

Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about Russia’s ability to turn things around. When they had the chance after the fall of the Soviet Union, instead of encouraging free competition, the people who remained in power divided the country and its industries up like Prohibition-era gangsters, and stamped out anyone who tried to move in on their territories with new ideas. Those people remain in power, and have acted to further consolidate their power by recreating the Soviet model of centralized control from the top-down.

Posted from Los Angeles Airport, a place where a tiny pre-made sandwich costs almost $15, probably because of high California taxes and regulations.

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office has found that Obamacare will increase the deficit and slow the economy far more than originally predicted.

Finding out what’s in it: A new report from the Congressional Budget Office has found that Obamacare will increase the deficit and slow the economy far more than originally predicted.

The non-partisan agency’s report found that the healthcare law’s negative effects on the economy will be “substantially larger” than what it had previously anticipated. The CBO is now estimating that the law will reduce labor force compensation by 1 percent from 2017 to 2024, twice the reduction it previously had projected. This will decrease the number of full-time equivalent jobs in 2021 by 2.3 million, CBO said. It had previously estimated the decrease would be 800,000.

Aren’t you glad the Democrats shut the government down in October to prevent any delay or changes to their law?

A survey of 400 chief financial officers finds that nearly half plan to cut back on employment because of Obamacare.

A survey of 400 chief financial officers finds that nearly half plan to cut back on employment because of Obamacare.

And there’s also this:

Besides altering the makeup of their workforces, companies said they also plan to change the health benefit packages offered to employees. “Two-thirds of companies will change health benefits in response to ACA,” reads the Fuqua/CFO Magazine report summary. Forty-four percent of CFOs said they are considering reducing health benefits for employees. Thirty-eight percent said that employees and retirees may be forced to contribute more to their health plans.

“The inadequacies of the ACA website have grabbed a lot of attention, even though many of those issues have been or can be fixed,” said John Graham, Duke Fuqua School of Business finance professor and director of the survey, in a press release. “Our survey points to a more detrimental and potentially long-lasting problem. An unintended consequence of the Affordable Care Act will be a reduction in full-time employment growth in the United States,” the study says. [emphasis mine]

So, tell me again why the Republicans in Congress should not challenge the Democrats over Obamacare?

Another wave of mortgage loan defaults is about to hit.

The day of reckoning looms: Another wave of mortgage loan defaults is about to hit.

The loans are a problem now because an increasing number are hitting their 10-year anniversary, at which point borrowers usually must start paying down the principal on the loans as well as the interest they had been paying all along. More than $221 billion of these loans at the largest banks will hit this mark over the next four years, about 40 percent of the home equity lines of credit now outstanding.

For a typical consumer, that shift can translate to their monthly payment more than tripling, a particular burden for the subprime borrowers that often took out these loans. And payments will rise further when the Federal Reserve starts to hike rates, because the loans usually carry floating interest rates.

Read the whole article. The possibilities, especially for some large banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, are not good.

Another dismal jobs report.

Another dismal jobs report.

Job growth amounted to a disappointing 80,000, below analyst expectations of 90-100K, while the jobless rate remained the same at 8.2%:

Read the whole article. There’s a lot more, all of its depressing and trending downward.

While no President should be blamed entirely for the unemployment numbers, the policies of any President do have a direct influence on those numbers, and should bear some responsibility, especially in this era where we have ceded so much power to the federal government. Consider this graph (below the fold), which shows the “total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.” The steep upward swing, beginning in 2008, sadly corresponds too closely with the beginnings of the Obama administration. And it is with this administration that we have seen the worst deficits, the most regulation, and the biggest increase in the power of government in our lifetimes. It is thus no surprise the economy has crumbled.
» Read more

The Dodd-Frank downgrade.

The Dodd-Frank downgrade.

What comes through in the Moody’s assessment [the credit-rating downgrade of 15 banks] and in any review of their returns on equity is that banks have lost significant ability to generate earnings to offset the inevitable losses. The lost earnings power is surely due in part to reduced leverage, which helps protects taxpayers.

But 2,300 pages of Dodd-Frank and countless other federal efforts to put sand in the financial gears are also taking their toll. The Obama tax and regulatory frenzy, of which Dodd-Frank is a part, weighs on economic growth. Those are our words, not Moody’s, but the rating agency does note that the abysmal economic environment is a drag on ratings for everyone.

An economy built to stall

“An economy built to stall.”

In his first two years in office, Democrats gave Mr. Obama everything he wanted, save for cap and trade and union card-check, which would have done even more harm to job creation. They passed stimulus, ObamaCare, multiple housing bailouts, Dodd-Frank and more.

Even after Republicans took the House, they gave Mr. Obama the payroll tax holiday he demanded first for 2011 and again for 2012. Far from some new fiscal “austerity,” overall federal spending hasn’t declined. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has delivered monetary stimulus after stimulus—QE I, QE II, Operation Twist, and 42 months of near-zero interest rates with the promise of 30 months more.

Mr. Obama has had the freest run of policy of any President since LBJ. So maybe the problem is the policies.

Maybe Milton Friedman was right that “temporary, targeted” tax cuts don’t change the incentives to invest or hire because people aren’t stupid. Maybe each $1 of new federal spending doesn’t produce a “multiplier” of 1.5 times that in added output. Maybe the historic burst of regulation of the last three years has harmed business confidence and job creation. And maybe the uncertainty that comes from helter-skelter fiscal and monetary policy has dampened the animal spirits needed for a durable expansion.

As I said yesterday, though no president or Congress is entirely to blame for the state of the economy, they both can do great harm if they make decisions that interfere with the freedom of the market. And sadly, having the government interfere with the freedom of the market has been Obama’s mantra since the day he took office.

Not good: The Labor Department announced today that the U.S. economy only added 69 thousand jobs in May, the fewest in a year.

Not good: The Labor Department announced today that the U.S. economy only added 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in a year.

The unemployment rate went up slightly as well, Labor also adjusted downward the number of jobs created in the past two months to terribly comparable numbers.

While no president is ever entirely responsible for the state of the economy, Barack Obama’s policies have certainly done significant harm. High regulation, Obamacare, and a clear hostility to private enterprise in all fields except space exploration has helped produce what appears to be the longest period with a floundering economy in my lifetime.

It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!

Mexico has passed its own very strict climate change law.

The new law contains many sweeping provisions to mitigate climate change, including a mandate to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 30% below business-as-usual levels by 2020, and by 50% below 2000 levels by 2050. Furthermore, it stipulates that 35% of the country’s energy should come from renewable sources by 2024, and requires mandatory emissions reporting by the country’s largest polluters.

Some predictions:
» Read more

Did Obamacare cause the economic collapse

“The elephant in the room.”

By the spring of 2010, private sector job growth turned positive. In April job growth increased to 230,000 net private-sector jobs. The economy appeared on track for a normal recovery from an awful recession. The administration began confidently predicting a “Recovery Summer.” But Recovery Summer fizzled instead of sizzled. In May private sector job growth dropped sharply to less than 50,000 net jobs. Thereafter, monthly improvement in private job growth averaged just 6,500 jobs.

What else happened in the spring of 2010? Despite obstacles that many believed would kill the bill, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. Within two months, the trend in job growth dropped sharply. Monthly job creation had been on pace to top out in the hundreds of thousands. Post-Affordable Care Act, it has barely kept pace with population growth. [emphasis mine]


The health-care measure raises business costs and makes planning for the future more difficult. It should be expected to slow hiring.

Federal Reserve officials report that the law has had exactly this effect. Dennis Lockhart, president of the Atlanta Fed, reports that “prominent among these (factors businesses explain are impeding hiring) is the lack of clarity about the cost implications of the recent health care legislation. We’ve frequently heard strong comments to the effect of ‘my company won’t hire a single additional worker until we know what health insurance costs are going to be.'” Surveys bear out these warnings. In a recent poll one-third of small business owners identified the healthcare bill as one of their top two obstacles to hiring. [emphasis mine]

66 Percent of CEOs Plan to Freeze or Downsize Workforce Size

Two-thirds of the country’s CEOs plan to freeze or downsize their workforce over the next year, according to a new survey.

“As I approach my 44th year in business, the last 20 as CEO, I can never remember a time when I felt so disenfranchised from our leadership in Washington. They seem determined to continue their ongoing anti-business attitude and to frustrate small and mid-sized businesses by uncertainty on taxes, government regulations, and simply too many bureaucratic restrictions. We desperately need a change in Washington.”

I guarantee that much of this reluctance to hire stems from uncertainty and fear of Obamacare and the regulations it brings.

The job boom for government regulators under Obama

The chart of the day, from John Merlune at Investor’s Business Daily:

Boom in jobs for regulators

Merlune’s article outlines in frightening detail how there has been a job boom in only one place during the Obama administration, the government regulatory industry.

Regulatory agencies have seen their combined budgets grow a healthy 16% since 2008, topping $54 billion, according to the annual “Regulator’s Budget,” compiled by George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis. That’s at a time when the overall economy grew a paltry 5%.

Meanwhile, employment at these agencies has climbed 13% since Obama took office to more than 281,000, while private-sector jobs shrank by 5.6%.

1 2