Tag Archives: economy

Lock down failure

First we were told that it was necessary to impose “social distancing rules” and shut down the economy for a few weeks in order to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed by a sudden influx of COVID-19 cases, predicted to possibly be in the millions. From a typical panicked news report on March 16:

Health officials take for granted that COVID-19 will continue to infect millions of people around the world over the coming weeks and months. However, as the outbreak in Italy shows, the rate at which a population becomes infected makes all the difference in whether there are enough hospital beds (and doctors, and resources) to treat the sick.

In epidemiology, the idea of slowing a virus’ spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at any given time is known as “flattening the curve.” It explains why so many countries are implementing “social distancing” guidelines — including a “shelter in place” order that affects 6.7 million people in Northern California, even though COVID-19 outbreaks there might not yet seem severe.

Fortunately, the prediction that millions would become sick was so wrong it is now considered a joke. Moreover, it was quickly obvious that the healthcare system was not going to be overwhelmed.

So of course, we can now end these stringent social distancing rules and the lock downs, right?

Hah. Now we are being told that the new social rules and the government-imposed economic shut downs are necessary to stop the spread of the disease, to protect us from further infection, to make us all safe from coronavirus, forever. And if we do have to ease the lock downs at all, we have to do it as slowly as possible, and to change our behaviors forever. Masks must be worn, businesses can no longer serve as many at a time, and we must change and limit our freedoms, just because we might possibly save one life!

Consider the fascist Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and his demand that the state remain locked down for as long as possible.
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Branson selling 25% of Virgin Galactic shares to save airline business

Capitalism in space:It appears that Richard Branson is selling about 25% of shares in Virgin Galactic in order to prop up his airline and travel businesses that have been crushed by the Wuhan flu panic.

Branson’s Virgin Group may sell as many as 25 million shares in the space-travel firm, with the proceeds going to his leisure and travel businesses, according to a statement on Monday. The 69-year-old Briton is trying to save Virgin Atlantic, which has struggled to qualify for a UK-supported loan program aimed at helping businesses survive the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. He’s seeking outside investors for the airline, while also weighing an infusion of his own funds.

The irony here is that Virgin Galactic has been a big financial money sink since its inception in the mid-2000s, having never flown a single customer in its fifteen-plus year existence. However, Branson has bamboozled a lot of people into buying its stock in the past year, since it went public, causing the stock to rise from its initial price of about $12 to about $18 to $20. This sell-off gives Branson an almost 100% profit on the stock, a good deal indeed for him, even if the company never makes a dime.

He says he is pumping the money back into his other businesses, but we shall see.

What the sale means however is that Branson no longer has a majority share in Virgin Galactic. The biggest shareholder is now Social Capital Hedosophia, created by venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya.

New capacity limits will destroy most remaining restaurants

The beatings will continue until morale improves: The new capacity limits being imposed by state governments due to their panic over the Wuhan flu will likely destroy the bulk of the remaining restaurants that have managed somehow to get through the lock downs.

As some states across the country allow businesses to reopen with limited occupancies, there are still serious obstacles in the paths of restaurant owners. In those Tennessee counties that have already reopened, restaurants can’t exceed 50 percent of their maximum occupancy. Restaurants in most of Iowa will also have the option to reopen at half capacity. Those in Alaska will be limited to 25 percent capacity, and will only seat diners who make reservations in advance.

Ryan Pernice, who owns three restaurants north of Atlanta, didn’t jump with excitement when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp released a list of 39 guidelines in advance of a push to open certain businesses — including restaurants — on April 27. Most notably for restaurant owners, the guidelines do not allow more than 10 patrons per 500 square feet in dining rooms. After Pernice closed his restaurants on March 17, leaving just one of his restaurant kitchens open for delivery, he sat down to crunch some numbers.

Even with the lights and the walk-in refrigerators turned off, running a restaurant remains an expensive endeavor. Pernice decided to continue paying for services, like pest control, that couldn’t just be ignored, as well as major costs like rent and outstanding vendor invoices. To break even and cover expenses at Table and Main, Osteria Mattone, and Coalition — his three restaurants — would cost $4,128 a day. Though he’ll take the measurements and rearrange the tables to see if reopening is feasible, Pernice can’t imagine hitting that number with only half of the seats in his restaurants occupied. “Not having run the numbers, I seriously doubt that in Table and Main, a tiny restaurant of 1,800 square feet, that I could make more doing sit-down dining than I can right now through our takeout … I think there’s very little to be gained by being the first to this party, in terms of opening the dining room again.”

In other words, under these new rules, a large percentage of the remaining restaurants will be unable to make a profit and die.

The lock downs are expected to bankrupt 20% of all restaurants, putting more than 8 million people out of work. These new rules will probably destroy, at a minimum, another 40%, mostly the smaller, independently owned businesses.

And the rules are absurd, on their face. They will not stop the spread of COVID-19, in the slightest. All they will do is destroy the lives of the people who own the restaurants.

US 1st quarter GDP crashes

Are you enraged yet? Due to the government-imposed shutdowns due to the Wuhan panic, the gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020, the most since 2008.

Consumer expenditures, which comprise 67% of total GDP, plunged 7.6% in the quarter as all nonessential stores were closed and the cornerstone of the U.S. economy was taken almost completely out of commission. Durable goods spending tumbled 16.1% while expenditures on services were down 10.2%.

Exports dropped 8.7% while imports fell 15.3%, including a 30% drop in services.

The count of all goods and services produced in the U.S. shows that even though the first quarter saw only two weeks of shutdown, the impact was pronounced and set the stage for a second-quarter picture will be the worst in the post-World War II era.

As the article notes, we ain’t seen nothing yet. And it will only get even worse should our all-wise supreme leaders continue to stretch out this shut down, initially imposed under the big lie that it was merely intended to “flatten the curve” during the epidemic’s onset so that the healthcare system would not be overwhelmed.

It was not overwhelmed. In fact, it never would have been overwhelmed. As I said, it was a big lie.

Now the big lie is that these fascist government lock downs must be maintained in order to prevent the spread of the disease, a goal that is infinitely impossible but if accepted by the public will allow these petty dictators to keep their jackboots on our necks for the rest of time.

Arizona Governor Ducey to delay end of lockdown?

According to this article, Republican governor Doug Ducey is delaying any action relating to ending his “shelter-in-place” order that is bankrupting one quarter of Arizona’s industries and putting that many people out of work.

The reason? He apparently has a financial interest in keeping the emergency going for as long as possible.

Insiders tell NATIONAL FILE that Ducey might not be a trustworthy leader in the cause of re-opening the state economy. Ducey is delaying setting a firm date on re-opening the state, citing safety concerns while testing is underway. Ducey presides over legislature-approved state emergency spending and also a portion of his state’s $1.5 billion from the federal government.

Ducey also…

…sits on the Board of Governors for an institute that is accepting state health department funding to conduct Coronavirus testing in the state of Arizona. That institute happens to be an affiliate of a nonprofit that is working to develop a Coronavirus vaccine that is not expected to begin clinical trials until late 2020.

In other words, as long as the emergency lockdown is maintained, Ducey is in a position to funnel money to this institute that he also is on the Board of Governors.

This is unconscionable, especially because the shut down is bankrupting private businesses across the state. Worse, it is par for the course.

When I called the local Republican office here in Tucson, they told me that Ducey is working closely with Senator Martha McSally (R-Arizona), which might also explain his position. One of the reasons McSally lost to Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema in 2018 is because the two are both pretty liberal. For conservatives there really wasn’t any point in voting for McSally, so many stayed home. This is also why she is presently trailing in polls to Mark Kelly, her Democratic opponent for the 2020 election. McSally doesn’t offer an alternative to the big government, Washington swamp politics that now dominate. She is part of it, as is Kelly and Sinema.

As apparently is Ducey as well. I have made several calls to his office, expressing my outrage over the shut down, all to no avail. They say they will call back, but never do.

And our political class wonders why they got Trump. This is why, and if they don’t change their behavior we will get more, and it will be far worse than Trump ever was.

Researchers: Miami COVID-19 infections could be 20x higher than estimated

Researchers at the University of Miami now estimate that the number of COVID-19 infections in Miami-Dade County could be twenty times higher than presently estimated, thus driving down the disease’s fatality rate to no different than the flu.

Scientists from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the university’s Miller School of Medicine revealed in a virtual meeting on Friday that a county-wide COVID-19 survey, which followed 1,400 participants over a two-week period, indicated that at least 4.4 percent, and as much as 7.9 percent of the county, could have already contracted the coronavirus.

That is a substantially larger number than the official data set logged by the state of Florida, which on Saturday afternoon had recorded just over 11,000 infections in Miami-Dade County, far and away the most out of any county in the state. Miami-Dade is the most populous county in Florida, with over 2.6 million residents.

The new numbers would also significantly drive down the county’s COVID-19 fatality rate, which with 295 deaths officially stands at around two percent. At the upper bound of the researchers’ new estimates, the death rate would fall to around 0.1 percent, roughly in line with that of the seasonal flu. [emphasis mine]

In other words, what was clearly obvious more than a month ago, the entire Wuhan flu panic was entirely unnecessary. And even if coronavirus returns next year, it still appears it will be comparable to the flu in its impact.

We have never bankrupted our society and nullified the Bill of Rights for past flu seasons, some of which were far worse than this year’s COVID-19 season. But then, we have never had such a bankrupt, idiotic, and brainless intellectual and political class as we do now. The left is driven by hate, hate of whites, hate of America, hate of Trump, while the right is driven by fear, fear of minorities, fear of the press, fear of themselves. None of them have the courage to be intellectually honest, to follow the facts where they go, and to determine their actions based on reality, not emotion, fear, hate, and passion.

Thus, welcome to the Great Wuhan Depression, brought to you by our elected leaders. I hope you have some financial cushion to weather the storm. And whether you do or not, is it not time to fire them all?

Another 4.4 million are out of work this week

Are you enraged yet? Another 4.4 million applied for unemployment benefits this week, bringing the total of new unemployed since the Wuhan flu panic began in March to about 26 million, and raising the unemployment rate to about 16%.

Meanwhile, evidence continues to mount that the Wuhan flu is probably no more dangerous that the flu, thus making this entire government-imposed shutdown and resulting Great Wuhan Depression entirely uncalled for.

Worse, that any governor in any state is still refusing to end their lock downs at this point tells us that they goal was never to fight the epidemic, but to acquire unjustified power to rule us like dictators. If the voters don’t fire these people wholesale come November than the voters deserve the hell they are about to get.

The real devastation from COVID-19: A destroyed economy imposed by government panic

While many state governors across the United States dawdle and hesitate about lifting their panic-induced lock downs on their states out of fear it might cause a few more Wuhan virus deaths, the real devastation from their panic is propagating uncontrolled across the landscape, and will in the end kill far far more people.

Their actions have caused the entire economy to collapse, destroyed entire industrial sectors, prevented untold numbers from getting the proper healthcare when needed, and put millions of people out of work. In the end, this government-imposed depression will do far more harm that the Wuhan flu ever could, and do it for a much longer time spell.

Don’t believe me? Well let me count the ways, citing the numerous stories I have posted here on Behind the Black in only the past week.
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8 million restaurant workers unemployed due to government-imposed shutdowns

The beatings will continue until morale improves: Eight million restaurant workers out of work due to due to Wuhan panic and government-imposed shut downs.

In addition, the restaurant industry is predicting $240 billion (with a “b”) in losses by the end of the year. Moreover,

…roughly 3% of the restaurants in the US — or 30,000 restaurants — have already shuttered. In the early April survey, an additional 5% of operators said they anticipated closing in the next 30 days, meaning that more than 50,000 restaurants could shut down permanently.

In early April, UBS said that up to one in five restaurants in the US could close due to the coronavirus pandemic. Experts say that independent restaurants are particularly at risk, with many small businesses struggling to access PPP loans.

In my own neighborhood, I have already seen one restaurant go out of business, and another apparently destroyed just as it was about to open. Through the winter a new Indian restaurant was being built nearby, with signs saying it would soon open. Unfortunately the house arrest imposed by our fearless leader Governor Doug Ducey prevented them from opening as planned. Though the restaurant had signs up offering take-out this week, when Diane tried to pick up a menu so we could give them some business. the place was shut. I suspect they are out of business, a dream destroyed before it could even be born.

But hey, we can’t risk having anyone die from COVID-19, no matter how many other lives we destroy.

Are you enraged yet?

Clean energy industry faces loss of a half million jobs

The beatings will continue until morale improves: The clean energy sector faces the loss of a half million jobs due to Wuhan panic and government-imposed shut downs.

The coronavirus crisis is cutting a savage swath through the U.S. clean energy industry – some 106,000 jobs in the sector vanished in the month of March alone as demand evaporated amid nationwide stay-at-home orders Moreover, that one-month job loss was greater than what the industry gained in jobs in all of 2019.

By June of this year, the clean energy sector may lose up to 500,000 jobs – or 15% of the country’s entire clean energy workforce — according to a study by clean energy advocacy group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), in cooperation with the American Council on Renewable Energy, E4TheFuture and BW Research Partnership.

Let me repeat: More jobs vanished in just March than were created in all of last year.

If the states don’t start reopening soon, this will just be the beginning.

100K airline jobs facing elimination due to Wuhan panic shut downs

The beatings will continue until morale improves: Because of the panic over the Wuhan flu, the airlines are contemplating eliminating more than hundred thousand jobs as well as shrinking their fleets.

Unable to cut jobs or salaries while receiving grants to cover payroll, airlines will staff their typical summer peak largely as usual, even with millions of fewer travelers. But come fall, it could get ugly for employees. “We’re going to be smaller coming out of this,” Delta Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson told employees last month. “Certainly quite a bit smaller than when we went into it.”

The reversal of fortune comes as a shock for an industry that just last year was breaking passenger traffic records. Last week, the average number of U.S. daily passengers declined 96%, to 95,531, compared with 2.39 million last year, according to Transportation Security Administration data compiled by Bloomberg. United shares fell Monday after it gave a snapshot of the industry bloodbath triggered by the pandemic, projecting a $2.1 billion loss in the first quarter. Delta, American and Southwest Airlines Co. will release their earnings in the coming days.

Such anemic demand means that anything less than a robust rebound over the coming months will prompt airlines to cut more employees, jettison older aircraft and cut more salaries, which in turn could persuade more workers to depart. During the past two months, at least 87,000 employees—more than one quarter of the Big Three airlines’ workforce—have taken voluntary leaves, early retirement or reduced work hours.

Carriers face “the worst cash crisis in the history of flight,” with booked revenues down 103% year over year, according to industry lobby Airlines for America. Domestic flights are averaging just 10 passengers while international flights average 24, the group said. “We could see the airlines look to shed 800 to 1,000 aircraft, which could result in a reduction of 95,000 to 105,000 airline jobs.”

In this case, the government shut downs only have had an indirect effect. By panicking and overstating the threat from COVID-19, the authorities and the press have made people terrified of flying. Even if the shutdowns end, the airlines will not recover until the public decides it is safe to fly again.

Rural hospitals in eastern Washington state face bankruptcy

The beatings will continue until morale improves: Because the state government’s panicked reaction to the Wuhan virus resulting in a banning of almost all procedures, rural hospitals in eastern Washington state now face financial collapse, bankruptcy, and possible closure.

With the state’s support, federal aid and advanced Medicare loans, the critical access hospital will be able to stay afloat – for now. But the financial impact of COVID-19 on Washington state’s rural hospitals cannot be understated. “This is unprecedented. There’s no way you could be financially prepared for this,” Jacqueline Barton True, vice president of rural health programs at the Washington State Hospital Association, said. “This sort of financial devastation is not something that we could have prepared for, and I have a lot of concerns about what happens if help doesn’t come soon enough.”

Some rural hospitals have received their first installment of funds from the federal CARES Act. Those payments are about $400,000 to $600,000 on average for smaller hospitals, according to WSHA.

Despite having a robust way for most rural hospitals to access community taxpayer support through the public hospital district model, rural hospitals in Eastern Washington are losing money on a daily basis as they balance pandemic preparations with canceled elective surgeries, primary care or patient therapy.

The article is long, outlining in frightening detail the impending collapse of the entire rural hospital network. The bottom line however remains the same: The state government arbitrarily decided that most medical procedures were “non-essential” and banned them so that the hospital would not be overwhelmed by Wuhan flu patients.

Those patients have never arrived in the feared numbers however. Instead we are looking at a normal flu season, when you combine coronavirus with flu cases. Lacking the revenue stream from all other cases, the hospitals are losing money and face bankruptcy.

Price of oil crashes, goes negative

The beatings will continue until morale improves: Due to the crash in demand due to the government-imposed Wuhan panic shutdowns, oil producers, who can’t turn off their oil wells, have run out of storage space and are now forced to pay others to take the oil off their hands, thus sending the price of oil into negative numbers.

Physical demand for crude has dried up, creating a global supply glut as billions of people stay home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery fell more than 100% to settle at negative $37.63 per barrel.

Meanwhile, international benchmark, Brent crude, which has already rolled to the June contract, traded 8.9% lower at $25.58 per barrel.

While this crash is indicative of the entire crash of the economy, in the near long term it might be a good thing. If the government ever decides to release us from house arrest and people decide it is time to go back to normal, the low price of oil will help stricken businesses get back on their feet.

Then again, there is a very big “if” in that last sentence. I see no indication that our fascist state governors, especially in states run by Democrat governors, have the slightest interest in ending the shut downs. They like the almost absolute power it has given them over everyone, and that absolute power is corrupting them quite effectively. They might be making noises about “easing” the restrictions, but that is only political dishonesty. The bottom line will remain: They are now in control of everything everyone does, and have the right to give or take, as they please, whenever they please.

Social distancing and lockdowns killing craft beer industry

The beating will continue until morale improves: The new normal of “social distancing”, combined with the government-imposed lock downs, threatens to bankrupt the craft beer industry nationwide.

As much as 15% of craft breweries expect to close by the end of the month if social distancing remains in place, according to a national survey from the Boulder-based Brewers Association, and more than 60% don’t expect to survive beyond June.

If applied to Colorado — which now counts about 420 breweries — the projections suggest 250 would close by summer. That would represent a huge dent for an industry woven into the state’s identity and one that contributes more than $3 billion a year to the state’s economy.

Our society, our culture, our economy, and even the human race itself cannot survive if we accept the premise that no one can ever be closer than six feet to another. It isn’t practical, and it certainly isn’t sane.

More economic disasters due to government imposed shut downs

The beatings will continue until morale improves: Below are some stories I found today describing the on-going the collapse of the economy due to the nationwide lock downs imposed by state and local governments because of their panic over the Wuhan flu.

Note how the first two stories are about the sufferings of state employees, whether in government or academia. Note too how these stories only mention as an aside the collapse of the real economy. Who cares if millions of private businesses are going under? What’s really important is that we won’t be able to grab their profits and the government will have to shrink! Horrors!

Only the last two stories are about the real crash, with only the last, buried among many other stories on RealClearPolitics, telling the true tale:

The Commerce Department said on Thursday business applications dropped 21.4% in the week ending April 11, compared with the same period last year.

…The slump in business applications comes as states and local governments have issued “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders affecting more than 90% of Americans to control the spread of COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory illness caused by the virus, and abruptly halting economic activity.

At least 22 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the last four weeks. Retail sales suffered a record drop in March and output at factories declined by the most since 1946. Homebuilding crumbled in March at a speed not seen in 36 years. Economists believe the economy contracted at its steepest pace since World War Two in the first quarter. [emphasis mine]

A 21% drop in new businesses tells us that the economy will not recover from this madness very quickly. Money is drying up, the banks are under a strain, and the economy is shrinking like a burst balloon.

The middle paragraph in the quote above is intended to justify this crash and government abuse of power by the use of the word “lethal,” thus playing up danger of the Wuhan flu, even though the evidence still shows it to be, like the flu, only a threat to the old and the sick. Like the flu, most everyone else simply fights it off with no long term consequences.

Overall U.S. death rate is at a multi-year LOW

Despite the panic over the Wuhan virus, it now appears that the overall U.S. death rate this winter season is at a multi-year low, no worse than 2014, 2016, and 2019, and far better than 2015, 2017, and 2018 (when we were hit with one of the worst flu seasons in years).

The article at the link for one example cites the totals for the first week in April:

On April 5th, the U.S. saw 1,344 COVID-19 deaths, as the number of cases in the U.S. accelerated. The overall number of deaths in the U.S., or the crude death rate did not show a correlated rise.

At the very least, this data shows we need to analyze COVID-19 deaths in the context of the broader U.S. mortality rate from all causes. It appears normal deaths are being attributed to COVID-19 if the patient is COVID-19+, even if another underlying chronic cause is responsible.

It then includes a graph showing the total deaths since 2014, plotted weekly. This year is remarkably ho-hum. The last two years were far worse. Go to the link and look at the graph for yourself if you have doubts.

Nor should anyone have ever been surprised by these numbers, even three months ago. All the evidence on the ground about COVID-19, once it had escaped from China and reliable data could begin to be gathered, suggested strongly that its general attack on humans was similar to the flu. Younger people were hardly bothered by it. Instead, it killed the old and sick. Since those people can’t die twice, it is manifestly obvious that we should have expected the overall numbers to not go up much.

Which is exactly what has happened.

Moreover, the panic over the Wuhan flu caused people to social distance themselves, which certainly acted to cause a drop in all infectious diseases. This might explain this year’s lower numbers, but it must also be noted that the drop in 2020 is not really that significant, illustrating again the pointlessness of all these preventative measures. You really can’t run from infectious diseases. They are going to spread through the population regardless. Only if it appears the disease is attacking the young should extreme measures be taken.

To put it bluntly, our elected leaders in Washington and in statehouses across the country, working in tandem with the incompetent (but well-paid) bureaucrats in Washington and with a overly emotional and partisan press willing to say any lie in order to attack Donald Trump, have caused what might turn out to be another great depression, for absolutely no reason at all.

In the process they have also acted to nullify the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, working as hard as they could to destroy the freest nation in the history of the world, and the most successful because of that freedom.

Are you enraged yet? And are you going to do something about it in November?

Economic index experienced biggest crash ever due to Wuhan panic

The beatings will continue until morale improves: The index of leading economic indicators experienced the biggest crash in March in its sixty year history, all due to the shutdowns imposed by the government in panic over the Wuhan flu.

The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators (LEI) tumbled 6.7% last month, the largest decrease in the series’ 60-year history. Data for February was revised down to show the index falling 0.2% instead of gaining 0.1% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index dropping 7.0% in March.

“The sharp drop in the LEI reflects the sudden halting in business activity as a result of the global pandemic and suggests the U.S. economy will be facing a very deep contraction,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at The Conference Board in Washington.

I continue to find it strange that these stories about the crashing economy are being reported in very few places. This is real news, effecting millions, unlike COVID-19.

Clothing and cotton sales plummet 50% due to Wuhan panic

The beatings will continue until morale improves: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the clothing and cotton industry has seen a 50% plunge in sales in the past month due to Wuhan panic.

The result?

As countries worldwide take measures to slow the spread of coronavirus by quarantining people and closing nonessential businesses, sales of cotton — and the clothing and textiles made from it — have declined sharply.

Demand for cotton is so low that even though prices hit their lowest levels in more than a decade, retailers and manufacturing facilities around the world are cancelling orders. “Every stage of the supply chain is getting hit,” said Jon Devine, senior economist for Cotton Incorporated, a nonprofit industry organization based in North Carolina. “Retailers are suffering,” he said. “In between, you’ve got all the manufacturers that are trying to get their orders cancelled. And then you get all the way back to the field. Farmers are entering their planting time. They have some difficult decisions to make.”

In other words, even if we get the country reopened in May (something that right now looks unlikely because of the desire of politicians to crush the economy and cancel the Bill of Rights in order to hurt Trump), this crash now is going to spiral into next year.

I should note that the stories on the crashing economy that I am posting are very easy to find. More to come. Sadly, I have had to widen my searches to more business related sources to find them. In more sane times, a business crash like this would be front page news on every news outlet in the country. Not now. We have gone insane.

Economy crashes in March due to Wuhan lockdowns

Never let a crisis go to waste: Retail sales in March dropped a record 8.7%, almost entirely due to the nationwide lock downs and business closures imposed by the government on what government officials have arbitrarily determined are “nonessential” businesses.

The Census Bureau said though “many businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely,” it had “determined estimates in this release meet publication standards.”

Last month’s decrease in retail sales reflected depressed receipts at car dealerships, with light vehicle sales crashing in March. With millions at home and crude oil prices collapsing amid worries of a deep global recession, gasoline prices have dropped, which weighed on sales at service stations in March.

In addition, the closure of non-essential retailers knocked sales at clothing, sporting goods and furniture stores.

There were also steep declines in receipts at restaurants and bars, which stopped in-person service and moved to take-out and delivery service. Though some businesses, including restaurants, have shifted to online sales, the volumes were insufficient to close the gap from social distancing measures. [emphasis mine]

I wonder if the families that run these “non-essential retailers” consider their livelihoods to be “non-essential.” Somehow I don’t think so.

The ships of Hanjin six months after it went bankrupt

Real news: Six months ago the shipping company Hanjin went bankrupt, stranding its 96 container ships worldwide. This article takes a detailed look not only on what happened to those ships since, but also at the state of the entire shipping industry.

There was a time when Hanjin’s collapse in August and this follow-up story would have been major news stories, covered by all the leading mainstream press outlets. No more. Even though it indicates significant financial and economic trends that should concern anyone who is serious about being an educated citizen, the press doesn’t cover it, and the public today really doesn’t care.

Just another indicator that a new dark age is looming.

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.

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