Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Daily Twain

Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Daily Twain

I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fears behind Government healthcare

Obama hits 'fear-mongering' on health care changes

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I must say, the President is throwing every ounce of political capital that he has at trying to sell his healthcare plan to the AMA and the American people. The truth is that more than likely he will not get what he wants(in the end, a single payer system) because he will not make the necessary political concessions to do it.

One such "scare tactic" the president cited Monday was an assertion that he favors socialized medicine. Obama again denied that, although he did say he thought that a "public option" should be available as a choice for those who currently have no insurance coverage. Obama said "we know the moment is right," citing the passage of legislation giving the government unprecedented control of the marketing and sale of cigarettes.

What is laughable is that the "public option" is essentially a collective, or in a more direct manner socialized medicine. What the President is calculating is that he will be able to charm the disparate sides; labor, doctors, insurance companies and the public and will be able to get his plan passed. This is hubris at the highest level. The good news for those of us who would like to see healthcare reformed without the intorduction of full blown socialized care is that the President is such an idealogue that he will refuse to push back against his base. Tort reform, not going to be touched he can say goodbye to the AMA. Pretax health benefits, goodbye union support. Rationing of care, goodbye middle class. We need to begin to chip away at his periphral support and I beleive that the best way to start is to push him on tort reform. We shall see

SANFORD / ATLAS: Alternatives to government health takeover - Washington Times

SANFORD / ATLAS: Alternatives to government health takeover - Washington Times

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Mark Sanford, the current governor of that rakish southern state of South Carolina, has proposed a free-market solution to the health care crisis that the country currently faces. What I believe we are seeing is the tables aligning for his run for President in 2012. This is the blueprint that conservatives and Libertarians should be following in the battle against Leviathan.

• We believe there's benefit to decoupling employment from health insurance coverage by ridding the system of tax preferences for health care. This single change would reduce health expenditures hundreds of billions of dollars while easing the burden of health costs on businesses. A great unspoken truth is that health benefits from employers come at the expense of employees' take-home pay. Raising lost wages would be the first of many benefits to American workers and their families from delinking health insurance and employment.

• We think it's critical that power shifts to the American consumer and away from government, employers and insurers, as evidence shows medical care prices come down when patients pay directly. Government should offer tax relief, such as refundable tax credits, to encourage private health insurance purchasing - especially for low-income families. Similar ideas, like those in the Patients' Choice Act recently put forth by Republican members of Congress, are important for Americans to consider. We would do well also to consider creative ideas such as changing federal payments to state-based medicaid plans to individual vouchers or expanding health savings accounts, as has been done in South Carolina.

• Government can lower the price of health insurance and increase choice for Americans shopping for their own coverage by breaking down arbitrary barriers such as state lines and reducing costly and unnecessary coverage mandates. For instance, a national market for car or life insurance means South Carolinians can buy an Ohio policy or New Yorkers one from California. It makes similar sense to allow people to buy a health insurance plan, no matter from what state, that best fits their family and their values.

• We believe it's imperative that we fix our medical liability system. By some estimates, abuse of our legal system costs our health system $80 billion annually. Key tort reforms, including reasonable caps on noneconomic damages; freedom to use dispute resolution outside of our courts; and requiring adherence to medical guidelines as a standard for liability in malpractice trials would be a good start.

• Finally, an estimated 80 percent of all the health care innovation in the world springs from American individuals, companies and universities. It is vital that government support an atmosphere that enhances such innovation and discovery rather than restrict it by overregulation. Specifically, the federal government should promote state-based experiments in health care delivery and technology in Medicaid and Medicare pilot programs (in preventive care and home-based nursing, to name two) and also facilitate and aggressively fund scientific research and innovation in both private and public sectors on advances in diagnosis and treatment as well as in disease prevention.

Good Stuff.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New GM Head Honcho: "I don't know anything about cars"

From Bloomberg:

“I don’t know anything about cars,” Whitacre, 67, said yesterday in an interview after his appointment. “A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same.”

In other news the President admitted that he doesn't know shit about governing.

Kudlow is THE MAN

From NRO:

Right now, with oil trading through $71 a barrel, Treasury bonds closing in on 4 percent, and commodity indexes up 25 percent year-to-date, inflation fears are circulating through the markets.

There’s a way to nip this in the bud: First, the Treasury and Fed should work together to protect the value of the dollar. Here’s how they do it. At the Fed’s June meeting in two weeks, Ben Bernanke should put in the FOMC minutes a clear reference to an exit strategy that will curb the massive money creation that Art Laffer wrote about in today’s Wall Street Journal. Next, at its September meeting, the Fed should raise its target rate — which is now 0.0 to 0.25 percent — pulling it up to 25 basis points, the upper end of the current range. That’s a small, even tiny, move that would represent about a 12 basis-point hike. But the move would at least send a signal that the Fed has an exit strategy from excess money that it intends to implement. Just that tiny move would go a long way towards protecting the dollar and knocking down inflation fears.

Its good to see that he is on the same page with me.

File this under " No Shit item of the Day."

Get Ready for Inflation and Higher Interest Rates:

Normally I would quote liberally from Dr. Laffer's editorial as he is one of my favorite economists. However, what i want to discuss this morning is the inflation that we are currently seeing, especially with gas prices. Milton Friedman referred to inflation as "two many dollars chasing too few goods." I believe that we are seeing that in the rising oil prices.

As we can see from the chart above, the money supply has advanced at the fastest rate in the last fifty years. This was necessary according to Friedman. The money quote is at 1:38.

With the precipitous drop in housing prices being the central trigger in a deflationary spiral, Chairman Bernanke followed Friedman's advice and flooded the financial system with capital to maintain some level of price stability. This was a necessary step in halting a crisis that did have the possibility of throwing us into a Depression. However, what we are seeing now, with the Federal Reserve's monetizing of Treasury debt is something I believe will lead to a fairly ruinous situation.

In regards to oil prices, Since September, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have pledged cuts totaling 4.2 million barrels a day, or nearly 12 percent of their capacity, a record in such a short time.

According to our own Energy Information Administration,

Oil prices rose for the third consecutive month in May, driven in part by expectations of a global economic recovery and future increases in oil consumption. In addition, a weaker dollar and increasing financial market activity are prompting higher prices for commodities, overshadowing weak oil supply and demand fundamentals. The weaker dollar may indicate that economic activity abroad, especially in Asia, is stronger than currently estimated, which would provide an upside risk to the oil price forecast. Downside risks, such as continuing weak demand as indicated by sluggish first quarter 2009 oil consumption data, high inventories, and increased surplus production capacity levels within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could moderate the upward price pressure, especially if the global economic recovery is delayed and/or weaker than expected.

Interesting, why would we have a weak dollar. Possibly because
we have increased the monetary base over %100. Too many dollars chasing too few goods. It would seem to me that we have a large problem on our hands that we should get a handle on as soon as possible. An inflationary spike in commodity prices, oil specifically will ground to a halt a real recovery in the economy. It is time to stop the printing presses and suck some of that cash out of the system, it will be painful but a "real" recovery will not happen if we don't. To put a finer point on it , The Federal Reserve is caught between a rock and a hard place. To satisfy the demands of the White House, they need to keep the presses moving and printing dollars to fund the spending spree that the current administration is going on. The Chairman is in a tight spot, as this excellent piece from the American covers:

One has to pity Ben Bernanke as he tries to attain the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of promoting economic growth while maintaining price stability. For the currency and bond markets are increasingly focusing on the long-run inflationary impact of the Obama administration’s budget, which according to the Congressional Budget Office will double the U.S. public debt-to-GDP ratio from 41 percent in 2008 to 82 percent by 2019. And the markets are also focusing on the Federal Reserve’s newly announced policy of “quantitative easing,” which they fear could be tantamount to monetizing the administration’s ballooning deficit.

Rising oil prices will severely affect economic growth and skew the budget deficit to an even higher percentage of GDP as tax receipts fall. Rough seas ahead my friends.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Miracles Happen Everyday

Here is a heartening piece from the WSJ:

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday that 10 of the nation's largest banks have met the necessary requirements to repay funds they received from the government's financial-rescue fund, making way for $68 billion to possibly be returned to Treasury.

"These repayments are an encouraging sign of financial repair, but we still have work to do," said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a statement.

We don't need a pay Czar now, right Timmy?

The 10 banks are: J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, BB&T, U.S. Bancorp, American Express Co., Capital One Financial Corp. Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Northern Trust Corp. and State Street Corp.

I will be opening accounts with these banks today with my eight dollar tax cut. I might also by some G.M stock through Morgan Stanley as my brokerage firm. If my math is right I could afford 850,000 shares of "Government Motors."

This is my favorite blurb from the article:

Morgan Stanley said Tuesday that it is "pleased to be repaying its $10 billion in TARP Capital with an attractive return for taxpayers." J.P. Morgan Chase said Tuesday it plans to repay its $25 billion in TARP funds. Translated into non BS talk

Morgan Stanley said Tuesday that it is pleased " to be running as far as possible away from creepy Tim Geithner, the new PAY CZAR, and Joe Biden's douchebaggedness."

This should be a good thing, that we now have banks that are feeling comfortable enough with their capital situation and are able to raise private capital. It amazes me that private investors are willing to invest in these banks when they know that Chrysler and GM investors were bent over the barrel. But I digress. The street should be doing a dance today, no more government control, no pay czar, finally bankers can go back to Spago.

But then again will the FEDS let go and return TARP to the dungeon it belongs in along with wage and price controls:

In Tuesday's announcement, the Treasury said much of the money would be returned to its general fund and would "help to reduce Treasury's borrowing and national debt." Mr. Geithner has described plans to reuse TARP funds that come back into the fund, recently announcing that he'd open up the funds to smaller banks.

The announcements comes as large banks have eagerly declared intentions to repay government aid given the restrictions on dividends and executive pay that go along with TARP. Meanwhile, the public and Congress have shown greater signs of bailout fatigue, leaving firms uncertain about what new restrictions they'd have to face for tapping into the financial-rescue fund.

I don't like the " plans to reuse TARP funds that come back to the fund, recently announcing that he'd open up the funds to smaller banks." Me no likey. How about we suck that money out of circulation, or use it for small business tax relief. While things could be much, much worse I tend to fall under the skeptical heading. If this method, propping up zombie banks, or keeping that money available for the next failing institution, which will happen, how are these banks any more free to engage in non coercive market activity. We don't know all of the specifics yet but I think that the Presidents remarks are prescient.

"I've said repeatedly that I have no interest in managing these banks -- or running auto companies or other private institutions, for that matter," Mr. Mr. Obama said. "But I also want to say: the return of these funds does not provide forgiveness for past excesses or permission for future misdeeds. It is critical that as our country emerges from this period of crisis, that we learn its lessons; that those who seek reward do not take reckless risk; that short-term gains are not pursued without regard for long-term consequences."

TARP is not gone, it is only sleeping.

You can't make this shit up... but the President can.

White House Cites Progress on Economy Under Plan

WASHINGTON — The rising unemployment rate is giving President Obama’s critics an opportunity to raise questions about the effectiveness of his recovery plan and his economic leadership. The huge budget deficit is focusing fresh concern on the national debt.

So Mr. Obama began a new effort on Monday to show that his stimulus plan was yielding concrete benefits, saying that his administration expects to save or create 600,000 more jobs this summer, as the federal government spends billions to expand care at health centers, spruce up national parks, hire teachers and improve military facilities.

At a meeting with Mr. Obama and the cabinet, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. outlined 10 major initiatives that he said would “build momentum and accelerate job growth” over the next 100 days. After Mr. Biden ticked off a list of programs — including water and waste projects in rural America and rehabilitation of 98 airports and 1,500 highways — the president took aim at his critics.

“Now I know that there are some who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still don’t believe in the necessity and promise of the recovery act,” Mr. Obama said, “and I would suggest to them that they talk to the companies who, because of this plan, scrapped the idea of laying off employees and in fact decided to hire employees. Tell that to the Americans who receive that unexpected call saying, ‘Come back to work.’ “

How stupid does the administration believe that the American people are; seriously?

Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny's

Its not like they haven't tried. Hell, I could save or create a job this weekend by hiring a babysitter and getting my snotty nosed neighbor's son to mow my lawn, but isn't that just a "McJob" I'm not going to promote my babysitter or lawn care specialist to prune my petunias, that is done by Korean man-servant Kato, no pay. Where are these jobs that have been saved? How about these jobs? I remember, this recovery plan was going to save those jobs at the Caterpillar plant right?

I wish that I could pull this off. I'm going to let my professors know that I am going to save or create my dissertation in the next several weeks by investing my time in playing Call of Duty 4. Of course the White House press corps is eating this up. Bill McGurn hit the nail on the head in the WSJ today.

The Obama numbers are pure fiction.

Told you so...

China airs fears on U.S. Debt
Senior Chinese leaders have privately voiced fear over the soaring US budget deficit and are increasingly looking to diversify from the dollar, a Republican congressman said.

"We heard across the board -- in private -- substantial, continuing and rising concern," Representative Mark Kirk said after a trip to China that included talks with government officials and central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan.

This is what happens when you borrow more than you can afford. We have taken out a giant subprime mortgage and it appears that the bank is already contemplating cutting off our equity. Like it or not, China is a larger holder of Treasury debt and is our largest trading partner. We don't want to make them think we are going to inflate our way out of this problem.(Although that is what will happen whether or not the FED does it on purpose.)

Kirk's assessment differed with that of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said last week on a separate visit that Chinese leaders had expressed "justifiable confidence" on the future of the recession-hit US economy.

Kirk traveled with Representative Rick Larsen, a member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, who also painted a less gloomy picture of Chinese officials' views.

China is the largest creditor to the United States with some 700 billion dollars invested in Treasury bonds. Zhou earlier this year floated the idea of replacing the dollar with a basket of currencies as the benchmark global unit.

Instead of a basket of currencies how about we make the global benchmark Kathie Lee Gifford blouses and copies of Mao's Little Red Book. What we always say, at least me to my friends, is that the Chinese would never call in the debt that we owe them as it would kill their economy which is heavily reliant on exports of cheap plastic shit to sell at Wal-Mart. What we have seen in the past several years since Bush starting running up his deficits is a rise in the Chinese Middle Class, as well as a global middle class which will be competing for ever more scarce resources. Per the Wharton School of business.

China is expected to become the world's third-largest consumer market by 2025 as an expected transition from an investment-led economy to a more consumer-focused model brings about continued growth. The McKinsey Global Institute projects China's middle class will increase from 43% of the population today to 76% by 2025. "The shift from investment to increasing consumption overall -- and as a share of GDP -- is very important to sustainable growth in the long-term. China has maxed out on the input model," says Diana Farrell, the Institute's director. India has been more open to consumption, but like China it has a very high savings rate that Farrell says should be converted to consumer spending to strengthen the overall economy.

So, let's look at this. We have a huge consumer base which has been saving money and being dutiful in a way that the American consumer has forgotten. The global currency which will be in vogue, so long as we don't cave on some kind of supra currency, is the dollar. What is the one thing that runaway inflation kills more than anything else... savings my friends. My hypothesis is that the Chinese will continue purchasing T-Bills, but they are going to want a higher RoR. This will push interest rates up for the average consumer.

Of course, this is just a guess, but then again we never thought that the ChiComs would prattle on about wanting to diversify their portfolio. Time to bring back King Dollar. What I believe that Ben Bernanke will begin to do after the repayment of some of the TARP monies to the FED is gradually raise the FED interbank rates, we need to begin to suck up some of the excess capital that is floating around and get it into circulation. Hopefully, this will satisfy the Chinese as well as bring a little order back to incentives to save money. Investment will come later.