Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Obama's Disingenuous 10 Million Job Creation Claim

At a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event last week, Barack Obama took credit for creating 10 million new jobs in the last 54 months.  Of course, what he didn't tell this African-American group is that blacks got very few of those 10 million jobs.  That's because, in 2009, when he took office, black unemployment was 12.6%.  Today, it has only mildly decreased to  11.4%; or, only a 9.5% improvement. On the other hand, white unemployment now stands at 5.3% after having been at 6.9% when Obama took office; a 23% reduction in that unemployment rate.

Nor, did he mention that before creating 10 million jobs, 4.3 million where lost.  Something that was never supposed to happen with the passage of his near trillion dollar stimulus package.  Nor, did he own up to the fact that in most of those 54 months, there was only job creation because workers stopped looking for work.  For example, last month saw a job growth of 142,000.  At the same time,  268,000 able-bodied workers just gave up looking.  If those 268,000 workers, when polled, had said they were still looking for work, they would had been counted as part of the workforce and, as a result,  there would have been a reported loss of 126,000 jobs instead of the reported gain.  Today, the real unemployment rate, when adding in those workers who have given up, is 12%.  That means that there are 9.3 million workers who are sitting home when they could actually be working.  A number almost equal to the number of jobs that Obama claims to have created.

Lastly, half of all the jobs created by the President have been low paying.  That's why median incomes continue to be lower than they were when he took office:
References:

Obama proudly announces 10m jobs created since he was elected - but he forgot to mention the 4.3m lost along the way: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2772360/Obama-proudly-announces-10m-jobs-created-elected-forgot-mention-4-3m-lost-way.html

Employment Report January 2009: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/empsit_02062009.htm

August 2014 Employment Report: Table A-2. Employment status of the civilian population by race, sex, and age: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t02.htm

Alternative Measures of Unemployment: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

 Half Of All Jobs Created In The Past 3 Years Were Low-Paying: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/13/low-paying-jobs_n_3266737.html

Real Median Household Incomes: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-sKzbjhbqoiM/VBhGdlZgLyI/AAAAAAAAglE/1296S9HIAwI/s1600/RealHousehold2013.PNG

Source of Graph: Census: Poverty Rate declined in 2013, Real Median Income increased slightly: http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2014/09/census-poverty-rate-declined-in-2013.html

Monday, September 29, 2014

Beware of Jobless Claims Below 300,000

Every week, the Federal government releases a report of how many Americans have filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the prior week.  Typically called the "Jobless Report" or "Claims Report", it is closely watched because, logically, claims going lower is a good thing.  It means that fewer and fewer employers are laying workers off.

More closely watched than the actual number of first time claimants is the 4-week moving average of claims because they tend to bounce around from week to week and, without the averaging, it is too difficult to detect an actual trend; either upward or downward.  This week, the moving average was at 293,000.

The problem with the average being below 300,000 is that, historically and very oddly, this has resulted in a soon-to-be bottoming out of claims which precedes a sharp rise.  What is worse, is that a recession soon followed  Proof of this is shown in the following chart accessed from the Federal Reserve's Economic Database (aka FRED):

Click on chart to zoom in
As you can see, recessions (the shaded vertical areas on the chart) typically end with a peaking of jobless claims. Then, over time, the number slowly falls to some level just below 300,000 before  rising, until again, there is an actual recession.  For example, in September of 1982, the claims signaled the end of that recession at 641,750 filings.  Over the next 7+ years, the average dropped out at 289,750 in January of 1989 with a sharp uptick that resulted in another recession that began in September of 1990. Then jobs claims again peaked in March of 1991; only to bottom out in April of 2000 with 269,750 claims before quickly rising to the beginning of another recession in February of 2001.  Of course, the last "Great Recession" followed a bottoming of claims in February of 2006 with an average of 289,750.

So, there is definitely a very repeatable pattern of claims peaking; then, bottoming out; followed by a  sharper rise and, ultimately a recession. 

How low we will go and how fast we achieve it in this current trek below 300,000 is anyone's guess. But, one this is sure, if history repeats itself, lower claims are not such a good thing.

References:

FRED: 4-Week Moving Average of Initial Claims: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?id=IC4WSA,

U.S. jobless claims up less than expected, point to firming labor market: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/25/us-economy-jobless-idUSKCN0HK1E420140925

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: An ISIS-Like Terrorist For Climate Change

One thing that should rile any champion of freedom, free speech, and free association, is the fact that ISIS is forcing non-Muslims to convert to Islam by telling them that they have to either convert or die.  In a way, Robert Kennedy Jr. is no better than ISIS when it comes to protecting  the freedoms that we all enjoy. Listen  to this asinine rant by this radical liberal regarding those who are climate change deniers or who are guilty (in his mind) of damaging the planet with businesses that produce CO2:



Sadly, this only shows that he and other climate alarmists are getting more and more frustrated by the fact that their cause is losing ground in the court of public opinion. So like any non-democratic dictator, tyrant, or bully, he wants any and all opposing thought to be shutdown by threatening those who disagree with jail time.

His targeting of the Koch Brothers for profiting from the oil business merely shows how politically motivated this Kennedy family fool is.  The Koch's are just 2 people out of thousands who are profiting from oil in this country.  But, because they are billionaires who give money to Republicans, Kennedy finds them more offensive than any other executives that he and others have labelled polluters.

By the way.  Kennedy receives royalty checks from three oil companies that he and the rest of the Kennedy clan own outright: Mokeen Oil, Kenoil and, the Arctic Royalty Limited Partnership.  Maybe, he too, like the Koch's, should be jailed for destroying the planet and profiting from it.

Lastly, Koch Industries was founded in 1940; almost 50 years prior to the world even talking about global warming and climate change.   Somehow, Kennedy now thinks that the father of the Koch brothers should have seen global warming coming and should not have started that evil oil producing and oil products conglomerate in 1940. It was companies like Koch Industries that provided the oil and materials that helped defeat the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II.

Reference: Live Leak:  Oil Company Owner, Robert Kennedy Jr. Rants Against Oil Companies, PJ Media Video Confrontation:  http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ace_1411422073

Koch Industries:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_Industries

Friday, September 26, 2014

We Need A Quick And Cheap Screening Method To Control The Spread Of Ebola

Ebola is a disease that can take between 2 to 21 days to present symptoms.  When it does, the infected person looks to be suffering from some respiratory illness like the flu. However, when a person does display symptoms, they are already contagious to anyone who comes in contact with their bodily fluids.  So, while a cure is the ultimate goal, what is really needed is early detection.

Currently, there are efforts to screen people who are outbound from Ebola hotspots like Sierra Leone.  But, unfortunately, not everybody can be tested.  The focus, both because of cost and time, is limited to air travelers who, at the very least, present a fever.  This means that someone who is still in the incubation period, may not be detected, and could travel anywhere in the world.

When President Obama announced the U.S.'s efforts to fight Ebola, the one thing I think was missing was the funding to find a quick, cheap, and portable means to detect the disease before it shows symptoms.  Only then can the world be safe from travelers who may be infected but not yet presenting this deadly disease, and only then, can field workers contain it through extensive screenings.  Also, I am quite sure the survival rates would increase with early detection as well.

As a leader in a high tech world, our government should -- for the protection of it's people and all  people of the world -- fund the development of a cost effective (less than a dollar each) mobile screening test. Cost is of particular concern in third world countries.

References:

Obama: U.S. ready to take the lead in Ebola fight: http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/16/health/obama-ebola/

Researchers Race to Develop Field Tests to Confirm Ebola: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-15/researchers-race-to-develop-field-tests-to-confirm-ebola.html

Thursday, September 25, 2014

52 Reasons Why CO2 Is Not Responsible For Global Warming

Currently, there has been an 18-year pause in global warming and the climate scientists have been scrambling to explain it.  After all, this hiatus completely shoots down the CO2 theory since, in those 18 years, atmospheric CO2 has continued to rise at a rate of of about 2% a year. 

As of this writing, there are now 52 published scientific theories that explain the pause.  Fifty-Two!  And, each one of those 52 theories says that their particular theory, alone, is responsible.

Unwittingly, those 52 different explanations are simply saying that CO2 is not primarily responsible for global warming; as we have been led to believe.  Just think about it.  If each of those theories can single-handedly stop global warming; then, one can assume that each of those theories can single-handedly cause warming to start again.

All this proves is that climate change/global warming is not settled science as much as silly science. Surely, all 52 reasons can't all be right at the same time!

References:

Global Warming ‘Pause’ Extends to 17 Years 11 Months: http://www.climatedepot.com/2014/09/07/global-warming-pause-extends-to-17-years-11-months/

Excuse #52 for ‘the pause’ in global warming – natural climate variability as secular trends: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/09/11/excuse-52-for-the-pause-in-global-warming-natural-climate-variability-as-secular-trends/

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why ISIS 'Is' A Credible Threat

We keep hearing from the Obama Administration (specifically the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security) that ISIS poses no direct credible threat to the United States.  My only problem with that is that it was the FBI who interviewed both the Fort Hood shooter and the Boston Marathon bomber before they committed their acts of violence and, who seemed not to think these people posed a threat either.

In my opinion, ISIS should literally scare the whatever out of every American.

First of all, they are growing in size and strength.  In June, they were 10,000 strong. Now, the CIA has estimated their number to be at about 31,500.  That's a growth rate of almost 7,000 fighters per month.  If this continues, it could mean that, in just 10 more months, ISIS could reach 100,000.   That is a force that could easily takeover much of the territory in the Middle East besides major chunks of both Syria and Iraq.

What should be more worrisome to the U.S. and the world is the fact that passport carrying Europeans and American citizens are also joining. The problem with ISIS-friendly passport holders is that they can freely enter many European countries and the U.S. without having to apply for a visa.  They can simply buy an airplane ticket, say they are tourists, and land anywhere in the U.S. on a 24/7 basis with no one really questioning their purpose or intent.  As a result, there is now an unprecedented access to our homeland that hasn't been seen before with any other terrorist group; including Al Qaeda.

But, the biggest threat to our safety is the huge amounts of cash that ISIS is amassing.  It is now estimated that they have acquired $2 billion dollars from contributions and from looting, ransoming, and theft activities.  When they took Mosul, for example, their looting of that city's bank gave them half a billion dollars in gold and cash.  Beyond that, their newly found access to oil wells in Syria and Iraq is netting them an estimated $3 million a day from oil sold on the black market.

With all that cash ISIS doesn't need to hijack an aircraft in a 9/11-style terrorist attack.  They could simply buy some used commercial cargo jets at a cost of less than $2 million dollars each.  That cash also gives them the ability to buy shoulder-mounted rocket launchers and grenade launchers on the black market.  Both weapons can be used to bring down planes in takeoff or landing or to do serious damage to land-based targets like shopping malls or railroad trains. It also means that they could buy radioactive material to build a dirty bomb or acquire highly explosive C-4 to take out bridges and other infrastructure. Smuggling these weapons into the U.S. might be as simple as paying "coyotes" to cross them over our currently porous southern border.

To say that ISIS is not a credible threat is simply irresponsible.  They are a threat and they have the money, manpower, weapons, and potential access to carry out horrendous attacks on our own soil. The two video beheadings of Americans proved we are a target, with Obama's name clearly spoken in both. Further, they have already said that their goal is to fly their flag over the White House.  In the late 1990's the then-President ignored Bin Laden, and the result was 9/11.  Now, we seem to have another President ignoring the ISIS threat.  Will we, once again, wait for the next attack before we seriously take this enemy out?

References:

FBI: No credible threats to US from Islamic State: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/22/fbi-no-credible-threats-to-us-from-islamic-state/

FBI & DHS: Islamic State Poses No Credible Threat to US: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/08/25/FBI-DHS-Islamic-State-Poses-No-Credible-Threat-to-US-Sec-Hagel-Says-Opposite

 FBI interviewed dead Boston bombing suspect years ago: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fbi-interviewed-dead-boston-bombing-suspect-years-ago/

 Fort Hood Shooting: FBI Ignored Evidence Against Nidal Hasan For Political Correctness, Report Says: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/fort-hood-shooting-fbi-nidal-hasan-political-correctness_n_1685653.html

Number of ISIS fighters has swelled to as many as 31,500, CIA says: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/12/number-isis-fighters-has-swelled-to-as-many-as-31500-cia-says/

ISIS' half-a-billion-dollar bank heist makes it world's richest terror group: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10899995/ISIS-half-a-billion-dollar-bank-heist-makes-it-worlds-richest-terror-group.html

How ISIS managed to acquire $2B in assets: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101761986

Boeing 727-200 for Sale: http://www.globalplanesearch.com/jets/airliners/boeing/727_200.htm

Corruption, greed fuel black market for arms: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2003-08-14/news/0308140153_1_surface-to-air-missile-weapons-of-war-black-market

New ISIS Video: ‘We Will Raise Black Flag Over White House’: http://foxnewsinsider.com/2014/08/08/new-isis-video-%E2%80%98we-will-raise-black-flag-over-white-house%E2%80%99

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Silver at a 4-Year Low!

All those companies hyping gold are now telling us that buying silver is the best kept investing secret.  Well, as this screen shot from CNBC clearly shows, as of yesterday, silver hit a 4-year low.


What this simply means is that silver, just as gold, has not been a hedge against excessive government spending.  And, if you happened to buy silver in the last four years, your losing money.

In April of this year, I wrote a blog entitled The Truth About Buying Gold and Silver, in which I warned about the excessive hyping of these metals as an investment opportunity.   At that time, gold was at $1300 an ounce (now at $1217.70) and silver was just below $20 (now at $17.75).  While gold and silver are moving down, the stock market has been reaching record highs.  You be the judge . Does gold and silver deserve all the hype that the sellers would have you believe?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Jesse Jackson's Dodge on Domestic Violence and Rap Music

In a speech last week, President Obama called on "men" to stand up against sexual assault.  Often, on issues, he states that he has a phone and a pen.  But, the one call he should have made is to his friend Jesse Jackson for not speaking out against the black NFL players that are at the heart of the current uproar over domestic violence; from wife beatings to child beatings.

As more and more NFL related incidents came out, Jesse and some other black leaders said basically nothing; despite the fact that all of the current "violence" issues involve black men.  When the NFL announced an "all white" panel of women to advise on domestic violence, Jackson acted to condemn it; arguing that at least one black woman should have been on the panel because the demographic of the NFL players is predominately black.

While I can agree with Jackson that at least one black woman should have been on that panel, I have serious trouble with this man's silence regarding black men and their high rate of domestic violence against women and even children.  Statistically, black women are 4-1/2 times more likely to suffer from it than white women.  While only making up 8% of the population, 22% of the deaths resulting from domestic abuse are from black men against their black partners.  No statistics are available on how many white women suffer from abuse by a black partner but, it is probably equally as high.

Jesse Jackson should be standing up against a black society in which male rappers denigrate women, constantly referring them as "wifeys, bitches, hoes, and boo's".  It's also time for President Obama to call out the music industry for such gender based denigration.

Now, this is not to ignore the fact that many white women suffer abuse at the hands of white men.  That, too, needs to be addressed through this nation's leadership.  But, I do believe rap music, enjoyed by men of all colors, should be a key target in the fight to halt domestic abuse in this country.

Use your phone, Mr. President! 

References:

Jesse Jackson rips NFL for lack of diversity in advisers: http://bostonherald.com/sports/patriots_nfl/nfl_coverage/2014/09/jesse_jackson_rips_nfl_for_lack_of_diversity_in_advisers

Obama Calls on Men to Stand Up to Sexual Assault: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/barack-obama/obama-calls-men-stand-sexual-asssault-n207356

Why Black Women Struggle More With Domestic Violence: http://time.com/3313343/ray-rice-black-women-domestic-violence/

A Black Man has 4 kinds of women: Wifey, Boo, Bitch, Ho: http://twitpic.com/6bc5e2

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Problem With Obama Expecting Friendly Syrian Rebels To Fight ISIS

As outlined in his ISIS prime-time speech, President Obama now expects to arm friendly (to us) free-Syrian rebels so they can take the fight to ISIS.  Thus negating any U.S. boots on the ground.

The problem with that thinking is that those rebels are already tied up in trying to wage war against President Bashar Assad's army.  There efforts so far have been, at best, a stalemate. Now, they are expected to fight ISIS at the same time?

While arming the rebels might sound good and appear to be a workable strategy to the uninformed public, it just isn't a viable plan for destroying ISIS in Syria.  Don't forget that, just a month ago, Obama belittled these rebels as being just a bunch of farmers, doctors, and pharmacists and not trained soldiers. Yet, now, he expects those same rebels to fight ISIS and Assad.  But simply, despite maybe getting training and some weapons, these doctors/pharmacists/farmers, without any outside help on the ground, will be stretched too thin to fight  two different battles; thus, weakening themselves on both fronts.  As a result, Assad will be able to beat them back and ISIS will probably be able to finish them off completely.  Nothing will be gained other than both Assad and, more importantly, ISIS will grow stronger.

This simple fact is why our U.S. military commanders like the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey are saying we need "boots on the ground" to fight ISIS.

Reference:

Arming Syrian rebels, key part of Obama's war strategy: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/15/arming-syrian-rebels-key-part-obama-war-strategy-gets-crucial-support-from/

Barack Obama rebukes (arming) Syrian (rebels as) ‘fantasy': http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/barack-obama-rebukes-syrian-fantasy-109890.html

Dempsey raises possibility of involving U.S. combat troops in fight against Islamic State: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/dempsey-raises-possibility-of-involving-us-combat-troops-in-fight-against-islamic-state/2014/09/16/8e13a742-3da1-11e4-b0ea-8141703bbf6f_story.html

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Overview of Latest Poverty Report

The Census Bureau just released its latest report on income and poverty in America and this is the  picture that it painted:

For the first time in 3 years, poverty has moved down from 15 percent of our population to 14.5%.  While this drop in the rate is positive, it still means that the number of Americans in poverty -- 45.3 million -- is at record levels when looking back 54 years to 1959.  It also means that -- compared to 2012's 48.8 million in poverty -- 3.5 million Americans were able to climb back out and stay there.

Then, there's median incomes:

Overall, incomes still haven't returned to pre-recession levels; despite it now being 5 years past the end of the recession.  While there was a small uptick in overall incomes, the buying power of the average American is still lagging and this is probably why the recovery has been so slow. Hurt the most since the recession, were Asians, with incomes falling from the mid-$70,000's to the current $67,065.  Additionally, Asians were the only racial component to continue to drop in incomes.  All other races saw some, but small, increases.


Finally, there's a part of this report that is seldom revealed because it doesn't fit the liberal view in America that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  In 2013, 30.9% of those who were in poverty from the period of 2007 to 2013 (just 5 years), elevated themselves out of poverty.  At the same time, 32.2% of those who were in the top 20% of incomes fell out of that top spot.  This is consistent with the fact that, in this country, most people rise out of poverty in just 10 years and, similarly, most rich lose much of their wealth in a similar amount of time.  This income mobility for the poor is a real form of positive income redistribution that rarely occurs in any other county.  At the same time, the fact that 32.2% of the richest drop in wealth in just five years definitely refutes the long-time progressive argument that the rich only get richer. 

References:

Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013: http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-249.pdf

Poverty: 2000 to 2012: http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acsbr12-01.pdf

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Are We Really Better Off Since Obama Took Office?

In front of adoring crowds at one of his all-too-many campaign style events, President Obama has claimed that "By almost any measure, we are better off since I took office" or that America is stronger under his watch.

The problem with such statements is that they are factually untrue when looking at the broader state of our union.

Sure, the President can claim that overall unemployment is down from where it was when he took over the reins of government in January 2009.  But, to get there, overall unemployment rose to a rate of 10% in the first year-and-a-half of his presidency.  Something that the so-called "stimulus" was supposed to avoid by promising that the unemployment rate wouldn't go above 8%. Even now, 5 years passed the end of the official end of the recession, this country still has an unemployment rate that is a full point above pre-recession levels.

Our major cities have extraordinarily high unemployment rates.  Chicago, Obama's home town, is still at 8.0%; and, that's just recently down from a January 2014 rate of 9.6%.  Detroit, now in bankruptcy, had an unemployment rate of  17.7% in July.  A city like Atlantic City, that depends heavily on Americans spending leisure-time money, is suffering from cash-strapped tourists unable to indulge in what they have to offer. The casinos are closing and the unemployment rate sits at 13.7%. More worrisome is the fact that our three largest cities -- Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago -- are dangerously close to following Detroit into bankruptcy.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is stuck at a 5-year growth rate of about 2%. This is, at least, the worst recovery since World War II and, some say in the history of the United States when using alternate methods of calculating GDP.
Then there's the overall economic health of America.  For 5 straight years the median incomes of this country have fallen and income inequality has risen to a record high.  Half the jobs created under this President's watch were low income/low paying.  When he took office, only 30 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, that number is 47 million; a 56% increase.  Similarly, only 38 million Americans were living in poverty.  Today, that number is a record 47 million and has stood at 15 percent of the population for the last 2 years. Thus, as the population grows, so does the amount of people left in poverty.

Of course, the real elephant in the room is the amount of debt that Obama has left us with; a number that only gets worse by the day.  At the beginning of his first term, the federal debt was $10.6 trillion.  Today, it is closing in on $18 trillion; just $250 billion from the current number (as of this writing) of $17.756 trillion. A number that, for the first time in this nation's history, is greater than the total annual economic output of the country.  Of those advanced economies in the world, only Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain can claim debt levels above their economic output. All of which are near bankruptcy and on the brink of bringing the European Union to its knees.

When we see people standing behind President Obama and nodding in agreement that things are better, you have to wonder what planet they're from.  Most other Americans (74% in one poll) still think that we never recovered from the recession.  And, in so many ways, they're right.

References:

By almost any measure, we are better off since I took office: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/07/10/obama_by_almost_every_measure_we_are_better_off_than_when_i_took_office.html

Obama claims US is 'stronger' than 'when I first came into office' as economy weakens, debt soars, America loses global influence and border crisis deepens: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2722926/Obama-claims-US-stronger-I-came-office-economy-weakens-debt-soars-America-loses-global-influence-illegal-immigrants-flood-border.html

Half Of The Jobs Created During The Recovery Were Low-Paying: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/05/14/2008591/jobs-recovery-low-paying-minimum-wage/

Chicago Unemployment Rate Falls to 8.0%: http://www.worldbusinesschicago.com/news/chicago-unemployment-rate-jul2014

Detroit Unemployment Rates:  https://ycharts.com/indicators/detroit_mi_unemployment_rate

Unemployment rises in most US states in July: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140818/BIZ/308180072

 Another Atlantic City Bust: Trump Plaza Closes: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/trump-plaza-4th-atlantic-city-casino-shutdown-25528499

3 huge cities flirting with bankruptcy: http://money.msn.com/investing/post--3-huge-cities-flirting-with-bankruptcy

Obama’s economic recovery: officially the worst in US history: http://poorrichardsnews.com/post/41366829334/obamas-economic-recovery-officially-the-worst-in-us

Median Income Falls For 5th Year, Inequality At Record High: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/median-income-falls-inequality_n_3941514.html

47 million Americans on food stamps: http://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2013/09/SNAP-participants.jpg

That’s rich: Poverty level under Obama breaks 50-year record: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/7/obamas-rhetoric-on-fighting-poverty-doesnt-match-h/?page=all

America's Poverty Rate Stuck At 15 Percent For Second Straight Year: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/poverty-america-census_n_3940812.html

 74% said we are still in a recession: http://patch.com/new-hampshire/concord-nh/is-the-recession-over-yet#.VBR1qmNAVLU

U.S. Federal Debt Exceeds GDP: http://jamesviser.com/?p=995






Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scottish Independence and the Survival of the European Union

Most Americans don't seem to understand why Scotland's independence from the United Kingdom (UK) is such a big deal. It is and, it will have a far reaching impact on the survival of the European Union (EU).

Arguably, beyond the pure advantages of having an economic cooperative between European countries, the glue that really holds the European Union together is the preponderance of like-minded liberal politics; with the only conservative and economic elephant in the room being Germany.  For the political stability of the EU, Germany's economic influence and conservative politics has always been countered by the economic power and political influence of  a predominately liberal United Kingdom.  This is where the small country of Scotland comes in.

Scotland is very politically liberal; and, is primarily responsible for maintaining liberalism in the U.K.  If it cedes from the United Kingdom, their dominant liberal voting will be gone and conservatism is sure to seep into the UK's political landscape and, suddenly, the EU could find itself with its two dominant partners, England and Germany, being conservative; meaning that the policy making within the European Union could also turn decidedly conservative.  This will not sit well the remainder of the EU countries who seek to maintain a liberal agenda.  Thus, Scotland's departure could force others to leave in order to protect their own internal need for a European Union that is steeped in liberal politics.

References:

Scots independence battle reaches fever pitch on streets and screens: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/14/us-scotland-independence-idUSKBN0H60MG20140914

If the Scots Gain Independence, Expect a More Conservative U.K.: http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/08/if-the-scots-gain-independence-expect-a-more-conservative-u-k/

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Ray Rice Battering Case: A Failure Of The Police And The Justice System

A lot of people are angry that the NFL didn't act quicker and more decisively in meting out punishment to Ray Rice for literally cold-cocking his fiancee in that elevator.  But, instead of targeting the NFL, we should be more upset with a policing and justice system that failed to jail Rice that very night and subsequently file charges against him.  What he did was assault and battery and, potentially, could have killed Janay Palmer.  This is a crime for which Rice could have served up to 6 months in jail.

Blaming the NFL for not acting is to ignore the real villains.

How many of the thousands of battered women in this country can expect the NFL to mete out justice to their particular batterer? Are we now expecting employers, not the justice system, to intervene on behalf of battered women?

Our anger should be aimed at the Atlantic City police department and the criminal justice system in that state for not acting on behalf of the victim, Janay.  It is apparent that they put Ray Rice's celebrity ahead of justice.

The NFL should only have been involved in punishment if Rice failed to show up for work because of his having to serve time for assault and battery; or, punished because of some "morals clause" in his contract. Just like any other employer.

References:

New Jersey Assault and Battery Laws: http://www.assaultandbattery.org/new-jersey/

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Obama's Sad Coalition To Fight ISIS

In President Obama's prime-time speech with regard to fighting the threat of ISIS, he referred to a broad coalition of countries that will join in our effort to destroy ISIS.  Sadly, that 'broad' coalition only stands at 9 other countries: Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark.  Even sadder is the fact that only one Muslim country -- Turkey -- has joined us. However, Turkey is probably an ally in name only since they just announced that they won't get involved in combat activities or allow the U.S. or other allies to use their airbases or air space to launch attacks.     So...is the coalition now falling apart?

All along, Obama has told us that the fight against ISIS is regional.  So, where are all those regional Muslim countries that surely could be threatened?  Now, I realize that Israel is sort of tied up with its own problems right now but, what about Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Egypt and so many other Muslim countries that could be targets of ISIS and their attempt to build a world-wide caliphate?

A friend of mine -- a regional sales manager for a major pharmaceutical manufacturer -- once said that: "If you can't even convince a cancer patient to buy a drug that will cure his cancer, you have no place being in pharmaceutical sales." In the same way, if our President can't convince a small Arab country like Jordan that it is in their best interest to fight ISIS, then something is seriously wrong with his leadership skills.

References:

Obama Enlists 9 Allies to Help in the Battle Against ISIS: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/06/world/middleeast/us-and-allies-form-coalition-against-isis.html

Breaking: TURKEY REFUSES OBAMA REQUEST to Use Its Airbases to Fight ISIS: http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2014/09/breaking-turkey-refuses-obama-request-to-use-its-airbases-to-fight-isis/

Friday, September 12, 2014

Obama's Political Calculus On Immigration Reform

Today, more than 5-1/2 years since taking office, President Obama blames the Republicans for not passing comprehensive immigration reform into law.  A fact that he claims has forced him to act alone.  But, instead of acting by the end of this summer, as promised, he has now pushed his go-it-alone executive actions back until after the fall elections.  His rationale for the the delay is that Republicans would use it as a wedge issue against vulnerable Democrats at this critical time.

Simply, Obama knows that any sort of amnesty for illegal aliens is politically lethal. 

Therefore, contrary to all the promises he made while running for the Presidency in 2008, he did nothing in his first two years in office at a time when he totally out-gunned the Republicans with complete control of Congress; including a veto-proof Senate.  His excuse: The economy was the priority.  However, during those supposed do-nothing-else-but-the-economy years, he did manage to pass ObamaCare into law.

Hispanics are being used by Obama.  Just as is every other minority group in this country. His promises and blame-the-Republicans tactic is being used to merely string along those who are eager for immigration reform.  Wake up Latino Americans.  Like everything else, Obama will never tackle any hard political issue unless it results in a sure political win.  As a State Senator in Illinois, he avoided any controversy by simply voting "present". Never a decisive "yea" or "nay" that could possible hurt his election chances.   A weak approach that he continues to use today

References:

Obama’s failed promise of a first-year immigration overhaul: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/obamas-failed-promise-of-a-first-year-immigration-overhaul/2012/09/25/06997958-0721-11e2-a10c-fa5a255a9258_blog.html

Obama to Delay Immigration Action Until After November Elections: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/immigration-border-crisis/obama-delay-immigration-action-until-after-november-elections-n197306

Obama's "present" tension: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/feb/13/obamas-present-tension/

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Texas Story and Why Our Increasing Dependence On Wind and Solar Is So Wrong

I think a lot of people would be surprised to know that Texas -- that bastion of conservative politics -- is actually the greenest state we have, with about 9% of its electrical power generation coming from wind.  And, plans are in the works to bump that number up to 15% in the near future.

But, last winter, amid the freezing temperatures of the so-called polar vortex, wind power failed the state by only being able to provide about 3 percent of its power needs.  As a result, conventional fossil-fuel powered plants barely had enough reserve power producing capability to prevent the state from a complete grid failure that could have plunged millions into the darkness of a statewide blackout.  A blackout that would keep people in the cold because, even if they had gas furnaces, electricity is still needed to run the fans and the thermostats.

The lack of wind power isn't just some rare occurrence due to a rare polar vortex. In 2008, Texans had another near grid emergency for lack of wind. 

What their story tells us is that there always has to be enough reserve fossil fuel power available to compensate for a possible 66% drop in wind.  In the above case, the reserve needed was at least 7%. If Texas increases wind power to 15%, the reserve needed should be at least 12%.  In other words, for every kilowatt of new and added wind power, another 66% of a kilowatt of fossil fuel must be added or held in reserve as backup.  Simply, this means that the cost to the consumer will have to be 66% higher than need be, but it also means that power companies will be hard pressed to cost justify any new power plants or the expansion of existing power facilities just so that capability can sit there in the eventuality of another polar vortex event.  If they don't, the odds of wide scale power blackouts only goes up.

Solar is even worse.  Every night, solar power production goes to zero.  So, at a time when people are at home, away from work, and using a lot more power than they did during the day, solar power goes silent and fossil fuel power plants must make up more than 100% of the slack. Additionally, on cloudy days, when solar efficiency is greatly reduced, fossil-fueled plants must be amped up to take up the slack.

Shortly, Texas will find itself making some very hard decisions.  This is because President Obama's new EPA coal regulations -- decidedly designed to completely shutdown coal-fired electricity production -- will go into effect. As coal-fired plants are being forced to shutdown, will Texas either go with more wind or will it convert those coal plants to natural gas?  I would hope, given this year's experience, they would cautiously do the first option or wholeheartedly embrace natural gas.

The bottom line is that we, as a nation, can never be fully dependent on wind and solar for our electricity as some would lead us to believe.  As a country, we have always had a dominant economy because of cheap and reliable power.  Wind and solar are neither and, ultimately, our dependence on these too technologies will hurt us in growing businesses and creating jobs.

In my opinion, wind and solar should never be directly attached to the power grid.  Instead, the electricity produced from these two technologies should be used to produce hydrogen gas which can be stored and then used, as needed, to produce electricity.  This way, fluctuations in demand can be better dealt with.  Most importantly, burning hydrogen to produce electricity produces no carbon; just plain H2O.  As an added advantage, that same hydrogen can even be used in automobiles that are so-equipped to burn it.

References:

Role of Texas wind power debated after winter emergency: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/01/08/role-of-texas-wind-power-debated-after-winter-emergency/

2008: Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency: http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/02/28/us-utilities-ercot-wind-idUSN2749522920080228

Obama EPA Issues Coal-Killing Rules To Cut Carbon Emissions 30 Percent: http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2014/06/02/obama-epa-issues-coal-killing-rules-to-cut-carbon-emissions-30-percent/

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Detroit Experiment: Michigan's New Minimum Wage

Most advocates for raising the minimum wage argue that it would pull people out of poverty and, in fact, is good for the economy because it gives people more money to spend.  Because of this, some actually contend that raising the minimum wage creates jobs due to the increased consumer demand and the general strengthening of the economy.

Of course, I'm the old stick-in-the-mud student of economics who believes that raising the minimum wage causes wage inflation and that hurts more people than are helped.  Inflation of any kind, hurts businesses and costs jobs since the vast majority of Americans won't see their wages go up enough to counter the increase in prices.  Thus the consumer buys less and pays more for what they buy.  This is especially true for the millions of Americans who live on fixed incomes or social security, which has only gone up a meager 1.1% in the last 5 years; while overall inflation has exceeded 2%.


So, it will be interesting to see what happens in the city of Detroit following Michigan's Labor Day increase in the minimum wage by 10% to $8.15 an hour.  Here's a city that is already bankrupt with an unemployment rate of 14.5% in April and with more than 38% of the city's residents in poverty.  Currently, the average individual income is $14,861 a year.  By raising the minimum wage to $8.15 an hour, the average minimum wage worker in Detroit could see a full-time salary of $16,300; assuming two weeks of unpaid vacation and no overtime.  And, of course, this is $1,439 higher than the current average salary in Detroit.  But, keep this in mind.  While I don't know exactly how many workers in Detroit will benefit from the hike, on a national basis, there are only 1.5 million workers who earn exactly the minimum wage.  That's only four-tenths of a percent of our population.  But raising it affects many more than just those earning that wage by what I call the leap frog effect.  Because the minimum wage earners instantly get raises, it can leap-frog some other employees above him/her who will then,  in fairness, have to have their wages increased.  Some estimates are that this could affect 17% of all the workers or more than 8% of the nation's population.

In the title, I call raising the minimum wage an experiment.  If the proponents of the increase are correct then good things should happen to Detroit's horrible numbers noted in the preceding paragraph.  However, if I am right, the current downtrend in unemployment will reverse itself. The poverty number will only go higher; and, the average salary won't be affected by much, if any.  Also, it will show how irresponsible the legislature in Michigan was to further risk damaging Detroit (and, other high unemployment cities in Michigan) by passing this new law.  A law that won't just raise the minimum wage this year; but, also all successive years until it tops out at $9.25 in 2018.  And, why?  Because raising the minimum wage in this election year was politically expedient, Yes, even for the Republican legislature; as in the case of Michigan.

References:

Minimum wage hike launches this Labor Day: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/26417826/minimum-wage-hike-launches-this-labor-day

Detroit QuickFacts: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/26/2622000.html

Detroit Unemployment Rate: https://www.google.com/search?q=detroit+unemployment+rate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb

Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2013: http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2013.pdf

Monday, September 1, 2014

Decades of Decline In Salaries For Non-College Degreed Workers


Last February, Pew Research issued their latest results for college vs non-college educated worker's incomes for those aged 25 to 32.  In my opinion, the most important item in Pew's commentary is this pictorial:


Obviously, the chart shows that having a college degree pays off.  However, it also shows that the demand for college degreed workers is high; resulting in ever-increasing salaries.  In fact, the demand is so high that many of these jobs remain unfilled. That is why, every month, this country must issue 125,000 new work visas to foreign workers in order to fill the void. Most of these openings are for high tech positions in Information Technology.

At the same time, the number of opportunities for non-degreed employees is falling, indicating that too many undereducated workers are vying for too few jobs.  As a result, employers can offer lower wages and there will still be enough jobless willing to accept that lower wage.

If we want to solve income inequality in this country, something needs to be done about our failing educational system, and the fact that getting a college degree is the linchpin for getting a better job and higher pay.  Our leaders need to emphasise the importance of education and, at the same time, stop talking down big business because, without big corporations, the best paying jobs wouldn't exist.

References:

Cutting Through The Fog: Failing Education: The True Cause Of Income Inequality: http://cuttingthroughthefog.blogspot.com/2014/01/failing-education-true-cause-of-income.html

Pew Research: The Rising Cost of Not Going to College: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/