Tag Archives: Economy

What should we do about the Wuhan coronavirus?

The economic cost of making workers stay home
The economic cost of making workers stay home

I think by now most people have realized that there is an economic cost to shutting Americans of all ages into their homes. If people can’t work, then businesses can’t make money, and they have to furlough or lay off workers. We can’t keep up this policy of making everyone stay home forever – it would lead to another Great Depression. Is there a way to get people back to work?

This article from The Federalist explains, and comes up with a different solution. The author argues that the Wuhan virus is most dangerous to the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions. And therefore they should shelter in place securely, while the rest of us who are under age 50 keep the economy from sliding into a depression by going back to work as soon as possible.

It says:

Richard Epstein at the Hoover Institution… points out that South Korean data, which is more complete than most other countries’ data, shows huge disparities in risks between old and unhealthy and young and healthy. “Clearly, the impact on elderly and immunocompromised individuals is severe, with nearly 90% of total deaths coming from individuals 60 and over. But these data do not call for shutting down all public and private facilities given the extraordinarily low rates of death in the population under 50,” Epstein writes.

[…]The costs Americans are being forced to bear may be more than is rational to impose. Already one-fifth of working Americans are being laid off and having work hours cut due to not even one week of suspensions.

“[T]he massive curtailments of the U.S. economy can have as many health consequences as the virus itself—if millions lose income and jobs, become depressed in self-isolation, increase smoking, and drug and alcohol use, and postpone out of fear necessary buying and visits to doctors and hospitals for chronic and serious medical conditions unrelated to the virus,” writes Victor Davis Hanson.

What if the real scenario is one of these: 1) We plunge the nation into a depression that kills many businesses and addicts millions to welfare, in a nation that has already pledged more welfare than it can afford for at least the next three generations. Because of this depression, many people die due to poverty, lack of medical care, and despair. Millions more transform from workers to takers, causing a faster implosion of our already mathematically impossible welfare state.

2) The nation quarantines only at-risk populations and those with symptoms, like South Korea has, and ensures targeted and temporary taxpayer support to those groups, goes nuts cranking out ventilators and other crisis equipment such as temporary hospitals using emergency response crews, while the rest of us keep calm, wash our hands, take extreme care with the at-risk groups, and carry on.

Why would the entire nation grind to a halt when the entire nation is not at a severe risk? I would rather have a flu I am 99.8 percent likely to survive than the nation plunged into chaos indefinitely because we pulled the plug on our economy during a stampede.

At the very least, Congress should wait a week or two, while half the nation or more is home, to see how the infection rates look as millions of test kits go out. The worst-case scenario they are predicating their actions on may not be the one we’re facing. Prudence suggests a measured, wait and see approach to policy until we have better information, not chucking trillions of my kids’ dollars out the window “just in case.”

Right now, I think we should expand testing so we understand the problem better, fast-track whatever drugs are known to work, expand hospital capacity, build more N95 masks, build more ventilators, and get people under 50 back to work. This is in addition to proper hand-washing, social distancing and working from home where possible.

The cost of a depression seems to me to be much higher than what is happening to South Korea right now. They have massive testing effort and they are only quarantining people who are at high risk or who show symptoms. That makes more sense to me than shutting the economy down, or pass massive spending bills with bailouts for businesses that should not be shut down more than a month.

Wages of low-income workers have risen faster than middle and high income workers

In Trump's America, low-wage workers see the highest wage increases
In Trump’s America, low-wage workers see the highest wage increases

By now, everyone has heard about how the unemployment rate is at a record low. Not only that, but the unemployment rates for women, blacks and hispanics are also at record lows. But did you know that wages have been increasing at the highest rate for low-income workers? That’s right. It’s low-wage workers who are seeing their incomes go up the most.

Here’s an analysis done by an economist at Indeed.com, one of the largest online job boards:

The US economy added 130,000 jobs in August, and the unemployment rate was flat at 3.7%.

After this report, we can all take a breath, but not a big one. While we are still seeing many of the disconcerting trends of the past few months, the labor market continues to grow at a healthy rate.

Before assuming that the total job growth number in August is skewed because of Census hiring, remember that these are real jobs taken by real workers. Even if you remove government hiring, which accounts for around 34,000 jobs, this is still a number that is high enough to keep up with population growth. This month’s report reflects a slowing labor market but not necessarily one heading straight for a recession.

Wage growth strongest for low-wage industries

At this point in the expansion, we’d expect wage growth to pick up, but it is continuing to stall. In fact, wage growth continues to be strongest for workers in lower-wage industries. Labor force participation grew in the month, signaling a labor market still drawing workers off the sidelines. Job seekers are still benefiting from this job market, but let’s not count on this lasting forever.

That analysis was done in August of this year, and as you may have heard, the numbers since then have been even better.

CNBC explained:

The jobs market turned in a stellar performance in November, with nonfarm payrolls surging by 266,000 and the unemployment rate falling to 3.5%, according to Labor Department numbers released Friday.

Those totals easily beat the Wall Street consensus. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for solid job growth of 187,000 and saw the unemployment rate holding steady from October’s 3.6%.

[…]In addition to the robust November gains, revisions brought up totals from the two previous months. September’s estimate went up 13,000 to 193,000 and the initial October count increased by 28,000 to 156,000. Those changes added 41,000 to the previous tallies and brought the 2019 monthly average to 180,000, compared with 223,000 in 2018.

So my point here is simple. Democrats are mad because they lost the election, and they really aren’t interested in whether president Trump is doing a good job or a bad job. The thing is, president Trump is doing a terrific job if all you care about is numbers. I understand that Democrats love their New York infanticide, their Seattle mayor pedophilia, their Democrat FBI agent adultery, their black face Virginia governor, their Clinton-funded Steele dossier, etc. But for the rest of us who just want to have a job, keep what we earn, and spend it how we want, this has been a great presidency.

It’s not just low unemployment and increased wages. Conservatives are happy about a never-ending stream of conservative judges filling up vacancies on federal courts.

Far-left Politico is not too happy about this:

The Senate confirmation of Lawrence VanDyke and Patrick Bumatay to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month brought to nine the number of appointments President Donald Trump has made to the 29-member bench that serves as the last stop for nearly all legal complaints lodged in nine Western states. Democratic-appointed judges now hold a three-seat majority, compared with 11 at the start of Trump’s presidency.

If the trend continues, it represents a major shift in the liberal wing of the judiciary, meaning lawsuits for progressive causes won’t find a friendly ear as easily as they have. The circuit has been the go-to venue for activist state attorneys eager to freeze Trump policies on health care, immigration and other social issues. It ruled against Trump’s weakening of Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, as well as multiple versions of his travel ban.

It’s now weighing the administration’s overhaul of the federal family planning program, the “public charge” rule that denies green cards for individuals who participate in programs like Medicaid — and it could take up the “conscience rule” allowing health providers to opt out of providing care on religious or moral grounds.

[…]The 9th Circuit isn’t the only court whose makeup has changed through Trump’s conservative nominees and McConnell’s singular focus on confirming judges. The 1st Circuit in Boston and 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia now have Republican-appointed majorities.

[…]A 9th Circuit panel of four Democratic appointees and seven Republican appointees in July allowed the administration’s overhaul of the Title X federal family planning program to take effect. The policy bars clinics that provide or refer patients for abortions from receiving program funds for reproductive health services like STD screenings and contraception and prompted Planned Parenthood to quit over the change. Another 9th Circuit panel this year ruled in favor of letting Trump’s Justice Department distribute grants to cities that use the money to crack down on illegal immigration.

[…]The Trump administration will likely seek a reversal of two separate lower court injunctions against the health provider conscience rule and has been asked by DOJ to freeze a recent nationwide hold on Trump’s order to deny legal immigrants entry to the U.S. if they can’t cover their health care costs.

If you have some time, and you want to really understand why the Democrats are so angry, I really recommend this recent show featuring Andrew Klavan:

And I also wanted to reflect on what the booming Trump economy has meant to me personally. I made more money from my mutual funds this year than I earned as a senior software engineer! I understand that “orange man bad” and “impeach the m*th*rf#$%&r. But I cannot deny that I am doing well financially, and it’s very clear from economists that this is directly the result of massive tax cuts, deregulation, and smart trade policies.

Politics isn’t about how you feel, and how you look to your friends. It’s more important than that. We need to have policies that solve problems for people who are struggling to get their American dream. Donald Trump has delivered those policies, and the results are not subject to debate. We have the numbers, and the numbers are very, very good.

Millennials who elected Obama will face high taxes, poverty and unemployment

We can't raise taxes enough to fix this overspending
We can’t raise taxes high enough to fix this much overspending

My regular readers have probably noticed that I have stopped blogging about day-to-day politics, ever since the Republican primary candidates with conservative records (Cruz, Jindal, Walker) were eliminated from the GOP primary. I have heard though that the mainstream media is going all in to elect Hillary Clinton. My concern is that many people rely on television news and will never think about two really important issues. First, Obama has been the worst President in the history of the country and has destroyed the economy for decades to come. Second, his disregard for national security and weak foreign policy has emboldened the enemies of Western democracies, e.g.  Russia, Iran, etc. We will see the consequences of this (wars and terrorism) for years to come. Those are the real challenges we face as a nation.

This Hoover Institute article by Victor Davis Hanson explains the big picture that the mainstream media doesn’t care about.

Excerpt:

Consider the $20-trillion national debt. Most Americans accept that current annual $500 billion budget deficits are not sustainable—but they also see them as less extreme than the recently more normal $1 trillion in annual red ink. Americans also accept that the Obama administration doubled the national debt on the expectation of permanent near-zero interest rates, which cannot continue. When interest rates return to more normal historical levels of 4-5% per annum, the costs of servicing the debt—along with unsustainable Social Security and Medicare entitlement costs—will begin to undermine the entire budget.

Count up current local, state and federal income taxes, payroll taxes, property and sales taxes, and new health care taxes, and it will be hard to find the necessary additional revenue from a strapped and overtaxed middle class, much less from the forty-seven percent of Americans who currently pay no federal income taxes. The Obama administration has tried to reduce the budget by issuing defense cuts and tax hikes—but it has refused to touch entitlement spending, where the real gains could be made. The result is more debt, even as, paradoxically, our military was weakened, taxes rose, revenue increased, and economic growth remained anemic at well below 2% per annum.

The national debt is one ticking time bomb, but there are others. Illegal immigration and Muslim refugees create additional financial problems for the next generation of entrepreneurs and workers:

Illegal immigration poses a similar dilemma. No nation can remain stable when 10-20 million foreign nationals have crashed through what has become an open border and reside unlawfully in the United States—any more than a homeowner can have neighbors traipsing through and camping in his unfenced yard.

Likewise, there are few multiracial societies of the past that have avoided descending into destructive ethnic chauvinism and tribalism once assimilation and integration were replaced by salad-bowl identity politics. Common words and phrases such as “illegal alien” or “deportation” are now considered taboo, while “sanctuary city” is a euphemism for a neo-Confederate nullification of federal immigration laws by renegade states and municipalities.

Illegal immigration, like the deficits, must cease, but stopping it would be too politically incorrect and painful even to ponder. The mess in Europe—millions of indigent and illegal immigrants who have fled their own failed states to become dependent on the largess of their generous adopted countries, but without any desire to embrace their hosts’ culture—is apparently America’s future.

Progressive Christians and  left-leaning Republicans join Democrats in imposing costs on the next generation of taxpayers with open borders immigration policies. The bill for importing people who take more in welfare than they pay in taxes has to be paid by someone. Not only will taxes on individuals go up, but taxes on businesses will cause them to create fewer jobs, or move their production to countries that have lower taxes on business.

The rest of the article talks about more ticking time bombs created by young leftist voters. Obama’s anti-police rhetoric has created a crime crisis that will require more police, more incarceration and higher insurance premiums. Obama’s anti-school-choice policies have made it harder for the next generation to get the education they will need to offer value to employers. Without skills, you won’t have a job, and you will be poor – poorer than your parents’ generation.

Although most young leftists are ignorant about foreign policy, that did not stop them from voting to cause crises that will harm our economy, and may also draw us into war. Territorial disputes involving strong countries like Russia and China could easily lead to war. Sponsors of terrorism like North Korea and Iran have gained strength during Obama’s reign of stupidity. Wars that impact trading partners or allies will cost taxpayers money. And millennials are the ones who are going to get the bill for a failed foreign policy.

The article doesn’t mention other crises like the trillion dollar student loan bubble, or the next mortgage lending crisis, or the unfunded pension programs crisis, or Medicare going bankrupt, and then Social Security shortly after, etc. No one in the mainstream media mentions these things, and the millennials aren’t aware of these problems. It’s not in their culture to put financial concerns above having a good time. But closing your eyes doesn’t make a threat disappear. Millennials can’t study English in college, rack up student loans, spend all their money on alcohol, work minimum wage jobs, then travel to Europe in their 20s, and expect everything to work out when they get serious about career and savings at age 30. These crises – which millennials voted for – are going to make their lives harder than their parents’ lives ever were.

New study: incomes of the poorest 20% of households are much lower than in 2007

Is Barack Obama focused on protecting the American people?
Does Barack Obama’s knowledge of policy match his confidence?

Now, many American voters like to think that if the President expresses concern about things like poverty and income inequality, then that means that whatever he does to “fix” it will automatically work to benefit the poor. Is it true?

Here is an article from Investors Business Daily, which talks about a study from the respected, leftist Brookings Institute.

Excerpt:

President Obama’s upbeat assessment of the economy is not likely to sit well with low-income families living in major urban or metro areas. For them, economic decline is a harsh reality, not “fiction.”

In his State of the Union speech, Obama declared that “anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling a fiction.”

But a new report from the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution finds that incomes among the poorest fifth of households was significantly lower than it was in 2007. Of the 100 cities it examined, incomes fell an overall average of 12%, according to the report’s data. In some, the drop was huge — 34% in Stockton, Calif., 31% in New Haven, Conn., and 30% in Lakeland, Fla.

At the other end of the spectrum, the top 5% of households saw incomes climb, but not by much. The average income for this group was basically unchanged over those years.

As a result, income inequality has increased, but not — as Obama, Bernie Sanders and the chorus of liberal Democrats would have you believe — because the rich are getting richer.

“It’s really about the poor losing ground rather than these upper-class households pulling away,” Brookings senior fellow Alan Berube told AP.

[…]Added to this, many of the cities that saw the biggest increases in income inequality — like Boston; New Orleans; Providence, R.I.; New Haven, Conn.; San Francisco, Washington, D.C. — have been bastions of “spread the wealth around” liberalism.

Another example of this would be Obamacare. Obama got up in front of his teleprompters and told everyone that he was going to make changes to health care policy. He promised that it would not add one dime to the deficit, that we could keep our doctors, that we could keep our health plans and that our health insurance premiums would go down. Every single one of those promises were lies.

We don’t know if Obama knows that he is lying when he says these things. I prefer to think that he is just too stupid to know what he is talking about. He says things that make him feel good. Things that would have pleased his professors in college. But since he has no practical experience of achieving results in any of these areas, he fails again and again. He is confident because he assumes a knowledge of how to obtain results that he does not actually have, owing to his lack of experience. And yet we elected him, then re-elected him.

He is in his own little world, where the people around him carefully insulate him from a reality where all his confident prescriptions have failed to produce what he intended.

Could it be that the free enterprise system of economics that was “built in” to America at the founding actually works better than the failed systems of socialism and communism that Obama was taught in college? Could it be that if we just stuck with the free enterprise system that made us the most powerful economy in the world, that things would be better for the poor than in places where capitalism is rejected for socialism?

We don’t have to guess at what the economic policies of the left produce. You can see it with your own eyes in socialist countries like Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Argentina, and so on.

Good news: Venezuela and Argentina eject socialist governments

Political Map of South America
Political Map of South America

Investors Business Daily has some good news for us. The Democrat Party of Venezuela has been CRUSHED in a recent election.

Excerpt:

Venezuela’s voters delivered a sledgehammer blow to the country’s ruling Chavista socialists Sunday, winning a likely supermajority in the National Assembly. It’s a great awakening from a 17-year nightmare.

Given the past two decades of near-victories, electoral fraud, chicanery and fractious political opposition mistakes, many Venezuelans are still in disbelief at the scale of the victory in the nation’s legislative elections, which have decisively handed one of Venezuela’s leading governing bodies over to the democratic, pro-free-market opposition.

As this was written, the opposition, known by its Spanish initials MUD, had declared a 112-seat, or two-thirds, supermajority in the National Assembly as a result of Sunday’s vote. The Chavistas won just 46 seats.

It’s total victory in legislative terms and will enable the legislature to throw out politicized Supreme Court justices and appoint honest ones.

The new Congress can also boot corrupt election officials and appoint fair ones. And they will even be able to declare President Nicolas Maduro — the late dictator Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor — mentally unstable and unfit for office, or remove him for incompetence. They can also stop his executive orders dead.

The Congress also will have the power to free the 71 or so political prisoners now rotting in Chavista dungeons without trial, including top opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. And Venezuela’s central bank will stop destroying the country’s money, now nearly worthless.

[…]Most important, the leftist government’s mismanagement of the economy — through currency controls that prevented imports of spare parts, created shortages of basics such as toilet paper and devastated the health care system — and the central bank’s infamous money-printing spree, which has pushed Venezuelan inflation to near 700%, made ordinary life for Venezuelans hellish. There also was corruption, with as much as 1 trillion dollars in oil earnings stolen or misappropriated over the years by high-living Chavista elites, whose lavish lifestyles mocked ordinary, poor Venezuelans.

Top it with the monstrous infiltration of the country by the drug lords, and the likelihood of an electoral housecleaning was perfectly clear.

Still, an element of disbelief remains, given how dirty the Chavista rulers have played their democracy game.

They have broken election rules, violated ballot secrecy, shut voters out and banned popular candidates from running. Many of those dirty tricks were evident in this election, too — the Chavistas illegally extended voting hours and campaigned at polling stations, to cite just a couple of examples.

But the opposition won anyway — with turnout so high, at 74.5%, and margins of victory so wide that the election was impossible to steal.

It helped that the the opposition had the wind at its back with the disastrous result of socialism. But it also helped that MUD had improved its electoral game over the years, learning from each near-miss election.

It also helped that MUD had strong leaders such as Maria Corina Machado and put out strong candidates with a clear, unified message — often summed up as “Down with the left.” And with all the pain of 17 years, it helped most of all that they never lost heart.

There is literally no different between the socialists of Venezuela and the Democrat Party in the United States. They are in lock step on every issue. Should the Democrat Party continue to hold power in America, we can look forward to a reckoning like this one in the future.

Two socialists shake hands: Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez
Two socialists shake hands: Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez

The Wall Street Journal says that the whole country is basically in the grip of ignorant socialists at every level, so there is lots to do.

Excerpt:

Pulling out of that death spiral, economists say, will require a series of painful and unpopular adjustments, rolling back more than a decade of populist and statist policies. Among the measures needed is raising the price of the world’s cheapest gasoline—which goes for less than one U.S. penny a gallon—overhauling a cumbersome and inefficient foreign-exchange system, and cutting generous social programs on which Venezuela’s poor depend.

[…]The government still controls more than 20 governorships, hundreds of mayors, the judiciary, much of the press and all auditing agencies. It will be up to Mr. Maduro whether to take steps to stabilize the economy, like loosening currency or price controls.

It’s not just Venezuela that has hit bottom under socialism. Recently, the people of Argentina also threw out their socialists after years and years of disastrous leftist policies.

The Chicago Tribune reports on last month’s election in Argentina.

Excerpt:

Under the current president, Cristina Fernandez, Argentina has become an international financial pariah. The country defaulted on debt last year in a long-running feud with hedge funds — remarkably, that was the eighth default in Argentina’s history.

Fernandez refused to settle. That’s left the country to squeak by in isolation, using protectionism and capital controls in a quixotic battle with globalism. The economy is stagnant, foreign currency reserves are dwindling and the inflation rate is around 30 percent. Last week, American Airlines said it stopped accepting pesos for ticket sales because it was tired of collecting revenue it couldn’t convert to dollars.

At times Argentina has embraced trade and economic openness, only to slip back into bad habits thanks to populist Peronistas like Fernandez. Macri, a conservative, wants to re-establish free market principles, but there are a lot of details he didn’t fully explain before his November victory because they will require some short-term pain, and he wanted to win the election.

Everything Macri is talking about makes sense. He says he will lift the capital controls that have wrecked the peso’s credibility. Like other backwaters it shouldn’t resemble, Argentina has a thriving black market because the government insists the peso is worth a lot more than its actual value. Freeing the currency would devalue it, a first step toward making Argentina more competitive.

The next big step would be to negotiate a settlement with the hedge funds that bought up Argentina’s debt after its previous default in 2002 and demand repayment. Fernandez got political mileage from attacking the “vultures,” but Macri seems to understand Argentina can’t get unstuck when it’s essentially shut out of international capital markets. He sounds like he wants to do a deal.

Macri’s got a tremendous balancing act to pull off: He’ll need to cut spending and reduce taxes without destroying the country’s big social safety net, while walking the country through a devaluation.

This is how countries that are ruled for a prolonged period by the political left eventually end up. I know so many of you lose heart and think that there is no hope, but there is hope. Even in countries where the left is running everything from the universities, to the judiciaries, to the mainstream media, there is hope.

Over the last 7 years, Obama added $10 trillion to the national debt. And although few of his Democrat low-information voters know about that, they will be able to tell the difference between prosperity and poverty when the United States reaches the Venezuela / Argentina tipping point. There comes a time when there are no more bailouts for the economics deniers. Reality wins in the end.