Friday, October 31, 2014

It's Hard to Understand How College Professors, Like Paul Krugman, Don't Recognize That There is Spectacular Inflation in Some Sectors...

...especially those connected to special government support programs, such as education.

The below charts the CPI Index for all item versus the CPI for Educational books and supplies.

How and When to Follow Up After a Job Interview

By James Caan

I often speak about showing commitment to a job search. It’s never enough to just send out applications and go to interviews – you need to go the extra mile every single time.

Something which not many people do is follow up after an interview. As an employer, I always think highly of candidates who do this and I wonder why more of them don’t. Now more than ever, we are in a candidate-led market, which means you face high competition. If this is the case, you need to do everything in your power to stand out.

Of course, if you have got this interview through an agency, then most of your contact will be through them. You will generally have a feedback call with your recruiter after the interview, so make sure they pass on a message of thanks from you and convey your enthusiasm for the role. Most able recruiters will do this anyway but it’s still good practice from your side.

If however,

Read the rest here.

European Union Bank Stress Test Shortfalls

I do not believe European Central Bank stress tests measure fully the risk to banks during a full-fledged financial crisis. That said, it is instructive to consider the EU banks which failed even the limited definitions of stress measured by the ECB.

Sometimes Freedom Means Inequality and Poverty

Free choice is about choosing what you want to do and there is nothing that says that must be a complete absolute focus on money. Anti-capitalist, money-hating, central planners don't get this.

(ht Rick Fitz)

PLUNGING GASOLINE PRICES: The Average Drops Below $3

Today, for the first time in 4 years, retail gasoline prices will average less than $3 a gallon, according to the American Automobile association.. That’s down from this year’s peak of $3.696 in April.

Booming domestic oil production in states like North Dakota and Texas are playing a significant role. The surge in production will propel domestic output next year to the highest level since 1970, EIA forecasts show.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil fell $14.21 a barrel in the three months ended Sept. 30, , and on Oct. 27 it dropped below $80 to the lowest level in 28 months. North Sea Brent crude, the global benchmark, slid $17.69 a barrel in the same quarter to $94.67 and traded at $85.25 this morning.

Gold and the US Dollar: The Long Term Perspective

Although in recent months the US dollar has been strong and gold weak, this is a very short-term perspective. In the long run, gold far outperforms, the Federal Reserve managed dollar.

(Chart via Gold-Eagle)

FOMC Statements Have Grown in Size and Complexity

Rubén Hernández-Murillo and Hannah Shell from the St Louis Fed write:
Over the years, the Federal Reserve has developed numerous communication tools aimed at increasing transparency. One tool in particular has evolved significantly—post-meeting statements by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the body within the Federal Reserve in charge of setting monetary policy. The FOMC began releasing these statements in February 1994. Initially, the statements provided

Free Markets Are Much More Fun Than Government Regulated and Protected Oligopolies

You never saw stuff like this from the government controlled and limited traditional taxi operators.

On Thursday, Uber issued a blog notice that said:

Today is National Cat Day – the cutest day of the year. We’ve teamed up with Cheezburger and the ASPCA® for a second year to bring you kittens… literally.Austin, Chicago, DC, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle—break out all the warm fuzzy feelings and get ready to go “awwwwww” with #UberKITTENS!



Open your Uber app between 12 pm & 4 pm.
Request the “KITTENS” option in your app. In NYC or DC? Enter promo code kittensnyc or kittensdc to unlock the option in your app.
Once the kittens arrive, you and your friends will get to enjoy 15 minutes of kitten cuteness! PRO TIP: Make sure to have an enclosed space purrrfect for playtime! In New York City, kittens can only be delivered to offices.
The best part? In most cities, kittens are eligible for adoption.
And, today, we have this news

The Beginning of the End of Dominance for the U.S. Dollar

By Andrew Topf

Recent trade deals and high-level cooperation between Russia and China have set off alarm bells in the West as policymakers and oil and gas executives watch the balance of power in global energy markets shift to the East.

The reasons for the cozier relationship between the two giant powers are, of course, rooted in the Ukraine crisis and subsequent Western sanctions against Russia, combined with China's need to secure long-term energy supplies. However, a consequence of closer economic ties between Russia and China could also mean the beginning of the end of dominance for the U.S. dollar, and that could

Bitcoin Foundation’s Executive Director Resigns

Leaving a sinking ship?

The Bitcoin Foundation announced on Thursday that Jon Matonis, one of the foundation’s founding board members, was stepping down as its executive director, effective on Friday.

One day's notice?

The Bitcoin Foundation said the decision to resign was Matonis’s.

Bank of Japan Puts Money Printing on Steroids

Almost always, a central bank will opt for more money printing when economic data show sluggishness, unless they fear an eminent threat of creating significantly elevated price inflation. Overnight, the Bank of Japan announced steps in line with this rule.

The BOJ stunned investors by expanding its ultra-aggressive monetary easing program, saying that a combination of weak demand and a lower oil price meant that more action was needed to banish “a deflationary mindset,” though there is no indication of a "deflation mindset" (putting aside the fact that deflation is not a problem for an economy) .

The Japanese central bank said it would step up its asset purchases so that the monetary base expanded at an annual pace of Y80tn ($724bn), rather than Y60-70tn as in the past.

PMI = purchasing managers index

(Charts via Krugman)

WOW The Insiders Act: The Account Of Swiss Gold Initiative Organization Has Been Frozen

I just wrote yesterday that the Establishment will do everything they can to stop the Swiss Gold Referendum to pass (SEE: Expect Attacks on Gold as the Swiss Gold Referendum Vote Approaches), but I didn't expect reporting this so quickly as a follow up.

Paypal has frozen the funds of an organization where donations could be made to support the campaign to get the referendum passed.

 Egon von Greyerz, who is founder of Matterhorn Asset Management out of Switzerland reports:
I have been involved in the Swiss Gold Initiative.  The Swiss National Bank is opposing this initiative.  They have admitted that it stops their ability to manipulate markets.  The campaign is going well.  The public has generously donated because of KWN and other sites.  But that came to a stop two days ago when Paypal closed the account for donations and they froze the funds that were in that account without any warning.
So unfortunately the campaign cannot receive some of those donations which were just frozen.  Paypal will not even answer the questions we are asking them, but I assume the money will be returned to the donors.  Clearly the powers that be did not want the campaign to receive this money.  We will keep on fighting for this campaign because gold will always have an advantage over worthless printed pieces of paper that governments and central banks create at will in order to manipulate markets.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Expect Attacks on Gold as the Swiss Gold Referendum Vote Approaches

So Alan Greenspan says. "Buy gold,"  (SEE:HOT Alan Greenspan Says BUY GOLD)  and the gold and silver prices come crashing down. Gold closed down today to $1199.00 per ounce a decline of $26.00(2.11%) and silver closed at $16.45 per ounce, a drop of 81 cents or 4.72%.

Is the Plunge Protection Team at work?

Former Plunge Protection member, Pippa Malmgren has publicly stated that

Longstanding San Francisco's Luna Park Restaurant to Close Because of Higher Minimum Wage

From the SF Eater:
Longstanding Valencia Street hip-casual dinner-and-a-cocktail spot Luna Park will close by the end of the year, the restaurant's owner AJ Gilbert told Uptown Almanac over the weekend. According to Gilbert, the popular brunch spot with the whimsical early-aughts flair, is closing due to an expected increase in labor costs that will come along a $15 minimum wage in San Francisco. Although the minimum wage bill doesn't actually go before voters until election day next week, Gilbert believes it is a sure-thing.

Joseph Salerno on Hyperinflation

Presented at "Inflation: Causes, Consequences, and Cure": a seminar for high school and college students. Hosted at the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, on 11 April 2014. Includes an introduction by Jeff Deist.

Bloomberg Business Week Goes Full Keynesian

The story includes this gem:
There is a doctor in the house, and his prescriptions are more relevant than ever. True, he’s been dead since 1946. But even in the past tense, the British economist, investor, and civil servant John Maynard Keynes has more to teach us about how to save the global economy than an army of modern Ph.D.s equipped with models of dynamic stochastic general equilibrium. The symptoms of the Great Depression that he correctly diagnosed are back, though fortunately on a smaller scale: chronic unemployment, deflation, currency wars, and beggar-thy-neighbor economic policies.

What great timing for the new LibertyClassroom course: John Maynard Keynes: His System and Its Fallacies.

The course is taught by

How Much Income Puts You in the Top 1 Percent of Your Age Group If You're 30? 40? 50?

The richest percentile of Americans makes many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So how could a $135,000 salary make you a one-percenter? If you're 31 or younger, that figure puts you ahead of 99 percent of your age group, writes The Atlantic.

To determine what salary you'd have to earn at every age to stay in the top percentile—or even in the top 0.1 percent—here's your at-a-glance chart, from data shared by Fatih Guvenen and Greg Kaplan with The Atlantic. (The median age of both 1 percenters and 0.1 percenters is in the upper 40s.)

This chart partially explains why the 1 percent is such a fluid club (about half of the top 1 percent flips over every year.) To stay in the top percentile, a 30-year-old earning $130,000 in 2010 would have to raise her salary by $80,000 by 35, and then another $70,000 before she turned 45.

Inequality Does Not Reduce Prosperity

By Scott Winship

Since the Great Recession, inequality has loomed large in policy debates in the United States and around the world. Losses from the recession and the slow pace of recovery since have fueled concerns that inequality is not simply unfair but harmful. It is now commonplace to see claims that high and rising inequality levels have held back or worsened living standards among the poor and the middle class, a theme of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Such concerns may nevertheless be misplaced. The prospect of vast economic returns might, for instance, incentivize more innovation and investment, producing stronger economic growth and higher incomes even among those who do not amass fortunes. By rewarding work and human capital investment, inequality between the upper middle class and the poor could also promote stronger earnings growth for everyone over time.

Read the rest here.

San Francisco Bay Area Venture Capital Investments, Gentrification and the New Nature of Jobs

Kim-Mai Cutler writes at Tech Crunch:
Why is the tech industry migrating to cities anyway?

HOT Alan Greenspan Says BUY GOLD

Alan Greenspan: "Buy gold."

Michael Derby at WSJ reports:
The question of when officials should begin raising interest rates is “one of those questions I cannot answer,” Mr. Greenspan said.

He also said, “I don’t think it’s possible” for the Fed to end its easy-money policies in a trouble-free manner.

“We’ve never had any experience with anything like this, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you exactly how it’s going to come out,” Mr. Greenspan said. But he noted that markets often react to changes in central bank policy unpredictably and not entirely rationally. Recent episodes in which Fed officials hinted at a shift toward higher interest rates have unleashed significant volatility in markets, so there is no reason to suspect that the actual process of boosting rates would be any different, Mr. Greenspan said.

He said the Fed may not even have that much power over the timing of interest-rate increases. The problem as he sees it is an interest rate the Fed pays on the money banks park at the central bank, called reserves. Fed officials plan to use this tool as their primary lever for raising interest rates when the time comes. If bankers decide to put this money to work, creating inflation risks, the Fed may be forced to raise rates, even if the economy isn't ready for it, he warned.

“I think that real pressure is going to occur not by the initiation by the Federal Reserve, but by the markets themselves,” Mr. Greenspan he said.

Mr. Greenspan said gold is a good place to put money these days given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.
Greenspan has it correct, the reaction to the Federal Reserve low interest rate policy will not be controlled by the Fed. Markets will move on their own. It is not going to be pretty and with Greenspan advising buying gold, it is clear he knows that part of the market reaction is going to be soaring price inflation.

BTW: This is a very serious but subtle attack on both Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen monetary policy.

If you are a former Fed chair and you are advising that gold be bought, you are not suggesting that monetary policy is being handled in a competent manner.

Overall. this is the most sound analysis I have seem from the former Fed chairman. Murray Rothbard was right, they only speak truth once they are out of power.

(ht  Nick Badalamenti)

While the Feds Won’t Confiscate Your Retirement Plan… They Will Do This

By Nark Nestmann

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had close to 30 consultations with Nestmann Group clients. And one of their top concerns is that Barack Obama or some future US president will find a way to confiscate the money in their IRAs or 401(k) plans.

It’s not going to happen. Now, I know that’s not what you’re reading from some of my colleagues covering the wealth preservation and asset protection beat.

What’s more, if I’m wrong and the government does confiscate retirement plans or requires them to make mandatory investments (e.g., in long-term government bonds, etc.), the solution some of my colleagues have suggested won’t protect the assets in your plan.

It’s All About Politics

More than 11 million Americans have IRAs. The average balance, according to a recent study by Fidelity Investments, is about $89,000. That amounts to about $1 trillion in money parked away for retirement.

Even more popular than IRAs are 401(k) plans. About 52 million Americans have them, with an average balance of around $86,000. That amounts to about $4.4 trillion.

Could President Obama sign an executive order tomorrow demanding that every dollar in these plans be sent to the US Treasury to pay down the US government’s $18 trillion debt?

Yes, he could. There are all kinds of laws and precedents he could invoke to justify an outright confiscation.

But it’s extremely unlikely that he will. The 63 million Americans with assets in these plans obviously would be outraged by an outright confiscation of their assets. And there’s absolutely no doubt they’d make their displeasure known in the streets and the halls of Congress. Simply put, if Obama or any other president tried this gambit, he’d be impeached in a matter of days or weeks.

What Will Happen

That’s not to say that Congress and the president wouldn’t like to confiscate your retirement funds. They’d do it in a heartbeat if they could find a way to do so without enraging 63 million voters.

What they’re doing now, though, is

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Israel Kirzner's Theory of the Entrepreneur Blows Brad Delong Out of the Water

Brad DeLong has a complex and generally uninteresting lefty West Coast-style post out defending former lefty West Coaster, now East Coast money printer, Janet Yellen, for her speech where she discussed the pet lefty  politically correct "problem"  of "inequality."

I don't want to discuss the entire post, but DeLong does write this, which I do want to focus on:
What I and everybody else in the economics community outside of Washington DC see as a fair-minded review of the issues surrounding how parental resources impact opportunity,
Although parental resources may present different types of opportunities. It is simply wrong to suggest that opportunities don't exist in poorer neighborhoods where, indeed, most parents are likely poorer.

One simple example of the differences in opportunities, though far from the only, is the fact that many athletes from basketball players to football players to boxers come from poor neighborhoods.

It is really difficult to expect that a Jewish kid growing up surrounded by wealth is going to, for example, pursue a career in boxing and turn into the next Mike Tyson or Macho Camacho. To be sure, there may be outliers, but the average wealthy kid is going to be too soft to play against a kid from the hood.

Once an ethnic group climbs out of poverty, their exposure to the environment that breeds the physical toughness is gone, and thus you see much less of them in sports, especially the most physically challenging sports. There are no  Jake LaMotta's and Maxie Berger's in boxing anymore.

I use sports as only one example, for sure there are many other obvious examples, including music, acting and comedy, where the poor environment helps brew huge opportunity.

I believe the opportunities for success in these environments goes well beyond these obvious examples. But it is the coddling of the left by the poor,which prevents many to look for and seek out the opportunities which are there. They are told the system is screwing them and that there is nothing they can do about it.  There entrepreneurial spirit is squashed.

For sure, government regulations cut off many opportunities but there are generally ways around such barriers. The real killer for the poor is the lefty chant that the poor are helpless. And this is where Austrian school economist Israel Kirzner's observations about entrepreneurship are so valuable (SEE:Austrian School Economist Named as Possible Nobel Prize Recipient) . Specifically, his observation that one does not need capital, but only know how to get access to capital, to be an entrepreneur, removes the false barrier put up by lefties, and many others, that entrepreneurial success can not be achieved without rich parents or already held capital.

Kirzner's observation, that personally owned capital in not a requirement of an entrepreneur, is a nuclear bomb on the lefty thinking that if you don't have a rich daddy you are screwed.

Why are Lefty Cities so Unaffordable?

Lefty cities seem to have the worst affordability crises, according to Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic has more:
Kolko's theory isn't an outlier. There is a deep literature tying liberal residents to illiberal housing policies that create affordability crunches for the middle class. In 2010, UCLA economist Matthew Kahn published a study of California cities, which found that liberal metros issued fewer new housing permits. The correlation held over time: As California cities became more liberal, he said, they built fewer homes.

"All homeowners have an incentive to stop new housing," Kahn told me, "because if developers build too many homes, prices fall, and housing is many families' main asset. But in cities with many Democrats and Green Party members, environmental concerns might also be a factor. The movement might be too eager to preserve the past...

I asked Kahn if he had a pet theory for why liberals, who tend to be vocal about income inequality, would be more averse to new housing development, which would help lower-income families. He suggested that it could be the result of good intentions gone bad.

"Developers pursue their own self-interest," Kahn said. "If a developer has an acre, and he thinks it should be a shopping mall, he won't think about neighborhood charm, or historic continuity. Liberals might say that the developer acting in his own self-interest ignores certain externalities, and they'll apply restrictions. But these restrictions [e.g. historic preservation, environmental preservation, and height ceilings] add up, across a city, even if they’re well-intentioned. The affordability issue will rear its head."

Nobel Winner Jean Tirole’s Faulty Views on Monopoly

By Frank Shostak
Frenchman Jean Tirole of the University of Toulouse won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for devising methods to improve regulation of industries dominated by a few large firms. According to Tirole, large firms undermine the efficient functioning of the market economy by being able to influence the prices and the quantity of products.
Consequently, this undermines the well being of individuals in the economy. On this way of thinking the inefficiency emerges as a result of the deviation from the ideal state of the market as depicted by the “perfect competition” framework.
The “Perfect Competition” Model
In the world of perfect competition a market is characterized by the following features:

Documentary on Economist Walter E. Williams

The documentary is now being aired on public television channels. Be sure to watch the preview which includes a segment on how Williams followed orders in the army.

The clip is here.

The Fed Releases Monetary Policy Statement

Following a regular two-day meeting of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee, the Fed as expected issued a statement announcing that its fed funds target rate remains at a range of zero to 0.25 percent and  that its bond purchases programs have ended this month. There was one dissent today from Minneapolis Fed president Kocherlakota who preferred to keep the current level of quantitative easing.

Below is the entire Fed statement:

Who Do Young Adults Live With? Spouses Are Out Cohabitation is In

The share of young adults 18 to 34 living with a spouse has plunged from 60% in 1967 to 27% in 2013—a whopping 50% drop. The fraction cohabiting is up nearly 8,000%—from 0.1% to about 5%,  In absolute numbers this is a jump from about 25,000 young adults to 3.5 million. Shares of young adults living alone and living with nonrelatives (friends) is up 217% and 343%, respectively.

(via WSJ)

Even Double Protection of "Bitcoin over Tor" Anonymity Can be Busted in Three Minutes for $2,500

In a paper titled, Bitcoin Over Tor Isn't A Good Idea, written by Ivan Pustogarov, a doctoral student at CryptoLUX, the University of Luxembourg's cryptology research group, and Alex Biryukov, an associate professor who leads the group, the authors write:
The problem here is with anonymity. When people are connecting through Tor, they are expecting to have a higher level of anonymity ... it does provide some level of anonymity, but it is not that hard to break this....A low-resource attacker can gain full control of information flows between all users who chose to use bitcoin over Tor. In particular the attacker can link together user's transactions regardless of pseudonyms used..
Coindesk has more:
 The sort of manipulation described by the authors is known as a 'man-in-the-middle' attack (MitM) and, if successful, could reveal a user's IP address, which can be used to locate the user, and allow an attacker to 'glue', or correlate, the transactions performed by that user from different bitcoin addresses...

As a result, a victim would also be at the attacker's mercy regarding information about his transactions, since they would be able to delay or discard a victim's transactions or blocks.

In an extreme scenario, a bad actor could even dupe a victim into thinking they had received bitcoin when in fact they had not (a so-called 'double-spending attack'), Pustogarov said...
[A] smart attacker could set up a number of bitcoin servers and Tor exit nodes before exploiting the DoS protection system to ban other Tor exit nodes from the bitcoin network.

When a victim uses Tor to connect to the bitcoin network, he will be left with only the attacker's bitcoin servers to connect to, since he has been banned by all other servers. The attacker is now in control of all the information relayed to the user.

Pustogarov and Biryukov estimate that the attack can be mounted for between $2,500 and $7,200 a month. This range would be required to guarantee sufficient bandwidth and/or multiple IP addresses for the attacks.

At the lower limit, an attacker could control a significant portion of Tor exit node bandwidth, allowing him to direct a victim to a malicious bitcoin server. With this amount of bandwidth, a victim would take under three minutes, on average, before connecting to a bitcoin server controlled by an attacker, Pustogarov said.


Estimated Effect of Lower Energy Prices on Inflation

The current growth in domestic oil production will mean, short-term, a decline in energy prices. In the chart below the impact, on the core CPI inflation index, of this energy sector decline can be seen via Capital Economics forecasts.

I must hasten to add, however, the CE forecasts do not take into account the eventual decrease in the desire to hold cash balances which will act as a countervailing force to downward pressure on CPI as a result of increases in energy productivity.

Also, note well that even after taking into account the downward pressure on prices because of the energy boom, CE is still forecasting that price inflation by the end of 2016 will be significantly above the Fed's "target" inflation rate.

They are correct that price inflation will intensify even with the gains in energy productivity, however, it is likely to intensify sooner than CE is forecasting and the climb is likely to be much stronger.

Where Not to Invest in Europe

Some European countries are more of a nightmare than others when it comes to government regulation. That Greece is so much of an oppressive country for a business to operate in and the fact that it has one of the worst economies in Europe is not a coincidence.

Red Cross Paid $7.00 per Danish After Hurricane Sandy (and Then Threw Them Away)

Many are not aware, but the modern-day Red Cross was created by congressional charter.  It has a government mandate to work alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency in relief efforts. President Obama is the honorary chairman and its national headquarters is just blocks from the White House.

So how are they doing? Pretty much like other government related agencies.  Pro Puublica is out with a report detailing the recent spectacular crony-like failures at the Red Cross. It follows the pattern we have seen recently with other government-related emergency organizations. It is  very aggressive with propaganda efforts, but completely incompetent in delivering on its mandate:
IN 2012, TWO MASSIVE STORMS pounded the United States, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hungry or without power for days and weeks.
Americans did what they so often do after disasters. They sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Red Cross, confident their money would ease the suffering left behind by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. They believed the charity was up to the job.
They were wrong.
The Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Sandy and Isaac, leaving behind a trail of

City-by-City Look at House Prices, Including the New California Slowdown

Here’s a city-by-city look at house prices using the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite.

CityOne-month percentage changeOne-year percentage change
Las Vegas0.5%10.1%
Los Angeles0%6.8%
New York0.4%3.1%
San Diego-0.1%6.2%
San Francisco-0.4%9%
• Detroit had the biggest monthly gain, of 0.8%.
• The Sun Belt region saw its worst annual returns since 2012.
• Every city apart from Cleveland saw its annual gains decelerate.
• Every city but Boston and Detroit saw their monthly returns in August lower than in July.
• Miami now sports the fastest annual growth, at 10.5%.
• From the peak in the summer of 2006, home prices nationally are down 17%, while the recovery from the March 2012 lows is 29.5%.

(Chart compiled by MarketWatch)

Major League Crony Now Advising Two Bitcoin Companies

Two bitcoin companies, BitPay and Vaurum, have announced that Arthur Levitt, former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, will serve as advisor to both enterprises. BitPay is the world’s largest bitcoin payment processor, while Vaurum is an institutional bitcoin exchange.

He was the longest serving chairman of the SEC and has since stepped through the gold plated revolving door.

Since May 2001 he has been  a senior adviser at the Carlyle Group and also serves as a policy advisor to Goldman Sachs and as a Director of Bloomberg.

In 1997, the SEC under Levitt's leadership approved the exemption of some Enron partnerships from the tight accounting controls of the Investment Company Act of 1940. Enorn was, of course, a spectacular failure, which took some time to become obvious as the exemption Levitt's SEC granted the company made it much easier for it to hide its true financial state.

That BitPay and Vaurum want to associate with such a character is not a good sign, and surely not a positive signal for small-time Bitcoin holders.

The Countries Where the Free Market System Has the Most Support

Based on a new survey by the Pew Research Center, among the countries where the free market system is viewed most favorably, include South Korea, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Below are rankings for all major countries.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another Sign that, Despite Deflation Concerns of Paul Krugman, Your Apartment Rent Will Continue to Go Up

We are at a low in apartment vacancy rates not seen since the 1990s.

Over 200,000 Doctors Avoiding Obamacare Plans

The number of physicians nationwide that are declining to accept health plans from Obamacare exchanges is growing.

As of May 2014, over 214,000 doctors wouldn’t participate in Obamacare plans, and that number may be growing, according to AAF, a free-market think tank in Washington. While some Obamacare kinks have been worked out over the past year, exchange plans remain as unfriendly to doctors as ever.

Daily Caller writes:
Obamacare puts physicians — especially the dwindling number of those in private practice — in an especially difficult financial situation, expecting doctors to eat the costs of patients who discontinue coverage and to simply take on more patients to make up for bottom-level reimbursements.

Exchange plans nationwide pay on average significantly less than plans in the private market and even Medicare, according to AAF. While private plans generally pay doctors $1.00 for performing a given service, Medicare averages just $0.80; exchange plans are allowing doctors just $0.60 for the same thing..

The low physician reimbursements are likely borne out of the administration’s strong-handed push to keep Obamacare premium hikes as low as possible. In order to keep price low, insurers have to cut costs somewhere; in exchanges, companies moved to covering just narrow networks with few in-network physicians and offering low reimbursement rates to doctors with the promise that if physicians work even more, they’ll recoup their losses.

But the structure of the Affordable Care Act itself puts doctors who accept plans purchased on Obamacare exchanges at risk of never being paid at all. Obamacare requires insurers who sell plans on the exchanges to keep coverage active even after a customer has stopped paying their premiums, for an extra 90 days.

For the first 60 days after a customer has stopped paying but is still insured, the insurance company has to pay for any care the patient uses. But for any services used in the final 30 days before a customer’s insurance can be terminated, doctors that see those patients won’t be paid at all.

It’s no wonder that in such an unfriendly climate for physicians, many are staying out of Obamacare plans.

So What Has the Fed Been Doing Since the Start of the Financial Crisis?

Increasing its balance sheet by more than fivefold since the beginning of the recession.

A lot of the money the Fed has spent to buy these assets has been deposited by banks back at the Federal Reserve as excess reserves. 

Excess reserves now stand at over $2.5 trillion. Prior to the crisis, in January 2007, excess reserves were only $2.1 billion.

Excess reserves are cash balances that are not in the economy bidding up prices. We are in complete uncharted territory with these reserves. If they start to flow out of the Fed, the price inflation implications will be severe. 

GLOVES COME OFF! -- Peter Schiff vs. CNBC

By Chris Rossini

Ron Paul: Switzerland Gold Referendum A Healthy Conversation

By Neil Christensen

 Although it is unlikely Switzerland’s gold referendum will pass, one U.S. politician said the country is embarking on a “healthy conversation” regarding the role of its national bank.

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who is a strong proponent of gold-backed currencies, said in an exclusive interview with Kitco News the fact a referendum on gold reserves was triggered in Switzerland demonstrates that people around the globe are starting to question the reliability of fiat currencies.

On Nov. 30 Swiss voters will vote on three initiatives as part of the gold referendum: whether or not the Swiss National Bank should increase its gold reserves to 20%, that the central bank should stop selling its precious metals and that all its gold should be held within the country.

“People are starting to talk about gold more and they should,” he said. “(The referendum) is one more step in the direction of proving that paper money, fiat money, money created by politician out of thin air to subsidize big government and monetize debt is going to end.”

Read the rest here.

Who Owns Stocks?

(via WSJ)

Austrian Economist Who Should Have Received Nobel Prize

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

I have a new article on the news and commentary website, "EpicTimes," on the "Austrian Economist Who Should Have Received Nobel Prize."

The Nobel Prize in Economics for 2014 was awarded to the French economist, Jean Tirole, for his development of economic tools for governments to better regulate markets and industries.

But free market advocates believe that the more deserving recipient would have been the Austrian School economist, Israel M. Kirzner, who Reuters news agency had earlier said was on the short list for the Nobel award.

For over half a century, Kirzner has contributed to the "Austrian" theory of the competitive market process and the central role of the "alert" and creative entrepreneur as the crucial agent who discovers profit opportunities and brings supplies and demands into greater coordination and balance for the better satisfaction of consumer wants.

He has also focused on the distinct entrepreneurial role in guiding production across time by anticipating the consumer demands in the future through wise investment of capital, an insight that makes it very clear that it is the successful entrepreneurs who do "build it" and help bring about the prosperity and well-being of a wealthy society.

Kirzner, therefore, has warned against the dangers of government intervention and regulation precisely because it interferes with the entrepreneurial market process, political intervention under which the presumption is that the regulators and planners can ever possess the essential knowledge that only the enterprises can know in their respective corners of the market.

And, finally, Kirzner has formulated a "finders-keepers" conception of the right to property and profit, by explaining that discovery of opportunities to use and apply resources in new and innovative ways that justify title to them as much as the settler who tills virgin land.

One can only hope that the those who award the Nobel Prize in Economics will make a wiser choice next year.


U.S. Home Prices Post Slowest Annual Growth in Almost Two Years

Erratic Fed monetary policy manipulations is resulting in a roller coaster performance in the economy.

Please explain to me again how the Fed brings "stability" to the economy.

Actuaries Raise Life Expectancy for US 65-Year Olds

A decline will eventually set in, once Obamacare begins to have its long term impact of poorer quality healthcare. Life expectancy will be the real measure, long term, of what Obamacare has done to United States healthcare.

This is What is Keeping the Lid on Consumer Price Inflation Indexes

The dramatic drop in gasoline prices is the result of the oil shale and fracking boom in the US.

Enjoy it while it lasts because the Federal Reserve is continuing to print huge amounts of new money, eventually the money printing will over power the price declines that are resulting from the gains in productivity.

Price Inflation Rates Around the World

...along with supposed "inflation targets."

The 2014 List of States with the Best (and Worst) BusinessTax Climates

According to the Tax Foundation the 10 best are:

1. Wyoming
2. South Dakota
3. Nevada
4. Alaska
5. Florida
6. Washington
7. Montana
8. New Hampshire
9. Utah

The 10 worst are:

41. Maryland
42. Connecticut
43. Wisconsin
44. North Carolina
45. Vermont
46. Rhode Island
47. Minnesota
48. California
49. New Jersey
50. New York

Note: The Tax Foundation is about to release it's 2015 list. Return to this post for the update.

Monday, October 27, 2014

7 Things the Middle Class Can't Afford Anymore

Diana Farrell, once Deputy Director of America's National Economic Council, told The Economist she thinks a middle class income begins at the point where a person (or family) has one-third of their income left over for discretionary purposes after they've provided themselves with food and shelter. In other words, someone who earns $3,000 per month would have $1,000 left after they've paid their mortgage or rent, utilities, and grocery bills, writes Erika Rawes at USA Today.

Based on this definition, Rawes created this list of items the middle class can  no longer afford:

A Closer Look at the Economics of Ebola

By Johnathan Berr

Despite the rising public concerns over the Ebola epidemic, to date the disease's impact on the global economy has been muted. That's chiefly because the countries most affected by the disease -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- are small in economic terms, accounting for roughly 2 percent of the gross domestic product of Sub-Saharan Africa.

But the regional economic effects of Ebola could be far more serious if the outbreak were to spread to Ivory Coast and Ghana, which are near the Ebola zone. Such concerns are reflected in the rising price of cocoa, which is widely produced in both countries and which has climbed 23 percent this year even as the price of other commodities has fallen. Ghana is also an important producer of oil and precious minerals.

Borders in the region are porous, which adds to the international community's challenges in combating this disease.

Read the rest here.

The US Government + Berkshire Hathaway "Pollute" More than Big Oil

I have no idea what impact, if any, greenhouse emissions have on the climate, but the politically correct crowd sure thinks they know (although hardly any of them can even tell you why fog forms over San Francisco--a much less complex environmental event.)  That said, it is quite interesting to note that the US government and crony billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway are among the top "polluters."

The chart below shows calculations of "Geenhouse Pollution" according to Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

This is How Fed Monetary Policy is Being Driven

Chart of M2 money supply, quarterly change from a year ago,

Fed money supply growth is always quite erratic. And the last 10 years have been no exception. Is it any wonder that the economy appears to be on some kind of roller coaster?

Benn Steil and Dinah Walker at the Council on Foreign Relations highlight how erratic thinking can be among Fed officials:
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard continues to burnish his reputation as the FOMC’s least predictable member, reversing course on policy for the second time in 3 months—going from dove to hawk and now back to dove again.  Having as recently as August publicly advocated a rate rise in early 2015, he is now calling for the Fed to halt its monthly taper of QE3 bond purchases, citing falling inflation expectations.
But the Fed’s own preferred measure of inflation expectations, the 5-year 5-year forward breakeven inflation rate, has barely moved since the FOMC’s September meeting—down from 2.4% to 2.3%....Bullard has always defended his policy calls as data-driven, but in this case he seems to be navigating more by gut calls as to where the data may be moving in the future.  
For a complete discussion of how these manipulations distort the economy and cause the business cycle. see:  Austrian School Business Cycle Theory by Murray Rothbard

Blockbuster Negative News Out of Asia Concerning Future of the US Dollar

By Simon Black

This morning some of the biggest financial news of the year made huge waves all over Asia.

Yet in the Western press, this hugely important information has barely even been mentioned. (, for example, has yet to report on this story as of 11:45am Eastern...)

So what's the news?

Harvard Responds to Iris Mack

It appears a few people at Harvard University have taken notice of the lack of notice, revealed by Iris Mack, of her book, Energy Trading & Risk Management: A Practical Approach to Hedging, Trading & Portfolio Diversification. (SEE: A Harvard Alum, Financial Mathematics Whiz, Tried to Get Her Book Noticed at Harvard: This is What Happened)

Below are emails from within the Harvard community discussing the post:

The Worst Air Pollution in China vs. U.S.

China is filled with crony polluters, who have connections to government officials who allow filthy air pollution to spew forth.

Early Indications are that US Christmas Spending Will Be Strong

The Gallup Poll's  initial estimates of the total amount Americans will spend on Christmas gifts this year point to an above-average holiday season for the nation's retailers.

Gallup's October spending forecast is an initial read before its key measure in November.  The organization  finds Americans expecting to spend $781, on average, up from $704 last November.

The current figures are based on an Oct. 12-15 Gallup poll of 1,017 U.S. adults, aged 18 and older.

Remember. the greater the desire to spend cash balances, the more potential for accelerated price inflation.

Socialism Always Ends the Same Way

 Glenn Reynolds writes:
SOCIALISM ALWAYS ENDS THE SAME WAY: Venezuela seizes warehouses packed with medical goods, food. It always starts with hope, change and social justice, and it ends with assaults on the “hoarders and wreckers.”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Billion Dollar Tax Loophole That Came Along with Steve Ballmer's Purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers

I am not against tax loopholes. I subscribe to Ludwig von Mises' observation that “Capitalism breathes through those loopholes.” (SEE: What Ludwig von Mises Taught Gottfried Haberler Who Taught Paul Samuelson about Tax Loopholes). However, I do note that it seems that there are plenty more loopholes for billionaires than thousandaires.

Steve Ballmer stands to gain about $1bn in tax benefits as a result of his $2bn purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, reports FT.

An FT analysis of US tax laws shows that Ballmer could claim about half of the purchase price as tax credits over the next 15 years against his taxable income. The credits can be claimed under a little-known feature of the tax code covering so-called active owners of sports franchises.

Intellectual Inconsistency and Economic Malpractice Regarding the Minimum Wage

Mark Perry writes:

Walter Williams explains why he considers it to be “economic malpractice” for (former) economist Paul Krugman (and others) to claim that the Law of Demand applies universally except apparently in one case: the demand for unskilled and low-skilled workers. As the title of his column suggests (“Embarrassing Economists“), Professor Williams finds it embarrassing that some (former) economists like Krugman are not bothered by their own “intellectual and economic inconsistency” (see graphic above). Here’s Walter:

Paul Krugman: "Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history."

By Robert Wenzel

Paul Krugman is out with an essay at Rolling Stone on President Obama. It is only one note short of being a full hagiography.

If one were to show the essay to any well-read person, without any indication that the piece was published by Rolling Stone and written by Krugman, the person shown such piece would most certainly guess the paper was a rushed work by an over enthusiastic high school freshman, with above average potential to become an eventual high school geography teacher.

There is no indication that the author of the paper has any