Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Impact of Rent Controls (NYC Edition)

Fran Lebowitz

NYC is a very difficult place to find a decent apartment. It's a combination of  rent controls and having to compete against Wall Streeters who are first in line to get newly printed Fed money.

Sixty-four year old author and social critic, Fran Lebowitz, tells WSJ:
I moved to New York when I was 18, and today I’m still looking for a good apartment.

Ben Bernanke Explains Why Negative Interest Rates Can Not Exist Indefinitely

Ben Bernanke is posting away at his new blog and writes:
 As Larry’s uncle Paul Samuelson taught me in graduate school at MIT, if the real interest rate were expected to be negative indefinitely, almost any investment is profitable. For example, at a negative (or even zero) interest rate, it would pay to level the Rocky Mountains to save even the small amount of fuel expended by trains and cars that currently must climb steep grades. It’s therefore questionable that the economy’s equilibrium real rate can really be negative for an extended period. 
But, of course, you can never have a negative "natural interest rate" even in the short-term.


Kshama Sawant's Next Planned Attempt to Destroy Free Markets

Seattle's Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant is not content with introducing a $15.00 minimum wage in Seattle, which will result in lost jobs for many. She now wants to introduce rent controls in the city, which will do nothing but screw up the rental market.

KIRO 7 reports:
Sawant says she’s tackling housing costs next, with a proposal to exempt cities like Seattle from the statewide ban on rent control and use a billion dollars in bonds to build affordable housing.
“Look at the city, the rent is out of control.”

Sawant has scheduled a big public hearing on affordable housing for Thursday, April 23, at Seattle City Hall.

Keep it up  Kshama. In no time you will have Seattle looking like a living breathing version of what Taco Bell wants us to believe McDonald's is like.


Nine Lectures on the "Economics of Liberty"

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

The Nassau Institute in the Bahamas has uploaded the videos of nine lectures I delivered at the College of the Bahamas during March 5-7, 2015, under the title, “The Economics of Liberty.”

The lectures are on:

1.     1.The Moral Foundations of the Free Society

2.     2.Thee Meaning and Morality of Market Competition and the Profit and Loss System

3.     3.Why Socialism Failed: The Ethical and Economic Bankruptcy of the Planned Society

4.     4. Understanding the Economics of the Political Process: Ethical Entrepreneurship or Crony Capitalism?

5.     5. The Ethics and Economics of Redistribution: Are We Helping Our Fellow Men Through the Welfare State?

6.     6. The Fiscal Crisis of Our Time: The Ethics and Economics of Income Taxes, VAT, and Deficit Spending

7.     7. Being Moral Stewards of the Planet: Market Solutions to Our Environmental Problems

8.     8. Money and Inflation: The Moral Hazards of Paper Money

9.     9. The Virtues of Liberty: Restoring a Free Society

The Nassau Institute is the leading and most respected voice for free market, limited government ideas in the Bahamas, and made these lectures possible with the generous support of the Templeton Foundations.




John Maynard Keynes on Jews

You won't see the anti-Semitic views of John Maynard Keynes reported in the New York Times. I have mentioned these Keynes views before,

Now they are highlighted in the new book by Richard Davenport-Hines, Universal Man: The Seven Lives of  John Maynard Keynes:
[H]is marriage to a Russian [Lydia Lopokova] in whom bigotry of the Tsarist regime had been ingrained since girlhood, perpetuated this blight on his character. Their banter together included automatic jibes about the Jews: he considered Judaism as a subject for harsh superior humor. 'I smelt it', he told Lopovoka in 1924 after hearing that the Gluckstein family, which owned Lyons Corner House, had bought the Cafe Royal where his Tuesday Club held its monthly dinners...

He still remained enough of an Edwardian to regard immigrants from eastern Europe as schemers, who outwitted less nimble-minded natives and polluted their environment: "It is not agreeable to see a civilisation so under the ugly thumbs of its impure Jews who have all the money and the power and the brains' he said of Weimar Germany.
NYT would rather distort the views of Walter Block, a non-Keynesian economist, then give us truth about their quite evil guiding light Keynes.


Employment During a Federal Reserve Induced Boom

Murray Sabrin emails as a follow up to my post, The US is Experiencing One of its Best Job Gain Streaks in 20 Years, where I write,"The Fed manipulated boom is in full gear.":
Re the recent post about employment since the bust, how can we discern what jobs are "real" and which ones are boom induced?  Is it only after the bubble bursts do we know the answer or is there any tool in the Austrian tool kit to know this a priori?

First, I want to clarify a point that I see some make in the comments from time to time, before I get to Murray's question.

There is some debate in the comments as to whether better employment numbers are a signal of a new Fed created boom. I would argue: no/.

How Crazy Is It in San Francisco to Get an Apartment?

Stella-resume required.
With money flowing as a result of mad Federal Reserve money printing  and many, many apartments under rent controls. landlords can be extremely selective and make all kinds of demands. Here's what one landlord demanded, via the San Francisco Chronicle:
Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Doolittle and girlfriend Eireann Dolan knew it wouldn’t be easy apartment-hunting in the Bay Area for a home they’d need only through the baseball season — maybe even the post season. The added challenge was that it had to be dog-friendly.

In mid-February, they found a spot… sort of. The catch was that the couple was required to write a resume for Stella, their loveable, friendly 5-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback. Nothing too complicated, the landlord assured them. He provided them with a three-page sample resume for dogs and a word of advice. “Think about it a little more in-depth than what you would do for yourself,” Dolan recalled.


 Apparently, Stella’s resume did little to impress management. The couple was denied an apartment. The official reason: their vehicle was five inches taller than the garage stall provided for it. 


Breakfast Routine Communism at McDonald's?

There is a terribly unfair commercial out by Taco Bell attacking McDonald's.

It portrays McDonald's and its breakfasts as a routine that one would have to suffer through under a mind numbing centrally planned-type government regime.

It should be noted that a McDonald's breakfast has nothing to do with a centrally planned and directed life. No one is forced to go to a McDonald's. I haven't been to a McDonald's in ages but, that many go, suggests that they prefer the price and food relative to other options.

That said. there is subversive tone to this ad that goes beyond McDonald's and suggests rebellion against centrally planned authority. It's the kind of impression that can be a life long teaching moment for the masses, especially the young, to rebel against centrally planned regimes.

A tiny seed for the next rebellion may have just been planted. -RW


Monday, March 30, 2015

Soros: Ukraine is Collapsing

He writes:
The deterioration of Ukraine’s situation is accelerating. The financial collapse of which I had been warning for months occurred in February, when the hryvnia’s value plummeted 50% in a few days, and the National Bank of Ukraine had to inject large amounts of money to rescue the banking system. The climax was reached on February 25, when the central bank introduced import controls and raised interest rates to 30%.
 Since then, President Petro Poroshenko’s jawboning has brought the exchange rate back close to the level on which Ukraine’s 2015 budget was based. But the improvement is extremely precarious.
This temporary collapse has shaken public confidence and endangered the balance sheets of Ukrainian banks and companies that have hard-currency debts. It has also undermined the calculations on which Ukraine’s programs with the International Monetary Fund are based. The IMF’s Extended Fund Facility became insufficient even before it was approved.
But EU member states, facing their own fiscal constraints, have shown no willingness to consider additional bilateral aid. So Ukraine continues to teeter on the edge of the abyss
 This is all, of course, because of U.S. meddling in the country, especially the U.S. instigated overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine. Soros ignores this and absurdly blames Russia, but he is correct about the likely developments from here:
A more likely scenario is that Europe muddles through by drip-feeding Ukraine. Ukraine does not collapse, but the oligarchs reassert themselves and the new Ukraine begins to resemble the old Ukraine. 

Obamacare Heading For Death Spiral: Premiums Rising Rapidly, Young & Healthy Bailing Out

By Sean Parnell

The Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell, the case challenging the Obama administration’s decision to award tax credits for health insurance sold through federally established exchanges, could turn on the question of whether a ruling that ends the tax credits on federal exchanges might cause something known as a “death spiral” in health insurance markets.

The good news is the answer is probably no, but the bad news is that’s only because the death spiral has probably already started.

A death spiral generally occurs when insurers are forced to raise premiums sharply to pay promised benefits. Higher premiums cause many of the healthiest policyholders, who already pay far more in premiums than they receive in benefits, to drop coverage.

Every Young Person Should See the Fed’s Startling Numbers on Student Debt

By Simon Black

What I’m about to tell you is not my own opinion or even analysis. It’s original data that comes from the United States Federal Reserve and national credit bureaus.
  1. 40 million Americans are now in debt because of their university education, and on average borrowers have four loans with a total balance of $29,000.
  2. According to the Fed, “Student loans have the highest delinquency rate of any form of household credit, having surpassed credit cards in 2012.”
  3. Since 2010, student debt has been the second largest category of personal debt, just after a home mortgage.
  4. The delinquency rate for student loans is now hovering near an all-time high since they started collecting data 12 years ago.
  5. Only 37% of total students loan balances are currently in repayment and not delinquent.
The rest—nearly 2 out of 3—are either behind on payments, in all-out default, or have entered some sort of deferral program to delay making payments, with a small percentage still in school.

It’s pretty obvious that this is a giant, unsustainable bubble (more on this below). But even more important are the personal implications.

Justice Department Charges Ex-Federal Agents with Bitcoin Money Laundering

Well, ain't this  a hoot.

The Justice Department charged two former federal agents with wire fraud and money laundering related to stealing digital currency during their investigation of the Silk Road.

The department said Monday that former agents Carl Force and Shaun Bridges were assigned to the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force, and that Force was arrested March 27. Bridges surrendered Monday. The Justice Department said Force used fake online personas and engaged in bitcoin transactions to steal from the government. Bridges allegedly diverted to his personal account more than $800,000 in digital currency, DOJ said.


Carl M. Force, 46, of Baltimore, was a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Shaun W. Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Maryland, was a Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service (USSS).  Both were assigned to the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force, which investigated activity in the Silk Road marketplace.  Force served as an undercover agent and was tasked with establishing communications with a target of the investigation, Ross Ulbricht. Force is charged with wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest.  Bridges is charged with wire fraud and money laundering.

According to the complaint, Force was a DEA agent assigned to investigate the Silk Road marketplace.  During the investigation, Force engaged in certain authorized undercover  operations by, among other things, communicating online with "Dread Pirate Roberts” , the target of his investigation.  The complaint alleges, however, that Force then, without authority, developed additional online personas and engaged in a broad range of illegal activities calculated to bring him personal financial gain.

In doing so, the complaint alleges, Force used fake online personas, and engaged in complex Bitcoin transactions to steal from the government and the targets of the investigation.  Specifically, Force allegedly solicited and received digital currency as part of the investigation, but failed to report his receipt of the funds, and instead transferred the currency to his personal account.  In one such transaction, Force allegedly sold information about the government’s investigation to the target of the investigation.  The complaint also alleges that Force invested in and worked for a digital currency exchange company while still working for the DEA, and that he directed the company to freeze a customer’s account with no legal basis to do so, then transferred the customer’s funds to his personal account.  Further, Force allegedly sent an unauthorized Justice Department subpoena to an online payment service directing that it unfreeze his personal account. 

Bridges allegedly diverted to his personal account over $800,000 in digital currency that he gained control of during the Silk Road investigation.  The complaint alleges that Bridges placed the assets into an account at Mt. Gox, the now-defunct digital currency exchange in Japan.  He then allegedly wired funds into one of his personal investment accounts in the United States mere days before he sought a $2.1 million seizure warrant for Mt. Gox’s accounts.    

Bridges self-surrendered today and will appear before Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James of the Northern District of California at 9:30 a.m. PST this morning.  Force was arrested on Friday, March 27, 2015, in Baltimore and will appear before Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan of the District of Maryland at 2:30 p.m. EST today.

Why a Higher Minimum Wage Will Hurt the Poor

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth

Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to raise the city’s hourly minimum wage from $8.75 to $11.50 would harm the very people it is intended to help - poor and low-skill New Yorkers. If the wage floor is raised, they would have fewer job opportunities and less chance of climbing the career ladder.

To understand why, do a thought experiment. If raising the minimum wage were cost-free, why stop at $11.50 an hour? Why not go straight to $25 an hour, the average hourly wage? That might be considered fair, because no one would have to earn less than the current average.

Everyone realizes that at a hourly minimum wage of $25, some people would be displaced from their jobs. The same is true of a minimum wage of $11.50. Cuomo wants to pass a law saying that if you have skills of less than $11.50 an hour, you are not allowed to work in New York City.

This is positively un-American, and immoral. It discriminates against the poor, who have fewer skills. It discriminates against those who do not fare well in academic settings, and whose only chance at success is to start at the bottom and work up.

Read the rest here.

New CEO at the Cato Institute

The Cato Institute has named Peter Goettler, a former managing director at Barclays Capital, as its new President and CEO, effective April 1. Current CEO John Allison is retiring.

Goettler retired in 2008 as a managing director and head of Investment Banking and Debt Capital Markets, Americas, at Barclays Capital, the investment banking division of Barclays Bank, PLC. He also served as chief executive officer for the firm’s businesses in Latin America and head of Global Loans and Global Leveraged Finance. According to the institute, he has been a member of the Cato Institute’s board since last year and a supporter of the Institute for 15 year.

The Cato Institute’s Board of Directors approved Goettler as the next CEO by unanimous vote at its March 28 meeting.

There is no paper trail of Goettler's views on anything beyond a notice that he gave a lecture on free markets and economic development, in Naimbia.


Ben Bernanke Has Launched a Blog

He writes:
On January 31, 2014, I left the chairmanship of the Fed in the capable hands of Janet Yellen. Now that I’m a civilian again, I can once more comment on economic and financial issues without my words being put under the microscope by Fed watchers. I look forward to doing that—periodically, when the spirit moves me—in this blog. I hope to educate, and I hope to learn something as well. Needless to say, my opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my former colleagues at the Fed.

And he begins to spread propaganda in his second post:
When I was chairman, more than one legislator accused me and my colleagues on the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee of “throwing seniors under the bus” (to use the words of one senator) by keeping interest rates low. The legislators were concerned about retirees living off their savings and able to obtain only very low rates of return on those savings.

I was concerned about those seniors as well. But if the goal was for retirees to enjoy sustainably higher real returns, then the Fed’s raising interest rates prematurely would have been exactly the wrong thing to do. In the weak (but recovering) economy of the past few years, all indications are that the equilibrium real interest rate has been exceptionally low, probably negative. A premature increase in interest rates engineered by the Fed would therefore have likely led after a short time to an economic slowdown and, consequently, lower returns on capital investments. The slowing economy in turn would have forced the Fed to capitulate and reduce market interest rates again. This is hardly a hypothetical scenario: In recent years, several major central banks have prematurely raised interest rates, only to be forced by a worsening economy to backpedal and retract the increases. Ultimately, the best way to improve the returns attainable by savers was to do what the Fed actually did: keep rates low (closer to the low equilibrium rate), so that the economy could recover and more quickly reach the point of producing healthier investment returns.

He then went on to attack, without naming it, Austrian School Business Cycle Theory:
A....confused criticism often heard is that the Fed is somehow distorting financial markets and investment decisions by keeping interest rates “artificially low.” Contrary to what sometimes seems to be alleged, the Fed cannot somehow withdraw and leave interest rates to be determined by “the markets.” The Fed’s actions determine the money supply and thus short-term interest rates; it has no choice but to set the short-term interest rate somewhere. So where should that be? The best strategy for the Fed I can think of is to set rates at a level consistent with the healthy operation of the economy over the medium term, that is, at the (today, low) equilibrium rate. There is absolutely nothing artificial about that! 


Sunday, March 29, 2015

"I Drank Weed Killer"

Kevin M. Folta, "a scientist in a scientifically illiterate nation," writes:
This week controversy ignited when Patrick Moore, a prominent advocate for Golden Rice, was interviewed on the French TV channel Canal+.  He correctly claimed that glyphosate was safe enough to drink and not likely causing alleged cancer outbreaks in Argentina.  When the host offered him a glass of Roundup herbicide he did not drink it and walked off the set.

Of course, twitter and other opinion outlets of the world's pseudoexperts exploded with the fact that Moore was forced to eat his words rather than drink weed killer.  

And then the Big M felt compelled to remind everyone that weed killer is not a beverage and that Moore is not representing the company. 

Over the years I've done the demo, not hammering a glass of the stuff, but mixing a tablespoon of the working solution into diet Mountain Dew.  No big deal.

Of course when you do a stunt like this everyone goes completely unhinged, screaming that a scientist endorses drinking weed killer. As usual, it is not about thinking-- it is about harming a scientist's credibility. My demo is not about drinking weed killer-- it is about demonstrating empirically-derived biological thresholds, physiological fates of well-characterized chemicals, and understanding a herbicide's mechanisms of action.

But that's nuance and science, so don't expect them to understand that. 

So for the record, don't drink weed killer.  There is absolutely no evidence that glyphosate is going to kill you or even make you sick in working concentrations.  However, the formulation used on plants contains surfactants, detergent-like compounds that help the chemical penetrate a leaf.  

Anyone who has ever consumed soap (long story) knows that it gives you a royal case of crazy colon, and that would likely be the effect of drinking a full glass of the commercial herbicide preparation. 

Moore might have been planning a long flight or a marathon run, places where a case of the urgent flaming schmootzies would be most unwelcome. 

My official words- don't drink weed killers or any ag chemicals. Instead, take the time to learn how to use them safely, and always do so within the labeling guidance. 

Repeal, Don’t Reform the IMF!

By Ron Paul

A responsible financial institution would not extend a new loan of between 17 and 40 billion dollars to a borrower already struggling to pay back an existing multi-billion dollar loan. Yet that is just what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) did last month when it extended a new loan to the government of Ukraine. This new loan may not make much economic sense, but propping up the existing Ukrainian government serves the foreign policy agenda of the US government.

Since the IMF receives most of its funding from the United States, it is hardly surprising that it would tailor its actions to advance the US government’s foreign policy goals. The IMF also has a history of using the funds provided to it by the American taxpayer to prop up dictatorial regimes and support unsound economic policies.

Some may claim the IMF does promote free markets by requiring that countries receiving IMF loans implement some positive economic reforms, such as reducing government spending.

Fact Checking March Against Monsanto Protesters #1

Brazil: Victim of Vulgar Keynesianism

By Anthony P. Mueller

All Keynesian roads lead to stagflation. That was the case in Europe and in the United States in the 1970s when both stagnation and inflation hit the economies at the same time. Currently, this is the case in Brazil.

Since coming into power in 2003, the Brazilian labor government has religiously implemented the economic policy doctrine of growth by spending. Now, the country has fallen into stagnation with a recession looming while inflation is on the rise. All economic indicators flash red lights: from economic growth to inflation and the exchange rate, from productivity to investment and industrial production.

The US is Experiencing One of its Best Job Gain Streaks in 20 Years

The Fed manipulated boom is in full gear.

March job numbers are likely to show the 13th straight month of job gains of over 200,000, matching a run in 1994-95.

In the post-war period only the runs of 14 months in 1976-77 and 15 in 1983-84 have been higher.

The Ruble is Bouncing Back

An AFP report tries to guess what is behind it:
[A]n unexpected recent rebound by the ruble has partially reversed months of pain for the nosediving national currency and fired hope among harried officials in Moscow that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. 
Few analysts were betting on a bounce after the ruble lost over 40 percent of its value in 2014 and carried on the slump into this year. 
But a drop in fighting in east Ukraine and the steadying of oil prices seems to have combined with the tax payment season and a Kremlin drive to get money repatriated to fire an unlikely recovery. 
Guys, it was mostly Elvira.


How to Put Together a Standard But Useless Television Report on the Economy

Minimum Wage Increase Causes Cuts in Hours, Jobs, and Services in South Dakota?

Even the South Dakota government university sector, which doesn't necessarily react to free market price signals, is adjusting with cuts, cuts and cuts, as a result of a minimum wage hike.

(ht Mark Perry)

The AirWheel X8: An EPJ Scoop

Kevin Killinger emails:

Hi Robert,

Scoop everyone on this, because almost nobody in North America has ever heard of this.

It is a good example of the division of labor.  An American invented it.  The Chinese produce it.  Japan makes the battery for it.

It is called a Self-Balancing Unicycle.  The brand I ride is AirWheel, but there are many other brands now competing.

It is unheard-of in North America.  Though it is cool.  I don’t see why it will not catch on - I think it will.  Go on YouTube and search for AirWheel, or RockWheel, or SoloWheel, or FireWheel.  You may be able to introduce this thing, a testament to the division of labor if there ever was one.  Innovation, too.

I’m telling you, very few in North America have ever heard of this thing.  And it is cool.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

"Unusual amount of cheating suspected at Stanford University"

"An unusually high number of students at Stanford University are suspected of cheating during the most recent term, putting faculty members and administrators of the prestigious institution on alert," says AP

University Provost John Etchemendy sent a letter to faculty members highlighting what he called "troubling allegations" that stem from "a smattering of concerns from a number of winter courses," the San Jose Mercury News

University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin declined to discuss details with SJMN, such as the course or grade level of the students, but she said such concerns are routine. She says that in the 2013-2014 academic year, 83 students violated the honor code.

In the most recent term, SJMN reported that one instructor believes that 20 percent of students in a large introductory course may have cheated.

Coming Soon Near You: Willie Nelson Weed

Here is a perfect example of how free and open markets function with less violence and overall danger, and better quality, compared to black markets that must deal with the threat of government punishment.

Market Watch reports:
Willie Nelson, the country singer-songwriter (and well-known consumer of cannabis), has revealed plans to launch a branded chain of marijuana dispensaries and related products, including signature strains of pot. Dubbed “Willie’s Reserve,” the brand is expected to start formulating plans in the next year. Nelson spokesman Michael Bowman told The Daily Beast that the operation is going to “be something that’s reflective of (Nelson’s) passion” for cannabis.

At a time when legalized marijuana is already a $2.2 billion business, Nelson is far from the first celebrity to eye the branded cannabis model. Last year, the family of reggae legend Bob Marley announced plans to create a line of pot products, including “heirloom Jamaican cannabis.”

Plus, with more than 20 states now having legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use, cannabis chains are starting to emerge. In Colorado, for example, a chain called Native Roots has locations in more than a half-dozen cities, with additional ones coming soon.


Six Countries Hold Half the World’s Population

SOLVED The Problem of 'The Oversupply of Economic Wisdom'

(ht Mark Perry)

Don't Tinker With the Fed, End It!

Jeff Deist, of the Mises Institute, and Paul-Martin Foss discuss Ron Paul's years fighting the Federal Reserve, why Carl Menger still matters, and why the Beltway types are wrong when they want to tinker with—rather than end—the Fed. Here.

"My morning is all about stilling the outside world so my mind can soar."

By Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert)

Years ago, I engineered my routine to concentrate my creative energy into a few hours in the morning.

That makes sense for me because I am the creator of "Dilbert." My value is based on my best ideas in any given day, not the number of hours I work.

Creativity is not something you can summon on command. The best you can do is set an attractive trap and wait. My mornings are the trap.

I wait for the ideas to arrive at their leisure, like a hunter in a duck blind. And in order for the trap to work, I exercise tight control over my physical environment.

The first 20 minutes of my day are exactly the same, step for step, every day, including weekends and holidays. I even eat and drink the same things — coffee and a protein bar — as soon as I wake up.

In other words, I set my physical body on autopilot for the morning. That frees my brain for creativity.

I am lucky to be a morning person. My alarm is set for 5 a.m., but if I wake up any time after 3:30 a.m., I call that close enough and pop out of bed with a hum and a bounce.

I’ll sleep when I’m dead, which might be soon; science tells us that averaging four hours of sleep per night is unhealthy. I have been under-sleeping for decades, and I just keep getting healthier. But don’t take medical advice from cartoonists.

Within 10 minutes of waking, I am at my desk in my home office. I enjoy my protein bar with my coffee because the tastes are amazing together.

Read the rest here.

Real Estate Price Insanity San Francisco Style

This would never, never happen without Janet Yellen pumping massive amounts of money into the Silicon corridor.

A  four-bedroom home, located in San Francisco's Outer Sunset neighborhood, was listed for $799,000 in February and sold for $1.21 million just two weeks after coming onto the market.

The listing warned: "in a deteriorative state; needs everything, not for the novice." According to Redfin, the buyer paid in cash.

This what the new owner has purchased:

Here's the inside:


Murray Sabrin on 50 Years of Medicare and Medicaid

Murray emails:

I will be moderating a symposium to review the first 50 years of Medicare and Medicaid on April 21 at Ramapo College. The press release has the link to register for the event, which is open to the general public.   For your readers who cannot attend, the symposium will be streamed live on the Internet.


Murray Sabrin, Ph.D.

Professor of Finance,
Ramapo College

Friday, March 27, 2015

The 10 Best States For College Grads to Get a Job

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analyzed job postings on 15,000 websites to see where jobs were most plentiful. Massachusetts, Delaware, and Washington produced the most job ads per college-educated worker, while West Virginia, Rhode Island, and South Carolina produced the fewest, reports Bloomberg.

Here are the Top Ten:

1. Massachusetts
Share of online job ads seeking college graduates: 63 percent
Number of online job ads for college graduates in Q3, 2013: 94,600
Top jobs: software developers, computer occupations, managers
Employers with the biggest online recruiting presence: Liberty Mutual, Sterling Life Sciences, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Silicon Corridor is on Fire!

Silicon venture capitalists are tied in closely with Wall Street and know how to direct  money their way as soon a sit comes out of the Fed spigot.

The Gallup's Economic Confidence Index numbers are in for 2014.

 The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara and the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan areas in California posted some of the highest scores on the index. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara boasted an Economic Confidence Index score of +12, while San Francisco and its surrounding area registered a +9. Both scores are increases from 2012-2013, and the two areas now notably surpass the index score in the Washington, D.C., metro area (+5).

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking conducted throughout 2014 in the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. Overall, the average Economic Confidence Index score for the top 50 MSAs was -10, compared with -15 for the entire U.S.

I'd Like to See an Austrian School Econ Grad Student Infiltrate This...

Information sessions now being held.

The Murray Sabrin Tour Continues

Murray emails:


Hope all is well.  For your readers who live in the NY-NJ metro area, the second stop of the statewide tour (How to Prepare for the Next Financial Crisis) will be held in Bergen County on April 16 at 7pm, Eastwick College, 10 South Franklin Turnpike, Ramsey, NJ. Please RSVP. Seating is limited. Admission is $20.

Ramsey NJ is about 30 minutes from the George Washington Bridge.


Smart Cup Can Immediately Analyze the Molecular Content of What You're Drinking

Absolutely awesome. Three cheers for free market innovation.

Today is the 35th Anniversary of the Amazing Silver Crash of Silver Thursday

By Smauldgld

Today is the thirty-fifth anniversary of Silver Thursday, the day when the Hunt Brothers, Herbert and Nelson, went bust. The Hunt Brothers missed a margin call that day and the price of silver collapsed.

Elvira Nabiullina:The Central Banker Who Saved the Russian Economy From the Abyss

By Evgenia Pismennaya and Ilya Arkhipov

 Panic reached the inner sanctum of the Russian central bank.

It was Dec. 16 -- the day Russian traders would later christen Black Tuesday -- and the ruble was in a freefall.

“Intervene! Intervene!” a central bank official shouted.

Governor Elvira Nabiullina watched the currency on her tablet screen react to her emergency rate increase. No, she said, not this time: Russia would no longer fight the market. Speculators needed a cold shower, she said.

That daring decision, related by two people with knowledge of the meeting, has begun to pay off for Nabiullina, 51, and her patron, President Vladimir Putin. Despite sanctions meant to punish Russia for its foray into Ukraine a year ago, the ruble has stabilized. Since Black Tuesday, when it plunged to a record low, the ruble has rebounded 19 percent against the dollar, the most among 24 emerging-market currencies.

Russia still confronts a painful recession brought on by the collapse in oil, and many of its banks are hurting. But for now, at least, the economy has stepped back from the abyss. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov last week declared the worst was over.

Inside the central bank, near Red Square, the lull passes for victory. Nabiullina no longer has to squander foreign-exchange reserves in vain attempts to prop up the ruble. Now she faces the equally daunting task of binding up the wounded economy.

Direct Line

While her central bank is nominally independent, analysts agree Putin is ultimately in charge. Yet Nabiullina has emerged as a power in her own right, with a direct line to the president.

Nabiullina isn’t afraid to speak up. When aides urged Putin to impose capital controls last year, she fought against the move and pushed for a freely floating ruble, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Putin heeded her advice -- and then let Nabiullina sort out the details.

“It was a historic moment because she convinced Putin to accept a market solution to a problem that threatened the whole banking system,” UBS AG Russia Chairman Rair Simonyan said. Russia might well have veered into economic isolation, he said.

Read the rest here.

An Oscar-Winning Actor’s Fight Against the Minimum Wage

WSJ writes:
We’re about to do the meanest thing this newspaper could do to Tim Robbins: Agree with him.

The famously liberal actor has come out against the attempt by the actors union, the Actors’ Equity Association, to impose the minimum wage on small theaters, and we’re with him all the way.

At issue is the 99 Seat Theater Plan, which allows union members to work for modest stipends in small theater productions. Mr. Robbins, who calls himself a “proud member of Actors’ Equity,” says he opposes the minimum wage because these small theaters are not about making money. Actors volunteer for many reasons—an opportunity to do live theater, to take a part they might not otherwise get, maybe even to be discovered.

In a piece for the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Robbins portrayed his position as a fight for the little guy—the unknowns going up against the union bigs in Actors’ Equity’s “new $7 million offices.” Between the lines he’s saying the mandated wages may be a death knell for some of these small theaters.

Perhaps Mr. Robbins will now give the same consideration to the little guys who lose their jobs in the rest of the economy when wages are set too high for the market. He might also learn to appreciate that even at profit-making companies people take low-wage jobs for many reasons: the retiree who works at McDonald’s to keep active, the college grad who takes an unpaid internship to gain experience, or the teenager who works at a bodega to get some spare cash.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Soros: Greece Has Only 50-50 Chance of Eurozone Survival

The chances of Greece leaving the euro area are now 50-50 and the country could go "down the drain", billionaire investor George Soros said during an interview with Bloomberg television.

"It's now a lose-lose game and the best that can happen is actually muddling through,"  Soros  said. "Greece is a long-festering problem that was mishandled from the beginning by all parties."

Actually there is hope for Greece if they default, stiff the banksters, leave the eurozone, operate a sound currency and remove the onerous regulations that suffocate the economy.

But like the spirit Elpis, the potential for a free market in Greece is likely sealed in a jar, while the evil is spread.


Gustave de Molinari’s Final Words

By Louis Rouanet
In spite of a seemingly endless number of examples to the contrary, we continue to be confronted, even in 2015, with the widespread idea that technological innovation can destroy jobs and wealth. Each new labor-saving technology leads to worried speculations by those who fear any challenge to the status quo.
Astute economists and observers in every era have debunked this idea again and again. Writing in 1911, for example, the French economist and philosopher Gustave de Molinari addressed this issue in his final book, Ultima Verba : Mon Dernier Ouvrage (Ultima Verba: My Last Work). At that time, Molinari was ninety-one years old and had only one more year to live. However, he was still writing with great lucidity and his book is a merciless attack against protectionism, taxation, the military-industrial complex, and government privilege.

The 20 Fastest Growing Cities in America

Why Louis CK Turned Down $500,000

By James Altucher

Louis CK turned down $500,000 a year from Conan in the early 90s so he could go broke instead. Conan wanted to hire him as head writer of his show.

Every step of the way in the 20 years since he put a challenge in front of himself that seemed impossible—and it was until he passed it. 

Now he's the best comedian ever. One can argue with that but one can argue about anything. 

He was offered the job of head writer at one of the hottest comedy shows in the world. He would've grown from that and be set for life. 

Instead he decided to hit the road. He went from gas station to comedy club to bowling alley to hotel to wherever to tell his hour of jokes. 

There is No Inflation If You Live in a Tent: U.S. Home Prices Are Surging 13 Times Faster Than Wages

From Bloomberg:
For most people, buying a home is no cheap venture. That's especially the case when the growth in U.S. home prices is beating wage increases 13 to 1.
Wages climbed by 1.3 percent from the second quarter of 2012 to the second quarter of 2014, compared to a 17 percent increase in home prices around that time, according to a new report from RealtyTrac. The real-estate data provider used the Labor Department's weekly earnings data to measure wage growth, while home prices were derived from sales-deed data in December 2014 and compared to December 2012 on the hypothesis that a change in average wages would take at least six months to affect home prices.
Using localized earnings data, RealtyTrac also found that 76 percent of housing markets posted increases in home prices that exceeded the wage growth there during that time frame, led by the regions of Merced, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Santa Cruz, California; and Augusta, Georgia. Others include the Detroit, Houston and Miami regions. 

And here is what is going on with rents:


Ebeling on Booms and Busts

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

Last week I appeared as part of a panel on the “Booms and Busts” show on RT-TV, devoted to Federal Reserve monetary policy and the likelihood of another “bust” down the road. One of the other participants was Peter Schiff.

It has been posted in two parts on YouTube.

Each part runs for about 30 minutes.


Great Lessons from Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

By Thomas Sowell

It is not often that the leader of a small city-state — in this case, Singapore — gets an international reputation. But no one deserved it more than Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore as an independent country in 1959, and its prime minister from 1959 to 1990. With his death, he leaves behind a legacy valuable not only to Singapore but to the world.

Obama Continues to be Humiliated by the Rising Anti-Dollar Alliance

By Simon Black

Now it's Austria, Switzerland, and Australia that have joined dozens of other countries around the world in the anti-dollar alliance.

These nations, which also include most US 'allies' in Western Europe like Germany, France and the UK, have all signed on to be founding members of China's new Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The AIIB is the biggest disruption to the global monetary system since the end of World War II.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Inside Scoop on One of Murray Rothbard's Professors at Columbia Univeristy

William Vickrey
Jim Davidson emails Walter Block:
I started [at Columbia] in August 1981 and finished in May 1985, but I had a job with a bank in Secaucus, so I stuck around until August '85.

We didn't overlap, but William Vickrey was a professor when I was there.  I didn't know he was going to win a Nobel prize in 1996...His class oozed his Keynesian views, which I put up with because I wanted to minor in economics (and major in astrophysics) and his class was supposed to be better than the other professor (whose name I forget) according to the course guide.

One day, he came to class with a box diagram all strung with colored yarn.  He then attempted to recapitulate the graph on the chalk board in two dimensions.  He  arefully explained all the equations, wrote them up on the board, drew the graphs, then said, "No, that isn't it."
Took up his eraser, started over.  A room of 200 students flipped their notebooks to a fresh page and started again.

This happened at least six times as I recall.  I remember drawing that
graph over and over and over.  A whole lot of muttering in the room.
 Every time it was "No, that isn't it" two hundred pages would be

 Finally, he finished the sixth version and looked at it, blinked a
 bit, and said, "Yes. That's it.  That's exactly right.  Now, what you
see here is exactly what I was trying to say about the yarn box.  Not
very important though, and it won't be on your test."

There was a pause.  Twenty notebooks slammed shut.  I was third out
the door, and all the students who left that day went straight to the
registrar's office to drop his class.  Memorable.
Walter Block, in a reply to Davidson, continued the Vickrey tales:
 I think Vickrey won the Nobel Prize in econ, and then, two weeks  later, passed away. Murray Rothbard used to say of Vickrey, "He could draw 8 curves, all in different colors, with one sweep of his arm." When I was a columbia grad school, we all had to take a placement exam  for micro. Becker taught the highest scoring students, Vickrey the middle group, and Alcaly the lowest. I was lucky; I got Becker.
(Thanks to Dr. Block for sending along the exchange.)

Cover Up at the Fed of Profit Making Leaks?

By Jake Bernstein

Last December, ProPublica reported that confidential information from the Federal Reserve Board committee that sets the nation’s monetary policy had been leaked to a private investor newsletter in 2012. This week, the Fed for the first time put out asummary of its investigation into the leak — one that raises new questions about how the matter was handled.

WSJ: The Inflation Cycle May Have Turned

Greg Ip at WSJ writes:
[T]here are tantalizing signs that the cycle has turned. In February, U.S. consumer prices rose 0.2% from January, which pulled the annual inflation rate out of negative territory; it’s now zero. More important, core prices rose 0.16%, which nudged the annual rate up to 1.7% from 1.6%. It was the second upside surprise to core inflation in a row. The driver in January was firmer service prices, this month it was goods.
There have been scattered signs that inflation has bottomed out elsewhere, as well. In the eurozone, the 12-month inflation rate rose from minus 0.6% in January to minus 0.3% in February, while core inflation ticked up ever so slightly to 0.7% from 0.6%. (Britain is an exception: both headline and core inflation came in lower than expected in February.) Anecdotal evidence is also piling up. As my colleague Josh Zumbrun has noted, the Billion Prices Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which skims the Internet every day for up to date pricing information, is signaling a turn....

Ip is on to something here, but once oil stops falling,  am advising in the EPJ Daily Aler. the price inflation advance will be much stronger.. First stop 3% price inflation, based on government indexes, then 5%, then perhaps 10% plus.


Greek Finance Minister: Why I Gave Germany the Middle Finger Salute

Yanis Varoufakis writes:

A German television presenter recently broadcast an edited video of me, before I was Greece’s finance minister, giving his country the middle-finger salute. The fallout has shown the potential impact of an alleged gesture, especially in troubled times. Indeed, the kerfuffle sparked by the broadcast would not have happened before the 2008 financial crisis, which exposed the flaws in Europe’s monetary union and turned proud countries against one another.

When, in early 2010, Greece’s government could no longer service its debts to French, German, and Greek banks, I campaigned against its quest for an enormous new loan from Europe’s taxpayers to pay off those debts. I gave three reasons.

First, the new loans did not represent a bailout for Greece so much as a cynical transfer of private losses from the banks’ books onto the shoulders of Greece’s most vulnerable citizens. How many of Europe’s taxpayers, who have footed the bill for these loans, know that more than 90% of the €240 billion ($260 billion) that Greece borrowed went to financial institutions, not to the Greek state or its people?

Second, it was obvious that if Greece already could not repay its existing loans, the austerity conditions on which the “bailouts” were premised would crush Greek nominal incomes, making the national debt even less sustainable. When Greeks could no longer make payments on their mountainous debts, German and other European taxpayers would have to step in again. (Wealthy Greeks, of course, had already shifted their deposits to financial centers like Frankfurt and London.)
Finally, misleading peoples and parliaments by presenting a bank bailout as an act of “solidarity,” while failing to help ordinary Greeks – indeed, setting them up to place an even heavier burden on Germans – was destined to undermine cohesion within the eurozone. Germans turned against Greeks; Greeks turned against Germans; and, as more countries have faced fiscal hardship, Europe has turned against itself.

The fact is that Greece had no right to borrow from German – or any other European – taxpayers at a time when its public debt was unsustainable. Before Greece took any loans, it should have initiated debt restructuring and undergone a partial default on debt owed to its private-sector creditors. But this “radical” argument was largely ignored at the time.

Similarly, European citizens should have demanded that their governments refuse even to consider transferring private losses to them. But they failed to do so, and the transfer was effected soon after.
The result was the largest taxpayer-backed loan in history, provided on the condition that Greece pursue such strict austerity that its citizens have lost one-quarter of their incomes, making it impossible to repay private or public debts. The ensuing – and ongoing – humanitarian crisis has been tragic.

Krugman Proves Global Warming is a Good Thing

In the first half of a blog post that deteriorates in quality the longer it gets, Paul Krugman steps up to prove thathe actually knows something about economic geography. As a byproduct, though I doubt he realizes it, he shows that global warming would generally viewed as a favorable thing.
 Branko Milanovic notes Lee Kwan Yew’s explanation of the success of Singapore and other Asian economies; partly Confucian culture, partly air conditioning. If you’ve ever tried to walk around Singapore, you know whereof he speaks.

The same factor plays a major role in explaining differential US regional growth, and thereby hangs a tale.

The rise of the US sunbelt can be understood largely as a response to the emergence of widespread air conditioning, which made places that are warm in the winter attractive despite humid, muggy summers. It’s a gradual, long-drawn-out response, because location decisions have a lot of inertia; few people would choose de novo to live in the old industrial towns of upstate New York, but the existing housing stock and the fact that people have family and social networks prevent quick abandonment. So to this day temperature is a good predictor of state population growth. I’ve taken the NOAA data and divided states into three groups by average temperature: Group I is colder than Rhode Island, Group III warmer than California:

Who’s in Group III? The full list:

South Carolina

These are places where summer would be really oppressive without air conditioning.

Yes, surprise, surprise, since the emergence of widespread air conditioning people prefer warmer climates over cold.


MORE MADNESS As a Result of Higher Minimum Wage Laws: Lower Take Home Pay for Some

When you start regulating the economy, you never know what kind of twists and turns will occur.

The situation Bay Area lefty interventionists have created, beyond problems in the childcare sector and in Oakland's Chinatown, with their minimum wage hikes, is resulting in some surprising negative effects. Michael Saltsman at WSJ reports;
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, half of what San Francisco’s wage floor will be set at by 2018 after a series of increases that begin in May. Nationally, Congress phased in the last 40% increase to $7.25 over a three-year period; in Oakland, an almost-identical 36% increase happened overnight on March 1...

In Oakland, local restaurants are raising prices by as much as 20%, with the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that “some of the city’s top restaurateurs fear they will lose customers to higher prices.” Thanks to a quirk in California law that prohibits full-service restaurants from counting tips as income, other operators—who were forced to give their best-paid employees a raise—are rethinking their business model by eliminating tips as they raise prices.

Ironically, this change in compensation practices has reduced the take-home pay for some of the employees it was supposed to help: At the Oakland restaurant Homestead, the East Bay Express reported that servers are taking “a substantial pay cut,” earning a flat wage of $18 to $24 an hour and no tips instead of the $35 to $55 an hour they were accustomed to earning when tips were included.

REVOLVING DOOR Ex-Fed Governor to Join Hedge Fund

Jeremy Stein, a former Federal Reserve governor, will advise BlueMountain Capital Management LLC, the more than $20 billion New York-based  hedge fund firm.

 He joined the Fed in 2012 and resigned in May 2015.

NYT reports:
Under the agreement with BlueMountain, Mr. Stein will be paid by the hedge fund but not employed by it. In this way, he will be placing one foot through the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, a move others like Alan S. Greenspan and Ben S. Bernanke have also made.

The list of Washington movers and shakers who have taken lucrative positions in the private sector after leaving public office is long.

Mr. Greenspan was hired to consult for Deutsche Bank, the bond investment firm Pacific Investment Management Company and the hedge fund Paulson & Company after stepping down as Fed chairman. Last year, Timothy F. Geithner, the former Treasury secretary, joined the private equity firm Warburg Pincus. William M. Daley, a former White House chief of staff, joined the Swiss hedge fund Argentière Capital as a managing partner.

This is What Government Desperation Looks Like: Athens Raids Public Health Coffers in Hunt for Cash

In a sign that the cash crunch has become more desperate in Greece, officials, at the state healthcare service, were asked on Tuesday to hand over a €50m reserve for paying arrears owed to medical workers, reports FT.

Despite the money grab, the government remains on the edge of financial collapse.

Athens faces a €1.7bn bill for wages and pensions at the end of the month and then a €450m loan payment to the International Monetary Fund on April 9.

Greek banks hold about €11bn in Greek T-bills, and Athens must roll over two T-bills totalling €2.4bn in mid-April.

Greek banks have been the primary buyers of government debt and have essentially rolled over their existing holdings during recent T-bill auctions. But at least 20 per cent of the April 14 bill is held by investors outside Greece who are unlikely to roll over their holdings, according to FT, and Greek banks are now barred by the Eurozone regulations from buying up the difference.

“The Greeks are one minute away from midnight,” said Mujtaba Rahman, head of European analysis at the Eurasia Group consultancy, reports FT. “The government is at the edge of the precipice and may well go over.”


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

There is No Price Inflation: If You Don't Eat Hamburgers

The average price of a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high in February, hitting $4.238 per pound, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In August 2014, the average price for a pound of all types of ground beef topped $4 for the first time, hitting $4.013, according to the BLS.

In September, the average price jumped to $4.096 per pound; in October, the average price climbed to $4.154 per pound; and in November, the average price climbed to $4.201 per pound.

In December, the price declined slightly to $4.156 per pound. In January 2015, ground beef hit $4.235 per pound and in February 2015, according to the latest data from the BLS, the price of ground beef hit the highest level ever recorded of $4.238.

A year ago, in February 2014, the average price for a pound of ground beef was $3.555 per pound.


More Capital Controls as France Declares War... on Cash

By Simon Black

French paper Le Parisien didn't mince words in the headline: "La chasse au cash est lancee". Basically 'hunting season on cash is launched'.

Under the auspices of fighting terrorism, France's Minister of Finance, Monsieur Michel Sapin, has rolled out a series of eight new restrictions aimed specifically at minimizing the use of cash.

Among the new restrictions is a prohibition of making more than 1,000 euros in cash payments (down from 3,000 before).

Large cash withdrawls exceeding 10,000 euros per month will also now be monitored and reported to the French authorities.

Foreign exchange offices will now be required to obtain a copy of someone's ID to exchange more than 1,000 euros.

There are several more beyond this. And, just for good measure, they threw in a few controls that aren't even related to cash.

Most importantly, moving and transporting GOLD through France, even through a professional freight service, must now be declared and reported to French customs.

It's pretty obvious what's happening here.

The Great Inflation Peaked This Month 35 Years Ago at 14.6%

On August 15, 1971, President Nixon spoke at 9 PM. ET in the Oval Office at the White House. His address was broadcast live on radio and television. Taking the dollar off the gold standard removed the one check that prevented the Federal Reserve from mad money printing. It resulted in a Great Inflation.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank economist  Michael Bryan notes:
  The Great Inflation was the defining macroeconomic event of the second half of the twentieth century. Over the nearly two decades it lasted, the global monetary system established during World War II was abandoned, there were four economic recessions, two severe energy shortages, and the unprecedented peacetime implementation of wage and price controls. It was, according to one prominent economist, “the greatest failure of American macroeconomic policy in the postwar period”...  In 1964, inflation measured a little more than 1 percent per year. It had been in this vicinity over the preceding six years. Inflation began ratcheting upward in the mid-1960s and reached more than 14 percent in 1980

Below is the entirety of Nixon's speech that evening (my bold):

Will China Bail Out Russia?

By Benn Steil and Dinah Walker

Russia’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen by nearly 1/3 since October 2013; they’ve fallen 20% just since September 2014.  Whereas the country still has over $300 billion in reserves, about $150 billion of this may be illiquid; it also has close to $700 billion in external debt.
Whom would Russia turn to for dollars in a crisis?

Salerno versus Selgin: The Salerno Response

Joe Salerno has responded to the attack by George Selgin against him and Tom Woods. From the Mises Wire:

Selgin Rides Again

MARCH 23, 2015
Like a good guy in an old Western determined to put things aright, George Selgin has once again arrived on the scene shooting from the hip--and displaying remarkably  bad aim. 
There are a number of substantive issues to criticize in Selgin's typically intemperate and ill-tempered piece attacking Tom Woods and me.  Bob Wenzel has done a good job of exposing and rebutting Selgin's selective reading of Hayek, particularly Selgin's contention that the early Hayek advocated that the central bank maintain constancy in total spending by varying the money supply inversely to fluctuations in the public's demand for money.  Indeed, as Wenzel shows, Hayek explicitly denied that stabilizing total spending can ever be "a practical maxim of policy."  I will therefore restrict my comments to Selgin's gross misrepresentation of my views.