Has the whole world lapsed into incurable madness?
Introductory Size: Minnesota is closed for business. Highway construction is halted. Day-care centers and parks are closed, as are drivers license offices. If you think shutting down the government – say over the debt ceiling – is a lark, check out how things are going in Minnesota today.
Laissez les bons temps rouler: The IMF says US GDP growth will not exceed 2.9% between now and 2017. It takes at least 3% GDP growth just to keep unemployment from rising, so millions will remain out of work for the foreseeable future. The Fed optimistically predicts GDP growth accelerating from 2.9% this year to 3.7% next and reaching 4.2% in 2013. The IMF also says housing is unlikely to recover during that time frame.
Clip & Save: The entire 'debt ceiling crisis' is a political charade. Both sides know that failing to raise the debt ceiling would throw the economy into a tailspin and them out of a job. “Therefore it won't happen. I'm not worried and neither are investors.”
Down Payments: The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have cost the US over $4 trillion in the last decade, with nearly another trillion built in to take care of the wounded veterans. This does not include future interest on the war debt, which is running at about $180 billion a year – talk about unfunded obligations. The wars have also killed at least 225,000 people, to no apparent end.
Pay As You Go: New Jersey has changed the rules for more than 800,000 current and retired workers. Employees will have to work longer to earn retirement, and will pay 50% more for their healthcare and pension benefits. Retirees will get no cost-of-living increase “until the pension system becomes stable.”
Dilemma: Fetal DNA can now be extracted from maternal blood samples, allowing many tests for genetic developmental problems – think Downs Syndrome, for a start – early enough to allow the pregnancy to be terminated, saving the nation the financial burden of these avoidable medical costs. Insurance companies would gladly pay for the testing. For the half of all US pregnancies that are covered by Medicaid there would be no point in doing the screening because the Republicans would ban he use of federal funds for terminating pregnancies no mater what horrible defects the fetus carried. The rich, of course, would have access to the best medical assistance.
More Of The Same: Initial claims for unemployment benefits were flat this week, at 428,000. The fever may have broken, but the patient is still bedridden.
Leadership? At first “made in China” was stamped on cheap toys and cut-rate clothing. Of late it has been stamped on cell phones and iPads. And if you pass slowly under the new SF to Oakland bridge you can see it stamped on all 12 of the immense segments that make up the 2050 foot long bridge.
Housing Numbers:Some were quick to cite “Home Prices Rise” but admitted in the small print that the seasonally adjusted prices had not. After adjustment, the 10-city index was flat and the 20-city index was down 0.1%. Others were less upbeat and emphasized that the decline in house prices has only moderated and that prices had “dropped less than expected.” Move along, nothing to see here.
Joke's On Us: “We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination...” Barack Obama, on extending one of our wars.