Thursday, March 13, 2014

SAR #14072

Politicians are no more likely to embrace evidence than are their supporters.

Putin On The Ritz: In order to scare Russia, which produces more oil than any other nation, the US is going to release 5 million barrels of petroleum from its Strategic Reserve. That's less than half of one day's use for the US, about 6% of one day's global production. It was enough to make traders - who can't do math and don't understand their own specialty - drop the price of WTI by a couple of bucks. It's foreign policy, it doesn't have to make sense.

All Things Being Unequal: An economist at the Paris School of Economics says it is likely that inequality is not going to decline, rather that the 1% will steadily add to their pile, growing it from 20% of national incomes to half. Or more. What's to stop them, you?

Noted: In real terms, the US minimum wage has fallen 32% since 1968, and it doesn't get much realer than that.

Change, Change, Change: The housing market 'rebound' has not really been a rebound and has not been about the housing market. What we've been seeing is an easy-money asset bubble driven by investors seeking quick returns and has little or nothing to do with any sustained signs of life in the actual housing market where real people buy houses because they want them for homes. Buying up foreclosed properties drives up the price of foreclosed properties and – if investors wet dreams work out – will draw lots of former home owners and potential home buyers into the rental market. This will have little if any effect on consumer spending or the underlying housing markets in Real America.

Straight Man: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says the US is ready for "military actions" in Ukraine. Retreat comes to mind.

Failing The Future: According to the latest IPCC data, it is unlikely that technology, changing consumer and business practices or new national and international policies will emerge in sufficient time to prevent a far too warm future. “The most likely scenario is that we will find out just how bad the climate change problem is."
Over There: US corporations added over $200 billion to their stash of overseas dollars hiding from the IRS, bringing their total 'offshore funds' to nearly $2 trillion, the tax on which would sure help a lot of veterans and school kids. 
Bullshit Detector: In NJ the auto dealers have convinced Governor Christie that it is immoral and fattening to let Telsa Motors cut into their private herd of customers by selling directly to them instead of letting dealers siphon off unnecessary profits. NJ isn't alone in banning the auto makers from direct sales to customers. There is no benefit to the customers in this, but it does add a middleman who in turn fattens politicians' pockets. 
Just Asking: If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why are major retail chains closing so many stores?

Somebody Else’s Game: A vast majority of Americans have not been fooled by the five-year free-money fueled stock market bloom. They understand that it is the rich and Wall Street that have benefited from all of the money printing. Even those who have a few bucks in retirement accounts understand that they earn less than 0.5% of their income from capital gains, interest and dividends, while the rich make more than 10% that way - mostly tax free.

Cheering Selection: According to the BLS, the number of unemployed Americans increased by 223,000 in February, while the economy added 175,000 jobs. Recovery. 
Devil/Details: Evidence suggests that in the short run making the citizenry healthier makes a nation poorer – fewer die unnecessarily and thus there are more people to share the wealth. In the longer run there are small gains in wages and productivity. And smaller chances of social unrest, so maybe it's worth the trouble.

Speak Softly: A reliance on debt denominated in foreign currency exposes emerging market economies to a risk of exchange rate rises. I think that means 'watch out below!'

Porn O'Graph: Recovery The new normal.

The Parting Shot:
 Bluestriped Lizardfish, Synodus saurus.

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