Why would anyone care about the price of a Big Mac around the world? Well this fancy graphic reveals the purchasing power of different countries. If anything, use it to impress your friends at your next shindig, cocktail party, get-together, or meetup. And if economics bore you, just looking at it kinda makes you hungry.
January 17, 2012 No Comments
Stressed out by all that Southern California traffic? Take a trip to The LA County Museum of Art or LACMA as my learned friends call it and check out this homage to the booming metropolii we have created. It’s a great piece of moving art and pretty entertaning to watch.
January 14, 2012 No Comments
Happy New Year Everyone!!!
i ran across this clip of an Eagle Owl in slow motion. It makes me once again realize, in starting our last year on Earth, (those forgetful Mayan calendar makers) the amazing creation in our world. For you Darwinists, this owl actually evolved from a funky, mutant tadpole that stumbled out of a swamp over 5 gazillion years ago. Because that’s how long it would take if it actually did happen. This kind of precision and power could only be designed.
January 1, 2012 No Comments
UrtheCast is launching the world’s first ever high definition, streaming video platform of planet Earth. The camera will be installed on the outside of the International Space Station through a joint effort with RSC Energia. The camera will provide a 40 km wide, high resolution, color image down to as close as 1.1 metres. So if you’re curious about what your neighbors are barbequeing in their backyard, zoom on in.
July 31, 2011 No Comments
Another costly stimulus program not quite working.
Jeffrey H. Anderson
July 3, 2011 12:07 PM
When the Obama administration releases a report on the Friday before a long weekend, it’s clearly not trying to draw attention to the report’s contents. Sure enough, the “Seventh Quarterly Report” on the economic impact of the “stimulus,” released on Friday, July 1, provides further evidence that President Obama’s economic “stimulus” did very little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, and a whole lot to stimulate the debt.
The report was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.
In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the “stimulus,” and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead.
Furthermore, the council reports that, as of two quarters ago, the “stimulus” had added or saved just under 2.7 million jobs — or 288,000 more than it has now. In other words, over the past six months, the economy would have added or saved more jobs without the “stimulus” than it has with it. In comparison to how things would otherwise have been, the “stimulus” has been working in reverse over the past six months, causing the economy to shed jobs.
Again, this is the verdict of Obama’s own Council of Economic Advisors, which is about as much of a home-field ruling as anyone could ever ask for. In truth, it’s quite possible that by borrowing an amount greater than the regular defense budget or the annual cost of Medicare, and then spending it mostly on Democratic constituencies rather than in a manner genuinely designed to stimulate the economy, Obama’s “stimulus” has actually undermined the economy’s recovery — while leaving us (thus far) $666 billion deeper in debt.
The actual employment numbers from the administration’s own Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the unemployment rate was 7.3 percent when the “stimulus” was being debated. It has since risen to 9.1 percent. Meanwhile, the national debt at the end of 2008, when Obama was poised to take office, was $9.986 trillion (see Table S-9). It’s now $14.467 trillion — and counting.
All sides agree on these incriminating numbers — and now they also appear to agree on this important point: The economy would now be generating job growth at a faster rate if the Democrats hadn’t passed the “stimulus.”
July 4, 2011 No Comments
This is an excerpt from an email from Robert McHugh and has an excellent commentary on the Fed’s misguided policies. LOOK AT JAPAN!!! HELLLLOO!!!!!!!!
Friday’s internals were weak, in spite of being a mixed market. The NASDAQ 100 had a huge price move up, but a significant chunk of the price gain came from one stock, Google. Google rose $60.52 per share, or 11.10 percent, in one day, Friday. Google is one of those stocks that a market manipulator can buy to move an index in the hopes it starts bandwagon buying. During the 2003 and 2006 rallies, we saw MMM move the Industrials with bizarre isolated rising price days. At the time, it appeared to us a market manipulator was moving the Industrials higher with 3M purchases. From time to time we see concerted efforts to push markets higher. Now is one of those times. But each time this happens, it causes the subsequent decline to be worse than would otherwise have been the case, like stretching a rubber band too far. The snapback is nasty. Deep pockets can only delay the inevitable. They cannot stop it. Quantitative Easing talk is raising expectations for liquidity infusions that people think will seep into stock markets. Hedge funds are buying stocks ahead of the actual Quantitative Easing from the Fed. QE2 is simply a fancy name for the Federal Reserve printing U.S. Dollars and buying fixed income securities from large Wall Street firms, buying junk bonds, corporate bonds, mortgage backed securities or Treasuries. It is essentially a fraud on U.S. Dollar holders, is a fraud on the taxpaying U.S. Consumer and Small Business, a fraud on the working person who has to get his money through hard labor. We will discuss this further later, and why this policy will destroy what is left of this fragile economy, and will eventually help drive stock market values down toward zero, and drive the U.S. Dollar down toward 40ish. QE2 is wonderful for large Wall Street firms’ short-term profits. They love it. Imagine having a business where the Federal Reserve is int! erested in helping you make as much money as possible at the expense of everyone else? That is QE2.
Quantitative Easing will some day be looked back upon as we now look at healing the sick through bleeding back in the 1700s. It is terrible economic policy, in fact should be considered criminal activity. Criminal for many reasons, such as debasing the value of the Dollar, but more importantly because it will be the final nail that destroys our economy. Wall Street is the key beneficiary. Households (consumers) which account for 70 percent of GDP, and small businesses, which account for 70 percent of employment, will not benefit from this fraudulent activity by the Federal Reserve. Where on earth is it right for someone to print trillions of Dollars out of thin air and then buy legitimate legally binding debt instruments in exchange for this printed paper? Anyone else doing this would be arrested and thrown in jail, with the key tossed into the deep blue sea.
But forgetting that this is probably a criminal act, and assuming that it is legally acceptable because the Central Planners enact legislation to permit QE2, let’s explore why it is a fraud on pretty much everyone except the sellers of the fixed income securities the Fed will be buying, primarily mega Wall Street firms, surrogates for the president’s Working Group (the Plunge Protection Team).
Bernanke suggested in his speech in Boston Friday on the subject of QE2, that he is justified in doing this to raise the inflation rate, which he believes is too low, and to increase employment. His economics are dead wrong. He believes it is perfectly appropriate to print trillions of dollars of U.S. Federal Reserve notes (Dollars) out of thin air, and then send this money from the Fed’s print shop across the invisible wall that separates the real economy from the non-economy (the Fed) to the lucky recipients of this cash. Here is the problem: This transfer of printed cash for securities in the market are normally known as open market operations, and the point of this exercise is to lower interest rates in the market to spur lending and filter cash through Wall Street intermediaries to banks to borrowers which would stimulate the economy and multiply the money supply in the market. However, short-term interest rates are already zero, and long-term interest rates are at historic lows. So QE2 will not reduce interest rates. Therefore it will not increase borrowing. Therefore it will not multiply the money supply or spur spending, ergo it will not improve GDP, will not help households or small businesses. The cash will simply move from the Fed to Wall Street where the mega banks can then leverage their investing and trading activities which will improve their short-term profits. There will be no trickle down benefits to households or small businesses. Without benefits to households or small businesses, there will be no improvement in spending (GDP) or employment.
What will result from QE2 is the devaluation of the U.S. Dollar as there will be too many Dollars floating around, in relation to hard assets such as precious metals, and foreign currencies. This reduces the purchasing power of Dollars, and reduces the value of cash in bank accounts. In other words, the consumer gets hurt.
The only way QE2 makes any sense at all is if it is conducted in such a way that the cash being printed by the Fed finds its way directly into the hands of households and small businesses, instead of Wall Street. The only way for this to happen is if newly issued debt from the U.S. Treasury is sold to the Fed for newly printed Dollars, and then the trillions of QE2 Dollars sent to the Treasury from the Fed are sent directly to U.S. Households in the form of a massive income tax rebate, and tax cut, with a minimum amount of $50,000 rebated to every household, since many good folks did not have jobs over the past few years to receive rebated taxes. Then half the income tax rebates, which would be ideally two years worth, would be required to pay down debt, with the other half available to be used at households’ discretion. The result would be an immediate improvement in household and bank balance sheets, and an increase in comsumer spending (GDP). This would increase small business revenue, which would increase hiring, which would result in an increase in demand for large firms’ products and services, which would mean more investment banking business for Wall Street. The economy would grow, increasing the overall pie for all to share and prosper, with a resultant corresponding desirable modest level of inflation. Local, State and Federal governments would benefit immensely as they get an increase in tax revenues from the trickle up economic growth, capturing taxes at every level of spending, which can be used to reduce government deficits and debt. Stock Markets would rise as corporate revenues and profits rise.
If the intent of QE2 fails to include the household, it should not be allowed to happen. Congress must put a stop to QE2 immediately, and require a full explanation of the intended program before Bernanke destroys our economy. There should be an open debate in Congress on the merits of QE2, with testimony from all interested parties, in front of television cameras, for the American public to study before QE2 is effectuated. This is not something the Fed should conduct in secret. This is new turf, new territory for the Fed, and warrants careful scrutiny. The Justice Department needs to study if in fact the Fed is legally empowered to conduct QE2. This is serious stuff, an intentional devaluation of the U.S. Dollar, and thus needs to be treated as such. Intelligent, thoughtful contemplation is essential in an open public forum. Households and small businesses need to be able to weigh in by calling their congressional representatives before QE2 happens. QE2 should require an act of Congress. The Fed should not be allowed to do this on their own.
Unfortunately, the language of the markets, price patterns and indicators, have been warning for months that the U.S. Dollar is headed to 40ish (it knew QE2 was coming), and is telling us the stock market will react very badly once QE2 starts.
It does not look like there is any stopping QE2. The Central Planners are convinced that the more they do, the more control they take, the more they couch their activities with terminology that makes it impossible for the average Joe and Mary to understand what they are doing, the more they involve mega Wall Street firms in their fixes, the better. It is becoming very difficult to know if the Central Planners are simply misguided in their policies, that their intentions are good, that they really care about households and small businesses and the economy, or is this all an intentional game to benefit only the few large and powerful Wall Street banks, to build an oligarchy of Centralized power by design. That is for those who can figure out the schemes to decide for themselves.
Robert McHugh, Ph.D.
October 16, 2010 No Comments
Even though my economic outlook is bleak, I’m an extremely optimistic person. And while we might not reach depression levels, I know economic growth will be practically non existent for the better part of this decade. But the title got your attention, didn’t it? In any case, one of my favorite economic analysts, John Mauldin, had this to say about good news in bad economic times. Hopefully it’ll inspire you as it did me.
So Where’s the Good News?
Ok, I could go on for hours, sorting through the problems. Where is the good news I promised?
Here’s what I should have said to Tiffani’s group: Let’s face it. Running a small business is never easy. I am a serial entrepreneur. I have started and run a lot of very different businesses. Some have been very, very good and some went down in spectacular flames. I can remember some near-death experiences when the economy was booming. I have watched a million-dollar income stream dwindle to zero and there was not a damn thing I could do about it, except enjoy the money while it was there and use it to buy the next income stream. I have had to rebuild several times from scratch as markets shifted drastically underneath my feet. And I’ve changed directions as new opportunities revealed themselves.
In all this I’m like every other small-business entrepreneur out there. It is never easy. But that is what we do. We get up in the morning and figure it out. Some 80% of startups die within ten years. But we pick ourselves up and start over.
I know unemployment is 10%. But that means almost 90% are employed. Consumers are saving more. So adjust. Figure out what your New Normal looks like.
The ’70s were a bitch. I woke up many times in the middle of the night with real pains in my stomach wondering whether to pay the rent or make payroll. So did a lot of people. But look at all the new companies that came out of that era and changed everything: Microsoft, Apple, Intel, etc. Cell phones. The internet. The list is long.
Yes, we have to make our way in this Muddle Through World. It will be challenging, but I can almost guarantee you that when we do get through there will be other challenges. If it was easy everybody could do it and there would be no money in it. Embrace the challenge!
I asked one of my really close (36 years) friends and business associates last year how his business was doing. “We are doing great!” he said. That was not the answer I was expecting. “Why? How?” I asked.
“Well, most of our competitors have folded. We survived and got the business.”
Ultimately, that is how we get out of this. A hundred million families and millions of businesses figuring it out, learning how to adapt to the New Normal. Sadly, some of them won’t make it. But most of us will!
As I said, I am a serial entrepreneur. I have a friend who designs and oversees large teams of programmers of really robust analytic software, very cutting-edge stuff. She is a winner, and I am backing her (I know nothing about software but the rule is, invest in people!). We’ll see how it goes, but my bet is that in a few years there will be a lot of people getting jobs because we take on some risk now.
We are adapting our own business here. We will soon have new websites. I will be doing (at first) an audio podcast called the Mauldin Minute and then (hopefully) by the end of the year morphing into video. That’s the wave of the future and I need to keep up.
I am addicted to information and reading . We are going to try and make some money from my addiction. What would you pay to look over my shoulder and read the 5-10 most important things I find in a week? I will become your personal reader. Will that be a life-style changer? No, but it will provide some income diversification.
When Tiffani made her presentation to her Vistage group about our business, she had a lot of charts and graphs. I was surprised how our sources of income have varied over time. Some previously large (at least on my scale) sources literally dried up within a few years, completely askew from our original optimistic expectations. It was very apparent that we cannot sit and assume things will be the same year to year. So we adapt.
I have been presented with a very different opportunity in a non-finance field that is right in my wheelhouse, as they say. Tiffani and Ryan and I are going to pursue it. Will it thrive? Be a real business in five years? We will see, but I have the ability to take that risk and I am going to do so.
And so will hundreds of thousands of other visionaries and dreamers. That is how we get through this. We work through the ugly and then we get to the 2020s, and I think we will once again be talking about the Roaring 20s! Whole new industries will come into existence. Pay attention to the advancements in robotics. Biotech will be HUGE this decade, but we need to change the rules so we don’t lose the intellectual property and the jobs. Electric cars will boom as we replace our fleet all over the world. Nanotech later in the ’20s. Green energy and nuclear. Artificial intelligence (finally!). Really cheap (I mean really cheap!) wireless high-speed broadband all over the world will open the door to all kinds of possibilities. I met last night with very credible scientists who have developed a way to filter water very cheaply. A desalinization module that fits in a cargo container. Yes, they need a lot of money to finish, but they will figure it out. And on and on. The opportunities are going to be huge. Trillions will be made.
So, we get through this. We Muddle Through. We figure it out, one business and family at a time. And as a culture, a world, we get to a better place. My bet is that in 2020 no one is going to want to go back to the good old days of 2010. We will be excited about the future and all the cool stuff that is happening.
Recessions and tough times are God’s way of telling you that you need to adjust a few things, both on a personal and business level – also nationally and globally. I am an optimist. I believe we will adjust and grow, not just in the US but as an emerging world. There are just so many opportunities.
So, don’t let the problems I write about in this letter make you crawl into a cave. Just be realistic and figure out where your opportunities are. And then go make them happen! You are responsible for creating your own future. And I hope it is a good one. I plan on making mine one.
August 22, 2010 No Comments
I’ve been telling my friends that I think we’re heading towards a Japanese style economy for a while now and I think we’re still heading that way. Read these comments from Ben Bernanke’s famous Helicopter speech; What he fatally forgets is the human factor.
“… a central bank, either alone or in cooperation with other parts of the government, retains considerable power to expand aggregate demand and economic activity even when its accustomed policy rate is at zero.
“The basic prescription for preventing deflation is therefore straightforward, at least in principle: Use monetary and fiscal policy as needed to support aggregate spending….”
Again: “… some observers have concluded that when the central bank’s policy rate falls to zero – its practical minimum – monetary policy loses its ability to further stimulate aggregate demand and the economy.
“To stimulate aggregate spending when short-term interest rates have reached zero, the Fed must expand the scale of its asset purchases or, possibly, expand the menu of assets that it buys.”
And his conclusion:
“Sustained deflation can be highly destructive to a modern economy and should be strongly resisted. Fortunately, for the foreseeable future, the chances of a serious deflation in the United States appear remote indeed, in large part because of our economy’s underlying strengths but also because of the determination of the Federal Reserve and other U.S. policymakers to act preemptively against deflationary pressures. Moreover, as I have discussed today, a variety of policy responses are available should deflation appear to be taking hold. Because some of these alternative policy tools are relatively less familiar, they may raise practical problems of implementation and of calibration of their likely economic effects. For this reason, as I have emphasized, prevention of deflation is preferable to cure. Nevertheless, I hope to have persuaded you that the Federal Reserve and other economic policymakers would be far from helpless in the face of deflation, even should the federal funds rate hit its zero bound.”
If people don’t want to spend money, all his efforts do nothing. Japan’s economy isn’t so bad if you’re living there, so don’t be too worried. If the world economy keeps faltering, that’s our bigger problem.
Speech excerpts provided from John Mauldin
July 3, 2010 No Comments
BP Oil Spill Live Video Feed
You are watching a live video feed of the BP Oil Spill from the ocean floor, 5000 feet below the surface. This is a live feed and may go out periodically.
June 12, 2010 No Comments
Free budget software – Mint.com
This fun little animation from Mint.com is a quick education on how the employment numbers are calculated and why they seem askew most of the time.
“The government is telling us that the economic stimulus is working and the recession is over. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at the unemployment numbers. While we may have dodged another great depression, unemployment is at its worst since then, having fallen to 10 percent by the Fed’s own reckoning. And, while we don’t like to be the bearers of bad news, we do stand for transparency in reporting statistics. So we’ve produced an animated infographic explaining who gets to call themselves ‘officially’ unemployed, and why the government leaves out millions of jobless Americans in their often cited and repeated unemployment rate statistic. So while the economy may be recovering, it might be awhile before many Americans feel it in their wallets.”
December 6, 2009 No Comments