Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Category Archives: Economics

The Tax Foundation’s Big Surprise: Trump’s Tax Plan is Better Than Hillary’s!

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, October 21, 2016:  

English: The standard Laffer Curve

The standard Laffer Curve

The Tax Foundation, founded nearly 80 years ago, considers itself non-partisan, guided by what it calls “the principles of sound tax policy, simplicity, transparency, neutrality, stability, no retroactivity, broad [tax] bases and low [tax] rates.” It has steadfastly opposed tax increases of any kind: income, corporate, or excise. Especially annoying are tax “preferences” (i.e., subsidies) for the housing industry and tax credits for certain constituencies (which the Foundation calls “picking winners and losers”).

So it’s no surprise that in its study of Trump’s and Clinton’s so-called “tax plans” the Foundation concluded that Trump’s was vastly superior to Hillary’s:

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Tax Foundation Rates Tax Plans of Trump and Clinton: Trump’s Plan Wins

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, October 20, 2016:

Tax Foundation

Tax Foundation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Analysis by the Tax Foundation of all that is currently known about the tax plans proposed by presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton concludes that, if enacted, Clinton’s plan would expand government at the expense of a shrinking economy. On the other hand, Trump’s plan would grow the economy, shrink government’s revenues, raise wages, and expand employment.

But it’s not tax “reform,” claims the study’s author, Kyle Pomerleau,

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Investors Remember Black Monday 1987: Dow Loses 22 Percent

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, October 19, 2016:  

Wednesday is the 29th anniversary of the largest percentage sell-off of stocks in the history of Wall Street, including the sell-off that triggered the Great Depression on October 28, 1929. On that day in 1929, the Dow dropped 13 percent. In 1987, it dropped 22 percent.

Concerns abound about whether a repeat is likely to take place this month.

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China’s Third-quarter GDP Numbers Draw Skepticism

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, October 19, 2016: 

National emblem of the People's Republic of China

Last Sunday the Wall Street Journal said it expected China’s third-quarter GDP numbers, to be released on Wednesday, “to show the [Chinese] economy grew by at least 6.7%, on pace with the first and second quarters.” Lo and behold, when those numbers were released by Chinese officials on Wednesday, they were exactly 6.7 percent, which were exactly the same as in the first and second quarters. That is the first time since 1992 that any country’s economy grew at exactly the same rate for three consecutive quarters.

This didn’t matter to much of the national media, which reported the numbers as legitimate and then added commentary and color to bolster their reports. For example,

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Saudi Arabia to Sell $10 Billion in Bonds to Shore Up Its Finances

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, October 19, 2016:  

Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia

Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia

Oil ministers from Saudi Arabia have been traveling the world doing investment “roadshows” to promote their $10-billion bond offering that hits the markets this week. In so doing, they must disclose the risks investors could be taking, and then price the bonds according to those risks.

The Saudis appear to be paying the price for losing their bet about American oil producers. In November 2014 they made a massive wager that they could

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Venezuela’s Collapse: Horror Beyond Belief

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, October 18, 2016:  

The Coat of arms of Venezuela

When Matt O’Brien updated his previous article on the slow-motion collapse of Venezuela on Monday for the Washington Post, he reviewed the symptoms achingly familiar to those following the events: the collapse of oil prices; the incompetence of the cronies running the state-owned oil company (former Marxist Hugo Chávez replaced the workers who knew what they were doing with political cronies who didn’t); the inflation of the currency followed as night follows day, with price controls to mask the resulting inflation; inflation, as measured by the black market’s pricing of the Venezuelan bolivar, causing the bolivar to lose more than 90 percent of its value in just two years; the empty supermarket shelves; the oppression by police of those standing in long lines to purchase whatever might be left in those stores; and on and on. As O’Brien lamented:

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Candidates Silent as Government Spending Jumps, Deficit Increases

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, October 17, 2016:  

On Friday, the Treasury Department published the final revenue and spending numbers for the federal government for Fiscal Year 2016, which ended on September 30. According to Treasury’s report, spending increased significantly (by nearly five percent) over the previous year, to more than $3.8 trillion, while revenues remained essentially flat from the year before, at $3.25 trillion. That left a shortfall of approximately $600 billion, forcing the government to borrow 15 cents of every dollar it spent last year. And the two presidential candidates have remained disturbingly silent about the issue.

Said Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan group that favors reducing the deficit,

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Saudi Energy Minister: Crude Oil at $60 Not “Unthinkable”

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, October 11, 2016: 

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, asserted at the World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul on Monday that he is optimistic that members of the OPEC cartel will agree on production cuts at its meeting in late November, and that it isn’t “unthinkable” that, as a result, crude oil prices could hit $60 a barrel by the end of the year.

Following late September’s informal meeting when the cartel agreed to appoint a committee to come up with options in time for the Istanbul meeting, energy traders drove the price of crude above $50 a barrel. On Monday it nearly touched its highest level for the year, reacting to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for OPEC’s possible cut in crude oil production to “stabilize” the market.

Such a production cut, if it takes place (OPEC members are notoriously fickle about keeping solemnly-pledged agreements), would be designed to push crude oil prices higher, but still low enough to keep “rivals from raising their output,” according to OPEC’s secretary-general following the September meeting in Algeria.

That’s going to be a trick,

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Court Upholds Freedom and the Fifth Amendment in Taxi Cartel Case

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, October 10, 2016:  

On the surface, Judge Richard Posner’s decisions, decided last Friday, appeared merely to expand the freedom of Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services to operate more freely in Milwaukee and Chicago. Beneath the surface, however, Posner presents a refreshing and much-needed defense not only of freedom in general, but of the Fifth Amendment and the competitive free market as well.

Posner (shown above) is one of the most respected jurists in the country.

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Behind the Jobs Report: Weakness in Manufacturing, Transportation

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, October 7, 2016:  

The headline number from Friday’s jobs report was a tepid 156,000 new jobs created in September. Not only did this number fall short of economists’ expectations of 170,000, it was 19-percent below the average job growth of the last three months and 22 percent below the level of monthly job growth of 229,000 in 2015.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency reporting from inside the Labor Department, was none too sanguine itself in reporting the results:

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Reality Sets In: OPEC Ready to Cut Production to Raise Oil Prices

This article appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, September 30, 2016:  

Wednesday’s announcement from OPEC about an agreement to cut production to shore up crude oil prices was met with both delight and scorn by observers. Exuded Phil Flynn, senior energy analyst at Price Futures Group:

This is the first OPEC deal in eight years! The cartel proved that it still matters even in the age of shale. This is the end of the “production war” and OPEC claims victory.

Bunk, said David Petraeus, the former CIA director who was forced to resign under a cloud in November 2012 and who subsequently was hired by Wall Street firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to chair the firm’s newly created KKR Global Institute:

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Would Trump’s Corporate Tax Cut Help the Economy?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, September 28, 2016:  

 Removing the noise and the histrionics from Monday night’s presidential debate, there is a clear division between the two major-party candidates on the state of the economy and what to do about it.

The Democrat candidate said that the economy is on the mend, that jobs are being created, that real incomes have just recently increased, and that the outlook for the economy is sanguine.

The Republican candidate held the opposite view: after seven years the economy is still struggling, the recovery is the weakest in recent memory, and the outlook is bleak.

The Wall Street Journal noted that Trump’s case is the stronger,

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Brazil’s Oil Company Shrinks Following Operation Car Wash Scandal

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, September 20, 2016: 

Brazil - The first 100% Brazilian oil platform...

Brazil – The first 100% Brazilian oil platform, the P-51 will produce about 180 thousand barrels of oil and 6 million cubic meters of gas per day when operating at full load.

Two separate announcements on Monday from officials at Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil company, reveal the massive damage it has suffered over the last 10 years. First was the news that it just successfully concluded the offloading of its precious gas pipeline unit for an estimated $5 billion. The company said this was just part of its determination to sell off about $20 billion of its assets over the next couple of years in order to pay down some of its $125 billion indebtedness.

The second announcement was even more revealing:

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Autonomous Vehicles to Put Four Million People Out of Work?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, September 16, 2016:  

Whenever economic change takes place, there are those who ask: Where will those displaced find other work? In counting the costs involved as autonomous vehicles (i.e., driverless cars, self-driving cars, robotic cars, etc.) continue to revolutionize how people move, Wolf Richter of Wolf Street concluded that more than four million people will lose their jobs:

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The Global Recession Claims its First Victim: Hanjin Shipping

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, September 9, 2016:  

English: Hanjin container ship

One of Hanjin’s container ships looking for a place to unload.

When the question about a tree falling in the forest is asked, it’s usually posed as a philosophical one: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The question is never asked: “What if someone is around who doesn’t want to hear it?”

That appears to explain the kept media’s deafness over the state of the global economy. Even when the Wall Street Journal reported on the bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping, the world’s seventh largest container shipping company, not one word was spent on asking why. Instead

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Hanjin Bankruptcy: a Harbinger for the Global Economy?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, September 8, 2016:  

English: A Delmas operated Container ship NICO...

South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping was the world’s seventh-largest container shipping company, moving (until last week) 100 million tons of cargo on its 200 cargo ships from manufacturers to retailers across the globe. Last week, following years of losses as the global economy has slowed, Hanjin declared bankruptcy. That move stranded 90 of those ships as off-loading companies refused to unload them over concerns that they wouldn’t be paid.

Even an offer of $90 million from what’s left of Hanjin (including $36 million from the personal assets of its chairman) fell far short of the necessary $543 million estimated to unload all of its ships that are now circling ports around the world.

Concerns are mounting that

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New North American Oil Discoveries Continue to Frustrate OPEC

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, September 7, 2016:  

Apache Corporation, the sixth-largest independent oil and gas producer in the United States, announced this week that it has found a new gargantuan reserve of oil and natural gas in West Texas that could be one of the largest energy finds in the last decade. At the low end, the new “Alpine High” field could contain two billion barrels of oil plus massive natural gas reserves. More importantly, especially to OPEC members gearing up to find ways to raise prices, the company’s estimated profit margin is 30 percent after taking in account all expected development costs, even with crude selling at below $50 a barrel.

Apache isn’t waiting around for higher prices but instead has already drilled 19 wells into the new field and has committed one-fourth of its capital budget this year to develop the field further. The profit potential for natural gas is nearly off the charts. So abundant is that energy source from the new field that the company’s breakeven point is just 10 cents per million British thermal units (BTUs) while the market price for natural gas closed Tuesday at $2.72. This is going to turn Apache, currently a $20 billion company, into a major player.

The discovery is also going to turn OPEC’s plans to cap production in order to drive prices higher upside down. It is planning to meet informally later this month in Algiers to plot ways that it can drive the price of crude higher in response to increasing pleas from members such as Venezuela and Algeria for higher prices.

As recently as a month ago, OPEC was hoping to drive prices back to $70 a barrel in order to reduce the financial pressures low crude oil prices have imposed on all of the cartel’s members. Now, however, it is hoping to drive prices up to $60. Last month Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, under mounting pressure to solve his country’s self-imposed problems resulting in inflation and food riots, said last month that the “fair, balanced oil price must be set at $70 a barrel.” On Monday the head of Algeria’s state-owned oil company, Noureddine Boutarfa, exclaimed that oil prices “below $50 a barrel is not acceptable.”

Acceptable or not, oil prices are headed lower according to both Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Earlier this year Morgan Stanley estimated that the price of crude would move higher, but just cut its third-quarter forecast from $50 a barrel to $45. On August 25, Bank of America estimated that demand for crude would decline further than expected.

What befuddled prognosticators was the failure of the oil market to “rebalance” during the summer when American drivers set a record, burning through nearly 10 million barrels of gasoline every day. Even though American drivers drove a record three trillion miles over the last 12 months, that failed to soak up much of the surplus overhanging the market. Now, with demand slackening after Labor Day, and an economy essentially flat-lined, there is little reason to believe that prices will move higher.

Catching OPEC by surprise was the news that U.S. frackers restarted eight oil rigs every week this summer despite the lower prices. This puts the cartel in a pickle of its own creation: If it cuts production in order to drive prices higher, this will only further encourage U.S. producers to bring more rigs online. If they continue to flood the market, their budget deficits will get even larger while still losing precious market share to the Americans.

One unnamed OPEC official told the Wall Street Journal that all of this has caught the cartel by surprise: “[The U.S. shale industry has] surprised us, and can surprise us again.”

The Coming Puerto Rican Bailout

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, August 29, 2016:  

On or before September 1, President Obama will complete the eight appointments to the oversight board created when he signed PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act) into law on June 30. Those already on the board include Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio, Democrat Senator Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

In theory the board will have the power to override the island’s government, delay litigation, fire government workers, and “suggest” other ways the island can begin to recover from its present economic implosion. It has been described as a “de facto” Chapter 9 bankruptcy. In practice it is likely that,

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Chicago’s Futile Attempt to Shut Down Gun Pipeline

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, August 26, 2016: 

In the fall of 2014, Indiana resident Willie Lee Biles made several trips via a Mega Bus coach bus to Chicago carrying a gym bag containing more than 30 handguns. He would then sit on the front porch of a friend’s home on Southside Chicago and sell them to anyone who stopped by. The markups were sometimes three and four times what Biles paid for them back home.

Officials investigating the case said that at least one of his customers was a convicted felon, while others were gang members. In May Biles was convicted of selling firearms without a license, a misdemeanor, and could be incarcerated for up to five years and fined as much as $250,000.

Biles was part of the Iron Pipeline,

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Venezuelan Exodus Accelerates

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, August 24, 2016:  

Prison 015

Since early July an estimated 300,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border into Colombia seeking to purchase basic necessities. Some decided to stay.

Eduardo (not his real name) used to make $18 a month as a systems engineer in Venezuela, but that wasn’t enough to feed his family. With inflation reducing the purchasing power of the Bolivar Fuerte by half nearly every month, he fled to Bogota to stay with a friend. Eduardo told the Financial Times: “At least I can find food here. Back in Venezuela we all lacked anything to eat. I’d rather stay here doing whatever [I can], rather than heading back while [Venezuela’s Marxist President Nicolas] Maduro and his cronies are there.”

An accountant who crossed the border into Colombia told the Times that he is going to stay even if “I have to stand at a corner all day selling arepas [a cheap food made from corn meal].”

Families of those who are staying in Colombia are hoping they will receive funds from the border-crossers in order to stay alive. Otherwise, they are likely to starve.

Most of those who can afford to leave the country have already left. The problems in Venezuela started with the takeover of the government by Marxist Hugo Chavez in 1999: First to feel the crunch were many of the 20,000 oil men that Chavez fired from their positions at the state-owned oil company. (Chavez replaced them with incompetent political cronies.) Then businessmen left the country to escape the currency controls imposed by Chavez. They were followed by students who saw the handwriting on the wall. In the last 17 years, an estimated 1.8 million Venezuelans have left the Chavez/Maduro socialist paradise.

Tebie Gonzalez and Ramiro Ramirez cashed out their emergency savings account in order to buy life’s essentials in Colombia in July. They returned home only to face the existential question: What happens when those staples — food and medicines — run out? What will they do?

Daya Silva, a native of Caracas, used a vacation in Buenos Aires to find a job. She found work and returned to Venezuela briefly, carrying a suitcase full of much-needed items for her friends and family: drugs to treat high blood pressure, essential kitchen supplies, and paper goods. But what happens to her friends and family when these run out?

The vast majority of Venezuelans are today facing the same question. Although the number of Venezuelans requesting refugee status has jumped from 127 in 2000 to 10,300 last year, according to the UN, that is a tiny fraction of the 30 million people remaining in the country. With unemployment at 17 percent (government figures are no longer available), with between 76 and 80 percent of the population living in poverty (again, no government numbers are available so these are estimates from independent sources), and with inflation destroying what’s left of the purchasing power of the local currency (inflation is expected to exceed 2,000 percent next year) the average Venezuelan has almost run out of options.

Relocating to nearby Colombia is an option, but Guyana, which borders Venezuela on the east, is having its own set of problems and is deporting Venezuelans back home as fast as they arrive. Brazil, on the south border, is no mecca either, with its own economy being wrecked by socialist policies.

In short, the average Venezuelan lives in a prison forged by the socialism imposed by Chavez and Maduro. The country more and more resembles a concentration camp where the guards are deliberately starving the inmates.

Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.