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

New Jersey Governor Ignores Pension Crisis, Wants More Spending

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, January 17, 2018: 

English: Teachers at New College Nottingham pr...

Teachers protesting over proposwed cuts to government pension plans.

While running for governor of New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy was asked what he would do about the state’s overwhelming pension crisis, and he waffled: there’s “no easy answer,” he said. He added that the state would have to do something about the problem. Said Murphy, “The state has to stand up for its side of the bargain. Period. If the state doesn’t, there’s no use in having [any further] discussion.”

Murphy was inaugurated as the New Jersey’s 56th governor on Tuesday and promptly forgot all about the pension tsunami about to engulf the state. Instead he offered both a “wish list” and a “to-do list” for his supporters and Democratic legislators in attendance. His “wish list” contained the usual collection of liberal promises, while his “to-do” list is what he wants the state legislature to bring to his desk within the next 30 days.

His “wish list” was a rehash of his campaign promises — long on generalities but short on specifics — including legalizing marijuana, protecting illegal immigrants from ICE, providing free tuition at the state’s community colleges, eliminating “tax breaks” that large corporations are allegedly unfairly enjoying, investing state funds in more costly “green energy” projects, and paying for it all by raising taxes on those few millionaires still residing in one of the country’s highest-tax states.

He was much more specific with his “to-do” list. He ordered the state’s liberal and heavily Democratic legislators to get off the snide and send him six bills within the next 30 days, each of which, said Murphy, “will be met with a signing ceremony.” Their marching orders from Murphy included new funding for “women’s health” and Planned Parenthood, raising the minimum wage in the state to $15 an hour, mandating “equal pay” for women, requiring employers in the state to provide paid sick leave to their employees, passing laws removing barriers to having illegals vote, and, of course, additional attacks on the state’s more than three million law-abiding gun owners.

He mentioned not a word about the state’s pension crisis, which has been brewing for years and accelerating nearly exponentially. It’s not that Murphy doesn’t know about the crisis or its extent and potential for bankrupting the state. In 2005, acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey convened a commission to study “the problem,” naming Phil Murphy as its head. In its conclusion, that study urged the state in no uncertain terms to end immediately all “pension holidays” (the skipping of payments to the state’s five pension plans for a period of time), to avoid actuarial “gimmicks” commonly used to make those liabilities appear to be smaller than they actually are, and to eliminate borrowing to pay the state’s contributions. It also recommended a series of reforms, including an end to pension “spiking” (by which employees can sweeten their final payouts as they approach retirement), and raising the age at which plan beneficiaries could retire with full benefits. That last recommendation, which was never implemented, would have raised the full-benefit retirement age from 55 to 60.

So Murphy cannot claim ignorance. He is also certain to know of the accounting chicanery that took place last year, i.e., using the state’s lottery program to help pay the state’s pension contributions. But it was chicanery taken to level of audacity rarely seen even in states as corrupt as New Jersey. Instead of demanding that the lottery’s annual $1 billion proceeds flow into the pension funds’ coffers, the legislature actually transferred the entire program into those coffers and then declared that the future value of those annual proceeds (happily and likely generously estimated at more than $13 billion) was now an asset, reducing (on paper at least) the amount of the unfunded liability.

Moody’s Analytics was not impressed: “The lottery transfer does not change the state’s weak [and] steeply rising pension contribution schedule. [Even after the transfer] there remains considerable risk that the state will be unable to afford rapidly growing pension contributions.”

Also not impressed were two senior fellows at the Manhattan Institute, who just released their study of New Jersey’s pension problems. In January, well before Murphy neatly demurred on even mentioning them, the authors concluded: “It is highly unlikely that New Jersey will generate enough new revenues to meet its pension obligations without severely hobbling the rest of the state’s budget. At the same time, allowing its pension system to continue to accumulate debt by not contributing adequately to it will push New Jersey toward a potentially catastrophic failure of its government pensions.”

At the moment, those five government pension plans have the lowest funding ratio of any state in the union, with a liability estimated to be $124 billion. Those plans are only 30-percent funded currently and declining with each passing day.

But Murphy’s term is for only four years, and if he wins reelection, his tenure ends in eight years. Those plans will likely remain in place, continuing to threaten pensioners who still think they will be getting their benefits, and threatening the state with bankruptcy if it tries to fund them properly. But Murphy will be long gone, proving once again the old adage: Politicians come and go, but the unfunded promises they make live long after them.

Record Bullish Bets on Crude Oil Raising Red Flags

OPEC countries

OPEC countries

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 15, 2018: 

Traders in oil futures have just set a new record: The bets they have placed that crude oil will move even higher just set a world record. As of last week, there were 432,000 net long positions reflecting that optimism. That optimism could be short-lived. As analysts from JBC Energy consulting told its clients on Monday: “From a fundamental perspective, the surge in U.S. managed money raises a clear red flag for us.”

Since the low in June, the price for the future delivery of U.S. crude oil is up almost 50 percent, from $44 a barrel to $64 on Friday. In London, Brent crude traded above $70 for the first time since December 2014.

Their optimism is based on indisputable facts.

Keep reading…

Walmart Voluntarily Raises Its Minimum Wage

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, January 12, 2018: 

The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced on Thursday that it was voluntarily raising its minimum wage for new workers to $11 an hour starting next month. Included in the announcement were staged bonuses that will be paid to present workers based on their time with the company. Also included was a vast improvement in maternity benefits, with full-time hourly workers receiving 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paternal leave. Parents who adopt will get the same benefits plus a check from Walmart for $5,000 to help cover their adoption costs.

This is on top of the wage increases announced by the retailer in 2015 to be staged in over the next three years.

What’s notable is that this is taking place ahead of

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Credit Card Debt Hits $1 Trillion; Wall Street and Michael Snyder Yawn

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, January 10, 2018: 

Michael Snyder rivals only David Stockman in his pessimistic economic outlook, reflecting that outlook by naming his blog “The Economic Collapse.” On the first day of the New Year, Michael dug into his files for the most “crazy” numbers from 2017. He found 44, including these:

One out of every ten young adults in the United States has been homeless at some point over the past year;

 

The United States has lost more than 70,000 manufacturing facilities since China joined the WTO in 2001;

 

A total of 6,985 store locations were shut down last year, and we are expected to break the record again in 2018:

 

Only 25 percent of all Americans have more than $10,000 in savings right now; and

 

44 percent of all U.S. adults do not even have enough money “to cover an unexpected $400 expense,” according to the Federal Reserve.

What’s missing from Michael’s list? Credit card debt, student loan debt, and vehicle financing debt. Surely he was aware of these numbers, but for some reason didn’t include them in his list. For the first time in history, credit card debt last year hit $1 trillion, eclipsing the record set back in 2008 following the real estate collapse and the beginning of the Great Recession. Snyder didn’t mention the nearly $3 trillion in “non-revolving” debt (i.e., auto and student loans) either. Seeking Alpha called these numbers “scary” but Snyder ignored them.

A closer look behind the numbers reveals that these may not be such “scary” numbers after all. Perhaps that’s why Snyder ignored them, simply because, by his definition, they didn’t qualify as “crazy.” For one thing, fewer than 40 percent of all households carry any sort of credit card debt. Among millennials ages 18 to 29 only a third even have a credit card.

Next, the ratio of income to credit card debt at the end of 2017 (before the new tax cuts) was already declining with the ratio of credit card debt compared to the nation’s gross domestic economic output at about 5 percent, compared with 6.5 percent in 2008.

Also, credit card delinquencies remain way below the 9 percent historical average, at just 7.5 percent, and far below the rate of 15 percent touched following the 2008 financial crisis.

There’s another way to look at credit card debt: compare outstanding balances to incomes.ValuePenguin performed such a service, showing that households with annual incomes of between $25,000 and $100,000 have less than $7,000 in outstanding balances on their credit cards. Further, that analysis showed that the average has increased only slightly since 2013.

With almost two million more people working today than held jobs a year ago, and others enjoying wage and salary increases, that $1 trillion in credit card debt becomes far less “scary.” In a $20 trillion economy that is growing at three percent a year, $1 trillion in credit card debt may reflect that growth as banks are willing to issue more cards to more credit-worthy individuals and those individuals, having perhaps learned lessons from the Great Recession, are using them more prudently. That “trillion” dollar number may instead reflect a growing and increasingly healthy economy employing more people making more money who are using credit opportunities more wisely.

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Sources:

USATodayCredit card debt hits new record, raising warning sign

SeekingAlpha.comCredit card debt on watch

Michael Snyder: 44 Numbers From 2017 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

ValuePenguin.com:  Average Credit Card Debt in America: 2017 Facts & Figures

Credit Card Debt Hits $1 Trillion, Raising Alarms

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, January 9, 2018: 

For the first time in history credit card debt hit $1 trillion last year, reported the Federal Reserve on Monday. This eclipsed the previous record set almost 10 years ago, just before the housing and credit bubbles burst. In addition, “non-revolving” (i.e. auto and student loans) debt is approaching $3 trillion.

These numbers have put credit card debt on “watch” at Seeking Alpha, which said that that trillion dollar number is “scary.”

A closer look behind the numbers reveals that these may not be such “scary” numbers after all.

Keep reading…

What the Latest Jobs Reports Really Mean

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 8, 2018:

There were three jobs reports released last week: two from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (one based on its “household” survey, the other on its “establishment” survey), and one from ADP based upon its payroll data.

ADP’s numbers came in first on Thursday, showing job growth in December exceeding forecasters’ predictions at 250,000. This was followed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on Friday, showing 148,000 new jobs in December. They both said that the unemployment rate held steady at a record low 4.1 percent.

Mark Zandi, the establishment economist at Moody’s, was “disappointed” in Friday’s numbers from the BLS and thinks they’re going to get worse going into the New Year. First,

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Economist Mark Zandi Exposes His Statist Worldview

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, January 8, 2018:

Mark Zandi should be embarrassed. Not because he is an establishment economist. Not because he is a Keynesian. And not because he’s not a smart guy. He should be embarrassed that someone allowed him to publish nonsense about the state of the economy in order to promote his worldview.

He lives in a world that is behaving much differently than he expected or than he apparently wants. He wants the Trump tax reform law to fail. He must admit that the economy is working much better than he ever expected it to. But, in the end, he says that it’s all a mirage, temporary, that the resurgence measured by nearly every metric isn’t going to last.

He is establishment to the core, and perhaps that’s why he’s willing to go to the mat for a worldview that is being overturned and increasingly discredited: that statists can control things much better than an uncontrolled “free” economy can.

He admitted in an article for CNBC that things are going just swimmingly:

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Trump’s Interior Secretary Proposes Selling Offshore Drilling Leases Starting in 2019

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, January 5, 2018: 

English: Nancy Pelosi photo portrait as Speake...

One of the usual suspects

President Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was very careful in announcing his agency’s next step in expanding energy development to include the United States’ offshore reserves. He knew that environmentalists and far-left politicians would attack his plan and did what he could to placate them in advance. Said Zinke:

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Trump Economy Making Democrats Look Increasingly Foolish

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, January 5, 2018:

The kept media dutifully reported California Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s disgust over President Trump’s tax reform program, even though it made her look foolish. Said Pelosi, “If this goes through, kiss life on earth goodbye. The debate on health care is life/death. This is Armageddon.” This was followed by the media quoting Democrat Chuck Schumer: “Tax breaks don’t lead to job creation … [this bill is a] punch in the gut for the middle class.”

It may be a little early to tell, but at the moment the middle class is doing just fine. Life goes on; if Armageddon occurred, the media missed it. That “punch in the gut for the middle class” is about to be caused by heavier wallets, thanks to tax cuts showing up in their February paychecks.

For hundreds of thousands, that punch in the gut was immediate:

Keep reading…

Dow Smashes Through 25,000; to Smash Dems in November?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, January 4, 2018:

The surprising thing about the Dow’s volcanic eruption through the 25,000 level on Thursday is that it was matched by all-time highs in other key stock market indexes such as the S&P 500 Index, the NASDAQ, and the Russell 2000. Even more surprising is that this isn’t happening in an American vacuum: Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average hit a new 26-year high, rising above 23,000 for the first time since January 1992. The Hang Seng (Hong Kong) Index just touched a new 10-year high, while major stock market indexes in New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand also set new records on Thursday.

The reasons why aren’t surprising:

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Minimum Wage Increases in 2018 Putting People Out of Work

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, January 3, 2018: 

According to Mic, the left-wing internet and media company that caters to millennials, Seattle “is quickly becoming one of the most interesting cities in the country for political observers.” The city boasts having an avowed socialist on its city council and proved his influence through its $4.8 billion budget in 2014 that is “loaded with a number of initiatives that illustrate how Seattle is making strides toward becoming a testing ground for boldly progressive policies.”

That salute to Seattle’s progressivism was published in 2014, and little has changed in the city council’s ideology. It now boasts a minimum wage of $15.45 an hour, with predictable effects: total wages paid to lower-income people has gone down, not up. A study just released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) explained:

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18 States Raise Minimum Wage in 2018

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, January 2, 2018: 

Faith, Fraud & Minimum Wage

Faith, Fraud & Minimum Wage

Through new legislation, successful ballot measures or inflation adjustments built in to previous statutes, some 4.5 million people should see increases in their paychecks in the New Year. Ten of those states — Maine, Vermont, Washington, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, California, Colorado, Arizona, and Hawaii — are seeing increases as the result of legislative or ballot measures. The other eight — Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota — will see so-called “automatic” increases in their minimum wage laws in 2018.

Most new minimum wage legislation is phased-in through gradual increases, declaring loudly the hypocritical claim that such increases won’t affect employment. It’s like feeding nightshade to a victim in such small doses that he doesn’t even notice — until he’s dead.

Take Washington State for example.

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Student Loans in Default Traded for Broken Social Security Promises?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, January 1, 2017: 

On the surface, Representative Tom Garrett seems like an intelligent guy: a freshman member of the House from Virginia, he served previously as the Virginia Commonwealth’s attorney for Louisa County. He’s already earned himself a Freedom Index rating of 80 percent from the John Birch Society for his voting record in the House.

But at age 45 he is still paying off his student loans that helped him

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Dakota Access Pipeline Fulfilling Its Promise

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 1, 2018: 

Fully operational since June, the Dakota Access Pipeline is lowering transportation costs, reducing tank car usage, reducing environmental and population risk, improving North Dakota’s financial condition, and putting the lie to the alarmist anti-pipeline propaganda.

There’s scarcely a downside.

Keep reading…

Obama Fracking Rule to be Overturned by BLM in January

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, December 29, 2017:

Map of the part of the region in Texas, red is...

Part of the Permian Basin in west Texas

A federal appeals court refused on Wednesday to reconsider its decision to overturn an Obama administration rule on fracking, holding that the issue was moot: The Trump administration is planning to throw out the rule altogether in January.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said that the Obama administration’s rule “unnecessarily burdens industry compliance costs and information requirements that are duplicative of regulatory programs of many states and some tribes. As a result, we are proposing to rescind, in its entirety, the [Obama administration’s] 2015 final rule.”

The original decision in 2016 ruled that the Obama administration was guilty of federal overreach,

Keep reading…

The Permian Basin is Driving Another Nail into OPEC’s Coffin

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, December 29, 2017:  

English: Pumpjack east of Andrews, TX

English: Pumpjack east of Andrews, TX

Just a few years ago, the Permian Basin was considered nearly depleted. But with the advent of fracking technology, the enormous basin – called a “super basin” – could now contain two trillion barrels of recoverable crude oil. That is more than the reserves of Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil field and all of Venezuela’s proven reserves put together. IHS Markit, the world leader in information gathering and analysis, just announced that the Permian Basin’s production exceeded its previous high registered back in 1973, producing a record 815 million barrels of oil in 2017. It estimates that its daily production will approach 3 million barrels a day (mbd) next year, which will set another record of a billion barrels produced in single year.

This far exceeds the requirements for any oil basin to quality as a “super basin”: 5 billion in reserves and 5 billion in accumulated production. It also far exceeds the reserves of Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil field (265 billion) and those of Venezuela (300 billion).

It’s also a “disrupter,” according to Pete Stark, a director of IHS: “When we consider the impact on the world’s crude markets, the Permian has to be considered a global disrupter.” IHS’ Reed Olmstead added:

Keep reading…

Bah Humbug: The Left Is Unhappy with Year-end Bonuses Paid Following Tax Reform

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, December 27, 2017:  

Within hours of passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) on December 20, major American companies began announcing year-end bonuses, salary increases, and plans to expand capital investment. This was an unexpected but pleasant surprise to many, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who tweeted: “It’s only been a few hours … and companies are already announcing new investments into the US economy & raises for their employees.”

Senator Tim Scott, Republican conservative from South Carolina, called its passage “a tremendous victory,” adding that it’s an “early Christmas present for the American people.”

Details of raises, bonuses, and capex expansion plans poured out of Comcast

Keep reading…

Crude Oil Price Outlook: Back to the ’40s?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, December 26, 2017:

English: Flag of the Organization of Petroleum...

The same day that OPEC announced it would be extending its production cut agreement through the end of next year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that U.S. crude oil production jumped an astonishing 290,000 barrels per day from August levels.

Oil traders yawned and drove the price of crude higher. After all, it was a one-month spike, and compliance among both OPEC members and non-members remained surprisingly high. The agreement was taking crude oil off the market faster than producers were adding it. Voila! Increased demand coupled with decreased supply equals higher prices. Futures moved higher with Brent (prices set in London) moving past $62 a barrel with West Texas Intermediate (WTI, prices set in Cushing, Oklahoma) approaching $60.

Those traders were happy to ignore the increase in rig counts in the United States, and the more than 1,000 new horizontal wells being developed as a result — the highest seen since March 2015.

But all three official observers of the world’s crude oil market had a surprise waiting:

Keep reading…

Opening ANWR to Energy Development May Be Too Late

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, December 20, 2017: 

Part of the motivation by Republicans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to energy development — off limits for nearly 40 years thanks to environmental extremists and the Obama administration — is to use lease fees to offset the deficits in the tax reform bill.

The numbers coming from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) are impressive. Leasing even a tiny part of the tiny part that “Section 1002” represents of the total ANWR acreage would produce $2.2 billion in revenues over the next 10 years, to be split evenly between Alaska and the federal government.

Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a speech on the floor of the Senate late Tuesday night that

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The GOP Tax Reform Bill Now Ready for Trump’s Signature

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, December 21, 2017:

Without a single Democrat vote in either the House or the Senate, the tax reform bill headed for President Donald Trump’s desk on Wednesday is likely to cost them dearly in the midterm elections. That is, if the bill works as intended: giving Americans “more take home pay” as the president expressed it, adding. “It will be an incredible Christmas gift for hardworking Americans.”

Most of those hardworking Americans won’t see a thing until

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