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

Is NewSat the next Solyndra?

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 27, 2015:

English: Export-Import Bank of the United Stat...

In 2012 and 2013, the Export-Import Bank unanimously agreed to guarantee loans by Lockheed Martin to a small private Australian satellite company called NewSat, whose president was ecstatic at the news. NewSat’s CEO Adrian Ballintine celebrated:

It is fantastic to receive the support of the U.S. Ex-Im Bank. They are backing our … satellite with a direct loan, with a favorable low-fixed interest rate and long tenure.

 

The deal is an Australian first for Ex-Im Bank and a major milestone towards the launch of Australia’s first commercial satellite.

His was a company worth $50 million before Ex-Im guaranteed $304 million in loans by Lockheed Martin to provide it with a satellite designed to reach all across the South Pacific and rake in millions. Ex-Im was simply following its charter: make loans no one with any sense would consider making.

Of course, that isn’t exactly what the bank’s charter really says;

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Huge Ex-Im Bank Loan Defaults Imperiling Bank’s Reauthorization

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 26, 2015: 

Seal of the Export-Import Bank of the United S...

Seal of the Export-Import Bank of the United States

On January 21, NewSat, a private satellite communications company headquartered in Australia, defaulted on a $21 million payment to its primary satellite provider, Lockheed Martin. That default is triggering an avalanche of defaults that could sink not only NewSat but also very likely the bank that guaranteed the loans financing the deal, the Export-Import Bank, whose charter is up for renewal on June 30.

The Ex-Im Bank has touted its ability and willingness to provide financing for American companies seeking to do business abroad but which couldn’t arrange financing the regular way: through private banking channels. According to the bank’s charter,

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Tax-credit Private-school Scholarship Funding Explodes in Oklahoma

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, March 24, 2015:

Many Oklahoma taxpayers are paying less in state income taxes, thanks to contributions made to scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) last year.

It’s a new wrinkle, and many of those opening envelopes from the Oklahoma Tax Commission are in for a pleasant surprise. A single taxpayer contributing $2,000 to an SGO last year will save $1,000 in state income taxes. A couple contributing $4,000 will save $2,000. These are credits, not deductions, based on one-half the contribution. Translation: Every dollar of credit saves one dollar in state taxes.

For those able to give more — think successful small business owners, lawyers, accountants, physicians, software engineers, farmers, ranchers, and other business owners operating as regular C corporations — that letter in the mail this month could generate even greater excitement.

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Memphis Police, Firemen Quitting Following Pension Plan Reductions

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 16, 2015: 

English: Memphis, Tennessee skyline from the a...

Memphis, Tennessee skyline from the air

Last July more than half of Memphis’ police officers took sick days off to protest the reductions in the city’s contributions to their pension plan and increases in their contributions to the city’s health benefits plan. The national media was sympathetic with cases of “blue flu,” instead of recognizing the new economic reality: Because public pensions are underfunded, everyone expecting benefits from the city will now take a hit, not just new hires.

Some of those who took sick days in July now are quitting altogether, finding other better opportunities elsewhere. In fact, other departments from nearby states are advertising in local papers and setting up job fairs to entice the discontented to new positions.

In a word, those unhappy with the new reality are adjusting.

Most solutions proposed to bring underfunded pension plans back into balance have involved

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Oil Production Still Increasing — Confounding Experts

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 16, 2015: 

Logo of International Energy Agency

A month ago the International Energy Agency (IEA) began hedging its bet that declining oil prices would cut production: “U.S. supply [of crude oil] so far shows precious little sign of slowing down. Quite to the contrary, it continues to defy expectations.” 

This is how economists say “Oops!” 

On Friday the IEA was still astonished at the resilience of the oil industry as it continued to produce at record levels, despite predictions that declining rig counts would force production cuts. Instead, total U.S. crude oil production hit a high of 9.4 million barrels a day during the week ending March 6. 

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US Crude Production Sets Record in March, Surprises the IEA

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, March 15, 2015: 

Just a quick look at the history of the International Energy Agency should convince anyone of its inefficacy: founded in 1974 at the suggestion of Henry Kissinger, its focus is on management of other peoples’ resources. Its mandate: the “3Es”: energy security, economic development, and environmental protection. The fact that it lacks any understanding of how the free market automatically addresses these issues showed up a month ago when its prediction of lower oil production in the US fell flat: “The U.S. supply [of crude oil] so far shows precious little sign of slowing down. Quite to the contrary, it continues to defy expectations.”

On Friday it confirmed its ignorance of how the free market works when it announced – surprise of surprises – that

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China’s Economic Bubble Ready to Burst?

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 13, 2015: 

 

The latest numbers out of China no longer mask its economic decline. Chinese industrial production “slowed at its sharpest rate in the first two months of the year since the global financial crisis” shouted the Financial Times on Wednesday.

Wang Tao, UBS’ chief economist on the Chinese economy, was dour: “Today’s disappointing data release highlights just how quickly domestic demand is deteriorating as the ongoing [real estate] downturn continues to spread its negative impact through the economy.”

In China that impact is huge,

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Boston University Economist Calls Out Congress on Enormous Fiscal Gap

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 12, 2015:

Logo of the United States Government Accountab...

Logo of the United States Government Accountability Office

During his annual trek to Washington, D.C., to lecture Congress on its spendthrift habits, Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff took the gloves off this year. He dressed down Senator Mike Enzi, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, along with the committee’s members:

Let me get right to the point. Our country is broke. It’s not broke in 75 years or 50 years or 25 years or 10 years.

 

It’s broke today.

 

Indeed, it may well be in worse fiscal shape than any development country, including Greece.

It isn’t just Enzi, or his committee, or the present Congress, that’s responsible for a fiscal gap that’s vastly larger than that projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It’s the idea that the country can borrow without limit because

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Latest Jobs Report Deceptive; Jobs Exported Overseas

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Saturday, March 7, 2015:

English: A North American Free Trade Agreement...

North American Free Trade Agreement logo

The employment report from the Labor Department on Friday was hailed as more evidence that the worst from the Great Recession is now in the rear view mirror, and receding. The unemployment rate in February dropped to 5.5 percent, lower than economists were predicting, while job growth added nearly 300,000 jobs, pushing the streak of gains of 200,000-plus new jobs per month out to a full year, the longest such streak since 1995.

The news caused stocks to lose more than one percent of their value, as Wall Street expected the robust numbers to hasten the day when the Fed would increase interest rates, potentially slowing the sluggish economy even further. Investors needn’t worry: Friday’s report was a head-fake.

If the recovery were real,

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Politics and Mathematics Collide in Chicago

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 4, 2015:

English: Downtown Chicago, Illinois at night. ...

Downtown Chicago, Illinois at night.

Chicago is a microcosm of Illinois: it has a determined unwillingness to face reality. Even Moody’s, in its latest downgrade of Chicago debt, has failed to grasp the enormity of the shortfalls facing the city and the state.

Moody’s tried to be realistic, using unrealistic numbers:

[Our rating] incorporates expected growth in Chicago’s already highly-elevated unfunded pension liabilities and continued growth in costs to service those liabilities, even if recent pension reforms proceed and are not overturned….

The “expected growth” will likely surprise to the downside even the realists at Moody’s, as the real shortfall in the five pension plans the state is funding is vastly greater than even the $100+ billion the state faces. A “special pension briefing” performed back in November by the state’s Commission on Forecasting and Accountability showed the accrued liabilities on those plans to be

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Moody’s Downgrades Chicago Again

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, March 3, 2015:

English: in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Downtown Chicago, Illinois

Within hours of Moody’s Investors Service announcing another downgrade to Chicago’s general obligation bonds last Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration responded, saying that Moody’s was out of touch with reality:

We strongly disagree with Moody’s decision to reduce the city’s credit rating and would note that Moody’s has been consistently and substantially out of step with the other rating agencies [Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings], ignoring progress that has been achieved.

At the moment those other two agencies rate Chicago’s debt at A-plus or A-minus, each with a negative outlook. But in light of an imminent court ruling that could invalidate efforts to cut pension benefits, along with the crushing and increasing burden of those benefits, observers are just waiting for the next two shoes to drop.

As Moody’s noted, its downgrade will stand even if the court validates those pension modifications: 

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China’s Internet Censorship Efforts Continue to Fail

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, February 27, 2015:

The Courtship of Princess Leia

Princess Leia

At that moment in Star Wars when Princess Leia is threatened by Governor Tarkin, the following dialogue takes place:

Princess Leia: Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.

 

Governor Tarkin: Charming to the last. You don’t know how hard I found it, signing the order to terminate your life.

 

Princess Leia: I’m surprised that you had the courage to take the responsibility yourself.

 

Governor Tarkin: Princess Leia, before your execution, I’d like you to join me for a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.

 

Princess Leia: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his little tyrant, Lu Wei, really ought to get out more. Instead, they are issuing threats of censorship in a war they cannot win. Xi holds that the internet is a battleground. He starts off in a tone mild and gentle:

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China’s Failing Attempts to Censor the Internet

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, February 26, 2015:

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Internet censorship czar, Lu Wei, are learning that Princess Leia was right when she said in the movie Star Wars about extending increasing totalitarian political control, “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

When Wei visited Silicon Valley heavyweights last December, he noted that Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, had an anthology of President Xi’s speeches on his desk. Included in that book was a speech in which Xi laid out his vision of the Chinese Internet: 

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Internet Freedom to Disappear on Thursday

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Thursday, February 26, 2015:

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del...

Ronald Reagan was right:

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: if it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Tom Wheeler, the current FCC Chairman, doesn’t think that’s funny. He thinks they are his marching orders. Encouraged by his boss, Wheeler is reaching for the biggest hammer in his toolbox to bludgeon the internet into submission and turn it into a utility. On Thursday Wheeler will

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FCC to Vote on Net Neutrality Rules on Thursday

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, February 24, 2015:

Logo of the United States Federal Communicatio...

On Thursday consumers will finally be able to see and read the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) planned new rules to regulate the Internet. Deliberately hidden from public view, the 332-page document is expected to be passed by the FTC, as demanded by President Obama last November when he told FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to adopt the “strongest possible rules” in regulating the Internet.

Leaks from the document were inevitable, and critics have slowly pieced together the latest attack on Internet freedom.

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Tax Foundation Counts All Income Except Underground

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 23, 2015:

Tax Foundation

Tax Foundation

Not one single word of the 10-page report “Sources of Personal Income” released by the Tax Foundation mentioned the “black market” — that vast swirling uncounted (and largely uncountable) part of the U.S. economy that some estimate in the trillions. Accordingly, that throws off the foundation’s attempt to draw any more than tentative conclusions about how much the average taxpayer earns.

According to the Foundation, Americans reported a total of $9.2 trillion in income in 2012, the latest year for which numbers are available, with $6.3 trillion of it coming from “wages, salaries, tips” and “other” compensation. They get those numbers mostly from the infamous

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Milton Friedman, the W-2 Withholding form, and the Underground Economy

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, February 23, 2015:

English: Portrait of Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman

With Americans about to file their income tax returns, most of them will look at their W-2 withholding forms to get the numbers without any background on how paying the government first came to be accepted as normal.

At age 16 this writer worked as a helper on a Canada Dry delivery truck. It was a plum job if one could get it. A “helper” load was 160 cases (the heavy glass-bottle kind), and it paid $20 for the day. There was great incentive to dump those cases as fast as possible (without breaking them!) and get back to the warehouse and put in the time sheet.

The first week generated $100, and this writer had never seen a $100 bill before. Imagine his surprise when his pay envelope had “change” in it. The slip showed Gross $100.00. Net: $92.43. The government got into this writer’s pay envelope before he did!

He’s never forgotten that moment, and was surprised, so many years later, to learn how much a hand one of his favorite economists, Milton Friedman, had in creating the entire withholding system in the US back in 1943.

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Ruling Imminent on California’s Anti-gun Microstamping Law

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, February 19, 2015: 

A Browning 9x19mm Hi-Power, also known as the ...

A Browning 9x19mm Hi-Power

The ruling on a lawsuit brought against the state of California in January 2014 opposing implementation of the state’s “microstamping” law is expected momentarily. If enforcement of the law is permanently banned, it will be cause for rejoicing in a victory of logic and constitutional rights over irrational and emotional hoplophobia (fear of guns).

California’s Eastern District Judge Kimberly Mueller will rule shortly on whether California’s microstamping law makes such unreasonable demands upon gun makers that for all practical purposes they are unable to comply with them: 

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Will this be OPEC’s Final Failed Gamble?

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, February 18, 2015: 

Cover of "The Prize: The Epic Quest for O...

Six years ago historian Daniel Yergin wrote in The Prize about OPEC’s failed gamble in 1986. The cartel tried to secure its preeminent place among the world’s oil producers by forcing crude oil prices down:

Was the price now poised for a great fall? Most of the exporters [primarily OPEC] thought so, but they expected no more than a drop [from more than $30 a barrel] to $18 or $20 a barrel, below which, they thought, production … would not be economical….

 

Actually, operating costs – the cash costs to extract oil – were only $6 per barrel [at the time], so there would be no reason to shut down production at any price above that.

The cartel was hoping to squeeze out marginal producers, which would result in cuts in supply, allowing it to raise prices at will. It didn’t work then, and it isn’t working now. The Saudis apparently suffer from an appalling lack of understanding about how the free market works.

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Re-fracking Old Wells Is Extending the Fracking Revolution

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, February 17, 2015:

English: A natural gas well (produces gas only...

A natural gas well

News that the oil industry is importing many of the new technologies developed by natural-gas producers, which led to steadily declining natural-gas prices, was greeted with great disappointment by at least one green group. Upon learning that fracking was not only a long way from disappearing in the face of declining oil prices but was actually on the verge of a resurgence, Sharon Wilson, a Texas organizer for Earthworks, told Bloomberg, “It’s terribly disappointing.”

It might be disappointing to Wilson, but

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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.