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

Ruling for Big Taxi in Europe Could Spell End for Uber, Lyft, Airbnb

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, May 12, 2017:

In what could spell the end of Uber (and by inference other digital information providers such as Lyft and Airbnb) in Europe, an advisor to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recommended that the court treat Uber as a “transportation service” and not a digital information service.

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar, a Polish lawyer, whose opinion carries such great weight among the 15 judges making up the ECJ that they usually follow it, said on Thursday: “The Uber electronic platform, whilst innovative, falls within the field of transport. Uber can thus be required to obtain the necessary licenses and authorizations under national law.”

Translation: Uber must now look and act like Big Taxi. Drivers cannot be “amateurs” but

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Uber Facing “Existential Threat” From AVs?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, May 8, 2017:

When ride-sharing company Uber bought Otto, the company developing autonomous car driving software, last August, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the purchase was “existential” to the company: “The world is going to go self-driving and autonomous … a million fewer people are going to die a year [worldwide]. Traffic in all cities will be gone. [There will be] significantly reduced pollution and trillions of hours will be given back to people — quality of life goes way up. Once you go, “All right, there’s a lot of upsides there” … If we weren’t part of the autonomy thing? Then the future passes us by.”

No less an authority than the Wall Street Journal agrees.

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Stock Market’s Complacency Index Highest in 24 Years

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, May 8, 2017:  

Wall Street’s “complacency index” — a measure of confidence that stock prices will continue to rise — hit the highest level since 1993 on Monday. Alternatively called the VIX (for volatility index), it is often referred to as Wall Street’s “investor fear gauge.”

Translation: Investors presently appear to have no fear. The index compares investors betting, through their purchases of options, that the market will go up, to those betting to the contrary. When investor fear is high, the VIX will move above 30 or even higher. When fear declines, the VIX trades below 20. During the day on Monday the VIX touched 9.72, a level not seen in 24 years.

So complacent have investors become that the VIX has dropped by 45 percent just since April 13. By comparison,

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Labor Department’s April Jobs Report Strong and Getting Stronger

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, May 5, 2017:  

The headline numbers from the Labor Department’s latest employment report for April were encouraging: 211,000 jobs were added last month (compared to economists’ expectations of less than 190,000), pushing the unemployment rate to 4.4 percent, the lowest seen in 10 years, while average wages grew, year-over-year, by 2.5 percent.

That’s exactly what one would expect from a healthy economy.

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OPEC Increasingly Irrelevant as Cartel Seeks to Extend Output-cut Deal

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, May 3, 2017: 

English: Flag of the Organization of Petroleum...

Gregory Brew’s statement from Oilprice.com on Tuesday was spot on: “OPEC Begins to Unravel.” Except that the unraveling began years ago as entrepreneurs in the United States found a way to tap underground shale profitably.

OPEC faces an essentially insurmountable task. On May 25, oil ministers from all 13 of the cartel’s members will meet in Vienna to decide whether or not its present oil output cut agreement should be extended. Either way, OPEC’s doom as the prime determiner of world crude oil prices is likely sealed.

If they decide not to extend the output cut, the world will know that OPEC is finished. The ministers will depart Vienna and tell their governments that

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Latest GDP Report: The Good News and the Bad News

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, April 28, 2017:

Friday’s report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) was so filled with disclaimers that one will have to wait another month to get a true picture of how the economy is performing under President Trump. In the meantime, said the BEA, real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

However, last-minute retail sales data (which showed slowing) wasn’t incorporated into Friday’s report, causing the BEA to say that its estimate

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Supreme Court Blows Up Big Taxi

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, April 28, 2017:

Orange Colour Taxis.

Big Taxi just had a Belshazzar moment. In Chapter 5 of Daniel, Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, was hosting a feast and drinking from holy vessels that had been looted from Israel’s first temple. The hand of God appeared, writing on the wall. Daniel is called and reads it: “God has numbered your days.”

When the Supreme Court declined on Monday to consider an appeal from Big Taxi in Chicago, the handwriting was on the wall: your days are numbered.

Its days were numbered when

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Supreme Court’s Non-decision Expands Passenger Ridesharing Freedom

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, April 27, 2017: 

By declining to hear an appeal, the Supreme Court on Monday essentially declared that rules protecting the taxi cartel in Chicago were null and void, thus expanding passenger freedom. As an attorney with the Institute for Justice (IJ), which represented Chicago Uber driver Dan Burgess, explained: “Today’s decision makes clear what [IJ] has said for years. The Constitution does not require [city] governments to stick with outdated protectionist regulations in the face of technological innovation.”

When Uber and other ride-sharing companies entered the Chicago market several years ago, they soon became a thorn in the side of the taxi cartel that had operated under protectionist rules dating back to 1937. Those rules

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Former Heritage Economist Stephen Moore Refutes CBO’s Doom & Gloom

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, April 26, 2017:

Stephen Moore by David Shankbone, New York City

Stephen Moore

The Heritage Foundation’s Distinguished Visiting Fellow Stephen Moore, now a CNN economics commentator, thinks the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is far too pessimistic. Instead, he believes that most of the nation’s fiscal problems can be solved just by prodding the economy.

The CBO report, “The 2017 Long-Term Budget Outlook,” assumed that little would change politically over the next 10 to 30 years, despite promises from President Trump that his policies would “make America great again.” It projected that the Baby Boomers would exhaust the resources of Medicare and Social Security, and then those costs would be shifted directly to the Department of the Treasury.

If nothing changes, said the CBO, the percentage of the national debt held by the public (pension plans, mutual funds, foreign governments, and wealthy individuals) would double over the next 30 years, which would “pose substantial risks for the nation.”

The problem is exacerbated, said the CBO, not only by an aging population demanding that the government keeps its promises to them, but also

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Trump Floats Trial Balloon on Tax Reform; Wants Feedback

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, April 26, 2017:

Initially referred to as a statement of general principles, the one-page summary of the Trump administration’s tax reform plan looked more like a trial balloon. Said the White House, the administration “will hold listening sessions with stakeholders to receive their input … [in order to] develop the details of a plan that … can pass both chambers.”

Reiterating Trump’s goals of growing the economy, creating millions of jobs, simplifying the tax code, and providing tax relief to middle-income families, the trial balloon as summarized would

lower the corporate tax rate from 39.6 percent to 15 percent, including Subchapter S or “pass-through” corporations;

 

reduce the number of individual income tax brackets from seven to three: 10%, 25% and 35%, depending on income;

 

double the standard deduction, currently at $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly;

 

expand tax relief to families with child and dependent care expenses;

 

eliminate various tax breaks that apply mainly to the wealthiest taxpayers;

 

keep mortgage interest and charitable deductions while eliminating deductions for state income taxes paid;

 

repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT);

 

repeal the 3.8% ObamaCare tax that hits small businesses and investment income;

 

allow a one-time “tax holiday” for international corporations holding trillions overseas; and

 

eliminate tax breaks for special interests.

Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called it “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country,” while his Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn said the plan represented a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something really big.”

What’s really big is the potential deficits Trump’s plan could cause, with at least one critic estimating that it would result in $6 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years.

The underlying goal of the administration being pushed by Trump is that by cutting these tax rates the economy would awake from its slumber and start generating three percent annual rates of growth of the nation’s GDP. Although the Laffer Curve was not mentioned by Mnuchin or economist Stephen Moore (in his recent critique of the government’s economic outlook), it’s the same principle: lower tax rates to result in higher economic growth which will (in theory) result in higher taxes collected by the government.

The increase in the standard deduction is also designed to allow an estimated 27 million Americans who file a long form listing their mortgage interest and charitable deductions to use a “big postcard” instead. This “simplification” of the tax code has long been a stated goal of Trump as candidate and his administration after he was inaugurated in January.

Wednesday’s announcement is just the opening salvo in what promises to be a long war before anything reaches Trump’s desk. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling it a gift for the already-wealthy Americans who don’t need any more tax breaks. And Mnuchin referred to the Senate strategy of “reconciliation” that is likely to be needed to pass the Senate without Democrat votes. He noted that he hoped that the bill that finally passes Congress and is signed into law by the president will be permanent, but “if we have them for [just] 10 years, that’s better than nothing.”

Reconciliation would allow Republicans to pass it without a single Democrat vote, but would also cause the plan to expire in 10 years if it generates deficits. This is what happened to the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush. When the projected revenue growth didn’t meet expectations, his tax cuts for the most part were automatically ended.

The obstacles are substantial, including determined if futile resistance from Democrats and complaints from the energy industry which might see its depletion allowance deductions cut or removed in Trump’s final bill. Those details will be revealed in June and could also negatively impact heavily-indebted public utilities and cable companies that might see some loss of their interest deductions.

On the other hand, winners could include companies that are currently most negatively impacted by high corporate rates in force, including engineering and construction companies, food wholesalers, publishers, and retailers.

The old proverb applies as Trump’s trial balloon gets translated into specific language in the tax reform bill in June: “There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.” A newer one is this from Isaac Boltansky, an analyst at Compass Point Research and Trading, who has been following these events closely:

The sugar high of tax cut headlines could turn into a nagging headache once stakeholders return to the painstaking consideration of process and pay-fors.

Pew Research: Gap Between Promises and Assets Widens for State Pensions

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 24, 2017:

A RETIRED COUPLE FROM CALIFORNIA STOP TO FISH ...

After reviewing the investment results for 230 public pension plans for the last two years, Pew reported last Thursday that, despite strong recent stock market performance, the gap between liabilities (promises) and assets for those plans widened by 17 percent, to $1.4 trillion. Put another way, those plans should have nearly $4 trillion in assets to enable them to keep their promises. The latest data shows them with just over $2.5 trillion instead.

Said Greg Mennis, director of the project,

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Three Stock Market Indicators Spell Trouble for Pension Fund Managers

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 24, 2017:

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Warren Buffett

Michael Lombardi is a bear. Canadian-born, Lombardi has been dishing out investment advice for decades. He is getting nervous. And so should pension fund managers trying to make up for lost time.

In his March newsletter, Lombardi looked at the Warren Buffett Indicator:

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An Inside Look at Venezuela’s Collapse

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, April 21, 2017: 

Português: Brasília - O chanceler da Venezuela...

Marxist Nicolas Maduro

Andres Malave grew up in Caracas until Chavez took over. Then he and his family were able to escape – barely – to the US. Wrote Malave, “It was a hard choice, but in hindsight, we were the lucky ones.”

Now he laments the blind eye many Americans turn towards the rioting, the deaths, the crime, the economic devastation, and the ravages of inflation that Venezuela is suffering:

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GM Ceases Operations in Venezuela Following Government Seizure of its Plant

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, April 20, 2017:  

English: Logo of General Motors Corporation. S...

Following the government’s confiscation of its parts plant, General Motors announced on Wednesday it was ceasing all operations in Venezuela. The company said the seizure was illegal and that it would seek legal remedies.

The announcement puts 2,700 workers making replacement parts in the plant out of work, with small comfort coming from GM, which said it would make “separation payments” to those employees.

But what then? Another 3,900 people will likely find their jobs in jeopardy as the 79 car dealers that employ them will also shortly disappear in the aftermath of GM’s decision.

GM joins an ever-growing list of companies that can’t operate in the socialist paradise run by Marxist dictator Nicolás Maduro, including

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Is Trump Pulling a Pruitt – Putting an Anti-Ex-Im Exec in Charge of the Bank?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 17, 2017:

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

Many were surprised when President Trump named the EPA’s fiercest enemy – Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt – to head up the agency. For years Pruitt has raged against the agency for overstepping its bounds and writing rules, mandates, and regulations that negatively impacted the fossil fuel industry. He sued the agency more than a dozen times in the last eight years.

What was Trump thinking?

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Trump Picks Neocon to Head Council of Economic Advisors

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 10, 2017:

President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he would nominate Kevin Hassett as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisors. Immediately, Glenn Hubbard, a neocon serving as a visiting scholar at the “conservative” American Enterprise Institute (AEI), piped up to laud Hassett’s nomination and Trump’s wisdom in selecting him for the position: “He’s not just a standard-issue really good economist, [Hassett is] someone who knows how policy works. The tax changes being considered are really aimed at boosting investment, so I think Kevin is exactly the right person.”

He’s the right person if Trump wants someone whose resumé includes stints at the

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Trump Stumbles Again: Appoints Interventionist to head his Council of Economic Advisors

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 10, 2017:

Cover of "DOW 36,000 : The New Strategy f...

One way to test a hypothesis is to apply it to the real world. Two renowned, highly-regarded, and elite-college trained economists did just that. In 1999 James Glassman, the founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute (Harvard-trained with a BA in government), and Kevin Hassett, BA in Economics from Swarthmore and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, wrote Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise in the Stock Market. So sure were they about their prediction they went on the road to promote it, claiming that “stocks are now in the midst of a one-time-only rise to much higher ground – to the neighborhood of 36,000 on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.”

On December 31, 1999 the Dow stood at 11,497. A little over three years later the Dow closed (on March 6, 2003) at 7,673, a drop of 3,823 points, costing those who bought the book and took their advice one-third of their investment.

But both persisted,

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U.S. Trade Gap With China Narrowed in January and February

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, April 6, 2017:

Xi Jinping 习近平

Xi Jinping, the Chinese communist dictator

When the Wall Street Journal reported that, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, America’s “trade gap” shrank in January and February, it intoned that while this was allegedly good news, over the last 10 years it’s been bad news: the trade gap “remains far higher than a decade ago.” The Journal called it a “mixed trade outlook” that bodes ill for the upcoming talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s communist leader, Xi Jinping.

Josh Mitchell, writing for the Journal, tried to explain why this was bad:

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Jobs Numbers Come in Higher Once Again, Supporting Trump’s Policies

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, April 6, 2017:

Reporters used adjectives such as “torrid,” “solid,” “unexpected,” and “strong” to characterize March jobs growth of 263,000, as reported by ADP/Moody’s on Wednesday, which far exceeded professional economists’ estimates of 170,000 new jobs for the month.

Last month Mark Zandi was uncharacteristically buoyant when commenting on February’s jobs numbers: “February was a very good month for workers. Powering job growth were the construction, mining and manufacturing industries.… Near record high job openings and record low layoffs underpin the entire market.”

Today Zandi extended his comments as the jobs market continues its recovery: “Job growth is off to a strong start in 2017. The gains are broad-based but most notable in the goods-producing side of the economy, including construction, manufacturing and mining.”

During the past eight years economists such as Zandi had much less to be excited about as jobs growth under the previous administration was

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Walmart vs. Amazon: Battle of the Behemoths

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 3, 2017:

English: Walmart Home Office, the headquarters...

Walmart Home Office, the headquarters of Wal-Mart – Bentonville, Arkansas

In one corner is Amazon, the book-seller that Jeff Bezos founded in 1994 that is now the most valuable retailer in the United States as measured by market cap: $425 billion as of March 31. In the other corner is Walmart, the world’s largest retailer when measured by revenue – $485 billion in 2016.

Amazon’s path to the finals is littered with the bodies of its former competitors, some still twitching but whose death is certain: Sears, J.C. Penney, Abercrombie & Fitch, Macy’s, and Target. Walmart is determined not to be carrion in this epic battle.

Accordingly, Walmart has made some serious moves by

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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.