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

Tag Archives: Economy

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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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.

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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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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Trump Uses CRA to Roll Back Obama Rules

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

President Donald Trump will be signing legislation to overturn a rule that the previous administration put in place prohibiting states from blocking federal grant money to abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood. The announcement was made during Wednesday morning’s press conference and will affect some $300 million of federal money this year.

The president has already signed legislation repealing or neutering 11 such rules left over from the Obama administration, with two more pending and a couple more working their way through Congress. There’s a time clock running: the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows a 60-day “lookback” on the previous administration’s rules, runs out on April 28.

The leftist DailyKos celebrated the collapse of RyanCare but warned its progressive audience that these small victories using the CRA are mounting up:

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U.S. Rig Count Up, OPEC Influence Down

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 3, 2017:

An announcement on Friday by Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oil-field services companies, put one more nail in OPEC’s coffin. Despite the cartel’s attempt to manipulate world crude-oil prices to its benefit, the oil and gas rig count in the United States jumped by 15 last week and now sits at 824, an increase of 374 in just the last year.

Two days earlier, another nail had been pounded into place:

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Harry Dent, Meet Chris Hamilton

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 29, 2017:

For years Harry Dent (shown) has attempted to turn his demographic analyses into investment advice, with middling performance. It seems that when his advice doesn’t turn out well, he writes another book.

Take, for example, his The Demographic Cliff: How to Survive and Prosper During the Great Deflation Ahead. He contends that the economy can be traced and tracked using the behavior of consumers as they grow, mature and age. Young people marry, have families, buy homes, automobiles, and gadgets. Their acquisitions peak at around age 45 or so, and then decline over time into retirement.

His “waves” are like seasons: 

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Wall Street Facing Headwinds as Boomers Forced to Liquidate Their IRAs, 401Ks

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, March 28, 2017:

New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New ...

Under the law those reaching age 70 and a half must start taking their “required minimum distributions” (RMDs) from their various tax-deferred accounts. These include IRAs, 401Ks, profit-sharing plans, and SEPs. The trouble is that there are so many of them, and they control so many assets, that their RMDs are going to put enormous pressure on the stock market, according to Chris Hamilton, writing at his Econimica blog.

The Baby Boom population cohort is nearly 80 million people, and those born in 1946 are now 71, with millions following right behind. The top one percent own or control about one-third of that cohort’s assets, while the top 10 percent own more than two-thirds, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The real question, according to Hamilton, is this:

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Keystone XL Pipeline Granted Approval by State Department

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 24, 2017: 

Keystone XL demonstration, White House,8-23-20...

With the signing of the cross-border permit by the State Department on Friday, the real work on completing Phase IV of the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast begins. TransCanada, the owner and operator of the pipeline, still thinks the project is viable economically even though it has been stalled for 16 months by the previous administration. In a press release, TransCanada’s CEO Russ Girling said:

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Austin Booted Uber and Lyft, Startups Struggle

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 24, 2017:

Every year the South by Southwest (SxSW) conference held in Austin, Texas, in March celebrates one or more high-tech “breakout” companies. In 2007 it was Twitter, in 2011 it was GroupMe, and in 2015 it was Meerkat.

This was supposed to be Fasten and RideAustin’s year, two of the local ride-sharing companies that had allegedly “filled the void” when city council member Ann Kitchen ran off Uber and Lyft last year.

Thousands of attendees flew in for the conference, and they needed a lift (or Lyft) but

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Fitch Knocks Saudi Arabia’s Credit Rating Down Another Notch

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 22, 2017:

Fitch Ratings downgraded Saudi Arabia’s credit rating again on Wednesday, bringing it perilously close to “speculative,” from “investment grade.” It dropped the country’s long-term credit rating from A+ to AA-, but with a “stable” outlook, noting that the reduction was due to the country’s “continued deterioration of public and external balance sheets.”

Fitch sees what both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, the other two global credit rating agencies, see: declining oil prices hurting a country that once enjoyed the highest investment grade ratings thanks to high oil prices that not only paid for extravagant welfare programs and subsidies to its citizens but allowed it to accumulate three-quarters of a trillion dollars in foreign reserves — more than ample to ride out any conceivable storm.

The rating agencies have seen that an inconceivable storm arrived in 2014 when

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Saudi Arabia Losing Influence in Global Oil Markets

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, March 21, 2017:

As it continues to wrestle with declining oil prices worldwide, Saudi Arabia, the de facto head of the OPEC oil cartel, is giving up ground. It said a week ago that it would not allow any “free riders” to enjoy higher oil prices if they rose due to Saudi’s singular attempt to keep them up. A week later it was reported that the kingdom cut its production by 800,000 barrels per day, 60 percent below its agreement. So much for disclaimers against those “free riders” who continue to violate the agreement by exceeding their quotas.

Now comes news that the kingdom’s exports to the United States for the week ended March 10

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Venezuela’s Marxist Dictator Orders Arrest of Bakers Making Croissants

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 17, 2017:

Português: Brasília - O chanceler da Venezuela...

Four bakers trying to make ends meet were arrested earlier this week in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, a country that was once one of South America’s premier economic powerhouses. Venezuela’s ruler, Nicolas Maduro, mandated that 90 percent of scarce flour be turned into bread, which must be sold at a loss, rather than higher-priced sweet bread, ham-filled croissants, pastries, and cakes.Two bakers apparently broke this law, and two used out-of-date wheat for brownies. At least one baker will have his bakery taken over by the government for 90 days. The bakers, operating under Maduro’s mandates that they use government-imported wheat for flour to bake bread and sell it below their costs, were on survival mode, as are most of the people living in Venezuela’s socialist paradise.

Maduro, rather than to take the justified blame for the economic malaise that his socialist policies have caused, has dreamed up all manner of straw men to blame for the country’s woes, starting with

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Restaurants Add “Labor Surcharge” to Tabs to Cover Minimum-wage Increases

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 13, 2017:

English: This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NY...

Instead of increasing their menu prices in response to increased minimum-wage levels, restaurant owners are burying their increased labor costs at the bottom of each tab. The increase, between three and four percent, only comes after the customer has completed his meal. The increase also increases the tip customers leave behind as most customers leave a gratuity based on the check’s total. This is going to raise the average customer’s check, which has already increased by nearly 11 percent since 2012, close to five or six percent.

Some restaurant and fast-food owners aren’t burying the increase but are instead calling attention to it so that customers know that they’re the ones actually bearing the brunt of the forced increase in the minimum wage. Sami Ladeki, the owner of six Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill restaurants in San Diego and eight others across California, used to call it a “California mandate” but removed it after getting a call from the city attorney. Ladeki, who says he makes a profit of around one percent charging $12 to $14 a pizza, told the Wall Street Journal:

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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.