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

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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Friday’s Jobs Report Confirms Wednesday’s Blowout Numbers

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 10, 2017:

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirmed the robust employment numbers reported by ADP/Moody’s on Wednesday: 235,000 new jobs were created in President Donald Trump’s first full month in office, with the unemployment rate dropping further, to 4.7 percent. Just as reported by ADP, the BLS report showed strong growth in construction, manufacturing, and mining, representing nearly a third of the jobs created in January.

Friday’s report also exceeded Wall Street economists’ expectations,

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Brazil Continues to Stagger as Economy Slows, Corruption Probe Expands

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 8, 2017:

Brazil’s economy, once Latin America’s largest and most prosperous, shrank again last year by 3.6 percent following a similar shrinkage in 2015 of 3.8 percent. This marks the country’s worst recessionary period since records started being kept. The best possible scenario for 2017 is an expansion of less than one percent.

The New American has been following the rolling and accelerating disaster since the onset of Operation Car Wash, the investigation into political corruption at the government’s highest levels, which began nearly three years ago. At the time the economy had fallen from a gain of more than 10 percent in 2010, placing Brazil at the top of the BRIC nations (Russia, India, China, South Africa, Brazil) which were touted as contenders to outproduce the Western economies by 2025. No one mentions BRIC any longer.

Instead it’s all about the failing economy and the Operation Car Wash corruption investigation.

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February Jobs Numbers Explode, Blowing Past Economists’ Expectations

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 8, 2017: 

.jobs -- Cut To The Chase

The ADP/Moody’s jobs report released on Wednesday showed job growth 50-percent ahead of Wall Street’s expectations: 298,000 jobs were created in February versus expectations of less than 200,000 by economists polled by the Wall Street Journal. The job growth was all across the spectrum, with construction and manufacturing sectors adding 106,000 new jobs.

The report, sponsored by ADP, a human resources management company with more than 400,000 business clients, and aided by Moody’s Analytics, was based on performance reported during the month to both entities. Mark Zandi, Moody’s chief economist, commented on the remarkable February numbers:

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Samsung to Expand in United States, Bringing Back 500 Jobs From Mexico

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 8, 2017:

English: Samsung Logo Suomi: Samsungin logo

The South Korean behemoth maker of consumer electronics, semi-conductors, ships, and telecommunications equipment was reported by the Wall Street Journal (quoting unnamed inside sources) to be investing $300 million in facilities in South Carolina and simultaneously bringing 500 jobs back from Mexico to work there.

It’s a tentative decision, according to Samsung in a statement it made to the Journal, with the company noting that “this is a complex process that, like all strategic business decisions, will not be made final until it is determined through proper due diligence and planning that it is the best option for Samsung.”

In ordinary times such a modest investment, made under such indeterminate conditions with such disclaimers, would hardly rate a few column inches at the back of the business section. But these are hardly ordinary times,

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IEA’s “Oil 2017” Forecast: Crude Oil Shortages Coming by 2020

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 8, 2017:

English: Oil rig platform and stand-by vessel ...

The IEA (International Energy Agency) really ought to stick to its knitting. This intragovernmental agency was set up following the oil shock in the mid-1970s, allegedly to inform various governments as to the status of world crude oil supplies. It was to serve as an information resource on statistics about the global crude oil and other energy markets. In addition, it required its 29 government-members to maintain 90 days’ crude oil supplies on hand to meet another crisis.

It stepped outside its core area of expertise by issuing its Oil 2017 forecast for the next five years, combining a mixture of opinion, crystal-ball gazing, wet-finger in the air experimenting, tea-leaf analysis, naval gazing, and outright guessing that concluded that the world will no longer have a crude oil surplus but a shortage instead by 2020.

And it’s a crisis! Exclaimed Dr. Fatih Birol, the outfit’s director since 2015:

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AT&T Agrees to “Re-source” Jobs Back to United States

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 6, 2017:

The union representing AT&T workers in five southern states announced on Thursday that it had reached a tentative agreement with AT&T Southwest that includes a promise to hire 3,000 American workers to do jobs previously done overseas.

It’s a four-year deal that includes wage increases, paid parental leave, and sweetened healthcare benefits for some 20,000 AT&T workers. It’ll become effective after the union membership approves it.

There was some apparent reluctance on the part of the company to include the resourcing, as its statement didn’t mention it:

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Coal Making a Comeback, Thanks to Trump

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 3, 2017:

English: Powell Valley, as viewed from Benges ...

Powell Valley, as viewed from Benges Gap in Wise County, Virginia.

The coal comeback in Appalachia appears to be significant, according to Fox News’ Johnny Giles, following interviews with miners in Wise County, Virginia, the very heart of Appalachian coal country. He observed, “The past month has seen a resurgence of the coal industry that once formed the backbone of the region’s economy, and locals credit President Trump’s aggressive, pro-energy agenda.”

Early in his campaign, Trump made a promise that some wrote off as campaign rhetoric. Now 40-plus days into his administration, it’s clear that he intends to keep, as far as we can tell, many of those promises. He stated:

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Trump’s 2018 Budget Won’t Touch Social Security, Medicare

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 27, 2017:

English: The standard Laffer Curve

The standard Laffer Curve

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News on Sunday that cuts in entitlement programs — i.e., Social Security and Medicare — won’t appear in the president’s budget: “We are not touching those now. So don’t expect to see that as part of this budget, OK? We are very focused on other aspects and that’s what’s very important to us.”

Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2018 (starting October 1, 2017) is expected to be presented to the House on Monday, March 13, just two weeks away. And there are a lot of moving parts that must be glued into place before then.

Those parts include

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Former Reagan Economic Advisor Warns: Debt Ceiling “Hard Stop” for Economy

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 27, 2017:

Cabinet - Class Photo, 1984: Front row: David ...

Cabinet – Class Photo, 1984: Front row: David Stockman, Director, Office of Management & Budget; Back row : Malcolm Baldrige, Secretary of Commerce; Samuel Pierce, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development

David Stockman, former President Ronald Reagan’s director of his Office of Management and Budget from 1981 to 1985, told Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog that March 15, two days after President Trump presents his budget to Congress, will be a “hard stop” for the economy:

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Americans Eating Out Less Thanks to Higher Prices

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

At Jamila's, a Tunesian restaurant on Maple St...

A Reuters/Ipsos survey released on Tuesday revealed that one-third of U.S. adults are eating out less frequently than they were just three months ago. Two-thirds of those staying home said it was because of higher restaurant prices. This news comes on top of reports that restaurant traffic was flat for all of 2016. In fact, the industry as a whole has gained just one percent in traffic since 2009.

Apologists for the industry offered all manner of explanations:

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The Broken Promise of Minimum wage laws

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, February 20, 2017:

The promise is that by requiring businesses to pay their employees $15 an hour, the net result is that everyone will live better. The low-paid people will have more money to spend, the upward “ripple” effect on other higher-paid people in the organization will also have more money to spend, the economy will grow, there will be more jobs hiring people who will then have more money to spend, and so on into the woodwork.

This was the claim by that “poverty” expert, former Senator Teddy Kennedy whose family’s wealth extended backwards for generations, who said that

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Saudi Arabia’s Troubles Mount: Public Sale of Part of Aramco Delayed

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

Saudi Aramco's headquarters complex in Dhahran...

Saudi Aramco’s headquarters complex in Dhahran, Eastern Province

Under Saudi Arabia’s “National Transformation Program” (NTP), being pushed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the sale of up to five percent of the country’s crown jewel, Saudi Aramco (officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Company), would boost private employment and diversify the kingdom away from oil. The initial public offering (IPO), if and when it happens, would be the largest IPO in history and value Aramco at around $2 trillion, making it the largest publicly traded energy company in the world.

The funds raised would flow into a “sovereign wealth fund,” which would then invest in foreign and national companies in the private sector. This, it is hoped, would entice others to join in turning Saudi Arabia into more of a capitalist economy rather than a state-controlled one.

In Salman’s grand scheme,

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Greece Needs Another Bailout; Disagreement Threatens EU Itself

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, February 9, 2017:

IMF Headquarters, Washington, DC.

IMF Headquarters

The report on Greece’s financial condition issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday was dismal, but, said the central bank, its future remains bright. First, the bad news: The EU member will fall far short of the budget-surplus targets put in place in order to get the last bailout. The Greek economy must grow at 3.1 percent but it expanded by only 0.4 percent last year.

However, the IMF said Greece’s economy is expected to grow by 2.7 percent in 2017. An unnamed European Union official who spoke to Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity said that

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Jobs Report: Across-the-board Growth, Except for Government

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, February 3, 2017:

Friday’s jobs report from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for January surprised on the upside in almost every category with job growth of 227,000 new jobs, beating economists’ predictions by more than 50,000. The report reflected numbers from the week before President Donald Trump was inaugurated, and showed growth in every major category, including manufacturing. On the flip side, government employment dropped by 10,000 jobs.

This is the best jobs report in the last four months, and exceeds 2016’s average monthly jobs growth of 187,000. Construction added 36,000 jobs, retail trade added 46,000 jobs, financial services grew by 32,000 jobs, professional and business services increased by 39,000 jobs, education and health services jumped by 24,000 jobs, leisure and hospitality added 34,000 jobs, and manufacturing added 5,000 jobs.

The job market was attractive enough to entice those not in the work force to begin to look for work once again, increasing the workforce participation rate. The labor force increased by 584,000 in January while wages continued to increase, rising 2.5 percent over the past year, and long-term unemployment dropped.

The report reflected a positive change, especially in manufacturing versus government. Over the last year the manufacturing sector lost 46,000 jobs while government employment under the Obama administration jumped by 162,000 jobs. Future reports from the BLS will confirm whether the January reversal has legs.

The January report is merely a snapshot of an economy in transition, which makes it difficult to draw long-term conclusions. Part of its rosy tone may reflect anticipation of the fulfillment of Trump’s promises, such as repealing ObamaCare, cutting taxes and regulations, and removing executive-order impediments that flowed from Obama’s pen especially as he was making his exit.

A broader picture suggests that, as good as the report is, the underlying economy is doing even better. Baby Boomers are exiting the jobs market and retiring at an estimated 10,000 every day. That’s nearly four million leaving the workforce every year. And it could continue for years as the Baby Boomer cohort exceeds 75 million.

There’s also the factor of robotics increasingly replacing jobs as cost-cutting continues to drive automation, along with the push from minimum-wage laws. And yet the jobs report reflected a growing economy that is able to overcome those negatives.

In addition, there is the difficulty of measuring exactly how many people are working and for whom. The Wall Street Journal raised the issue in its recent report “The End of Employees,” which said, “Never before have American companies tried so hard to employ so few people.” The problem, said the Journal, is that “no one knows how many Americans work as contractors, because they don’t fit neatly into the job categories tracked by government agencies [such as the BLS].”

For example, Southwest Airlines has about 53,000 real full-time, full-benefits employees, but another 10,000 outside employees. Google’s parent Alphabet uses contract staff from various outside staffing agencies such as Zenith Talent, Filter, and Adecco, running up an annual bill for those services in excess of $300 million. When Todd Gibbons, CEO of the Bank of New York, was quizzed on the matter, he responded, “It’s just too hard to tell exactly what’s going on with [our] head count and how people compute it and whether [we’ve] got contractors versus full-time employees.” If he doesn’t know how many people work for BNY, how would the BLS know?

What is clear is that January’s report, if it is sustained in the months ahead, reflects the new paradigm emanating from Washington: one of support and encouragement backed by real efforts to unleash the free market by removing some (many) of the impediments placed before it by previous administrations.

Trump’s Regulatory Executive Order: One In, Two Out

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 30, 2017:

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

White House officials described President Donald Trump’s Executive Order for “Reducing Government Regulations and Controlling Regulatory Cost” as Trump’s “one in, two out” plan: For every regulation promulgated by a federal agency, that agency must “identify” two existing regulations to be targeted for extinction.

The order also sets a cap of $0 for the cost of new regulations, with the only exceptions being military and national security regulations. The president said when signing the order,

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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.