Category Archives: Economics

Animal’s Daily News

A great deal of the hand-wringing over the Electoral College and the results of the recent election is due to the undue influence big states like California have on national politics – or how they would, were it not for the Electoral College.  Here’s an interesting idea how to fix that – re-draw state lines along population and cultural lines.  Excerpt:

The answer lies in limiting state size to a human scale in which human beings can still associate, travel, and trade across jurisdictional boundaries without incurring a great cost. The standard for “great cost” is subjective, of course, and over time has changed substantially. The cost of traveling 50 miles in the 16th century, for example, is significantly different form the cost of traveling the same distance today. 

There are ongoing attempts by geographers, however, to determine the “natural” size of a region that encompasses a population’s economic, political, and social institutions. In a recent study, for example, Garret Dash Nelson and Alasdair Rae attempted to identify regions that “have been substantively tied together by the forces of urban development, telecommunications, the frictionless circulation of capital, and the consolidation of both public and private institutions.” 

Basing their standard of scale on tolerance for commute times, the geographers selected 50-mile commutes as an indicator of how closely tied together is a specific region.

Here’s the commute time map and the resulting new state-line map:

Here’s my concern with this idea; note how the new, proposed state lines are drawn.  Note that they are all centered on major metropolitan areas.  Given the increasing urbanization of our population, that’s not surprising.

But the political divides in our country now are primarily rural v. urban, with some suburbs going either way (as you might expect.)  This proposal places a major urban area at the heart of each of the new States; that alone threatens to aggravate this divide.

It’s more likely that the United States will balkanize altogether.  Alaska and Texas in particular have more than sufficient infrastructure and resources to go it alone, given their current populations.  I’ve written on the subject before, and I think it’s a far more likely outcome than completely re-drawing State lines.

But either would signal the end of the United States as we know it.  I hope I don’t live to see either happen.

Animal’s Daily News

It seems small-business optimism is on the way up.  I wonder why?  Excerpt:

Optimism among America’s small businesses soared in December by the most since 1980 as expectations about the economy’s prospects improved dramatically in the aftermath of the presidential election.

The National Federation of Independent Business’s index jumped 7.4 points last month to 105.8, the highest since the end of 2004, from 98.4. While seven of the 10 components increased in December, 73 percent of the monthly advance was due to more upbeat views about the outlook for sales and the economy, the Washington-based group said.

The share of business owners who say now is a good time to expand is three times the average of the current expansion, according to the NFIB’s data. More companies also said they plan to increase investment and keep hiring, which reflects optimism surrounding President-elect Donald Trump’s plans of spurring the economy through deregulation, tax reform and infrastructure spending.

“Rising confidence adds to the economy’s upward momentum,” Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York, said in a note. At the same time, the “NFIB membership appears to be disproportionately Republican, so it is possible that the data will start overstating strength, opposite the pattern during the Obama administration.”

The NFIB report was based on a survey of 619 small-business owners through Dec. 28. Small companies represent more than 99 percent of all U.S employers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. A small business is defined as an independent enterprise with no more than 500 employees.

Why is this important?  Because small businesses are the engine of job growth and job creation in our economy.  Take a look at this line from the story:  The share of business owners who say now is a good time to expand is three times the average of the current expansion, according to the NFIB’s data. More companies also said they plan to increase investment and keep hiring

That’s key.  A big company like Ford or Microsoft is fairly stable; they hire, but mostly to replace employees lost through attrition.  But a small business may have two employees this year, ten next year, and a hundred the year after that.

That’s where job creation happens.  That’s where economic growth comes from.  And the incoming Trump Administration, at least as judged by this group of small business owners, is expected to be great for small business.

One of the most onerous burdens a small business has to deal with (bear in mind yr. obdt. is a small business owner) is Imperial taxes and regulation; The Donald has promised to ease both of those burdens.  If he can do this, and if it’s the only thing he manages to do in the course of his administration, he will have justified the votes of the people who supported him.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Guess which American cities are going broke.  Excerpt:

Chicago and New York rank at the bottom of a new analysis of fiscal strength based primarily on data from 2015 financial reports issued by the cities themselves. The analysis includes 116 U.S. cities with populations greater than 200,000. See the full rankings here.

Chicago’s position at the bottom of the ranking is no surprise to anyone who follows municipal finance. The Windy City has become a poster child for financial mismanagement, having suffered a series of ratings downgrades in recent years. Aside from having thin reserves and large volumes of outstanding debt, Chicago is notorious for its underfunded pension plans.

For example, the city’s Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF) reported $4.7 billion in assets and $14.7 billion of actuarially accrued liabilities at the end of 2015, representing a funded ratio of just 33 percent. The actuarial calculations rely on a controversial practice of discounting future benefits at a rate of 7.5 percent, which is the assumed return on the fund’s portfolio return. If a more conservative assumption was employed, MEABF’s liabilities would be higher and its funded ratio lower.

And:

While Chicago’s place at the bottom of the list is unsurprising, New York City’s position — just one step above — was unexpected. An extended bull market and soaring real estate prices have pumped money into the Big Apple’s coffers. Total municipal revenues rose from $60 billion in 2009 to $81 billion in 2015. But the city has been spending the money almost as quickly as it has been coming in.

At the end of its 2015 fiscal year, the city’s general fund reserves amounted to just 0.67 percent of expenditures — well below the Government Finance Officers Association recommendation of 16.67 percent (equivalent to two months of spending). A city’s general fund is roughly analogous to an individual’s checking account.

Here’s the common thread at the root of all these municipal bankruptcies:  Public-sector unions.

I have no issue with unions in private business, as long as membership in said unions is strictly voluntary, and as long as unionization in those businesses is by secret ballot.  In these cases, contracts are decided between the union membership and the employer.

Public sector unions are different.  Public sector unions negotiate their contracts with the very politicians whose campaigns they (heavily) fund.  That is a deep and fundamental conflict of interest that cannot be reconciled.  No less than Franklin Roosevelt agreed that this conflict of interest should preclude the legality of public sector unions.

There is no better illustration of such conflict than the cities of Chicago and New York.  Public sector employees typically enjoy benefits far, far above any equivalent worker in the private sector (when was the last time you heard of a private company offering a defined-benefit pension plan?) and pay that is at least on a par, if not above the private sector.

It’s driving our major cities into bankruptcy.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

The Donald takes office in just a few more days.  On his way out the door, President Obama has been singing his own praises, not least on job creation and the economy; trouble is, his praises ain’t very praiseworthy.  Excerpt:

The last jobs report of President Obama’s presidency came out on Friday. What it says about his economic performance can be summed up in one word: Lackluster.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the economy created a modest 156,000 new jobs in December, while the unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged at 4.7%.

Reuters, however, took this news as evidence that the economy is nearing full employment, and the White House boasted that it marks the 75th consecutive month of job growth — “more than two years longer than the next-longest streak.” The current unemployment rate is as low as it was just before the recession hit.

But look at the job market in the proper context, and Obama’s record is pretty dismal.

Consider that in 2016, the number of jobs grew by 2 million. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But the working-age population increased by 2.8 million.

Since 2010, the population climbed by an average of 2.5 million a year. Job growth, however, has averaged 2.2 million.

So while Obama brags about 15-plus million new private sector jobs created since early 2010, what he leaves out is that the population of people who can work climbed by almost 18 million.

The genesis of this awful job growth, of course, is our awful economic growth; during the entire Obama tenure GDP growh has never exceeded 3%.  Compare that to the Reagan recovery!  In 1983, the year the Reagan tax reform took effect, the nation saw over 7% growth, and no less than 3% growth for the rest of the Reagan/Bush41 years.

Money matters.

The Donald has sworn to fix all that.  Whether he will or not remains to be seen; some of his promised policies may well start a trade war, which won’t be good for anyone involved.  Still; if he focuses on tax reform and regulatory reform, he could accomplish a lot.  We’ll see.

The IBD article concludes:  Our view has consistently been that the economic recovery from the Great Recession could have been — and should have been — very robust. And that the only reason it wasn’t is growth-choking policies imposed by Obama: Dodd-Frank, ObamaCare, tax hikes, huge new regulatory burdens.

If Trump manages to turn these policies around, we have no doubt that the days of mediocre job growth will be a thing of the past.

The election just past was about jobs and economic growth, more than anything else.  That’s what The Donald has to deliver – or he’ll be turned out in 2020.

So far he’s making all the right noises, but as they say, talk is cheap.

Goodbye, Blue 2017 Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

2017 is here!  To open this auspicious new year, first we’ll extend our thanks once again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links.

File this under “Doubling Down on Stupid”:  California is trying even harder to drive small businesses out of the state.  Excerpt:

With California in full revolt against the incoming Trump Administration swearing to go to war with the other 49 states, the elected Leftists who run the state struck again against small businesses in the state. The government enacted 900 (yes, you read that correctly) new laws for 2017. One they snuck under everyone’s nose is a revision of the very expensive worker’s comp system.

As you probably know worker’s compensation insurance is paid by employers to cover medical costs for an employee getting injured on the job. It is a sure bet, as you suspected, that California has the costliest worker’s comp rates at $3.24 per $100 of payroll. The next most costly state is New Jersey which is 10% lower ($2.92 per $100). To give you an idea what the insurance rate is in sane states the rate in North Dakota is about 25% of California ($.89 per $100) or Indiana at $1.06 of $100.

This cost has contributed to driving businesses out of state and having existing employers avoid paying the rates like the Plague. Because making claims in California are so easy and adjudication of claims is so pro-employee, rates often rise for employers after they make their initial payments. As an employer you want to avoid this cost especially for owners of your corporation or partnership (LLC). Owners would almost never use anything other than their personal medical policy to cover any medical costs so they could avoid this secondary medical system and the related costs. No more in California.

Here you see the consequences of single-party rule of a major state.

Economics doesn’t really have a lot of hard and fast laws, but it does have a few; one of them is supply and demand.  The vast majority of new jobs created in our economy are created by small businesses.  Why?  It’s simple; they grow, sometimes dramatically, and growth usually requires more employees.  Big, mature companies like Ford Motors or even Microsoft hire mostly to address attrition, as people quit or retire.  But a successful startup may employ ten people this year, fifty people next year, and two hundred the year after that.

That’s the engine of growth in our economy.  Californey intends, apparently, to crush that growth by raising the price of a key commodity – labor – and thereby reduce the supply of said labor that is economically attainable by small business.

Incidentally, minimum-wage laws do the same thing.

Maybe California’s secession from the Union wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Rule Five Laws of Economics Friday

This recently in from the economics deep thinkers over at the Mises Institute:  Ten Fundamental Laws of Economics.  Excerpt:

In the midst of so many economic fallacies being repeatedly seemingly without end, it may be helpful to return to some of the most basic laws of economics. Here are ten of them that bear repeating again and again. 

1. Production precedes consumption

Although it is obvious that in order to consume something it must first exist, the idea to stimulate consumption in order to expand production is all around us. However, consumption goods do not just fall from the sky. They are at the end of a long chain of intertwined production processes called the “structure of production.” Even the production of an apparently simple item such as a pencil, for example, requires an intricate network of production processes that extend far back into time and run across countries and continents.

2. Consumption is the final goal of production

Consumption is the objective of economic activity, and production is its means. The advocates of full employment violate this obvious idea. Employment programs turn production itself into the objective. The valuation of consumption goods by the consumers determines the value of production goods. Current consumption results from the production process that extends to the past, yet the value of this production structure depends on the current state of valuation by the consumers and the expected future state. Therefore, the consumers are the final de facto owners of the production apparatus in a capitalist economy.

By all means read the whole thing.  Rule #3 re-states Heinlein’s TANSTAAFL, but #9 is my personal favorite:

9. Profit is the entrepreneurial bonus

In competitive capitalism, economic profit is the extra bonus that those businesses earn that fix allocative errors. In an evenly rotating economy with no change, there would be neither profit nor loss and all companies would earn the same rate of interest. In a growing economy, however, change takes place and anticipating changes is the source of economic profits. Business that does well in forecasting future demand earn high rates of profit and will grow, while those entrepreneurs who fail to anticipate the wants of the consumers will shrink and finally must shut down.

To that point:  The reason socialism fails, every time it’s tried (the number and enthusiasm of the socialist state’s Top Men notwithstanding) is the lack of a profit motive.  This is not so much a law of economics as it is a law of human behavior, but people will always work longer, harder and more creatively for personal gain than for any other reason.  I need only look in the mirror for an example; having been self-employed since 2003, I can tell you without qualification or reservation that I drive myself harder than any boss ever did.

There’s a word for this model of economics:  Liberty.  Not capitalism; ‘capitalism’ is a term invented by socialists to describe a system in which people are free to do what they please with their talents, resources, skills and wealth, without interference by government.

Will the incoming Trump Administration move us away from the past few decades of increasing government meddling in the economy?  It’s hard to say.  But it’s damnably certain that Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I would have certainly pushed us farther down the road towards the path Venezuela is on.

Animal’s Daily News

Burgers.
Burgers.

Predictable outcomes are predictable.  This just in from Forbes.com:
Thanks To ‘Fight For $15’ Minimum Wage, McDonald’s Unveils Job-Replacing Self-Service Kiosks Nationwide.  Excerpt:

As the labor union-backed Fight for $15 begins yet another nationwide strike on November 29, I have a simple message for the protest organizers and the reporters covering them: I told you so.

It brings me no joy to write these words. The push for a $15 starter wage has negatively impacted the career prospects of employees who were just getting started in the workforce while extinguishing the businesses that employed them. I wish it were not so. But it’s important to document these consequences, lest policymakers elsewhere decide that the $15 movement is worth embracing.

As the labor union-backed Fight for $15 begins yet another nationwide strike on November 29, I have a simple message for the protest organizers and the reporters covering them: I told you so.

It brings me no joy to write these words. The push for a $15 starter wage has negatively impacted the career prospects of employees who were just getting started in the workforce while extinguishing the businesses that employed them. I wish it were not so. But it’s important to document these consequences, lest policymakers elsewhere decide that the $15 movement is worth embracing.

Let’s start with automation. In 2013, when the Fight for $15 was still in its growth stage, I and others warned that union demands for a much higher minimum wage would force businesses with small profit margins to replace full-service employees with costly investments in self-service alternatives. At the time, labor groups accused business owners of crying wolf. It turns out the wolf was real.

Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced the nationwide roll-out of touchscreen self-service kiosks. In a video the company released to showcase the new customer experience, it’s striking to see employees who once would have managed a cash register now reduced to monitoring a customer’s choices at an iPad-style kiosk.

Fishing Trip BearNow, add to the mix the much-touted hamburger making machines, and The Rise Of The Burger Machines is nearly complete; all we need is a sort of Burger Skynet to run the rest of the store, and we can eliminate human employees from the equation altogether.

But seriously, folks; these two key pieces of automation could very possibly reduce the staffing requirements of a fast-food burger joint from, say, ten – to one.  Maybe two.  You just need someone to address complaints and clear jams in the burger machine.

Now, it’s common to attribute this to the increases in minimum wages, and it’s certain that these prohibitions on unskilled labor have accelerated the rise of this tech.  But this is something that probably would have happened eventually in any case; it’s just a piece of the increasing trend towards reducing costs by automation.

But that doesn’t make the ever-increasing demands of the minimum wage any less silly.  The minimum wage law is and always has been zero.  These laws just force more and more low- and un-skilled workers to that level.

Animal’s Daily News

Smiling BearWell, we can now get Cuban cigars.  Excerpt:

I have good news for the winners and the losers of the election, whoever they may be. The winners may enjoy the pleasure of celebrating victory with genuine Cuban cigars. The losers can drown their sorrows in Cuban rum straight from the island.

That’s because President Barack Obama has made such indulgences easier. Until recently, any American traveler could bring back no more than $100 worth of these items. Under the new policy, you’re free to bring as much as you can carry.

True, you may bring supplies only for your personal use; selling them is forbidden. Ha. Enterprising travelers will either ignore or find ways to evade these rules. I imagine Americans who really want Cuban rum or cigars will be able to satisfy their desire without flying to Havana.

How good are they? Before he imposed an embargo on Fidel Castro’s communist state in 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered an aide to lay in 1,000 of his favorite Cuban cigars. In the ensuing decades, they have been prized by aficionados. Havana Club’s cachet has been sufficient to make it the best-selling rum on the planet.

Even some smokers who despised Castro were known to indulge when they got the chance. Anti-communists caught puffing Cuban cigars would say they weren’t subsidizing the dictatorship; they were burning the enemy’s crops.

Now, I’ve had Cuban cigars.  On a recent trip to Guadalajara, a bunch of the local company folks took my colleague and I out for a dinner in a rather upscale restaurant, and Cubano cigars were on the dessert menu, so I had one; I also bought one in a small tobacconist’s near the hotel and smoked in while on an evening walkabout.  They were good cigars and I enjoyed them, but honestly they weren’t noticeably better than my normal Coschero Torpedo Maduro.

underwearwinecigarBut that’s not the point.  The point is this:  The Cuban embargo has, for decades, failed to bring down the Castro cabal that rules Cuba.  Maybe trade will do the job.  I’ve long said that the Soviet Union was brought down not only by the arms race that the couldn’t afford, but also by the blue jeans and rock&roll that their younger generations wouldn’t and the apparatchiks in charge couldn’t afford to ignore.

It’s worth a shot to see if the apparatchiks in Cuba could be brought down the same way.

Animal’s Rule Five Debate Recap News

2016_10_19_debate-totty-1We’re all getting tired of this freak show of an election, I think; so while taking notes last night, I decided that I would forgo my usual images of emoting ursines in accompanying last night’s notes.  (I identify with bears; like them, I enjoy scratching my back on trees, roaring, eating and I sleep a lot in the winter)  Instead, I placed some strategically-placed Rule Five totty in the midst of my debate notes.

Going into the debate:  The Donald needed a miracle to overcome Her Imperial Majesty’s growing lead in the polls.  The conversation on the various news networks covering the debate focused on that and how he could achieve such a miracle.  So did he?  My notes on the debate follow.

2016_10_19_debate-totty-2The Donald started things off with a live Facebook video feed.  I long ago eschewed Facebook, as it has the worst noise-to-signal ratio on the internet except for YouTube comments, and yet – and yet – events like this caused me to register a phony Facebook account to monitor them.  So I watched.   What I saw was a couple of Trump surrogates complaining about media bias; a valid point, but not one that’s going to sway many undecided voters.  A few guests provided commentary, most notably Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and General Michael Flynn.  Ivanka appeared in a recorded message seeking donations.  All in all, fairly pedestrian pre-debate chatter.

Chris Wallace sets the stage – he decided the question, neither candidate nor their campaigns know what will be asked.  And, no handshake between the candidates.  I think they have come to really detest each other.

First up:  The Supreme Court and how they should interpret the Constitution.  Her Imperial Majesty talks in platitudes:  The Court should “Corporations!  The wealthy!  Stand up on behalf of (enter your favorite special-interest group here.)  No mention of the Constitution except as regards to confirming Her Majesty’s picks.  Drink!  The Donald:  “Justice Ginsburg said something mean about me!”  Then:  The Court should uphold the 2nd Amendment a2016_10_19_debate-totty-3nd all the other Amendments – special mention to the 2nd, as it is “under attack.”  No argument there.  The Donald is calm, reasoned, talks in a measured tone about his list of judges, how they will interpret the Constitution as it was written; mentions the Founder’s intent.  Good opening.

On gun control, Her Majesty:  “I support the Second Amendment.”  Spit-take.  She goes on about loopholes that don’t exist.  She thinks it’s OK to have a gun in your home for defense, as long as it’s secured so you can’t use it.  The Donald on the 2nd Amendment:  “D.C. v. Heller was correct, a well-crafted decision, and Hillary was extremely upset about it.”  Her Highness goes on again about toddlers injuring themselves with guns, and repeats “…there is no doubt that I support the Second Amendment.”  Spit-take.  Again.  More talk about loopholes that don’t exist and “common-sense” measures that aren’t.

Trump counters with Chicago.  Good call.  “I’m proud to have the endorsement of the NRA.”  Point to The Donald.

On to abortion.  A bit surprised to see this as a debate topic, as it hasn’t been a big issue in the campaign.  Wallace asked him, “do you want to see Roe v. Wade overturned?”  He says yes, because he will put pro-life judges on the Court – and if it is, the issue will go back to the States.  Her Imperial Majesty:  “I strongly support Roe v. Wade.”  Talks about states 2016_10_19_debate-totty-4putting restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, which usually means states trying to keep taxpayers from subsidizing those treatments.  Still, this is (in my opinion) a losing issue for the GOP, especially with the sought-after Millennial vote.  I’ve got to give Her Highness this point.

Moving on to immigration.  Wallace:  “Secretary Clinton, you have offered no plan to secure the southern border.”  Trump goes first; hammers the Dowager Empress on amnesty, hammers her on crime committed by illegal immigrants, hammers on the drug trade:  “We have no country if we have no border.”  Touts his ICE endorsement, correctly mentioning that ICE has never before endorsed a candidate.  Also, The Donald did a neat lateral arabesque to attack the Obama/Clinton foreign policy failures.  Nicely done.

Her Imperial Majesty again brings up the girl she “…just met” in Las Vegas who is afraid her parents will be deported.  I’m calling bullshit; I’m guessing that girl doesn’t exist.  Her Majesty’s penchant for lying is well-documented.  But she hits him on separating families, a point that has some legs.  “I’m strongly for border security.”  Spit-take.  She goes on to repeat some platitudes.

The Donald circles around to hit Her Majesty on NAFTA (“the worst deal of any kind ever made”) and her previous support for a border wall as recently as 2008.

Great comment from fellow Colorado blogger Stephen Green, who is live-blogging the debate:  “Clinton’s at her best tellin2016_10_19_debate-totty-5g stories about actual people, which is ironic given that she hates almost every actual person.

The Donald makes clear the difference between legal and illegal immigration, which point he has not clearly made in the past.

Oooh!  Wallace hits her on a mega-buck speech where she advocated for open borders.  Trump:  “Thank you.”  Her Majesty complains that Wallace is quoting Wikileaks, blames the Russians for hacking American emails.  Note:  That doesn’t mean that the material in Wikileaks isn’t true.  The Donald:  “That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders.”  Zing.  “I don’t know Putin.  If we got along well, that would be good.  If the United States and Russia got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good.”  Agree.  “Putin has no respect for the President, no respect for her (Clinton.)”  The Dowager Empress repeats her complaint about the Russians.

The Donald:  “She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her every step of the way…  She has been proven to be a liar.”  Her Majesty:  “The United States has kept the peace through our alliances.”  Where?  Iraq?  Syria?  Libya?  Yemen?   Point narrowly to The Donald here; he hammered Her Highness on some good points, although she got some good slams in too.

On to the economy.  Her Imperial Majesty goes on about infrastructure, clean energy, investing, raising the minimum wage… In other words, spend and regulate.  “We’re going to have the wealthy pay their fair share.”  Drink!  The Donald had a tight little smile during that last, as though she was playing into his hands.  He replies:  “Her tax plan is a disaster.”  Well, yeah.  “Why aren’t other nations paying th2016_10_19_debate-totty-6eir share in defense?”  But then he inexplicably invokes NATO – where some NATO members have long sheltered under the U.S. defense umbrella.  Touts his plans on free trade, on commerce, but offers no specifics.  Cut business taxes – a good plan, since our ridiculous tax policy is driving businesses overseas.  But he was a little unsettled on that point.

Her Imperial Majesty:  “He’s advocating for tax cuts!  OMGWTFBBQ!!!!1111!!!”  Well, yes.  That’s one of the big reasons he has the support he has.  Her Majesty:  “Investments!  Investments!”  Translation:  “Spend!  Spend!”  Wallace hits her on the similarity on her plan to President Obama’s 2008 stimulus, which was followed by years of 1-2% growth.  Her Majesty’s reply:  “Buuuuusssh!  President Obama saved the economy!  We need to spend more!”  Claims her plan won’t add a penny to the Imperial debt, which is laugh-out-loud absurd.  Wallace to Trump:  “Even some conservative analysts say your plan won’t achieve what you claim.”  The Donald:  “India is growing at 8%.  China is growing at 7%.  We are growing at 1%.  We have an anemic jobs report.”  Zing.  Repeats his usual points on trade and the loss of American manufacturing.  These are his strongest points in this campaign, and he hit them well.  Point to The Donald.

2016_10_19_debate-totty-7Her Majesty slams Trump for using Chinese steel in building.  “You made it impossible for me to do otherwise.”  Slams Her Majesty for being in the Imperial City for thirty years and achieving little or nothing.  Her Majesty deflects by touting fluff work she did as First Lady?  Really?

On to fitness to be President; Chris Wallace (who, by the way, has been tough but fair to both candidates” asks The Donald about his behavior with women.  He deflects, blaming the Clinton campaign and invoking the Project Veritas tapes of Clinton campaign staffers provoking violence at Trump rallies.  Good pivot.

Her Imperial Majesty says in effect, “All women should be believed when they allege sexual assault, unless they are accusing my husband.”

This is The Donald’s weakest point, and one of the biggest reasons he’s struggling in the polls right now is because a plurality, if not a majority, of American women don’t want to vote for him because of 2016_10_19_debate-totty-8these allegations.   He could have done a better job of deflecting, but honestly he doesn’t have a lot to work with.  Point to Her Imperial Majesty in that round.

Her Imperial Majesty:  “He applauds pulling, pushing and violence at his rallies.”  The Donald:  “Amazing that she talks about that, since her campaign caused the violence.”  Zing.

FINALLY, a debate moderator hits Her Majesty on the Clinton Foundation, pointing out that contractors for rebuilding in Haiti were selected from Clinton Foundation donors.  “I’m so proud of the Clinton Foundation!”  Uh huh.  Wallace:  “You didn’t answer the question.”  Trump:  “It’s a criminal enterprise.”  Observes that the Foundation took money from people who push gays off buildings and brutally suppress women – which is true.  Points out that Haitians hate the Clintons, which jives with what I was told by a Haitian Uber driver a few weeks back.  That’s a sample size of one, but still.  Good pivots and counter-punches by The Donald.

Her Imperial Majesty:  “He has not paid one penny in income taxes in years.”  If he hasn’t released his tax returns, how does she know?  The Donald:  “The tax code makes that possible.  If you don’t like it, you should have changed the law when you were a Senator.  You 2016_10_19_debate-totty-9won’t, because your donors take the same tax breaks.”  Zing.  Point to The Donald.

On the “rigged election,” The Donald claims “She shouldn’t have been allowed to run, because of her recklessness in handling secure documents.”  Good point, but then he says, when asked if he will accept the results of the election, “I’ll tell you at the time.”

Huh? That won’t play well in Paducah. My jaw dropped a little at that one.

Her Imperial Majesty cites the FBI investigation, which is now tainted by outspoken FBI agents accusing Comey of being a creature of the Clintons; that dulled her counter-attack, but not completely.  The Donald cited the Tarmac Summit, but it fell kind of flat.  Point to Her Majesty on that one.

Next:  “Will you put U.S. troops into the Middle East to fill the vacuum once ISIS is defeated?”  Her Majesty:  A flat no.  She manages a quick pivot to “if you’re on the no-fly list, you can’t buy a gun,” without explaining which other Constitutionally defined rights she favors restricting with no due process.  The Donald:  “We had Mosul.  When she (actually, President Obama) took everyone out, we lost Mosul.”  A fair point; nature abhors a vacuum, and the Middle East really, really abhors a power vacuum.  “The Obama Administration is only going after Mosul now to make her look good.”  I suspect that’s not the only reason.  Pivots to the Iran nuke deal, another strong point for The Donald; that was a catastrophically stupid deal, although the Obama Administration bears the blame for that.

Her Majesty tells people “Google Trump in Iraq.” Huh?   “We got Bin Laden!”  Funny, I didn’t know Her Imperial Majesty was ever a Navy SEAL.  “We can take Mosul and then move into Syria and take Raqqa.”  The old soldier in me wants to ask “What’s this ‘we’ shit, Kemosabe?”

Now they’re both talking over each other; for once, Her Imperial Majesty seems to have lost her temper.  The Donald on the Wikileaks emails2016_10_19_debate-totty-10:  “John Podesta said some horrible things about you, and boy was he right.  He said you have terrible instincts.  Bernie Sanders said you have bad judgement.  I think they are right.”  Her Imperial Majesty:  “Ask Bernie Sanders who he’s supporting for President.”  That one’s a wash.

On to Aleppo.  The Donald:  “We’re backing rebels (in Syria.)  We don’t know who they are!  We may end up with someone worse than Assad.  If she did nothing, we might be in better shape!”  Invokes the piss-poor screening of Syrian refugees – again, one of his strongest points.

Her Imperial Majesty on a no-fly zone over Syria; Wallace asks “If a Russian plane violates the no-fly zone, would you shoot it down?”  Her Highness:  “We’d have to make some deals.”  Uh huh.  Not really her strongest point.  “We’re not going to let people in to our country who isn’t vetted.”  The Donald:  “We had a cease-fire three weeks ago.  During the cease-fire, Russia took over vast swaths of land.  We are so outplayed.”  Admits she wasn’t part of that.

Final segment:  The national debt.  Wallace points out that debt is now 77% of GDP.  “Why are both of you ignoring that?”  Trump cites a message of growth, of jobs.  Again one of his better points.  “Political hacks are making deals – we don’t use our business people to make deals.”  This will play well to his base; unsure how it will appeal to any undecided voters out there.  But the pro-growth message is a good one.

Her Imperial Majesty:  “I wonder when he thought America was great.”  “I do not add a penny to the national debt.”  That doesn’t even begin to pass the giggle test.  She continues:  “Invest, invest, wealthy and corporations pay their fair share, rebuild the middle clas2016_10_19_debate-totty-11s, spend spend spend spend.”  Pure Keynesian malarkey.

Wallace points out that neither candidate addresses that entitlements are the biggest Imperial payout – by far.  Final question:  Would you make a deal to save Medicare and Social Security that would involve tax increases and service cuts?”  Trump deflects by talking about growth (somewhat valid; robust growth would increase Imperial revenues) and Obamacare.  Her Imperial Majesty:  “I will raise taxes on the wealthy.”  Again?  “We (have to) have sufficient resources.”  Meaning, more suction on everyone’s wealth from the Imperial City.  “I won’t cut benefits.”  But when she says in effect “Obamacare is good,” Trump interjects “…your husband disagrees.”  Heh.

Stephen Green again:  “Clinton says she’ll save entitlements by raising taxes on the wealthy, which is like putting an eyedropper of scotch in my glass and telling me it’s a drink.”

Both candidates are in denial on this issue.

One minute apiece for closing statements, which was not planned on.  Her Imperial Majesty largely repeats her opening platitudes.  The Donald repeats his boilerplate “Make America Great Again” and slams Her Imperial Majesty as a continuation of the Obama Administration.  No handshake between the candidates.

Summary:  The Donald probably turned in the best performance of all three debates.  Her Imperial Majesty was well rehearsed, well prepared, but in this debate, for the first time, she was a) hit on the Clinton Foundation and 2) appeared to lose her cool.  Both candidates hit their strongest positions and deflected their weakest points.

Still; Trump needed a slam-dunk in this debate, and he didn’t get it.  I’m guessing that it won’t bump him much in the polls.  His single biggest gaffe:  Refusing to state that he will accept the results of the election.  That’s going to hurt.  He scored a bunch of points, but Her Imperial Majesty just needed to show up and not actually have a seizure on the stage; he needed a big win he didn’t get.

This was not a game-changer.  Unless something dramatic and unexpected happens, Her Imperial Majesty will stay in the lead.

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Animal’s Daily News

Relaxed BearThanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

I’m going to circle back to politics for one day, with this article from libertarian scribe John Stossel:  What Candidates Won’t Say.  Excerpt:

Clinton promises more than $1 trillion in new “investments,” free day care, maternity leave, an expansion of Obamacare, more funding for veterans, new solar subsidies, new bridges and tunnels and “college, tuition free!” Then she says, “We’re not only going to make all these investments, we’re going to pay for every single one of them!” But that’s absurd.

Sometimes she says money will come from new “taxes on the rich,” but America’s rich aren’t rich enough to fund her grand schemes. Even if they were, they’d move out of the country or use tricks to evade her high taxes. Even The New York Times admits that Clinton’s tax plan adds “so many new layers of complexity” that it would “be a huge boon for tax lawyers.”

Trump is as bad, promising tax cuts and new spending on the military, infrastructure and that giant wall. Other than promising that Mexico will pay (it won’t), he never says where he’ll get the funds.

The biggest chunk of America’s budget is entitlements: Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid. Trump never talks about making those benefits sustainable — in fact, he says he “won’t touch” Social Security.

Clinton rarely talks about entitlements at all.

Both major candidates are Santa Claus, promising different bags of goodies, but neither has a plan to pay for those goodies.  Both parties are running on the ticket of fiscal insolvency, both parties ignoring the massive heaps of debt we have laid on the backs of future generations.

But in this sort of a race it’s the Democrats that have the edge; Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I makes no pretense of fiscal responsibility, selling her bags of goodies as paid for by “making the rich pay their Sad-Bearfair share,” a nonsensical claim that has never been realized; the top 1% of income earners already pay for more than their fair share, and the more Congress tightens its grip on those producers, the more capital will flee the country for havens in other nations.

Maybe the Dowager Empress’s administration will finally be the one that runs up against Stein’s Law.  More likely, the fiscal can will be kicked down the road for at least another generation.

A nation’s got a lot of ruin in it.