April 30, 2011

Word of the Day, and Beyond: ‘Racer’

We’ve had truthers and birthers. Now there’s a term which unfortunately applies to far more people (HT to Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters), including many in the establishment press. It would be useful to get this into the vernacular — quickly:

Tony Katz — Brilliant.

A “racer” is someone who believes that race and racism explain almost everything, when they explain almost nothing. Race and racism most certainly have nothing to do with the Tea Party movement, and nothing to do with criticisms of our President’s and his administration’s out-of-control deficits, lawlessness, and authoritarianism.

“Racer” is now an official part of the BizzyBlog vocabulary. It’s a useful distinction from “racist” for those who try to falsely read race into things where race is irrelevant, but who aren’t provably racists themselves (just, like, dumb, or politically agendized.

I guess this makes people like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Jeremiah Wright “speed racers.”

Econ Quotes of the Day (043011, Morning)

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:40 am

“Companies that are very profitable (are) still behaving
as if bankruptcy is around the corner.”

– From “General Comments from Members of the Survey Panel”
in the latest Chicago Purchasing Managers report (HT Zero Hedge)

The report came in with a still-strong expansionary seasonally adjusted number of 67.6, down from 70.6 the previous month (anything above 50 indicates expansion).

The quote shows you the kind of behavior pervasive, government-driven business uncertainty induces. It certainly doesn’t bode well for the kind of employment expansion which would signal a legitimate job-market recovery.

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“Maybe to someone in the upper incomes it doesn’t matter what the price of a pound of bacon is, or what the price of a ham, or the price of a pound of pork chops is,” he says. “But for many of the customers we sell to, it really does matter.” Workers can share cars when the price of oil rises, he quips, but “you can’t share your food.”

C. Larry Pope, CEO of Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, quoted
in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal

Other items in Mary Kissel’s report:

  • Kissel writes, while quoting Pope, that “Over the last several years, ‘the cost of corn has gone from a base of $2.40 a bushel to today at $7.40 a bushel, nearly triple what it was just a few years ago.’ Which means every product that uses corn has risen, too—including everything from ‘cereal to soft drinks” and more.”
  • Kissel writes that “Now food price inflation is popping up across the country. A pound of sliced bacon costs $4.54 today versus $3.59 two years ago and $3.16 a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ground beef is $2.72, up from $2.27 in 2009 and $1.74 in 2001. And it’s not just Smithfield’s products …”
  • Pope asserts, “The hog farmer . . . is in jeopardy of simply going out of business ’cause he doesn’t have the cash liquidity to even pay for the corn to pay for the input to raise the hog. It’s a dynamic that we can’t sustain.”

Much of the problem can be traced directly back to ethanol, which George W. Bush sadly championed and Barack Obama apparently still favors despite the havoc it has wreaked on food prices.

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“I’m the Anti-Christie.”

– Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, quoted
by NBC Connecticut

Unlike New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Malloy certainly is anti-taxpayer, as a Wall Street Journal editorial shows today (bolds are mine):

The Yankee Institute, a free market think tank, counts some two dozen new taxes in Mr. Malloy’s budget. He would raise taxes on cigarettes, gasoline, Internet sales, drugs, booze and wealthy estates. Property tax bills would climb by $500 for the average homeowner.

… For anyone who thinks income tax hikes are the financial salvation of states, Connecticut’s history is instructive. Governor Lowell Weicker sold an income tax in 1991 as a one-time reform that would keep sales and property taxes low. Instead, a state that paid its bills for 200 years without an income tax and had become one of the richest states in per capita income is now raising income taxes for the fourth time in 20 years.

This is what always happens when a state introduces an income tax: A gusher of new revenue leads to higher spending, which leads the politicians to demand higher rates; rinse the taxpayers and repeat.

Two points:

  1. Connecticut’s calamity has been a bipartisan fiasco. As noted here in 2007, Republican Governor Jodi Rell pushed for tax increases rather than face up to the state’s structural problems.
  2. What the Journal described is exactly what happened in Ohio for over 30 years until 2005, when Bob Taft (of all people) put in income-tax cuts. Fortunately, current Buckeye State governor John Kasich insists on solving the $8 billion deficit Ted Strickland dumped on him without tax increases. Despite what “the anti-Christie” claims, it can be done.

Positivity: Official papal photographer recalls life with ‘a living saint’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 8:05 am

From Vatican City:

Apr 29, 2011 / 01:05 am

Arturo Mari was Pope John Paul II’s personal photographer for all 27 years of his pontificate. Now, in the days before John Paul’s beatification, Mari has been recalling his life with the late pontiff.

“For me he was a man of God,” Mari tells Associated Press April 28 in an interview conducted in his apartment just yards from the Vatican. “I can guarantee you he was a living saint, because everything I could see with my eyes, hear with my ears, you cannot believe that this man could do so much.”

Many of the images that have come to define the public image of Pope John Paul’s papacy were captured by Mari; the Pope sunning himself in the mountains of Val D’Aosta, lying in a hospital bed after a 1981 assassination attempt and then meeting and forgiving the Turkish man who shot him.

For Mari there are some particular moments that typified John Paul the saint. One such occasion came in 1984 when the Pope was visiting a leprosy hospital on Sorok Island, South Korea. In a break with the official protocol, “he touched them with his hands, caressed them, kissed each one,” says Mari, “Eight hundred lepers, one by one. One by one!” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

April 29, 2011

John Kasich: ‘When He (Obama) Does His Job, Maybe He Can Have an Opinion’ on Ohio’s SB5

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:41 pm

From Tuesday, via the Associated Press (also carried nationally, as shown here, under the title “Obama strongly disapproves of public union limits”):

Obama slams SB5

President Barack Obama says he strongly disapproves of new laws restricting public employee unions in Ohio and Wisconsin and says states should not use the financial crisis as an excuse to erode bargaining rights.

He told Romona Robinson of Cleveland’s WKYC-TV in a White House interview yesterday that public employees should not be blamed for a financial crisis they had nothing to do with and that sacrifices should be shared in tough economic times.

Under Ohio’s new law, 350,000 public workers can negotiate wages and certain work conditions but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. Opponents hope to ask voters to overturn the measure.

… Obama tells Robinson whether it’s Wisconsin or what he’s seeing in Ohio, he strongly disapproves.

Wednesday, Kasich struck back (via Ohio Capital Blog):

Text of Kasich’s response to a question about Obama’s criticism (internal link is to a 2009 Associated Press report that reports the truth of the first sentence of Kasich’s response):

Well look, y’know, I was Chairman of the (U.S. House) Budget Committee and was the chief architect of the last time we balanced the budget.

And here in Ohio, we, we have balanced our budget here, under the budget that we have presented, along with preserving the tax cut.

The President of the United States has I think a $13 trillion debt. Why doesn’t he do his job? And when he does his job and gets our budget balanced and starts to prepare a future for our children, then maybe he can have an opinion on what’s going on in Ohio.

Exactly. Well said, John — and don’t back down.

Obama has no standing (of course he has the right, but he has no standing) to use his punk bully pulpit to rip Ohio’s Governor when he submitted a budget containing an anticipated fiscal 2011 deficit ($1.645 trillion) that is over 400 times the size of the Ohio deficit ($8 billion over two years, or $4 billion each year) Kasich and the General Assembly are attempting to wrestle to the ground after having it dumped on them by previous governor Ted Strickland. In fact, the biggest threat to Kasich’s success and the state’s fiscal solvency is that Washington’s deficits and Obama’s ruinous economic and energy policies will stall the modest recovery Kasich and the GA are counting on.

Somehow in this case, “Mind your own bleeping business” and “Fix your own bleeping problems” just aren’t strong enough.

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UPDATE: Oh, and John, while you’re saving the state, try not to step on those far-left chihuahuas nipping at your heels; they might cry or something. They seem to have converted their BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) into a rip-roaring form of KDS (Kasich Derangement Syndrome). It’s quite an ugly sight.

WH-Banned West Coast Pool Reporter Gave Obama Invaluable Early 2008 Assist by Omission

Yesterday evening (late afternoon West Coast time), Phil Bronstein at the San Francisco Chronicle informed his readers that one of its reporters had been banned by the Obama administration:

The hip, transparent and social media-loving Obama administration is showing its analog roots. And maybe even some hypocrisy highlights.

White House officials have banished one of the best political reporters in the country from the approved pool of journalists covering presidential visits to the Bay Area for using now-standard multimedia tools to gather the news.

The reporter involved is Carla Marinucci.

As will be shown later, Bronstein’s characterization of her as “one of the best” is questionable. But let’s continue the story:

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WSJ Weighs in on the Reagan v. Obama (aka Supply-Side v. Keynesianism) Rout

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:01 am

WSJgraphicThru7qtrs0411The Wall Street Journal has a brilliantly written must-read editorial this morning. Here are excerpts (bolds are mine):

The Keynesian Growth Discount
The results of our three-year economic experiment are in.

For three long years, the U.S. has been undertaking an experiment in economic policy. Could record levels of government spending, waves of new regulation and political credit allocation, and unprecedented monetary stimulus re-ignite growth? The results have been rolling in, and they represent what increasingly looks like an historic mistake that deserves to be called the Keynesian growth discount.

The latest evidence is yesterday’s disappointing report of 1.8% in first quarter GDP. At this stage of recovery after a deep recession, the economy is typically growing by 4% or more as consumer confidence returns and businesses accelerate investment as their profits revive. …

… even maintaining the 2.9% growth rate of 2010 would mark an historic underachievement …

… The most recent recession of comparable depth and job loss was in 1981-1982, when unemployment hit 10.8%. Huge chunks of industrial America shut down and never re-opened. Yet once the recovery began in earnest in the first quarter of 1983, the economy boomed. As the nearby table shows, growth exceeded 7.1% for five consecutive quarters, and it kept growing at nearly a 4% pace for another two years. Growth didn’t dip below 2% in any quarter until the second three months of 1986. This was the Reagan boom.

Now look at the first seven quarters of the current recovery. … This recovery is as weak as the much-maligned “jobless recovery” of the last decade, which followed a mild recession and at least gained speed after the tax cut of 2003.

Most striking is that this weak growth follows everything that the Keynesian playbook said politicians should throw at the economy. First came $168 billion in one-time tax rebates in February 2008 under George W. Bush (At least this money went directly to the people instead of being filtered through kleptocrats. — Ed.), then $814 billion more in spending spread over 2009-2010, cash for clunkers, the $8,000 home buyer tax credit, Hamp to prevent home foreclosures, the Detroit auto bailouts, billions for green jobs, a payroll tax cut for 2011, and of course near-zero interest rates for 28 months buttressed by quantitative easing I and II. We’re probably forgetting something.

Imagine if President Obama had introduced his original stimulus in February 2009 with the vow that, 26 months later, GDP would be growing by 1.8% and the jobless rate would be 8.8%. Does anyone think it would have passed?

Liberal economists will blame this latest slowdown on spending cuts across all levels of government, and government spending did fall in the first quarter. But those modest declines follow the biggest government spending binge since World War II that was supposed to kick start the economy and then stop. Remember former White House chief economist Larry Summers’s mantra that stimulus spending should be timely, targeted and temporary?

With deficits this year estimated to hit $1.65 trillion, are we really supposed to believe that more deficit spending will produce faster growth? Would $2 trillion do the trick, or how about $3 trillion? Two years after the stimulus debate began, the critics who said all of this spending would provide at most a temporary lift to GDP while saddling the economy with record deficits have been proven right.

The contrast in results between the current recovery and the Reagan years is instructive because the policy mix was so different. In the 1980s, the policy goals were to cut tax rates, reduce regulatory costs and uncertainty, let the private economy allocate capital free of political direction, and focus monetary policy on price stability rather than on reducing unemployment. This is the policy mix we need to rediscover if we are going to escape our current malaise and stop suffering from the Keynesian discount.

The argument is over. The POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy is an utter failure. The only question is whether it was accidentally or deliberately designed. Given what this bunch is doing to continue to hamper the recovery in so many areas and the behavioral clues (e.g., the “rent” recommendation), despite the continued suffering of millions of Americans, there’s no good reason to rule out the latter possibility.

Lucid and Lickety-Split Links (042911, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:48 am

It looks like Team Obama will have to keep those embarrassing “Recovery Summer” buttons in storage for another year.

From Wal-Mart, a downbeat assessment of its customer base, i.e., U.S. consumers:

Wal-Mart’s core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried, CEO Mike Duke said Wednesday.

… “Purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month even more than last year,” Duke said. “This end-of-month [purchases] cycle is growing to be a concern.

Food stamps have a lot to do with that, because they are pushing purchases into the beginning of the month. This report from Idaho typifies the trend:

WinCo says the volumes of shoppers they’re seeing on the first day of each month – when food stamps are handed out – is simply becoming unmanageable.

The first day of the month at WinCo Foods in Nampa is by far their busiest.

From AP, broad-based inflation is here:

The list of companies saying this week that they are raising prices is long: Kimberly-Clark Corp. (Huggies diapers, Kleenex facial tissue); Procter & Gamble Co. (Pampers diapers, Gillette shavers); Unilever PLC (Dove soap, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream); Colgate-Palmolive (toothpaste, soap); and PepsiCo Inc. (soft drinks, Frito-Lay snacks).

As Investors Business Daily noted Thursday evening: “It didn’t have to be this way.”

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Gas price increases never sleep: Mid-afternoon yesterday, Cincinnati area gas prices were a bit under $4.07. Now look, as of 7:20 a.m. –

CincyGasAt4152April292011

Consider it a very small taste of the inflationary ugliness Weimar Republic citizens endured.

Never forget that this, and more, is what Obama and his administration have said they want.

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At Cato (HT Instapundit) — “Inside Every Leftist Is a Little Authoritarian Dying to Get Out.”

A live BizzyBlog example which occurred shortly after Obama’s election (“The honorable thing for any American to do now is salute your new President Barack HUSSEIN Obama … You’re either with us or you’re against us”) is here.

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Job insecurity, identified at WaPo: “A growing number of Democrats are threatening to defy the White House over the national debt, joining Republican calls for deficit cuts as a requirement for consenting to lift the country’s borrowing limit.”

If form holds, the Dems really want to cast one or two symbolic votes against raising the ceiling and will return to their free-spending norm at crunch time. But their scramble for a pretense of credibility demonstrates that they realize where the electorate’s sentiments are.

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Authoritarians never sleep: “Obama proposes broadening EPA’s power over water” — “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said the plan would let the government ‘regulate essentially any body of water, such as a farm pond or even a ditch.’”

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“Finally” indeed, via MIchelle Malkin (“Finally: Catholic Church suspends rogue Chicago Rev. Michael Pfleger”):

This month, Pfleger appeared on a nationally broadcast radio show hosted by Tavis Smiley and scholar Cornel West and said he would look outside the Catholic Church if they offered no alternative to going to Leo. He also blamed his recent clash with the cardinal on pressure from conservative Catholics and the National Rifle Association. The archdiocese denied any outside pressure in its decision.

Pfleger openly advocates slavery reparations. Behold the twisted, dangerous “logic” of an intellectual imbecile (from roughly 0:40 to 1:30 of the vid):

I promised …. to address the one (white person) who says, “Don’t hold me responsible for what my ancestors did.”

But you have enjoyed the benefits of what your ancestors did. And unless your are ready to give up the benefits, throw away your 401 fund, throw away your trust fund, throw away the money you put away, and the company you walked into because your daddy, and your granddaddy, and your great-granddaddy ….. unless you’re willing to give up the benefits, then you must be responsible for what was done in your generation, because you are the beneficiary of this insurance policy!

As I noted in 2008: “Pfleger does have one thing right: If we gave our investments up to the government, we would indeed be ‘throwing them away.’”

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Jake Tapper to Obama on the birth certificate release: (in essence): “You lie”

The president said he was prompted to act “two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.”

But the president was wrong.

… the president’s birth certificate actually was the No. 4 story for the week – receiving about one tenth of the coverage devoted to stories about the economy.

As stated two days ago, only punk petulance accompanied by access to apparently unlimited legal funds explains Obama’s holdout.

Positivity: Connecticut bishop hails John Paul II as champion of religious freedom

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:36 am

From Washington:

Apr 27, 2011 / 06:15 pm

At a time when Christians face heightened persecution particularly in the Middle East, Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut pointed to John Paul II as a heroic example in the fight to protect religious freedom.

“In these days when the peoples of the Middle East are risking their lives for freedom, and in these days when we must be vigilant for our own hard-won freedoms, may the words of this great pontiff resonate in our minds and hearts,” Bishop Lori said at the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on April 27.
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April 28, 2011

IBD Takes Up the Reagan-Obama Recovery Comparison

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:45 pm

The Investors Business Daily graphic below pegs the beginning of the Reagan recovery as the first quarter of 1983 instead of the fourth quarter of 1982. The NBER says the 1980s recession ended in November 1982, while the last quarter of actual contraction was the third quarter of that year.

That’s a quibble at this point in comparison to IBD’s overall message, which is the following — The Reagan recovery was outstanding in virtually every way, while Obama’s “Rebound? What Rebound?” sort-of recovery has been unprecedentedly pathetic:

ISSjob_110429

Here is about half of of the related editorial — read the whole thing:

A Tale Of Two Recessions And Two Presidents

It’s been nearly two full years since the recession officially ended, and the economy is still struggling to get off the ground. It didn’t have to be this way.

When the Commerce Department released its estimate for first-quarter growth — a meager 1.8% — President Obama’s chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, at least conceded that “faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the downturn.”

And granted, the economy needs to expand by at least 2.5% just to keep up with growth in the labor force. So at 1.8%, we’re essentially losing ground, a fact that last week’s 429,000 initial jobless claims underscores. But what Goolsbee didn’t acknowledge is that the economy could be growing at a much faster rate, and would be if it weren’t saddled with Obama’s reckless policies.

How do we know this? Compare the two worst post-World War II recessions. Both the 1981-82 and the 2007-09 downturns were long (16 months and 18 months, respectively) and painful (unemployment peaked at 10.8% in 1981-82 and 10.1% in the last one).

What’s dramatically different, however, is how each president responded.

Obama massively increased spending, vastly expanded the regulatory state, and pushed through a government takeover of health care. What’s more, he constantly browbeats industry leaders, talks about the failings of the marketplace and endlessly advocates higher taxes on the most productive parts of the economy.

In contrast, Reagan pushed spending restraint, deregulated entire industries, massively cut taxes and waxed poetic about the wonders of a free economy.

The result? While the Reagan recovery saw turbocharged growth and a tumbling unemployment rate, Obama’s has produced neither.

Sensible conservatives need to hammer the IBD graphic above into Keynesians’ collectivist minds until they beg for mercy and become supply-siders. Why? Because, as the editorial states, we know what works, and we’ve just experienced what doesn’t.

OMG, This Is All He’s Got?

I received the following today in my email box. The subject line is “Big Things.” It’s from Organizing For America, and written by President Barack Obama.

Alleged accomplishments, ALL of which have not occurred — except Iraq, which was already planned by the time he took office — are boxed in red:

OFAobamaLtr042811

Today’s news (here, here, here) demonstrates that the economy is NOT on track. Wall Street is NOT reformed (maybe reshaped, but not improved). Health care is NOT more affordable.

Equal pay for equal work? Such laws have been on the books for decades.

That’s it? He’s kidding, right?

This is supposed to get his base fired up?

Holy moly, is he in trouble.

Well, Here We ALL Are in Greater Cincinnati, in the Land of $4-Plus Gas (UPDATES: All-Time Record Broken, and It Keeps on Going, and Going …)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:48 pm

Unlike on Monday, one station changing its sign isn’t going to change this:

CincyGasChart042811

Never forget: This is what Obama (just “gradually“) and his administration have said they want. Actually, Steven Chu wants the price much higher.

Well, here it is. How’s that hope and change workin’ out?

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UPDATE: Well, in the time it took to grab a late lunch, the local average price crossed the all-time record threshold (once at link, click on the 5-Year version) —

CincyGasPrice5YrsChart042811

Also, I noticed while getting lunch that the Meijer store on US near Fields Ertel Road, a station that is usually pretty aggressive, was carrying regular for $4.16 a gallon. The Sam’s Club across the street was lined up three deep at each pump with people waiting for what may be the last chance in a long time to get it for $3.80.

UPDATE 2: Wow, you can almost watch it go up in realtime. Now it’s pushing $4.10.

UPDATE 3: Make that breaking $4.10 —

CincyGasAabove410

UPDATE 4: Try $4.12, or a nickel increase in 3-1/2 hours —

CincyGasPrices412

Reagan v. Obama Growth Scorecoard Update (Bonus: 1984 NYT Writer Couldn’t Decide If Fantastic Growth Was Good or Bad News)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:05 pm

Lord have mercy, what a wipeout:

ReaganVsObamaGrowth7Qtrs0411

For humor purposes: Here’s what a New York Times writer had to say about the torrid Reagan-Era growth on July 25, 1984, just after the release of 2Q84′s GDP (saved in full from ProQuest as a graphic here; the original readings for 1Q84 and 2Q84 were higher than they ended up being after all comprehensive revisions):

IS the sizzling growth of the economy in the first half of 1984 good news or bad news? Obviously, for the White House, it is the best news imaginable in this election year.

Real economic growth ran at an annual rate of 10.1 percent in the first quarter and 7.5 percent in the second quarter, almost two points higher than the first ”flash” estimate. In terms of final sales – the demand for goods and services excluding changes in inventories – the upsurge in the second quarter was 10.4 percent, against 3.6 percent in the first quarter, when inventory building accounted for most of the boom.

Yet the rate of inflation has slowed to 3.2 percent in the second quarter, as measured by one price index used to adjust the gross national product for inflation. Consumer prices rose only two-tenths of 1 percent in June, the Government reported yesterday.

But the financial markets and many economists continue to fear that the Administration has overstimulated the economy, intensifying the danger that the boom will drive up interest rates and produce a bust sometime after the election.

… If slower monetary growth does not explain the decline in inflation since 1981, what does? Has the Reagan Administration in fact discovered a way of achieving strong but noninflationary growth? Is there a ”supply-side” miracle at work? Or is the current remarkable economic performance a flash in the pan, which will turn to fool’s gold after the election?

1985′s “bust” of “fool’s gold” was real GDP growth of 4.1%. December to December inflation was 3.9%, which in the context of the times was pretty low.

We could use a “bust” of “fool’s gold” like that. We aren’t going to get one while Team Obama’s policies continue in their current form.

Meanwhile, Over at DOL, Initial Unemployment Claims ‘Unexpectedly’ Spike at 429K

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:11 am

Holy crap:

In the week ending April 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 429,000, an increase of 25,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 404,000. The 4-week moving average was 408,500, an increase of 9,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 399,250.

So here’s an updated look at the past eight weeks:

UnempClaims042311

At Bloomberg, there’s that darned word again:

Jobless Claims in U.S. Unexpectedly Rise to Three-Month High

New applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. unexpectedly rose last week to the highest level in three months, a sign the labor market will be slow to recover.

Jobless claims increased by 25,000 to 429,000 in the week ended April 23, the most since late January, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington.

MarketWatch tells us that economists thought there would be a decline:

The number of people who filed new applications for jobless benefits climbed by 25,000 last week to 429,000, the highest level in three months. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected claims to decline to seasonally adjusted 395,000 from the prior week’s revised level of 404,000.

Establishment press outlets are going to have to order extra truckloads of lipstick for this pig.

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UPDATE: At Zero Hedge — Per Goldman Sachs, “the latest claims reports may point to softer nonfarm payroll growth in April than March.”

UPDATE 2, 11:20 p.m.: To be fair, the raw (not seasonally adjusted) claims number was up only a few thousand from the previous week. But it was also only about 10% lower than the NSA number from the same week a year ago, while previous weeks this year have been generally running about 15% or so lower.

1Q11 Advance Gross Domestic Product: An Annualized +1.8%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:21 am

As noted a few times in the past week, lots of folks have been scaling back their predictions of first-quarter growth to 1.5% or so.

For past recovery context, note that growth on Ronald Reagan’s watch during the seventh quarter after the 1980s recession ended was an annualized. 7.1%. We could sooooo use that right now. Oh well.

The latest:

  • At the Washington Examiner — “Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, speaking at the board’s first ever news conference, said on Wednesday that the nation’s first quarter growth is expected to be “realitively weak” due to “transitory” reasons such as lower than expected military spending, weaker exports and bad weather.” Big Ben expects less than 2%.
  • At the Associated Press, Jeannine “Pollyanna” Aversa, who was at 2.2% two days ago, is now at 1.9%.
  • Reuters — “Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a 2.0 percent annualized pace of growth, compared with 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter, but rising commodity prices have left some worrying about a deeper slowdown.”

The report will be here at 8:30 a.m.

UPDATE: Here it is (full report here) —

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter) according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 3.1 percent.

The Bureau emphasized that the first-quarter advance estimate released today is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency (see the box on page 3). The “second” estimate for the first quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on May 26, 2011.

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, exports, and nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by negative contributions from federal government spending and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

Can’t wait to see the press reaction, which I would expect will be along the lines of “see, see, when we cut back on government spending, GDP suffers.” No, you ninnies, if you keep the private sector from doing its thing, you get mediocre results. Oh, and the reduction in government GDP-related related expenditures were primarily in national defense (down an annualized 11.7%).

UPDATE 2: Here’s Jeannine “Pollyanna” Aversa’s first pass as of 9:11 a.m., to be updated as the excuses get refined throughout the day —

Economy slowed by high gas prices, bad weather

The economy slowed sharply in the first three months of the year as high gas prices cut into consumer spending, bad weather delayed construction projects and the federal government slashed defense spending by the most in six years.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that the economy grew at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter. That was weaker than the 3.1 percent growth rate for the October-December quarter. And it was the worst showing since last spring when the European debt crisis slowed growth to a 1.7 percent pace.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other economists say the slowdown last quarter is a temporary setback. They generally agree that gas prices will stabilize and the economy will grow at a 3 percent pace in each of the next three quarters.

Sure babe, prosperity is just around the corner. Tell that to DOL, where the latest unemployment claims report came in with 429,000 seasonally adjusted initial claims, a huge jump from 404,000 the previous week when economists were expecting 395,000.

This “weather” excuse is also getting really annoying.

UPDATE 3: Zero Hedge

The bottom line: Q1 GDP ex-inventories came at 0.8%, the lowest since Q3 2009. The economy has hit stall speed, and absent another fiscal (nope) or monetary (QE3) stimulus, we will go negative in Q2, now that the full impact of the Japanese economic collapse has forced even the ostriches to pull their heads out of the sand.

I don’t know that we’ll go negative, but it’s hard to see how Sunshine Ben’s 3%-plus prediction for the next three quarters is going to come to pass.

Two-year-old has miraculous escape after his buggy is dragged under a 12-ton truck

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From the UK:

24/04/2011

Moments after little Thomas Wilshaw was dragged under a 12-ton truck, his buggy lies crushed under its wheels.

Yet amazingly, the two-year-old survived the horrifying accident and has battled back to health – learning to walk and talk again.

And last night his mum Laura Wood, 20, said: “I can’t believe Thomas is still alive. It is nothing less than a miracle.

“I just froze as his buggy was crushed. I feared the worst. But look at him now. I’m just so thankful I’ve got my little boy back.”

Laura told how her son’s buggy disappeared under the wheels of a refuse lorry as she pushed him over a pedestrian crossing last August.

“Suddenly the pram handles were ripped out of my hands,” she recalled. “I heard a horrible crack and it disappeared under the wheels.

“I just remember screaming ‘Stop! Stop!’ His pram had been totally crushed by one of the wheels and Tom was just lying there, still strapped in.

“A wheel had gone over his body. I thought he was dead.”

In an incredible stroke of luck an off-duty nurse ran to the scene in Oldham, Lancs. And after looking under the lorry, she told Laura: “Your son is still alive.”

Thomas was taken to the Royal Oldham Hospital then transferred to Manchester Children’s Hospital, where he underwent an operation to remove part of his skull to relieve swelling on his brain.

Laura said: “Doctors warned me that even if he survived he may have serious brain damage and be paralysed.” Laura, her partner Richard and Thomas’s dad Ben then held an 11-day vigil by his bed before he finally opened his eyes. “He wrapped his arms around me and refused to let go,” Laura said. “The only word he could say was ‘mummy’, but it was magical.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.