Archive for the ‘Economy’ category

Corn

July 5, 2013

I live in Ohio, about thirty miles east of the Indiana border.  One time in my life I raised corn a.k.a. ‘field corn’ and ‘ear corn.’

I find this story in the Monitor interesting because it goes against the visual evidence in western Ohio.

Here, virtually all of the corn has a deep green color and is shoulder height, at least.  The weather would have to extremely hot and dry for the next three weeks to keep this year’s corn from being near a record on bushels per acre.

However, a little research shows that the CSM story may not be accurate.  Corn futures, that is the price a farmer can contract for future delivery has slipped below $5.00 a bushel.  The price for October 2013 delivery is $4.91 and for December delivery the same at $4.91.

This is not a good price.  Thirty years ago, we were getting $3.30 a bushel and the price of everything has gone up considerably.

BofA

March 14, 2012

KO had Matt Tiabbi on his show this evening.  They talked about this new piece Matt has in Rolling Stone.

The five-part story ends depressingly like this:

The threat posed by Bank of America isn’t just financial – it’s a full-blown assault on the American dream. Where’s the incentive to play fair and do well, when what we see rewarded at the highest levels of society is failure, stupidity, incompetence and meanness? If this is what winning in our system looks like, who doesn’t want to be a loser? Throughout history, it’s precisely this kind of corrupt perversion that has given birth to countercultural revolutions. If failure can’t fail, the rest of us can never succeed.

The sad part is that Obama knew when he hired Geithner and Summers and all of their Wall Street cronies exactly what he was getting.  Alas, we are stuck with this because either of the two remaining  Repub clowns are no more qualified than MooseWoman.

What’s Important

March 13, 2012

Normally, we think that when we elect a president, his coat tails will carry into office a few more members of his party than if he had lost.  Sometimes his coat tails are long and he helps sweep his party into control of one, sometimes both, houses of Congress.

But, re-electing a sitting president isn’t always a slam-dunk.  The last two, two term presidents had different paths.  Clinton had a fairly easy time, W just squeaked by.

Which takes us back to the last one-term president, George H. W. Bush.  During an economic recover, the public perception lags the numbers by about six months.  On election day in Nov 1992, the recovery had started, but because the Senate Majority Leader, Senator George Mitchell (D – ME) had bottled up legislation for several months before he would let it come up for a vote.  Public perception of a recovery was non-existent.

Presently, the country, the Democrats and President Obama have three important issues to deal with that could determine the outcome of the elections this November.

They are, in order of importance;

  1. Price of gasoline, diesel fuel and home heating oil (shortened to ‘gas’).
  2. Unemployment rate.
  3. War in Afghanistan.

The price of gas affects everybody.  Unless you are into the “1%”,  the effect of rising fuel prices affects everything you buy.  Everything sold at your local grocery or IGA, shoes, clothing, anything at a ‘big box’ store, all the goods come in via truck and every truck uses diesel fuel.  Taking a business trip?  You can bet your sweet hat and pea coat sleeve that the airplane uses a kerosene that is derived from oil.

So, whether you drive to work, eat-out or or grow all your food in a back-yard garden, the price of gas has a serious effect on your spending habits.

Which leads to point 2, the unemployment rate.  If you are spending too much on gas, you don’t have nearly as much “discretionary” dollars to spend on items that might stimulate the economy and create more jobs.  These are items that you were planning to do, but the price of gas took away all of the money you were planning to spend on it.  All of the things that you cannot spend money on are potentially, part of a new job that could have been created.

Maybe it was 1. buy a new car, 2. put siding on your house, 3. go on vacation,  4. get braces for your daughter or 5. any one of a zillion things that people do when they feel a little flush.

An unemployment rate below 7 per sent by the 4th of July would go along way toward re-electing President Obama.

Afghanistan.  Speaks for itself.  If points # 1 and # 2 are accomplished, the war in Afghanistan will be an irritant, a thorn in the side, but it will not preclude a second term.  But, getting most of the troops out before Labor Day will be the icing on the cake towards a successful election campaign.

Three Legged Stool

March 8, 2012

Doing a Google search, I cannot find the ‘3-legged stool’ reference about politics for which I looked.

No matter.  This is not about politics, at least not directly.

This is about retirement or about financing your retirement.

Back when I was a young lad, post WW2 and into the 60s and 70s, retirement for the average person/married couple consisted of three parts.  They were

  • Social Security
  • Pension from your employer or union
  • Savings

My parents were born a hundred years ago.  They lived their formative years in a large, eastern, industrial city.  The best depiction of what The Great Depression was like, from what they told me, was the movie Cinderella Man.

Anyway, my parents and my aunts & uncles were relatively frugal after the experience of The Great Depression.

Post WW2 was the good times when only one person in the family was employed – usually.

My dad was a union man and my parents saved and when he retired, they were both comfortable for their remaining years.

But times have changed.  I see far too many adults that are working for less than $10 an hour and there is no union where they work.  Wal-mart is the leading employer that has no union and most employees are part-time, but all the ‘big box’ stores are the same.  All these gas station/convenience store chains are, also,  the same way, minimum wage, no benefits and 35 hour weeks.

So, my question is:  If even with two shitty, minimum wage, part time jobs, you can barely afford to scrape by and cannot save a cent and your contributions to Social Security will not even pay half the rent if you ever could hope to retire, how are these 30 year olds ever going to retire?

They cannot save, so that leg is gone.

The have no hope of a pension from their employer and no hope of ever being a union member – that leg is sawed off.

Their Social Security benefit, which is based on the 35 highest earning years, is woefully inadequate.  This is the only leg left and it is woefully short.

Just pointing out the obvious.  Wish I had an answer or two.

Rust and Economics

December 5, 2011

We are, if not wasteful, and we may also be that in other ways, using this capitalist system the wrong way.  If you were to drive across this country, from coast-to-coast, as I have done twice, you will see a lot of rusting and rotting, decrepit structures.

In the Akron – Youngstown area, you will see steel mills that have been closed for 30 years.  In Illinois will be abandoned barns, built 100 years ago that are no longer functionally efficient.  A drive through Tennessee will reveal 1940s and 50s farm equipment that is left to rust behind the barn for the same reason – functionally inefficient.  A drive through the plains of eastern Montana will reveal whole towns that are now ghost towns.  No jobs and the young have all moved away.

Is this the result of Madison Ave always trying to sell us the newest, brightest, shiniest “gotta have it” new thing?

Is this healthy, from an economic perspective to let all this capital lay idle, rusting into nothingness?

Do we have a tax code that rewards tearing down the old (a write-off) and building new on top of it (depreciation)?

Does this really make for good economic health?

Not All Know

November 18, 2011

I’m sitting here with a freshly brewed cup of Bigelow organic green tea.

After stopping Time-Warner cable service, see here, and turning in all the equipment, T-W had one final thing to do and that is to put a ‘trap’ on the line so I could not steal any of their service.

A tech came out, put a ladder up against the pole and did what ever it is he had to do.  After he came down, he asked about this in the front yard.

So the gentleman and I chatted about a few things.  He is 58 years old, a working stiff like I used to be and what you, dear reader, most likely are.  He had no idea what the “99%” was all about.  I tried to explain to him, but maybe I talked too fast.  Anyway, I implored him to watch MSNBC and Rachel Maddow.

But, my point is here was a chance meeting with a guy just trying to make a living.  If he had to ask what the sign was about, how many other folks that drive by the front of my house do not have a clue as to what it means?

#OCCUPY

November 15, 2011

I am afraid that at one of these OCCUPY encampments, that as the authorities are clearing out all the folks exercising their Constitutional rights, one or more of the protesters will get killed.  It seems to me that the mayors of theses cities are being pressured by the 1%, the bankers, the billionaires to get rid of the rabble.

No one or at least no politician wants to address the core issues of joblessness, foreclosures, crushing student loan debt and the other inequities in the financial system.  And the 1% are still very much in control.

Life & Houses

November 15, 2011

There are reasons why one may not post everyday.  I mean, life comes along and, as this is not a paying job, other items become Priority One.

In this case, Mrs. Chief and I have bought a house.  Not just any house because this is special on two fronts.

First off, we own our primary residence.  Last spring, Mrs. Chief came up with the idea of helping out our son and his family by buying a house that they could buy from us on a land contract.

Good idea, right?  I mean you’re supposed to help your kids out, aren’t you?

Well, the first house we ran across, Mrs. Chief has a special emotional attachment to.  She had an aunt and uncle living there and she spent extended periods of time living with Aunt Luella and Uncle Roye.  When Mrs. Chief was in either the first or second grade, Luella would walk her the four blocks to and from school each day.

When Roye died in 1983, the man we bought the house from had purchased it from the estate.

We bought the house as a ‘short-sale’ in that the owner owed more on the house than he was offering it for sale.  And it took several months for the bank that held the mortgage to agree to sell.  And we bought the house at about fifty cents on the dollar.  We could not have afforded to help our son and his family if this was priced as a 2004 sale.  The steep decline in the housing market is the only way we could pull this off.

This almost-one-hundred-year-old-house does have a lot of cosmetic problems but is structurally sound.  It looks as if the previous owner had not washed windows or cleaned the inside of the microwave in the 28 years he lived there.  So son and daughter-in-law have their work cut out for them.

But, and this is huge, they will be paying a lot less to live here than they were paying in rent.

Lies

November 7, 2011

UPDATE: Below

There are all kinds of lies.  The most famous is, “The check’s in the mail.”   Whether that statement is a lie or the truth will be proved in a few days.  But I’m not referring to that type of lie.

I am thinking of the BIG lie that requires a thinking, sentient being to reflect on and realize they are being mis-led.

  •  free markets require no adult supervision
  • climate change is a hoax
  • humans did not evolve from other species over millions of years
  • infrastructure in the U.S. is in tip-top shape

The U.S. has a whole slew of federal agencies that debunk the first.  The EPA, FDA, SEC and the FDIC (among others) have a role in protecting the consuming public from harm.  Most of that ‘harm’ can be seen coming from greedy executives that are only interested in increasing corporate profits.

All the food recalls because of salmonella derive from actions to increase profits.

Automotive recalls – the companies could have avoided the enormous cost of the recall if they had not been in the big hurry to get a model to market.

So, when you hear Mayor Bloomberg or some other politician blame Congress and not the banks for the crisis we are going through, just ask yourself, who profited the most from blowing up the U.S. economy?

——————————————-

UPDATE

Here is an analysis of the problem and a suggested solution.  I like this graf near the end

To fix the banking sector, should we rely more on government regulation and oversight or let the market figure it out? Tougher rules or more capitalism? Right now, we have the worst of both worlds. We have a purportedly capitalistic system with a lot of rules that are not strictly enforced, and when things go wrong, the government steps in to protect banks from the market consequences of their own worst decisions. To me, that’s not capitalism.

 

 

 

A Loon

October 31, 2011

And no insult is meant to all those common loons, which happen to be the state bird of Minnesota, by the way, but Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) is about as looney as a loon.

Wow, look at this from the Des Moines Register

Michele Bachmann told a crowd here that growing tax burdens have undermined the American middle class and forced both parents into the workforce.

To support her argument, she said tax rates in 1950 were just 5 percent – a fraction of the overall tax rate today.

“The average amount of taxes that the average family (paid) was 5 percent overall,” Bachmann said.

With taxes that low, she continued, her father’s salary from the Air Force was enough to support her entire family. “A sergeant could have a wife and four children and the wife didn’t have to work because you paid 5 percent for your overall tax burden.”

Ms. Bachmann is, as the old saying goes, as full of shit as a Christmas goose.

The Ol’ Chief began his 21 year Navy career in 1958, within spitting distance of the date she gives.  And Mrs. Chief and I managed to raise four children and Mrs. Chief has never worked outside the home during any of the over 50 years we have been married.