Friday, July 29, 2011
The U.S. economy grew less than expected in the second quarter as consumer spending barely rose, and growth braked sharply in the prior quarter, a government report showed on Friday.
from Zero Hedge:
The adverse data onslaught continues with both the Chicago PMI and the UMichigan Consumer Confidence numbers coming in weaker than expected. Chicago printed at 58.8 on expectations of 60.0, down from 61.1, while consumer confidence was quantified with laser-like precision by UMichigan at 63.7, below expectations of 64.0, and the lowest since March 2009. The data between the headlines was even uglier, as the Employment index in the PMI printed far lower, from 58.7 to 51.5, even as priced paid increased (yes, inflation) from 70.5 to 71.7, while new orders declined from 61.2 to 59.4. At the same time long-term inflation expectations are getting anchored ever higher, as the 5 year inflation rose from 2.8% to 2.9%, while the condition index plunged to 75.8, the lowest since November 2009. At least people's outlook on the future was unchanged at 56.0. Then again, all economic data is now irrelevant as everyone is preparing to listen to the Republicans, the president and the democrats in that order imminently.
Under the headline of "Why are we in this debt fix? It's the Elderly, Stupid!", this author has nailed it on the head. We have simply promised what we can not deliver! We must wake up a face reality, or we will have a disaster soon!
By Robert J. Samuelson
If leadership is the capacity to take people where they need to go — whether or not they realize it or want it — then we’ve had almost no leadership in these weeks of frustrating and maddening debate over the budget and debt ceiling. There’s been an unspoken consensus among President Obama, congressional Democrats and Republicans not to discuss the central issue underlying the standoff. We’ve heard lots about “compromise” or its absence. We’ve had dueling budgets with differing mixes of spending cuts and tax increases. But we’ve heard almost nothing of the main problem that makes the budget so intractable.
It’s the elderly, stupid.
By now, it’s obvious that we need to rewrite the social contract that, over the past half-century, has transformed the federal government’s main task into transferring income from workers to retirees. In 1960, national defense was the government’s main job; it constituted 52 percent of federal outlays. In 2011 — even with two wars — it is 20 percent and falling. Meanwhile, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other retiree programs constitute roughly half of non-interest federal spending.
These transfers have become so huge that, unless checked, they will sabotage America’s future. The facts are known: By 2035, the 65-and-over population will nearly double, and health costs remain uncontrolled; the combination automatically expands federal spending (as a share of the economy) by about one-third from 2005 levels. This tidal wave of spending means one or all of the following: (a) much higher taxes; (b) the gutting of other government services, from the Weather Service to medical research; (c) a partial and dangerous disarmament; (d) large and unstable deficits.
Older Americans do not intend to ruin America, but as a group, that’s what they’re about. On average, the federal government supports each American 65 and over by about $26,000 a year (about $14,000 through Social Security, $12,000 through Medicare). At 65, the average American will live almost 20 more years. Should these sizable annual subsidies begin later and be less for some? It’s hard to discuss the budget realistically if you ignore most of what the budget does.
That’s been our course. Obama poses as one brave guy for even broaching “entitlement reform” with fellow Democrats. What he hasn’t done is to ask — in language that is clear and comprehensible to ordinary people — whether many healthy, reasonably well-off seniors deserve all the subsidies they receive. That would be leadership. Obama is having none of it. But the shunning is bipartisan. Tea Party advocates broadly deplore government spending without acknowledging that most of it goes for popular Social Security and Medicare.
I have written about these issues for years. But facts are no match for the self-interest of about 50 million Social Security and Medicare recipients and a natural sympathy for older people and for people who eagerly look forward to retirement. Public opinion becomes contradictory. While 70 percent of respondents in a Pew Research Center poll judged budget deficits a “major problem,” 64 percent rejected higher Medicare premiums and 58 percent opposed gradual increases in Social Security’s retirement age.
What sustains these contradictions is a mythology holding that, once people hit 65, most become poor. This justifies political dogma among Democrats that resists Social Security or Medicare cuts of even one dollar.
But the premise is wrong. True, some elderly live hand-to-mouth; many more are comfortable, and some are wealthy. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports the following for Medicare beneficiaries in 2010: 25 percent had savings and retirement accounts averaging $207,000 or more; among homeowners (four-fifths of those 65 and older), three-quarters had equity in their houses averaging $132,000; about 25 percent had incomes exceeding $47,000 (that’s for individuals, and couples would be higher).
The essential budget question is how much we allow federal spending on the elderly to crowd out other national priorities. All else is subordinate. Yet, our “leaders” don’t debate this question with candor or intelligence. We have a generation of politicians cowed and controlled by AARP. We need to ask how much today’s programs constitute a genuine “safety net” to protect the vulnerable (which is good) and how much they simply subsidize retirees’ private pleasures.
Our politicians make perfunctory bows to entitlement reform and consider that they’ve discharged their duty, even if nothing changes. We need to recognize that federal retiree programs often represent middle-class welfare. Past taxes were never “saved” to pay future benefits. We need to ask the hard questions: Who deserves help and who doesn’t? Because Social Security and Medicare are so intertwined in our social fabric, changing them could never be easy. But the fact that we’ve evaded the choices for so long is why the present budget impasse has been so tortuous and why, if we continue our avoidance, there will be others.
© The Washington Post Company
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
from Zero Hedge:
June durable goods just came at a very disappointing -2.1% on expectations of an increase to 0.3%, from 1.9% in May... Bloomberg's Joseph Brusuelas: "decline in transportation bookings, incl. 28.9% drop in non-defense aircraft orders." And that's not all: "Non-defense ex-aircraft, proxy for capex, points to slower growth in coming qtr." This means that as expected not only is Q2 GDP trending now much lower, possibly below 1%, but the weakness is starting to spill over into Q2 data. As AP reports, "Manufacturing has been the stellar performer in the two-year-old recovery. But activity slowed in the spring, reflecting in part supply disruptions following the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Manufacturing was also hurt by the hit the overall economy took from higher energy prices which dampened consumer demand."
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
But it looks like stocks may be putting in a bottom!
from Zero Hedge:
Another set of ugly economic data to add to the earlier Case Shiller miss: the Richmond Fed officially contracted despite expectations of a rise from 3 to 5, dropping to -1. This means that the recent rebound from negative to positive and back to negative is indicative there is something far more broken with the economy than just a transitory soft patch. New home sales also deteriorated dropping from 315K to 312K, on expectations of a rebound to 320K. The median sales price was $235,200, and the average $269,000, on 6.3 months of supply. As Joseph Brusuelas of Bloomberg said, "Nothing in data suggests any turnaround." Yet the irony is that the end consumer: the entity that is getting pounded daily by this administration and the oligarchy, just became more confident, with the number beating consensus of 56 and printing at 59.5... on Hopium! Yes, the current conditions declined from 36.6 to 35.7, but at least American have managed to revert to their standard optimistic outlook, and the six month outlook surged from 71.6 to 75.4. Hilarious. Nonetheless unlike before when this goalseeked data point would have been enough to set off a massive buying spree by the HFT algos, today it is insufficient, and following the relentless barrage of bad economic data ES just took out overnight lows.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Bill Buckler Puts Things Back Into Perspective: "Of The Total US $15 Trillion Market Capitalization, The Fed Provided About Half Of That"
This from Zero Hedge. Surely, this is a nightmare, and we are going to awaken from it any moment!
On a surprisingly quiet night, during which many, chief among them the President of the US, were expecting some fireworks, it is easy to get lost in all in your face political farce, while ignoring, and even blissfully forgetting, the real financial details behind the scenes. Luckily we have Bill Buckler, whose latest edition of "The Privateer" puts everything right back in perspective, and reminds us that "in the period between December 2007 and July 2010, the Fed parcelled out $US 16.1 TRILLION in emergency loans to financial entities all over the world. Almost half of this - a total of $US 7.75 TRILLION - was loaned to four US banks. They were Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and the Bank of America. In July 2010 (the cut off date for this “audit”), total US stock market capitalisation was $US 15 TRILLION. The Fed provided about half of that." And here we are, haggling over $30 billion here, and $50 billion there...
The Last Remission
According to the official figures put out by the US government, the economic “recovery” in the US celebrated its second anniversary on June 30, 2011. The “fuel” burned in this “recovery” is immense. Mr Obama’s presidency has ushered in the era of $US 1 TRILLION plus annual deficits riding on top of 0.00 percent controlling interest rates from the Fed. It has also ushered in the era in which almost nothing istraded on the paper markets which is not - explicitly or implicitly - guaranteed by the government.
The fuel to keep the global financial system functioning does not stop at the borders of the US. The “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act” has just produced the first ever “audit” of the US central bank. It reveals that in the period between December 2007 and July 2010, the Fed parcelled out $US 16.1 TRILLION in emergency loans to financial entities all over the world. Almost half of this - a total of $US 7.75 TRILLION - was loaned to four US banks. They were Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and the Bank of America. In July 2010 (the cut off date for this “audit”), total US stock market capitalisation was $US 15 TRILLION. The Fed provided about half of that.
This inflationary explosion is unprecedented in any era. It represents the biggest ever effort to rescue a debt-based system from the ravages caused by its own debt issuing excesses. It has, at best, provided a “remission” for global paper markets. The cost has been devastating for REAL economies everywhere.
A cancer patient who goes under the knife gets the malignant disease physically removed. If all traces of the malignancy are removed, the patient will recover. If all goes well, the recovery will be permanent with no “remissions”. A life-threatening malignancy is NOT fought or cured by doing everything possible to increase its power and potency. Yet that is what financial authorities in the US and everywhere else have been doing in regard to the life blood of their economies. As this stark fact becomes ever clearer, Washington DC and Wall Street stand helpless before the fact that they can only cure the economy at the cost of killing the financial system which is feeding on it. It’s that simple.