The Rag Reel


Thursday, November 4, 2010

We Won't Get Fooled Again!

    Consider the Following:

  •    The FED reduced the interest rate charged to the banks to near 0%. The push was on to improve their (Banks) performance in hopes they could overcome the large losses from the default mortgages that they hold.

  •     Problem is few businesses an individuals wanted to borrow the money from banks due to the political an economic conditions that they face daily in the market place. Banks could not loan out the cheap money and make profits on the spread!

  •    Now the FED will buy U.S. Bonds held primarily by the same banks to again infuse money into them and take the risky debt of their books. The hope is the banks will lend out this money to small business and consumers to spur growth in the economy.

  •    Not So Fast - Banks will take the new cash and put it to work in foreign currency's, and stocks plus Gold. They will make money and our economy will not grow. It's another bailout for banks holding ever decreasing mortgage's. We get fooled again!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Last Lifeline for Future Economic Freedom!

Jefferson Was Right

   On Nov. 2, the United States will hold an important mid-term election. At stake will be control of the U.S. Congress, 39 state governorships and thousands of other state and local offices. High unemployment, record deficits, a sluggish economy and a swelling federal government have become flash point issues for millions of concerned Americans of every political persuasion. This upcoming election is an opportunity to help decide the future of economic freedom.

   Batter Up!

   According to the International Monetary Fund, the United States accounts for about one-fourth of the world's total output of goods and services, and one fifth of the world's purchasing power. Like it or not, what's bad for the United States - including misguided federal policies that undermine economic freedom - is usually bad for the rest of the world. What has proven to be best for all societies is economic freedom. Citizens on every continent enjoy more prosperity, cleaner environments, longer lives and higher literacy rates in economically free societies.

   The Challenge

   Unfortunately, these values and principled point of views are now being strongly opposed by many politicians (and their media allies) who favor ever-increasing government. Government - like fire, water, chemicals and most everything - is productive at some level and destructive at others. In the United States, government has now grown to such a level that it is choking American entrepreneurship and hurting the nation's international competitiveness. Even worse, recent government actions are threatening to bankrupt the country. This can only stifle economic growth and job creation, which in turn will significantly reduce the standard of living of American families.

   To preserve the nation's economic viability and individual freedoms, this explosive growth must be reversed. There are, of course, plenty of politicians and critics who feel otherwise. Many of them have been quite vocal in their attacks on opposition uprisings; such as the tea party. However, as New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moyniham famously said, "one is entitled to one's own opinions, but not to one's own facts." And the facts are that the overwhelming majority of the American people will be much worse off if government overspending is allowed to bankrupt the country.

   Fateful Warning!

   When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated in 1801, he warned about a particularly destructive way of thinking. It is wrong, he said, to punish someone for working harder or being more successful than someone else. He warned against "wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them" and taking from some to give to others "who have not exercised equal industry and skill."

   More than 200 years later, the destruction of economic freedom that Jefferson warned against is being vigorously promoted by this administration and many elected officials. In the United States, the best antidote to this kind of over-reaching government is the power of the ballot box. That was true in 1801, and is just as true in 2010.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Business of Being in Business!

Business is Burning Around You!

Value Creation - Create real, long-term value by the economic means. Eliminate Waste.

   We live in an era when many people - including policymakers and media celebrities - view businesses and corporations with disdain or intense suspicion. Their way of thinking begs a simple question: What is the primary role of business? Is it to create jobs and provide benefits? Help advance a social agenda? Or just to make as much money as possible, by exploiting customers and employees? As a matter of principle, there is only one reason for any business to exist: creating value. We all tend to pursue our own interests, but in a true market economy we can only prosper long-term by providing others with what they value!

   Biting the Hand

   In a system of economic freedom, a company will generate long-term profits only if it uses resources in a way that consumers value more than alternative uses. Large or small, a company will not stay in business for long if it is not truly creating value. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for governments. Most governments consume massive amounts of resources - primarily labor and capital - much of which doesn't create value.

   Was it worth more than $200 million of U.S. taxpayers' money to build an airport in Johnstown, Pa., that services just three commercial flights per day? Although it was never built, would the federal government have created real, long-term value by spending nearly twice that much for the infamous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska? It is essential that use of resources is directed by consumers, rather than politically. When resources are directed for political ends, the result is misallocation.

   What About Jobs?

   Job creation is one of today's hottest topics. Governments of many nations - liberal, conservative and even Communist - are under enormous pressure to "do something" about high unemployment and lagging job growth. In reality, it is business of all sizes in the private sector, not the government, that tend to produce the sorts of jobs that create real, long-term value.

   Government interventions - particularly controls, subsidies, barriers to entry, tariffs and bailouts - misapply resources, thwarting the efficient production of what people value. An economist would say such actions replace activities that convert resources to higher-value products with activities that convert them to lower-value products. Think about that for a moment.

   If a business activity is really creating value, should it need to be subsidized? Similarly, if a business is destroying rather than creating value, shouldn't it be allowed to go out of business, rather than be subsidized or protected; i.e. Citi.


   Productivity is more than a business buzzword. It is a key driver of success for all of society. The more productive we are in enhancing the value of resources, the better off virtually everyone is going to be. By contrast, anything that interferes with productivity is going to make people less well off, especially the poor, who are least capable of weathering economic shocks.

   It is important to realize what makes us better off. It's not just how much money we have, but the availability of the goods and services we value. In the old Soviet Union, lots of people had rubles to spend, but there was very little of value to buy. Government policies resulted in chronic shortages of food, clothing and shelter. Similarly, in any nation where government policies systematically destroy value, shortages of valued goods and services should be expected.

   Good Idea?

   Government-mandated transfers from one group to another don't solve the problems of lower productivity and higher unemployment. In fact, they make those problems worse. If the government insists that someone should be paid $50 per hour in wages and benefits, but that person only creates $30 worth of value, no one will prosper for long.

   In a scenario such as this, as businesses lose money because of the government's policy, employees will end up losing their jobs and fewer (if any) new employees will be hired. Consequently, the result of what sounded good - making a guaranteed $50 per hour-will not be prosperity, it will be higher unemployment. Anything that undermines the mobility of labor, such as policies that make it more expensive and difficult to change where people are employed, also increases unemployment.

   In Europe, where stringent labor laws make it difficult and expensive to terminate someone - even for cancer - this has become especially troublesome. Similar policies that distort the labor market - such as minimum wage laws and mandated benefits - contribute to unemployment. Policies that make it difficult to get permits to build plants and equipment that are more efficient lower productivity and reduce wages. All these obstacles interfere with the ability to create valued products and services, adversely affecting consumers, employees and employers.


   Societies that value freedom and prosperity protect their citizens' rights to free speech, which greatly facilitates the discovery and the dissemination of knowledge. What we see is many nations today is just the opposite. Citizens who are openly critical of the European Union bureaucracy in Brussels or the out-of-control government of the United States are being shouted down by politicians, government officials and their media and other allies. Too many government elites think they know what's best for citizens and ignore the wishes of the citizens themselves.

   Those in power tend to want to control more and more, all in the name of making things "fair." To do so, they pile on more rules, more regulations, more restrictions, more programs and more costs. This kind of thinking is a recipe for disaster - both for a company and for a government. Over-specifying and enforcing particulars undermines prosperity, it also facilitates corruption and abuse of power, subservience and stagnation.

   After many years of disastrous policy decisions in the United States, it will be interesting to see who voters support at the ballot box this November.Will it be those candidates who believe that more government is the answer, and that government - rather than consumers - should decide which businesses succeed or fail? Or will it be those candidates who believe the true role of business is to create value for society by serving customers, not politicians?


Thursday, October 21, 2010

All the President's Men!

Economic Freedom is a mind-set!

   I am often asked which U.S. presidents pursued the best and worst economic policies. My answers may surprise you. In evaluating a President, I believe it is essential to look past his popularity, party affiliation and family background. During the twentieth century, there were several presidential standouts - both good and bad. I want to discuss one of each. In both cases, their policies changed the direction of the entire nation, affecting the lives of millions of Americans.

Silent Cal

   Calvin Coolidge was Vice President under Warren G. Harding, who became President in 1921. At the time, the United States was in a deep depression. Unemployment was at 20 percent, taxes were high and federal debt was ballooning. Harding insisted on cutting taxes, reducing the national debt and cutting the federal budget (the opposite of what his predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, had done). Following Harding's sudden death in 1923, Coolidge wisely chose not only to maintain many of those policies, but to extend them.
   In his first address to Congress, Coolidge called for further tax cuts, fewer subsidies and avoidance of foreign entanglements. "Perhaps the most important work that this session of the Congress can do," Coolidge said, "is to continue a policy of economy and further reduce the cost of government." Coolidge had a deep understanding of the need to limit government growth. His belief in property rights was reflected in his commitment to cutting taxes. "I want taxes to be less," said Coolidge, "so that the people may have more." Coolidge signed into law Revenue Acts that lowered income tax rates from 73 percent to 24 percent. He, together with Harding, also cut federal expenditures in half. "Anybody can reduce taxes," Coolidge said, "but it is not so easy to stand in the gap and resist the passage of increasing appropriation bills which would make tax reduction impossible." Where were the results of these policies?

   It is no coincidence that the Harding/Coolidge era was one of the most prosperous in U.S. history. Gross National Product, wages, profits, productivity and the overall standard of living rose substantially. Although he was quite popular and faced no term limits, Coolidge refused to run for re-election in 1928. Today, it is rare to find any politician who wishes to self-limit his time in office

   Cal's Successor  

   When Coolidge decided to step down, Herbert Hoover - who was Secretary of Commerce for both Harding and Coolidge - secured their party's nomination and went on to win the presidency. Hoover served just one term in office. During those four years he essentially reversed the course of federal policy. Hoover pushed for higher taxes and farm subsidies, and proposed costly pension entitlements. He also signed the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, a protectionist policy that helped cause global economic depression.

   Under Hoover, federal spending roughly doubled and personal income tax rates jumped from 25 percent to 63 percent. He raised corporate taxes, too, and doubled the estate tax. Hoover also pressured business leaders to keep wages artificially high, contributing to massive unemployment. By the time he left office, the U.S. economy was in shambles and the Great Depression had arrived.

   Hoover is rightfully blamed for much of the economic calamity that left millions of Americans unemployed and penniless. But it is wrong to say he caused the Great Depression by following free-market principles. Hoover did just the opposite. He undermined economic freedom. Those mistakes were then compounded by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal," which prolonged the Great Depression. Rex Tugwell, an architect of FDR's policies, wrote: "we didn't admit it at the time, but practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs Hoover started."

   Election Time!

   The United States is not electing a president this year, but hundreds of other important offices will be on the ballot Nov.2. When evaluating a candidate for public office, I ask a simple question: Does the candidate support economic freedom? Economic freedom does not "belong" to any political party. After all, both Coolidge and Hoover were Republican. Candidates of any party who believe we need bigger government, more regulation, higher taxes, increased spending and borrowing, and more centralized decision making are threats to economic freedom. Like Hoover, their policies leave all of us - especially the poor - much worse off.

   Candidates who support economic freedom realize our government is already too big and intrusive, and is spending, borrowing, taxing and controlling too much. They support a strong and efficient government, but one that operates within strict Constitutional limits and in the best long-term interests of society. If you are concerned about creating jobs, growing our economy and enhancing our quality of life, then you need to be concerned about electing candidates that support freedom. This is true everywhere and at all times, not just in the United States this November.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Decision Time!

We need another "New Hope"

   After wrestling with the worst recession in a lifetime, many governments are now facing an even bigger economic challenge : what to do next. While the issues are complex, the debate over next steps essentially boils down to two schools of thought: First, there are those who urgently insist we need to spend more - even if it requires borrowing money - in hopes of stimulating something better. Second, are those who insist we must get in the habit of spending less and paying down debts to avoid making things worse. Everyone agrees that the consequences of a wrong decision could be enormous.


   For years, individuals, businesses and governments lived far beyond their means. They borrowed excessively at government-induced, artificially low interest rates and then went on spending sprees. All that spending appeared to be great for the economy, which grew at a rapid rate because of artificial stimulation. But what was growing even faster was a mountain of debt and bad investments. Consequently, when the economic meltdown began in 2008, its effects were fierce.

   As the recession spread from the United States to Europe and beyond, credit downgrades and defaults reached record levels. The global financial system appeared to be near collapse. Home values , commodity prices, stock values, currency rates, interest rates and fixed income assets collapsed. Unemployment rates began to soar, aggravated by government barriers to the mobility of employment.

   Governments in the European Union and the United States reacted by pouring trillions of euros and dollars into "relief" and "stimulus" programs intended to restart the economy. But these actions undermined true prosperity. With the government directing the economy, resources went to satisfying political desires rather than the desires and values of individual consumers. Of course, since there was no cash on hand for those programs, governments borrowed and central banks created even more money to fund these efforts.


   Many families and businesses are now slowly paying down their debts and spending less, especially for things that aren't essential. That's why sales of new homes and automobiles (overbuilt due to easy money and government subsidies) have slumped.

   When the U.S. government tried to stimulate sales of those products (through the "cash for clunkers" program and first-time home buyers tax credits), sales briefly rose, but then dropped after the programs expired. The drop in demand for goods and services created a decline in industrial production that was seen around the world. In Japan, industrial production dropped 40 percent from it's early 2008 peak. Even China suffered.

   Since so much of the world's economy depends on consumer spending, this newly frugal behavior has meant a slow-growth economic environment. The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of just 2.4 percent in the second quarter of this year, following a revised 3.7 percent rate in the first quarter. That compares with growth rates of 5.1, 9.3, 8.1 and 8.5 percent in the first four quarters following the next worst recession since World War II.


   So, if individuals and businesses have decided it's wise to trim their spending and pay down debt, what are governments doing? Just the opposite. In fact, additional deficit spending by the U.S. government has more than offset any private sector improvements. Keep in mind, this additional government spending is financed with borrowed money. Most governments were already running serious deficits before they tried stimulate any recovery.

   According to the International Monetary Fund, advanced economies - like those of the United States, Japan and Europe - now have public debts that are averaging more than 110 percent of gross domestic product. (Emerging economies, such as India and China, are below 40 percent.) At some point, a nation will have no reasonable hope of repaying its debts. The inevitable result is some sort of default, whether through outright bankruptcy, a restructuring of payments or devaluation of the currency.


   The good news is that the global recession appears to be over....for now. In general, the Asia-Pacific region fared better than the rest of the world. By comparison, Europe is in much worse shape and the United States is somewhere in between. I believe near term expectations are sobering and not likely to excite peoples belief in a real recovery. The economies of Europe and the U.S. are likely to be in a relatively weak, slow-growth mode for several years.

   Recoveries following serious housing busts and credit crunches typically take four or five years as banks and households focus on the hard work of rebuilding their finances. The process for a government to get out of debt is even harder, especially in a slow-growth environment.


   In Europe, assistance to Greece and other nations has already cost European taxpayers far more than expected, causing some to balk at any notion of taking on further debt to bail out over-extended economies. The Government of France disagrees with taking a conservative approach, and suggests that even more must be done - if necessary - to preserve the European Monetary Union. In the midst of all this disagreement, there are some encouraging signs.

   Ireland's government, for example, has already settled down to the painful task of cutting spending and repaying debt. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition government are doing the same. Britons have been told that a difficult period of "new austerity" is unavoidable if there is to be any hope of cleaning up their dire fiscal mess. (Government spending in the United Kingdom - as a percentage of GDP - is even higher than that of hapless Greece.)


   Europe's experience is another reminder, if one were needed, that every country with sustained budget deficits and rising debt ... needs to act in a timely manner to put in place a credible program for sustainable fiscal policies. This sort of thought process does not sit well with those urging the government to spend even more borrowed money on further "stimulus" for the shaky economy. Obama says we haven't spent enough! Many who might have agreed with that policy a few years ago now disagree with his policy ideas.

   There is nothing progressive about a government who consistently spend more than they can raise; there is certainly nothing progressive that endows future generations with the liabilities incurred by the current generation. While painful and slow in the short term, it is essential that we allow our economy to adjust. If politicians try to intervene and prevent or postpone this necessary adjustment, we run the serious risk of not just a double - dip recession, but a true depression. But, if we prevent further damage and begin to reverse the harm already done; we should be able to achieve positive long term growth rates. It's important to realize that prosperity is dependent on economic freedom. As citizens, are we going to advocate for economic freedom, or bigger government and lower well - being?


   Back when I was at the University of Florida I did a report on two Countries Argentina and Venezuela that undermined their own prosperity by instituting policies that undid what originally made them prosperous. They transformed themselves from free and prosperous societies into nations burdened by unemployment, escalating taxes and runaway inflation. Despite clear lessons from the past, many of the same misguided policies that have devastated those nations are now finding a home right here in the United States.

   After decades of growth and spending in the United States, we now see many disturbing parallels with South America's failures. If you look at the past 10 years of expanding government bureaucracy, spending and debt, it's clear the U.S. is losing ground. As a nation, we are no longer generating prosperity for society as a whole. We will continue to lose ground until government policymakers understand that more spending, more debt, more regulation and more centralized controls of every aspect of life can not make us better off. The simple truth is that many of the "new" or "progressive" policies being promoted in the U.S. are old ideas that have failed throughout history. Why in the world would we want to repeat such serious mistakes?


   What's at stake in this struggle is the future of the United States. Americans who are concerned about our future must speak out if this course toward economic ruin is to be reversed. Tea parties, for example, reflect a spontaneous recognition by thousands of Americans that if they do not act, the government will bankrupt their families and the country. Although our efforts to draw attention to government overspending pre-date recent tea parties by many years, I certainly applaud those citizens that are becoming more engaged in key policy issues.

   Citizens must hold lawmakers accountable for upholding the Constitutional principles of liberty and personal responsibility that helped the U.S. become productive and prosperous. There is too much to lose if we do not speak up - both to our elected officials and at the ballot box.


   When it comes to public policy, I believe the U.S. - not to mention much of Europe - has been headed in the wrong direction for quite some time. Republicans and Democrats alike have been fiscally irresponsible, spending more than they should be borrowing like there's no tomorrow. As a nation, we are, quite literally, going bankrupt.

   The upcoming elections in November will provide a prime opportunity to help steer things in a different direction. By educating ourselves on the issues and voting for those candidates that support economic freedom and prosperity, we have a chance to make a difference. To solve our nation's problems for the long term, we must remain principled and pursue practical, thoughtful solutions - solutions that can actually be implemented.

   We need all citizens to speak out about wasteful government spending. That is the best way to get policy makers focused on the serious problems that spending and unbridled debt are creating. I will continue to advocate for economic freedom and market-based policy solutions because they are proven pathways to prosperity for all. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, a market-based approach to public policy may not be perfect, but it beats all the other alternatives that have been tried.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Where to go from here?

To correct these problems and prevent further deterioration, a wise path forward would have to include important changes. To start, our governments need satutory budget controls that eliminate deficit spending. We simply must spend less. Second, all spending iteams need to be part of the fiscal budget process.

This is an especially painful problem in the United States, where costly war efforts don't even show up on a federal budget that is already more than $1 trillion overspent. Perhaps the most difficult solution involves reforming existing entitlement programs or considering new ones.

Aging populations and declining birth-rates make real reform in this area necessary and inevitable. Complicating the challenge is not just agreeing on such difficult decisions, but implementing them within a reasonable period of time.

We can help make that happen by supporting leaders and policymakers who focus on fiscal discipline, smaller government and economic freedom!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

#3 Tipping Point!

   The third factor that should concern us all involves intrest expenses. Many of the world's leading economies are approaching a tipping point where there is little or no reasonable hope of ever being able to repay all their debts. In Britian, the national debt per child born this year is estimated at 20k euros . In Japan, it takes almost 60 percent of all tax reciepts just to service the national debt. Japan's situation would be even worse if the government could no longer sell most of it's bonds at below-market intrest rates to its citizens.

   During the five years ending in 2008, the "intrest" , just the intrest on U.S. debt went from $322 billion per year to $454 billion. That's a 41 percent increase by my calculations, and I'm just a english major, lol. Keep in mind those figures were before the government borrowed even more so it could spend trillions in "stimulus" dollars.

   Although the United States still has the largest and most diverse economy in the world, it is slowly becoming more and more vulnerable to its creditors, especially CHINA, which recently eclipsed Germany as the worlds largest exporter.

   Americans need to better prepare themselves for a new world in which the global economy is less and less dependent on the United States. Meanwhile, the debt clock keeps ticking, tick tock, tick tock....

#2 The Pain of Growing

   One of the most optimistic ways to deal with a debt trap is to assume your income is going to go up, despite lower investment in new opprotunities. This may not be realistic, but it sure sounds good, lol. Not surprisingly, many of the most optimistic governments budget proposals assume our economies will soon be growing at remarkable rates. It's true that robust growth can mean more jobs, more economic activity and most importantly for the government more tax reciepts. However, this growth is "inevitable" approach to budgeting is a lot like spending the winnings from your lottery ticket before you even know it's a winner; and the odds are that it's not, lol.

   To-date growth in the U.S economy has been nowhere near recent projections; and to make matters worse , an aging U.S. population will soon be paying less in taxes just when the government needs to payout more in retirement benefits. Japan is already feeling this demographic squeeze, as is much of the EU.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

#1 Debt--->GDP

When you want to borrow money these days most lenders will look at your income and expenses before making a decision. The higher your precentage of debt to income, the risker you are as a borrower. Similary, the ratio of a nation's debt to its gross domestic product is a very strong financial indicator.

The European Union set its debt limit at 60 percent of GDP, but Greece has already hit 125 percent and economists are predicting an EU average of around 80 percent by 2012. The European Central Bank's chief economist predicts U.K. debt will hit 88 percent of GDP next year, with the U.S rising to 100 percent and Japan at 200 percent.

Some U.S. poloticians have tried to calm our fears by saying the debt-to-GDP ratio was much higher at the end of WWII. They fail to mention that 90 percent of that debt was earmarked for military spending, which dropped dramatically after the war. Back then, federal entitlement programs, interest expenses and discretionary spending amounted to just 10 percent of GDP.

Today, more than half of U.S. debt is tied to a rising tide of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. Cutting all the federal government's discretionary spending would save only 15 percent.

To solve this problem, most governments prefer to raise taxes, not spend less. But if more money is siphoned off in taxes and government borrowing less, less is left to invest in opprotunities such as job creation in America.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Euro to a Zero.

All of the recent Stock Market chaos is very easy to explain. It all has to do with the de-value of the "Euro". For instance, most companies do a lot of global business and have delt with the euro as the base currency in those dealings. For the longest time the euro was worth more than the U.S dollar; which meant that when companies made profits over seas; the transfer from euro's to American dollars was almost 2 to 1. the profits were recieved here in the U.S as blow out earnings just on the fact that the conversion of the Euro to the U.S dollar.

Now the Euro is declining in value which hurts global businesses that have relied on the strength of the euro to further their businesses. It's very hard in the U.S to make a huge profit as a corporation because of all the taxes and what not. Thats why companies rely so heavaly on the Euro as a way to pair there U.S losses.

All the talk about Greece is not the issue, the issue is the Euro being down graded and thus hurting everybody in sight. The next real shoe to drop will be Ireland and their Huge banking sector. When that shoe drops so does the Euro, an thus causing businesses all over the world to fail; Get Ready!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Apple was Green

Apple has one group of people to thank for there current success in the world of tech. That single group would be the liberal green party. When you look around at any University these days you will see smart cars and prius's parked in the student lot. Getting out of those eco-friendly cars are people who live in a reality of instant gradification. They will have the iphone strapped to there pants a ipod on there arm, a Ipad in there left hand & starbucks coffee in there right.

To any onlooker they may look as if they are going to a Yoga confrence somewhere. Apple has really put all there eggs in one basket but the underlying question is will they continue to have there blow-out success? Hardware can only take you so far, just ask Dell or HP.

Apple has a problem coming down the road and that is the software problem that is linux and the ability for that program to compete with windows 7 in the future of computing world wide. Linux was just meant as a quick means to and end for the fantastic hardware that Apple created. What will be the driving software of the future for Apple?

How will they further their hardware with no gas? These are just many questions facing Apple in the future.