Friday, January 23, 2015

The Ups and the Downs

Job openings are up by two tenths of a point, according to a private company that does monthly surveys of employers. Last weeks new unemployment claims were down.

Mitt Romney's 47%, the people that he doesn't care about, is down to only 40% of the population. The slowly recovering economy has resulted in more of the Working Poor making enough to pay some income tax.

Overall inflation (including fuel & food) was down to 0.8% in December, although core inflation (non-volatile items) was neither up nor down. The Federal Reserve has a target of 2% annual inflation in order spur investment rather than cash hoarding in anticipation of deflation. Fed Chair Janet Yellen's concern level is not up despite the weak inflation numbers, but you can expect interest rates to stay down, I'm guessing for years to come.

Falling commodity prices are starting to affect non-volatile prices with airfares down 5% in December. Average hourly wages fell five cents last month, there's that hint of deflation we don't want to see.

Obama has proposed raising up capital gains taxes from a top rate of 20% to 28% on incomes over $500k. He'd also like to close down the Capital Gains Loophole on Estate Taxes. This would be bad news for the 97% of billionaires who are not entrepreneurs but increase their wealth by manipulating the rest of us with the power of their money. It won't actually get rid of the inherited wealth that makes the upper class the useless parasites that they are.

Obama would use the increased revenue to dramatically raise earned income credits. The problem with that is it's also the Walmart subsidy. Earned Income Tax Credits help the working poor and enable these low wage business models that have destroyed all the Mom & Pop businesses in the US.

Obama doesn't expect any of this to pass, but in point of fact the Republicans were considering raising the subsidy for Walmart workers, however by Obama backing it this will make sure it won't happen. This is a good strategy for 2016 and you could say the politics are hurting the working poor, but having Republicans in charge is far worse for people than them just being poor.

Standard & Poors is down in the dumps having been suspended by the SEC from rating mortgages for one year & being fined $80m. None of those responsible for rating worthless mortgages AAA investments like they were Treasury bonds will go to prison and S&P has not been put out of business. A real downer for actual Justice.

The long term outlook for the poor is down, with the bottom 60% holding just 1.7% of all US wealth. Very few people in the bottom 60% can raise a $1000 cash for an emergency. Funny to think about almost 2/3 of Americans as being at "The Bottom". Funny in that Conservatives still talk about how great America is.

Obama was pretty upbeat with his State of the Union speech, not that the US is doing so great, but compared to the state of the European Union it's time to sing Happy Days are Here Again. The European Central Bank has begun its own QE money printing program to buy $70b/month of bonds.

Countries that lifted up two fingers to austerity like France did are doing pretty well just the same, but the Euro itself is in trouble. This is great for the USD unless things really start to get out of hand, then it's a big downer for everybody, except maybe China, they are the only people who actually seem to know what they're up to.

Twitter @BruceEnberg - Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush agree that income inequality is real and only Conservative values can fix the problem. Yeah, everybody raise up a digit to salute to that.