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Posts Tagged ‘economy’
July 2nd, 2014 at 6:22 pm
An Energy Policy that Creates Jobs and Prestige

“By boosting our energy production, the U.S. could restore its diminishing influence in the world without expending blood and treasure – in fact, we would reap major economic benefits,” writes Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

Nunes is an up-and-coming member of the House Ways and Means Committee and is known for thinking big on how to use tax reform as a means to reestablish American leadership in the global economy.

Rationalizing our energy policy would go a long way too.

Thanks to improvements in technology large, untapped domestic oil and natural gas reservoirs are now reachable. States like North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma are moving to capitalize, while huge potential awaits enterprising politicians and businesses in California and Colorado.

The benefits are many. More energy production means more jobs in extracting, refining and shipping. For example, an entry-level rig worker in North Dakota averages about $66,000 a year, while the average oil industry job in the state was $112,462 as of 2012. That also means more jobs for people serving workers flush with disposal income.

There’s also a national security angle. With Iraq’s oil fields under siege by Islamic militants, Venezuela constantly swayed by demagogic collectivists and Russia threatening to cut off natural gas shipments, it’s time for the United States to take the steps necessary to ensure greater energy independence.

Unsurprisingly, Nunes wants President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as implement other measures to put the nation in a game-changing position. Of course, that isn’t happening unless Obama adopts Bill Clinton’s triangulation strategy.

Don’t hold your breath.

Still, Nunes makes a compelling case for using national energy policy as a way to improve both our domestic economy and global prestige.

It’s an angle that economically recessed, war-weary Americans might soon embrace.

June 5th, 2014 at 11:37 am
The Brave New Job Market

“The number of jobs requiring medium levels of skill has shrunk, while the number at both ends of the distribution – those requiring high and low skill levels – has expanded,” says a new research report from the Dallas Federal Reserve.

This employment polarization is changing the standard of living for those in the middle class since, “The number of people performing low-skill, low-pay, manual labor has grown along with the number undertaking high-skill, high-pay, non-routine, principally problem-solving jobs.”

Moving to the wealthier pole requires adapting to non-routine cognitive work since computer automation and off-shoring makes jobs such as “brokers, clerks, tellers, cashiers, telemarketers, title examiners, bookkeepers, insurance underwriters, travel agents and technicians” increasingly irrelevant.

This is sobering news for those aspiring to middle class status. There was a time when a college degree qualified a person’s cognitive abilities, and working according to a companywide routine virtually guaranteed a middle class lifestyle. That time is past. Going forward the likelihood that a person will escape the perils of low-income will depend greatly on her ability to be increasingly entrepreneurial in every facet of her work; whether as a full-time employee or independent contractor.

It’s a reality many formerly comfortable middle class workers would like to avoid. But with computing power and automation spreading quickly everywhere, it looks like the only option available.

Welcome to the brave new job market.

May 27th, 2014 at 4:26 pm
ObamaCare Causing 54% of Small Businesses Not to Hire

An article at the website Accounting Today starts with the headline, “ObamaCare Weighing Less on Hiring Plans.” In it, the author analyzes new poll results asking accountants who work with small businesses how the health law is impacting their hiring practices.

Last year, an identical poll found that 66 percent of small businesses said ObamaCare made it less likely they would hire new employees. This year’s survey reported a drop to 54 percent.

This is great news, according to the firm that commissioned the poll. “[W]hile planning for the Affordable Care Act is still impacting many businesses’ plans for hiring, it is causing significantly fewer businesses to slow hiring in the coming year in comparison to last year, which is positive.”

It would be more accurate to say, “less negative.”

Imagine the euphoria if ObamaCare wasn’t a factor at all. That would allow 54 percent of small businesses to base hiring decisions on opportunities to win market share. Instead, a stout majority are holding tight on their headcount because they can’t afford ObamaCare’s increased compliance costs.

Going forward, we’re likely to see more poll numbers and reporting like this that makes it seem like ObamaCare’s influence on economic growth is diminishing, when in fact businesses have already absorbed the initial hit that comes with ObamaCare, and have fundamentally changed their operations.

There is a ‘new normal’ of less full-time jobs, more part-timers and an increasing reliance on independent contractors. Dramatic year-to-year changes are likely to diminish over time as employers factor in ObamaCare’s increased labor costs and staff accordingly.

The real story here isn’t how many businesses will hire less people because of ObamaCare; it is how many jobs are not being created because of ObamaCare.

May 6th, 2014 at 10:26 am
Ramirez Cartoon: It’s the weather…
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

May 2nd, 2014 at 12:31 pm
Video: The Special Interests President
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’’ Renee Giachino discusses the special interest-driven politics that is to blame for the ongoing delays preventing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

May 1st, 2014 at 8:01 pm
Toyota Votes for Texas over California

Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters from Torrance, CA to Plano, TX. The move is estimated to generate a combined $140 million annually in local property and sales taxes for the Dallas suburb.

The announcement comes on the heels of at least 250 other California-based companies heading to the Lone Star State, according the Dallas Morning News.

Industry icons include Occidental Petroleum Corp. moving some of its facilities from Los Angeles to Houston; Raytheon Co. transferring aerospace units to McKinney from Southern California; and Trend Micro Inc. changing its corporate address from Silicon Valley to Irving.

For his part, California Governor Jerry Brown isn’t concerned. “We’ve got a few problems, we have lots of little burdens and regulations and taxes, but smart people figure out how to make it [in the state],” he said at an event when asked about Toyota.

Then again, maybe smart people will opt for pro-business locations that don’t inflict “lots of little burdens and regulations and taxes.”

April 29th, 2014 at 1:56 pm
Free Market Fairness

Ben Domenech says that one way for conservatives to reframe their economic message before the 2014 midterms is to start using the phrase, “free market fairness.”

“Those on the right should be prepared to make the case that the warped relationship between Wall Street and Washington needs to be fixed, that socialized risks and privatized profits are fundamentally unfair, and that… equality-focused policy solutions, and those of the left, would hurt income mobility and systematically destroy wealth and growth,” he writes in the Wall Street Journal.

Free market fairness can be thought of as the alternative to crony capitalism. The latter can be defined as “government efforts to tilt markets in favor of preferred firms [to] reward political connections and lobbying money.” Troy’s recent article on eliminating the elite-driven Export-Import Bank is an excellent example of how conservatives can show they are serious about removing barriers to equal economic opportunities.

Adopting the free market fairness frame also strengthens the GOP’s insistence on a government dedicated to the rule of law. As Solyndra and other Recovery Act era abuses fade from memory, the rule of law critique has been increasingly focused on abuses of executive discretion like Deferred Action for illegal immigrants, Justice Department refusals to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and the growing litany of delays and waivers of ObamaCare. Refocusing on how crony capitalism picks winners and losers would bring the rule of law argument full circle.

Maintaining a fair playing field isn’t the same as giving one team extra points. The only way the American dream can remain open to everyone is if the people in charge of the rule book fairly to all participants.

March 14th, 2014 at 1:34 pm
Could Obama Neuter Putin by Increasing Natural Gas Exports?

That is the interesting idea being floated by commentators looking for ways to halt Russia’s military adventurism in Ukraine.

If direct military intervention is off the table – and at this point it’s hard to imagine the Obama administration going that route – then exporting America’s vast new reservoir of liquefied natural gas to Europe could be a way to deter Russian aggression in the region while at the same time strengthening our allies.

Gazprom, a huge state-controlled gas provider in Russia, supplies much of Europe. Hesitancy on the part of some European governments to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is tied to Russia’s use of Gazprom to raise prices or restrict access when confronted with political situations it does not like. Increasing United States exports of its natural gas stock to Europe would diminish this threat substantially, allowing America’s European allies to take a more assertive stance against further Russian force.

In order to wean Europe off of Russian gas, President Barack Obama “should order the Energy Department to expedite authorization for roughly 25 liquefied natural gas export facilities. Demand all decisions within six weeks. And express major U.S. support for a southern-route pipeline to export Caspian Sea gas to Europe without traversing Russia or Ukraine,” writes Charles Krauthammer.

This solution puts an abundant natural resource to work for America’s national security interests, and also increases the number of domestic production and manufacturing jobs. The only hitch is that it requires President Obama to commit his administration to an energy policy opposed by liberal environmentalists. That alone probably dooms an otherwise win-win alternative to direct military intervention or sitting pat while Russia reconstitutes the Soviet Union. If so, it’s more confirmation that current Oval Office decisions are based more on pleasing special interest groups than helping domestic workers or our foreign allies.

March 3rd, 2014 at 1:42 pm
ObamaCare’s War on Work

Up to 38% of people who qualify for Obamacare exchange subsidies may have to pay some or all of the money back to the IRS. That’s because the amount of subsidy dispensed is based on a sliding scale. As income rises, the amount of subsidy decreases. In practice, many people who currently qualify for a subsidy could wind up paying back the amount if they earn just a little bit more in income.

“At biggest risk are people who annual household income put them near the thresholds where the Obamacare subsidies make steep declines,” explains AEI expert Scott Gottlieb. “These cliffs are steepest for those people who earn 150% of the federal poverty level (family of four earning $35,000 in annual household income); 250% (a family of four earning about $55,000 annually); and 400% (a family of four earning about $95,000 annually).”

The upshot of this is that people may become much more sensitive to family budgeting since their financial stability depends on which side of the subsidy wall they fall. The downside of course is that we’re likely to start seeing people decline job promotions and salary hikes to avoid becoming a net loser at tax time.

As I’ve noted before, Obamacare’s War on Work is just beginning.

February 26th, 2014 at 5:29 pm
ObamaCare Menu Regulations Could Decrease Food Options

“Tucked deep in the Affordable Care Act is language requiring all restaurants with at least 20 locations to list nutritional information alongside each and every item on the menu,” writes Peter Doocy at Fox News.

The purpose is to inform customers about the nutritional value of a menu item before ordering.

This regulation hits made-to-order eateries particularly hard, since in practice the restaurant would have to provide customers with things like calorie counts on-the-fly – a nearly impossible task for places like Domino’s where up to “34 million different pizza combinations [are] available at the chain, when all crusts and cheeses and toppings are factored in.”

To make matters worse, the cost of compliance will fall on franchisees; i.e., the small business owners most at risk under the new regulation.

Domino’s and other groups are pushing for a solution that would deem restaurant owners compliant if they provide the nutritional information online or through an app.

But if that fails, it’s easy to see eateries cutting back on menu options and clamping down on substitutions. “Have-it-your-way” may soon become “Talk to the FDA.”

If the proposed nutritional rule goes into effect as-is, Americans can add food to the growing number of health-related choices – including doctors, hospitals and insurance plans – that are being reduced thanks to Obamacare.

January 29th, 2014 at 2:04 pm
Podcast: Median Income Continues to Decline … and So Do Temperatures
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

CFIF Senior Vice President Timothy Lee discusses how the U.S. has fallen from the top ten most economically free nations in the world and how, in unrelated news, temperatures have fallen too despite the warnings from the global warming alarmists.

Listen to the interview here.

January 14th, 2014 at 6:10 pm
Obama’s “Pen-and-Phone” Strategy

Get ready for more presidential overreach.

Today, Barack Obama convened his first Cabinet meeting of the year. Unwilling to negotiate with Republicans in Congress, the President threatened to bypass the legislative process in order to impose his preferred policies through executive orders.

“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” CBS’ DC affiliate quotes the President telling Cabinet members. “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”

Quick, grab the pen and unplug the phone!

What Obama is promising is to intervene in every stage of an American worker’s lifecycle, without any input from the 535 people elected to represent their diverse interests in Congress. Instead, he will rely on the accumulated wisdom of the bureaucratic and trade association elites to impose change in a centralized, top-down fashion.

It’s as if after five years of running annual trillion dollar deficits, destabilizing the health insurance market, destroying the coal industry and presiding over the largest increase in food stamp use in history the President thinks he needs to increase his influence over the nation’s economy.

It would be better if instead of rushing to issue a flurry of short-lived orders President Obama instead took the remainder of his lame duck tenure for what it is: An opportunity to see the big picture and exercise some humility.

Republicans are interested in talking about poverty reduction. Obama – whose upcoming State of the Union speech is rumored to include a section on income inequality – should meet them half way. Have a real conversation. In private and in public. Elevate thoughtful opponents like Paul Ryan so that the American people see two powerful intellects engaging a serious issue in a respectful way. In short, dabble in statesmanship.

Obama’s executive orders will expire the moment he leaves office. They will also incite partisan opposition, and rightly so since each will represent an end-run around the lawmaking process.

Mr. President, you can do a lot better than your so-called “pen-and-phone” strategy. America deserves it.

October 17th, 2013 at 11:19 am
Gov’t Before the Shutdown vs. Gov’t After the Shutdown
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

September 19th, 2013 at 10:45 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Uniter-In-Chief
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 27th, 2013 at 11:53 am
More Bad Economic News for Obama
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Earlier this month, I noted that our economy continues to sputter at stalling speed, some four long years after the last recession officially ended:

The U.S. Commerce Department announced second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth of just 1.7%.  That follows first-quarter 2013 growth of just 1.1%, and fourth-quarter 2012 growth of just 0.1%.  Together, that means our economy has grown less than 1% over the past nine months. That obviously provides additional confirmation that Obama’s economic agenda has failed, even as he barnstorms the country demanding more of the same.”  

Yesterday, Macroeconomic Advisers lowered its third-quarter GDP projection to just 1.8%, which would make four consecutive quarters below 2%.  The fourth quarter of 2012 came in at 0.1%, the first quarter of 2013 was 1.1% and growth for the recently-completed second quarter of 2013 was 1.7%.  That’s significant, because growth below 2% on a year-over-year basis has been followed by a recession some 70% of the time according to a Federal Reserve study.  Keep in mind that the average quarterly GDP growth since 1929 has been 3.3%.

Meanwhile, American workers’ wages continue to stagnate, according to the Labor Department.  Since the recession ended all the way back in June 2009, average hourly pay for non-supervisory employees outside of the government sector has declined 0.9%.  It’s one thing for wages to decline during a recession, but another thing entirely for them to fall during a supposed “recovery.”  Obviously, record trillion-dollar deficits aren’t the only unfortunate novelties of the Obama presidency.

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July 31st, 2013 at 8:38 pm
Gallup: Fed Unemployment Formula Distorts Jobs Picture

Beware of financial bureaucrats posing as economists. That’s my main takeaway from some pre-analysis of Friday’s unemployment numbers by Gallup’s lead economist, Dennis Jacobe.

As is sometimes the case when using metrics to understand reality, it looks like the federal government isn’t counting the right economic event if it truly wants to understand the employment market.

According to Jacobe, “The current government job measures leave a lot to be desired in terms of face-validity. For example, [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke noted in his testimony to Congress that the Fed’s unemployment target may need to be adjusted, depending on the labor participation rate. A declining participation rate can artificially lower the unemployment rate as job seekers give up looking for work, while an increasing participation rate can do the reverse.”

The problem is particularly acute when one considers how the feds count part-time jobs.

“Similarly, the establishment survey can be distorted by a surge in part-time jobs – a factor that may need to be considered when one evaluates Friday’s report,” writes Jacobe. “Part-time jobs not only count as new jobs for this survey, but if an American having one part-time job adds an additional part-time job, it counts the same as the creation of a new full-time job.”

This kind of counting completely misrepresents the rise in multiple part-time jobs. By treating two-part time jobs as the equivalent of one full-time job, the metric leaves out the fact that unlike just about every full-time job, almost no part-time job provides health or retirement benefits. Thus, while the hours worked my be roughly the same, the overall compensation is not.

What makes this an especially pernicious way to describe today’s employment market is the well-documented impact ObamaCare is having on the decline of full-time employment. If the federal unemployment survey continues to equate workers with multiple part-time jobs and those with full-time employment, a huge net loss in millions of workers’ standard of living will be lost because the official formula simply doesn’t account for it.

That’s a point worth remembering if Friday’s unemployment numbers come back better than expected.

June 13th, 2013 at 7:01 pm
Pro-Texas Ad Campaign in Anti-Business Blue States

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry is once again visiting Democratic strongholds in an attempt to lure businesses to relocate to the Lone Star State.

Perry is set to meet with business groups in New York and Connecticut, reports National Public Radio. Previously, Perry extolled his state’s low-tax, light-regulation approach in California and Illinois.

But Perry’s initiative is more than just a series of speeches and photo-ops. His moves are coordinated with the work of TexasOne, a coalition of chambers of commerce and corporations funding a $1 million advertising campaign in the targeted states.

YouTube ads like “Texas is Calling” tout the state’s nine consecutive years ranked #1 for business, hosting the world’s largest medical center and welcoming 1,400 new residents a day.

With states like California, Illinois, New York and Connecticut ranking near the bottom in business-friendly taxes and regulations, it’s no wonder Perry sees an opportunity to let wealth creators in those states know there is an alternative.

May 9th, 2013 at 1:50 pm
Poll: Gun Control & Immigration Not in Top Ten Most Important Issues to Americans

A new Gallup poll provides more proof that the liberal fixation on gun control and immigration reform isn’t even on the Top Ten list of the most important issues for Americans:

As you know, there are many different issues on which Congress and the president can focus their time and attention. Please tell me if you think, at this time, Congress and the president should make each of the following a top priority, a high priority, a medium priority, a low priority, or not a priority at all. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]? May 2013 results

This suggests to me that one way to inject issues 1-10 into the deliberations about gun control and immigration is for Republicans in Congress to ask rhetorically, “Why are we discussing restricting guns and legalizing illegal immigrants when 1) 86 percent of Americans want us help create jobs and help the economy grow, 2) 81 percent want us to make the government work more efficiently and fix our schools, and 3) 77 percent want us to address the financial problems with Social Security and Medicare?”

Rather than letting Democrats pick the two issues that most divide Republicans, GOP members of Congress should be picking issues that divide the opposition. Any of Gallup’s Top Ten are natural strong points for Republicans, and especially conservatives. All they need to do is pick one and start reframing the debate.

Now.

May 2nd, 2013 at 8:06 pm
Obama’s Regulatory Legacy To Date: 131 New Major Regs Totaling $70B

With the first half of President Barack Obama’s regulatory legacy behind us, the folks at Heritage tallied up the cost thus far – 131 new major regulations totaling $70 billion.

Major regulations are those imposing a cost on the economy of at least $100 million or more each year.

In 2012, the two biggest profit-killers were (1) a joint EPA-Dept. of Transportation rule to boost fuel-economy standards that will result in an average new price increase of $1,800.00, and (2) an EPA Utility MACT regulation designed to shut down coal plants by making it cost prohibitive to meet new emissions standards.

On deck are the literally hundreds of regulations spawned by ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Since those are still working their way through the bureaucracy, it’s too early to estimate what their financial impact will be. One this is certain, though; they won’t be cheap.

Get a copy of the entire report, Red Tape Rising, here.

April 16th, 2013 at 1:46 pm
Legalization Bad for Low-Income Native Workers?

Now that the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill has been slowed down a bit, it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider what economic trade-offs might occur if millions of illegal immigrants become eligible to enter the job market. Since many of these newly eligible workers are low-skilled, they’ll be competing with low-skilled, low-wage native workers in an economy with 7.6 percent unemployment.

Members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are taking notice, says Byron York:

Last week, three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights wrote to Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, arguing that legalizing currently illegal immigrants will have far-reaching effects on African-Americans.

“Such grant of legal status will likely disproportionately harm lower-skilled African-Americans by making it more difficult for them to obtain employment and depressing their wages when they do obtain employment,” the commissioners wrote. “The increased employment difficulties will likely have negative consequences that extend far beyond economics.” Among those consequences, according to the commissioners: increased crime, incarceration, family breakdown, and more.

A recent review of the academic literature by Harvard economist George Borjas confirms the negative impact mass legalization will have on low-skilled native wages:

For American workers, immigration is primarily a redistributive policy. Economic theory predicts that immigration will redistribute income by lowering the wages of competing American workers and increasing the wages of complementary American workers as well as profits for business owners and other “users” of immigrant labor. Although the overall net impact on the native-born is small, the loss or gain for particular groups of the population can be substantial.

The best empirical research that tries to examine what has actually happened in the U.S. labor market aligns well with economy theory: An increase in the number of workers leads to lower wages.

If you increase the supply of something, you lower its value. If they want a way to frame opposition in positive terms, expect to see Republican opponents of the Gang of Eight’s reform bill to become the champions of the forgotten working class.