Monday, September 15, 2008

Last Stage Of Oil And Other Screw Ups


Politicians will blame recent gas price increases on the weather. While technically true, it hides the larger issue of government over-involvement in the marketplace.

  • Decades of restrictions on oil extraction in the U.S. and offshore have contributed to global supply issues.
  • Decades of restrictions on new oil refineries in the U.S. have led to an old and insufficient system for producing fuels.
  • Forcing banks and mortgage companies to abandon good business practices in the name of "fair lending" to unqualified or marginal buyers helped create the housing, mortgage, and banking crisis.
  • CAFE standards for automobiles and trucks that are creating significant cost for both buyers and manufacturers under the presumption that the market forces already in play would not happen.
  • Restrictions and red tape in the development and construction of clean coal and nuclear power generating plants leaving many areas of the country on the verge of insufficient power... while pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into subsidizing uneconomical alternatives.
The list can go on and on, but the negatives effects on our economy and infrastructure are accumulating. While Republicans have called repeatedly for the loosening or elimination of much government intrusion, Democrats have pushed for more... and then blamed the Bush administration for not "taking action."

As pointed out at Reformedville:

In June 2004, Deputy Treasury Secretary Sam Bodman said, “ We do not have a world class system of supervision of the housing government sponsored enterprises (GSE’s), even though the importance of the housing financial system that the GSE’s serve demand the best in housing supervision.

Bush said “Congress needs to pass legislation strengthening the independent regulator of government-sponsored enterprises like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, so we can keep them focused on the mission to expand home ownership” in December and again mentioned it in his state of the union address.

How did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac respond, flooding congress with campaign money. How did Congress react? Al Hubbard reports in the Washington Post:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said the following on Sept. 11, 2003: “We see entities that are fundamentally sound financially. . . . And even if there were a problem, the federal government doesn’t bail them out.”

Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), later that year: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

As recently as last summer, when housing prices had clearly peaked and the mortgage market had started to seize up, Dodd called on Bush to “immediately reconsider his ill-advised” reform proposals. Frank, now chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said that the president’s suggestion for a strong, independent regulator of Fannie and Freddie was “inane.”

So now we see unaffordable energy prices, collapse of the housing market, banks and Wall Street firms going belly up, automobile manufacturers dying, unemployment increasing and personal fortunes being lost.

Don't worry, even though the government may have screwed things up, it will save you.


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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)