Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Excessive Spending - 6.32


That's the CPI inflation factor compared with 1965.

Are we truly better off today as a nation than we were in 1965? Remember, back then we were just getting involved in the Vietnam conflict. We had the Cold War with the Soviet Union. We had a space race going on. And we were a net exporter of manufactured products.

  • The minimum wage was $1.25; today it is $5.15........... increased 4.12 times

  • Community college cost $9.00 per tuition hour (1966); in 2003 it was $60.00 ........... increased 6.66 times
  • University tuition was $440 per semester (1972); today it is $4,440........... increased 10 times
  • A 3-bedroom ranch home cost $25,000 in 1965; today it is $250,000 ........... increased 10 times
  • My wife bought a new, full-sized Ford Galaxie 500 with all options for $3,000 in 1965; today a comparable full-sized Ford costs $28,000........ increased 9.3 times
  • National health care costs were $73 billion in 1970; in 2003 it was $1,679 billion........ an increase of 23 times
Now, I'll admit that the quality of some things has increased... but at a significant cost. What hasn't necessarily increased is the ability to afford the comparable things.

Wealth has increased... apparent wealth. Inflation adjusted debt has increased from about $35,000 per person in 1965 to $140,000 today ......... 4 times in real terms.

So let's boil it down to the essence:
  • Starting wages are not keeping up with general inflation... if you are poor, you are likely to be poorer than your 1965 counterpart
  • The cost of education is outstripping our ability to pay for it... but our strategy is to increase our national wealth by having an "intellectual industry"
  • The cost of major products are increasing in real terms
  • Health care is too costly for the working poor
  • Our national debt seems to be our growth product for the future
What does that mean?
  • Families must have two wage earners to survive; the one-income household is an anachronism
  • Economic stratification will intensify; fewer well-paying blue-collar jobs will be available and the opportunity to move to the "intellectual industry" will be reduced
  • The illusion of national prosperity will be harder to sustain; as pensions plans disappear over time, the economic boost from the retired sector will diminish overall consumer spending... retirement savings will not be enough for many given the level of debt most families have

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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."
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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)