Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Have you noticed your Home owners insurance? Clean energy news and lots of water.

A year ago I noticed my property owners insurance has been rather high.  I say property because some is home, some is business.  So, being that have been using accounting software since 1991, I went back a few years to see how much.  In 2003 the house was $454/year.  This year it will be $1543.  Better than tripled.   Do you know why?  Natural disasters.  Google it.

That brings me to 2 recent articles.  This one regarding how fast the ice is melting.  Faster than they thought.

The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.

The science of ice melt rates is advancing so fast, scientists have generally been reluctant to put a number to what is essentially an unpredictable, nonlinear response of ice sheets to a steadily warming ocean. With Hansen’s new study, that changes in a dramatic way. One of the study’s co-authors is Eric Rignot, whose own study last year found that glacial melt from West Antarctica now appears to be “unstoppable.” Chris Mooney, writing for Mother Jones, called that study a “holy shit” moment for the climate.

Well, I think that is the correct response.

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Sports, John Oliver’s inspiration to say NO!

This is just so perfect.  Yet again, our comedians have to do what journalist are supposed to do.  And, he does it with facts!  Considering here in RIland some rich dude (who just died) paid $20 million for the Pawtucket Red Sox (the Boston’s farm team) and has proposed moving it to Providence on the water front…for $120 million over 30 years in tax free land along with other stuff, Mr. Oliver could not have been more timely.

Unfortunately, the sense I’m getting is that the people are giving a rather large NO!  But, of course our legislators are giving the “Let’s hear them out” line.   One idiot, happens to be representing my home town actually used the phrase “loss leader” as the reason why we should spend the public money this way.   Had the nerve to ask a person if they knew what it means?  F’n idiot!  Our senate leader: Afterward, in a one-on-one interview with NBC 10 News, Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed said hopes of keeping the team at McCoy Stadium may be a lost cause.

Watching John Oliver here, he could be talking about our Paw Sox situation.  It is exactly what is being played on the people of RI.  It’s a tried and true game plan used against the people.

Make sure you check out 3 points in the video.  The first is 8:35 onward.  It’s so funny.  The next is 11:00 where he talks about the economic findings and one economist suggested better plan.  The last is the end at 15:37 where he gives the inspirational halftime speech.

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Fast Track just passed the House (Updated with money facts)

Just want to let everyone know that the Fast Track bill just passed the house.  The vote was 218 to 208 with 28 Dem’s voting for it.  Imagine that.  no provision for workers harmed by this and it passes.

From the article here is Ryan’s take:

“It gives America credibility,” Ryan said of TPA. “And boy, do we need credibility right now.”

Who is he concerned about looking creditable too?

On to the senate.  Maybe all the talk about it being unconstitutional lately someone with money that gives more than lip service to being a patriot will step up.

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It’s crunch time. Just a little reminder from Ross

Just a little reminder for everyone.  It’s not just his “giant sucking sound” comment.  It’s the time frame he noted, and the advantages to a business going to a foreign nation.  Well, tomorrow is the Fast Track vote and there are some dem’s who are not taking the threat of loosing their job seriously enough.

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Nick and Joe are doing their best to beat back Milton Friedman et al

Nick Hanauer, Joseph Sitglitz videos.

This is the latest presentation Nick Hanauer has made regarding the upside downness of our economy and the backward, selfish thinking that has gotten us here. In this one he is talking to his “plutocrat” friends:

We plutocrats need to see that the United States of America made us not the other way around. That a thriving middle class is the source of prosperity in capitalist economies, not a consequence of it. And we should never forget, that even the best of us, in worst of circumstances are barefoot by the side of a dirt road selling fruit.

He takes on economics and how it is used today by plutocrats to reinforce their positions:

…for thousands of years, these stories were called divine right. Today, we have trickle down economics. How obviously, transparently self-serving all of this is.

 

Then comes Joseph Stiglitz talking about the cause and fix for income inequality.  This is based on his latest book.     He lays the cause to the “supply side” economics and thus the results of politics and policy.  It was a “disaster”.

The financial sector in recent years has been more active in taking money out of corporations than putting money into the corporations.  The flow is going the other way.

It is nice to hear someone talking about the solution in a comprehensive way.  A way that reflects understanding society and its economy in the same manor we have come to understand the environment.

Wouldn’t you just love to see them together on one of the Sunday morning shows around at table with say Senator Warren and Sanders and on the other side the Koch brothers and say Paul Ryan, McConnell and Boehner?  Maybe a Chicago School boy or girl?  Let’s throw in Jack Lew or who ever is the latest to hold that position.  How about someone from labor and the US Chamber to balance it out?  Better yet, how about simply a table of Nick, Joe, Warren, Sanders, Labor and Robert Reich maybe also Paul Krugman.  Forget the fair and balance act.

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Nope! Was the response when Senator Warren was asked about Harry Reid’s job.

By happenstance I heard today, Senator Warren’s interview on Here and Now.

I just wonder, was the answer to the question about running for the Democratic Senate top position adamant enough for those who keep pushing to have her run for a leadership position?  How is it that some of the leadership in the progressing/liberal genre not get that she is already a leader?  She’s leading already!  Now, let’s get a few more please.

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Health news

I’m not sure if there are studies looking at the long term effects of such advice on one’s health especially in this economy, but I can see where in the words of Arlo Guthrie, it could create a movement.

 

Health Experts Recommend Standing up at Desk, Leaving Office and Never Coming Back

ROCHESTER, MN—In an effort to help working individuals improve their fitness and well-being, experts at the Mayo Clinic issued a new set of health guidelines Thursday recommending that Americans stand up at their desk, leave their office, and never return. “Many Americans spend a minimum of eight hours per day sitting in an office, but we observed significant physical and mental health benefits in subjects after just one instance of standing up, walking out the door, and never coming back to their place of work again,” said researcher Claudine Sparks, who explained that those who implemented the practice in their lives reported an improvement in mood and reduced stress that lasted for the remainder of the day, and which appeared to persist even into subsequent weeks. “We encourage Americans to experiment with stretching their legs by strolling across their office and leaving all their responsibilities behind forever just one time to see how much better they feel. People tend to become more productive, motivated, and happy almost immediately. We found that you can also really get the blood flowing by pairing this activity with hurling your staff ID across the parking lot.” Sparks added that Americans could maximize positive effects by using their lunch break to walk until nothing looks familiar anymore and your old life is a distant memory.

The Onion February 6, 2015

Maybe the labor unions could follow-up on this advice and determine what the long term benefits might be?

There is also this report today:

New Study Finds Therapy, Antidepressants Equally Effective At Monetizing Depression

NORMAN, OK—Noting that similar outcomes were achieved under both approaches, a landmark decade-long study of mental health treatment options published Tuesday has found that talk therapy and antidepressant medications are equally effective at monetizing clinical depression. “Our data indicate that regular counseling sessions and prescription drugs have similarly high success rates in generating large sums of money from the clinically depressed,” said Katherine Hutton of the University of Oklahoma, the study’s lead author, noting that both methods demonstrated consistent positive earnings across chronic, episodic, and seasonal depression cases. “While some people make tremendous profits with drugs, others see substantial revenues from therapy. Together, these are two very powerful tools for improving the health care industry’s bottom line.” The study concluded that when both approaches are combined, financial results are likely to be reached far more quickly than with one method alone.

The Onion, February 17, 2015

 

I think this raises some ethical questions for the medical profession and possibly concerns for congress as to the incentives within the ACA.

Certainly, the expert advice combined with the study would create some discussion within congress regarding the policy related to just about anything…

 

 

 

 

 

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Another image of labor’s broken back: $48,887 in profit per employee!

This article via Yahoo news caught my attention: Five years into recovery, Dow Companies squeeze workers as investors thrive

I think this picture spells it out rather well.

 

Profit per employee

“As the chart shows, the 30 huge companies that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average have barely nudged their employee ranks higher…”

But this is even more astounding:

Over the past five years, total profits of the current Dow 30 members surged by more than 42% through the end of 2014, to nearly $320 billion. This has driven the average annual profit per employee up by more than 34% since 2009, to $48,887.

According to this CNN article from August, the median household income is $53,891.    That means these 30 companies are pocketing 90% of what an household earns.  That’s out the door, cash in the pocket 90% of what a household works all year to earn.  Now, I’m not sure, but I think that household income is pretax and I doubt they get to hid that $53,891 in some account out of reach of the tax man.  In fact, I’ll bet that household needs every bit of that money just to get through the year.

Well, the 30 are not hiding all of it:

Dividends paid by the Dow 30 are up better than 30% the past five years, according to FactSet.

Read the article.  The author does his best to explain this situation, but it’s seem more like excuses.  A grasping at straws to dismiss what we know has been an intentional drive to get to this point.  My interpretation of it is that these companies are now able to “grow” the pot of money without actually having to increase their sales.  True money from money… but, they are scared that this magic will leave them and then what?

$48,887 PROFIT PER EMPLOYEE!

 

 

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Chocolate, the free market battle ground

I’m a chocoholic.  Can’t eat it as much as I used to.  So, this bit of news by way of C & L caught my eye.  I’ll let the article speak for it’s self.

As a result of a settlement with the Hershey’s Company, Let’s Buy British Imports, or L.B.B., agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolate made overseas. The company also agreed to halt imports on KitKat bars made in Britain; Toffee Crisps, which, because of their orange packaging, and yellow-lined brown script, too closely resemble Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; Yorkie chocolate bars, which infringe on the York peppermint patty; and Ms. Perry’s beloved Maltesers.

Jeff Beckman, a representative for Hershey’s, said L.B.B. and others were importing products not intended for sale in the United States, infringing on its trademark and trade dress licensing. For example, Hershey’s has a licensing agreement to manufacture Cadbury’s chocolate in the United States with similar packaging used overseas, though with a different recipe.

“It is important for Hershey to protect its trademark rights and to prevent consumers from being confused or misled when they see a product name or product package that is confusingly similar to a Hershey name or trade dress,” Mr. Beckman said in an email.

It’s that different recipe that gets me regarding the “free market” and “competition”.

Chocolate in Britain has a higher fat content; the first ingredient listed on a British Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (plain milk chocolate) is milk. In an American-made Cadbury’s bar, the first ingredient is sugar.

American Cadbury bars also include PGPR and soy lecithin, both emulsifiers that reduce the viscosity of chocolate, giving it a longer shelf life. British Cadbury bars used vegetable fats and different emulsifiers.

Funny how this works now.  In the past Japan pushed our auto industry into building better cars.  You know, global economy, down with tariffs and all.   So what do we call it when licensing agreements end up acting like tariffs?  I wonder if Cadbury can file a claim in the world court for lost revenues?  Well, they have a “license agreement” so I guess not.  Though should we allow license agreements that basically act like a tariff or worse as in this case a complete shut out of the market?  Well, I guess Cadbury is not completely shut out.  We get to see their name on the wrapper.

What about the lose of money for the importer?  How is the World Bank’s Tribunal system suppose to resolve the contest between importers and local producers?  And, why would Cadbury sign such a thing?  Are they just a holding company now so it’s money without working?  Licensing fees, royalties and all that.

Where is my free choice in this?  Hell, were is my choice at all?  Is simply a name change and wrapping enough to suggest that I am actually buying a different product from Hersey?  Am I buying from Hersey or Cadbury regarding monopoly practices?

With all these international corporate agreements, is the consumer really getting a choice?  Remember when Sunbeam was sold?  It was a big deal on the news.  The purchaser said they only wanted the brand name.

Oh and TPP too.

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It’s about the nation’s equity. We are better than this… by Professor Edward Kleinbard

Videos below the fold.

I caught Edward Kleinbard the other morning on Cspan.  He is a professor of law and business at USC and a fellow at the Century Foundation.  His book: We are better than this: How Government Should Spend our Money.  If you google his name, articles will come up from October 2014.   It attracted my attention because of my thinking as expressed in my article back in February of 2013.   The rest of the dinner table deficit/debt discussion: Equity  His thesis is that we need to be spending more as it is investment that creates the capital needed to grow the nation.  Focusing just from the view summed up in the phrase “tax and spend” misses what government is about.  Government doesn’t tax, government “principally spends money” via investment and insurance.  Spending should be complimentary to the private sector.  When government “invests” the pie gets bigger not smaller.

He worked on Wall Street for “many decades” also.   How he kept his humanity as you will hear in the presentation while being on Wall Street…?

Let me start though with this short video as it is another business person like me who appears to get my posts regarding what is needed in this country to go along with the equity spending.   I first mentioned this position in 2010 regarding the SOTU address.  Here we are 2015 and we small business people are still saying the same thing.  Professor Kleinbard addresses small business too as part of understanding the overall condition and needs.

I give you Dave Boris, owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering.

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