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

Consumer inflation continues to accelerate YoY, but so far no big problem

Consumer inflation continues to accelerate YoY, but so far no big problem

 

The consumer price index for August was reported up +0.4% this morning. This is the third straight big increase. Below I show this plus the more stable consumer prices minus gas (red):

Here’s what the monthly changes look like over the past 10 years:

 

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Improvement in initial and continuing claims stalls out

Improvement in initial and continuing claims stalls out

This morning’s jobless claims report shows that the trend of “less worse” news has at least temporarily ended, at a level of about 150,000 higher than the worst weekly levels of the Great Recession.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, new jobless claims rose for the second week in a row, by 20,140 to 857,148. After seasonal adjustment (which is far less important than usual at this time), claims were unchanged at 884,000, tied for their “best” reading since the pandemic began. The 4-week moving average declined by 21,750 to a new pandemic low of 970,750:

Continuing claims, on both an unadjusted and seasonally adjusted basis rose from their pandemic lows of last week, by 54,472 to 13,197,059, and by 93,000 to 13,385,000 respectively:

 

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Tone Deaf

Working-class Black and Latino Americans, more likely to be paid lower wages, less likely to own significant assets; feel that they are being deprived of a fair share; see this as a consequence of white privilege. Meanwhile, white working-class American’s see themselves as less than privileged, barely hanging on; feel that such demands by Blacks and Latinos amount to a threat to their meager share, their livelihood. Neither group is the other group’s problem, the two groups have a common problem; America’s wealth and income distribution problem.

In a prosperous nation with more than 800 billionaires, no one should have to work for low wages, work multiple jobs, in order to survive. Yet, not enough is coming down to the working class for sharing. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer. It is because of America’s unfair income distribution that the two groups are being pitted against one another in their struggle to eke out a living. More needs to come down to the working class in toto. Less needs to go up to the already wealthy.

While the Democratic Party seeks to attract the vote of working-class Blacks and Latinos, Republicans have made significant progress in attracting votes from the white working-class; thus splitting, thereby negating, the working-class vote. Choosing sides is not the answer. These are the same group with an artificial distinction being made on the basis of race and ethnicity. There is only one side here – that’s the side of the working class; the side of a majority of Americans.

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Trumpian by Ken Melvin

Let’s take a look at the ‘Greatest’ Trump Economy. The first graph shows the BLS Civilian Unemployment rate from 2000 t0 2020. Use the link for a better look Civilian unemployment rate

If you look really close, no you have to look a little closer yet, you can see the Trump effect.

The second graph is the FRED Gross Domestic Product Gross Domestic Product . By clicking on the link you can shorten the period to 2000-2020. It might help find the Trump Effect (the graph, not an abstract of the graph, too).

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Off-Roading with the FDA

It appears the FDA is now willing to deviate from its “bedrock mission” of guiding the public with accurate science-based information to a different road emphasizing variable political interests.

“The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult  .  .  .   @SteveFDA“, addressing you directly with your Twitter handle (trump). 

FDA is endorsing twitter as a mechanism to broadcast actions with and by Commissioner Dr. Hahn. Tweeting:

I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction.” SteveFDA.

It would appear the FDA is now under direction of trump who is taking it down roads not traveled by the FDA in the past with the medical profession in the back seat. Some are not so willing to go along for the ride.

“We cannot entrust the health of 330 million Americans to a person who is subservient to President Trump’s whims, unprecedented promotion of unproven therapies, outrageous lies, and political motivations.” Dr. Eric J. Topol, MD, the editor-in-chief of Medscape

Medscape has three interesting articles critiquing the FDA. The first article reviews the  expansion of remdesivir usage, the second covers FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn actions, and the last is questioning the FDA’s Covid decisions.   The first two articles were published on August 31st and the last on September 2nd. Typically, I read the articles and then go on to the comments section to see what medical practitioners have to say. I would suggest you too read the articles and then read the comments which can reveal a different perspective.  The comments can be useful and insightful.

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Testimony of Mark Jamison; Jones v. United States Postal Service Part II

Testimony of Retired Postmaster Mark Jamison in law suit against the USPS and DeJoy filed Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Save The Post Office

Jones vs Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service and Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Declaration of Mark Jamison, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Election Mail

Angry Bear added this chart to depict how people are voting by mail. There are 44 million voters in nine (4 just added) states + D.C. voting by mail only, 118 million voters in 34 states where absentee voting is allowed for all, and 46 million voters in seven states where an excuse is required for absentee voting. The chart above reflects this pattern although some states changed how they vote by mail with some going to all mail, etc.  The purpose was to depict how big the mail-in voting is.

Mark: In the 2018 election there was an audit of election mail that showed that only 96-98% of ballots were delivered on time; in some areas these percentages were worse. The current on-time percentage for the USPS is somewhere closer to 95% right now (again, much worse in some areas). If we applied that number to election mail, that would be like throwing out 5% of the ballots. I do not think that you can deliver 100% of 1st class mail to all of the various addresses that they go to nationwide; there will always be a few problems with deliveries. However, 100% on time delivery of BALLOTS should be the goal for the USPS. There are many articles related to election mail concerns and suggestions that are being published in the leadup to the 2020 election and in response to nationwide concerns about holding free and fair elections, including one that I wrote.

A simple lack of institutional attention could noticeably slow down mail. For the most part ballots originate and are processed within a local area serviced by one or possibly two plants. This takes some transportation issues out of the equation. There are some areas, e.g. Florida where a significant portion of residents have second homes and may be mailing ballots from a distant location. Otherwise the concern is processing and on-time performance within a local area.

Not all first-class mail receives a postmark since some of it does not run through the machines that the USPS uses to cancel mail. Marketing mail would not normally receive a postmark. As recently as the 2018 election, the USPS typically treated ballots and other election mail as 1st class mail, even if it was sent at marketing mail rates.23 The letter sent by Thomas Marshall to 46 states’ secretaries of state and that is referenced above indicated that the USPS would not be able to guarantee on-time delivery of ballots (at least eight days out in the case of Washington state). Marshall’s letter suggests that election mail (ballots or requests for ballots) that is entered at marketing mail rates will be handled as marketing mail, which receives the least preferential handling.

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Testimony of Mark Jamison; Jones v. United States Postal Service Part I

Testimony of Retired Postmaster Mark Jamison in law suit against the USPS and DeJoy filed Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Save The Post Office

Jones vs Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service and Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Declaration of Mark Jamison, US District Court, Southern District, New York

“Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Introduction

Those were the stirring words of President Lincoln during his first inaugural address. The nation had come to a crossroads or perhaps it was a dead end, we could no longer go on without facing our original sin, what some euphemistically called “that peculiar institution.”  After four years of the bloodletting, we finally put aside the evils of slavery, but rather than finish the job we stopped half way.

It took a century to bring the hope of healing to the next step with the Civil Rights laws of the 1960’s. And still we hid from our responsibilities and the hopeful destiny that could have been our course. Some clung to hate and privilege, resisting and rejecting the idea that all of us were created equal and had a role to play as citizens in this experiment of self-government.

Today we have the opportunity to starkly face and solidly put to rest the sins of our past. Even now when the chance to make amends is within our grasp there are those who choose anger and dissension, hate and separation, obfuscation and obstruction over opportunity.

There is no right more sacred than the right to vote, to exercise one’s choice in free and fair elections. Through the Civil War, World Wars, the 1919 flu pandemic and all matter of natural disasters, we have made it a point to hold elections. In these troubled times, faced with another pandemic, there are those who would obstruct our ability to vote for purely partisan reasons. There are those who are too cowardly to stand before the electorate and seek an honest count.

We can and must do better. Every citizen who wants to vote should be able to vote and there should be no question or impediment that prevents that or the counting of their ballot. Every voice must be heard.

The U.S. Postal Service is a treasured institution. It has been around in one form or another since before our country was founded. The mandate of Title 39 gives the Postal Service a mission — binding the nation together. Those words are reminiscent of Mr. Lincoln’s mystic chords. The idea of binding the nation together also implies a healing and a connection. For our entire history the Postal Service has bound this nation together.

Today there are at least ten lawsuits seeking to ensure that the Postal Service does not become another casualty in our age where our most cherished norms and even basic truth itself are rejected for fear mongering, conspiracy theories, financial  advantage, and the exposition of ugly hate that tarnishes any notion of our better angels.

I had the privilege of testifying in one of those suits.

The following testimony was submitted to the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in the case of Mondaire Jones, et al., v. United States Postal Service, et al, on Sept. 2, 2020. The testimony in its original legal format is here.

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Weekly Indicators for August 31 – September 4 at Seeking Alpha

 by New Deal democrat

Weekly Indicators for August 31 – September 4 at Seeking Alpha

My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha.

Another long leading indicator, corporate profits, are expected to improve substantially in Q3, meaning that yet another forecasting element for the economy one year from now has stopped being a negative.

Lots of conditions are in place for growth – but only when the coronavirus is brought under control.

As usual, clicking over and reading should bring you fully up to date, and it also rewards me with a penny or two for putting in the effort each week.

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Two links to ponder

The Revolutionary Post

Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America: A History, argues that the post office is not simply an inexpensive way to send a letter. The service was designed to unite a bunch of disparate towns and people under one flag, and in doing so, she believes the post office actually created the United States of America.

Digital Sight Management, and the Mystery of the Missing Amazon Receipts

 Amazon stopped including item details in order confirmation and shipping notification emails a few months ago. They just show the price and order date now. For all its faults, Amazon has pretty good customer service, which makes this user-hostile change baffling to understand. Sure, you can still see your orders on Amazon’s website and download a CSV, but it’s far more cumbersome than searching your email; …

What reason would be big enough for Amazon to annoy so many of their users? It’s simple: data.

Popular free email clients like Edison Mail and Cleanfox “scrape” their users’ emails and sell anonymised or pseudonymised data on to third parties. With enough users, they can detect trends and measure brand loyalty – valuable information for competitors. By stripping item details from its emails, Amazon tells us just how much this was hurting them.

 

 

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