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

A Half Century Since Apollo 11 Launched To The Moon

A Half Century Since Apollo 11 Launched To The Moon

On July 16, 1969, a half century ago today, a Saturn 5 rocket launched from Cape Kennedy on its way to the moon, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would land on the moon on July 20 before returning successfully to earth.  Recent books have made clear just how close a call it was with many things nearly going wrong that would have doomed them, including such oddities as Aldrin using a felt tipped pen to adjust a minor switch that was needed for them to return.  My late father played an important role in that event, which I have posted about here before.  At that time he and I had many disagreements, but on this matter we were in agreement, and I was pleased to watch the famous landing with him.

The recent book, _One Giant Leap_ by Charles Fishman, argues that JFK was motivated to push the project out of Cold War competition with the USSR.  My late father agreed that this was a motive that provided the support for it.  This does raise the question whether it was really worth it.  I mean, nobody has gone back since 1972, although there is much noise now about maybe going back.

A curious way of looking at this in perspective is to think about what we thought the future would look like from that time period as compared with what has happened.  One way of looking at that is to think about how the moon and human presence there was depicted in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which came out in 1968, the year before Apollo 11.  I well remember taking very seriously the forecast in that movie, which depicted fairly substantial and established US and Soviet moon bases for 20001, now 18 years in the past.  That certainly did not remotely happen, although some other things shown in that movie have come to pass, such as people being able to see each other while communicating with each other over distances (thank you, Skype!).

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The consumer vs. the producer economy

by New Deal democrat

The consumer vs. the producer economy

Prof. Edward Leamer wrote over a decade ago that, in a consumer led recession, first housing turns, then vehicle sales, then other consumer goods.

What do home and vehicle sales tell us now about the economy, vs. corporate profits? This post is up at Seeking Alpha.

As usual, clicking over and reading puts a penny or two in my pocket.

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Protecting The Fed

Mark Thoma has a post up on Facebook. Apparently, Trump intends to nominate Dr. Judy Shelton to the Fed. I knew Trump was bat-sh*t crazy and now he has confirmed he is bat-sh*t stupid too (if you did not already know this). It is hard to know which is worse as they come in a daily stream of excesses.

I do not necessarily agree with my former Econ Prof (not Mark) from time to time; but, he does have a deeper knowledge on the topic than I, to which I listen even though the politics of it may differ from mine. I do get the impression he is deeply concerned as is Mark Thoma and disappointed with the present administration and their impact on the nation, its financial status, and the economy.

Dr. Judy: “How can a dozen … people meeting eight times a year decide what the cost of capital should be versus some kind of organically, market supply determined rate? The Fed is not omniscient. They don’t know what the right rate should be. How could anyone?

Given the alternatives of Congress or the President determining national economic policy, I would stick with the dozen. I can figure out what they are doing. Crazy and/or political people are off the books. I will not get too deep into this as you can read the article “Protecting the Federal Reserve” at Money Banking yourself. Some of Judge Judy (first thought which came to mind), er Dr. Judy’s thoughts:

– “Following the 2007-2009 recession, during the weakest post-WWII recovery on record, with inflation below the Federal Reserve’s stated target, she argued against ‘suppression of interest rates’ (see quote above). By contrast, despite the lowest unemployment rate since the 1960s, in recent weeks she has argued for cutting rates ‘as expeditiously as possible.‘ This apparent willingness to pander to President Trump’s preferences, rather than setting policy to meet the Federal Reserve’s longer-term goals of stable prices and maximum sustainable employment, would diminish the Fed’s independence,”

No comment on my part as either action has a negative reaction given the environment.

– Dr. Judy “argued for replacing the Federal Reserve’s inflation-targeting regime with a gold standard, along with a global fixed-exchange rate regime. In our view, this too would seriously undermine the welfare of nearly all Americans.”

– “Should Dr. Shelton become a member of the Board, and should President Trump win re-election in 2020, there is a chance that she could become the Chair of the Federal Reserve when Chairman Powell’s term ends in 2021. Given her unsuitability for the Board, making her Chair would seriously undermine Fed independence.”

– Dr. Shelton has proposed eliminating the Fed’s key tool (in a world of abundant reserves) for controlling interest rates—the payment of interest on reserves (for a description of the Fed’s current operating regime, see here). She argues that the Fed doesn’t know what the correct interest rate is (see citation). But that ignores the constant learning process—based on observations about the state of the economy and financial conditions—that allows the Fed to make rapid policy corrections to achieve price and economic stability. U.S. central bankers are credibly committed to their legal mandate to promote “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.”

I do not Tweet, I do not read Tweets as they are the lowest form of communication outside of a belch. Trump tweeted his intention to nominate Dr. Judy Shelton to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

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Why Doesn’t Donald Trump go back to his own country ?

He can choose Scotland or Germany (although neither want him — I wonder where he is hated more — Scots tend to be lefty and very good at hating). I won’t go back to my own country — Hungary — because I can’t stand Viktor Orban and can’t learn the language (I have never felt as foreign as I did when looking for my grandmother’s old apartment).

But he directed his go back to their own country racist xenophobic attack at, among others, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressly. Ocasio-Cortez’s family came to New York from Puerto Rico so her country of last detectable origin is … the USA (I know Donald Trump doesn’t accept that as he defines American as anglo white but it is still true).

Ayanna Pressly is African American. Most African Americans are descended from people who were in the USA when it was founded (and long before any ancestors of Donald Trump or Robert Waldmann). Now it is true that some very prominent African Americans aren’t — Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Colin Powell and Eric Holder come to mind. I will now google (I already checked to be sure that Ocasio-Cortez’s family came from Puerto Rico). OK no hint of any immigration at all in the Pressley family history. Note the USA is not a country of immigrants. Immigration is a voluntary act and most African Americans are descended from people kidnapped and brought here in chains. What is her own country if it isn’t the USA. Even she doesn’t know (and it sure wasn’t organized as a country when her ancestors were kidnapped).

It is clear, as it always has been, that Trump’s nationalism is racism. A woman whose ancestors were in the USA when it was founded should go back to her own country which can’t be America because the genuine US population is white, white, and white.

Sorry for stating the obvious and proving what has been clear for decades.

Also of course, Pelosi said it better

Pelosi stood up for the congresswomen.

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” Pelosi tweeted. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”

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WARNING: another “debt ceiling debacle” is looming, and could cause nearly immediate recession

WARNING: another “debt ceiling debacle” is looming, and could cause nearly immediate recession

It’s time to start to get seriously worried about another “debt ceiling debacle.” In 2011, the GOP refused to authorize a “clean” debt ceiling hike. The hike in the debt ceiling, for those who may not know, is necessary for the US government to pay debts that *it has already incurred.*

In 2011, as a result of the impasse, US creditworthiness was downgraded from AAA to AA. Consumer confidence plummeted:

Note the next largest spike downward occurred during the government shutdown at the beginning of this year.

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Pence’s Potemkin Village on the Mexican Border

Pence’s Potemkin Village on the Mexican Border

Merriam Webster defines a Potemkin Village as:

an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition

Mike Pence visited a Potemkin Village in Donna, Texas:

Pence also visited a tent-like temporary detention facility in Donna, Texas, that holds unaccompanied children and immigrant families. The new and mostly clean facility stood in stark contrast to the McAllen station Pence later visited.

While the Buzzfeed story focused on the McAllen station, which depicted horrific conditions, I’m sure Trump’s favorite “news” outlets will highlight the facility in Donna, Texas. In other words, part of Pence’s visit to the border was designed to con the American people that immigrants are being treated well. Leon Panetta is right:

Trump treats Americans like we’re chumps

Since Pence is a Christian, we have to wonder how he can still support Trump’s racist immigration policies after seeing how God’s children are being horribly abused. Here’s a little challenge for Mr. Pence – how many of the Ten Commandments are you violating? Certainly the first two with your idol worship of Donald Trump:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me. 2.You shall make no idols.

This abuse of God’s has led to many deaths, which of course violates the Commandment not to murder. OK – Mike Pence has not committed adultery even if his idol has many times. But cheating on one’s wife is sort of routine for powerful politicians. The serial abuse of innocent people solely based on their race and mainly for partisan purchases is not only unAmerican but also against everything Pence’s religion stands for.

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S&P 500 P/E

Friday evening the S&P 500 closed at 3013.77, up 20.2 % year to date. But much of that gain is just recovering from the drop in late 2019, as  it is only up some 3.4% from September, 2019.

This is the first time the S&P closed above 3000 and people are wondering if the market is overvalued. The S&P 500 PE is now at 19.6, almost exactly where my model implies it should be.  As the chart shows it is right in the middle of my estimated fair value band just as it was when Trump was elected.  But the PE was 21.3 in November, 2017 as compared to 19.6 now. Both the actual PE and the fair value band declined through 2017  and 2018 and the fair value band has stabilized so far this year.  Interestingly, this means that S&P EPS has been rising faster than the market since Trump was elected. So, aside from the tax cut, investors are not projecting that his economic policies will generate stronger earnings growth.

Figure one

But my model PE is strictly a function of interest rates.  It is an expression of what is the present value of a perpetual stream of earnings growth. You can see how the model said the market was very expensive in the 1990s when investors came to believe that we were in a new era of stronger growth  with out a significant  risk of recession. The early 2000s were just the opposite, when investors feared we were in a new era of permanent stagnation and very weak earnings growth. So the PE was very far below its fair value.

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Climate change economics

Via Evonomics, Steve Keen critiques Norhaus’s model for predicting economic damage per degree of average temperature rise….nerdy, and includes graphs and math, but worth a look.

By Steve Keen

This piece is part of a series from Steve Keen, Climate Change and the Nobel Prize in Economics: The Age of Rebellion. In the previous post, Keen noted the contrast between the urgency that Extinction Rebellion sees about limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees, and Nordhaus’s conclusion that the gap between the benefits of mitigating global warming and the costs is maximized at a 4 degree increase in global temperature. In this post, he delves into DICE itself.

DICE stands for “Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy”. It’s the mathematical model from which Nordhaus derives the results noted in the previous figures.

DICE is based on the Neoclassical long term growth model devised by the mathematical prodigy Frank Ramsey in 1928 {Ramsey, 1928 #5029}. This is the same foundation as the mainstream RBC (“Real Business Cycle”) and DSGE (“Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium”) macroeconomic models that completely failed to anticipate the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

Nordhaus’s Damage Function is the first substantive graphic in the DICE manual, and one look at it (see Figure 8) should give anyone—even Climate Change Deniers (CCDs)—cause for concern. Even if Anthropogenic Global Warming were a myth, even if the temperature rise was being caused by the Sun, would it really be true that a 5 degree increase in the average temperature of the globe would only reduce global GDP by 5 percent?

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