Brains Not Included

Cracked Up, Whacked Out and Completely Out of Control

As The World Turns

As The World Turns is a daytime drama that has been on for years. And as all soap operas are apt to do, the drama that unfolds on a daily basis is so complex and drastic as to be unbelievable. Well the same can be said for the World Economy…

In America we woke up this morning to news that the Swine Flu has broken out in Mexico and Mexico City is like a ghost town. Luckily the epidemic has only spread into 5 states in the U.S. and outbreaks here have been minor.

We also learned that the British Pound-Sterling will stay that way for quite some time. For better or for worse (I think for the better) the Brits will not acquiesce and diminish their economy even further by joining the EU and converting their currency to the Euro.

And yes, there’s even more world wide news, seems that China is developing even closer ties with Taiwan while property prices in Hong Kong are making a huge comeback.

So, why do I report all of these things going on around the world? It’s because they affect our bond market which ultimately affects the flow of capital and the interest rates we pay.

Weak Economies Follow the Strong

I wrote that article because many of the more liberal financial journalists were decrying our capitalist system and pointing to the strength of the EU and China and implying that their economic systems were superior to ours. In truth, these journalists with an agenda were wrong.

We don’t live in a vacuum and neither do our trading partners. Many bemoan the fact that America consumes so much, but we consume because our economy is so strong. What is happening to the world economy right now is a direct result of our economy losing it’s ability to consume.

So where is all this heading this morning? I’m not trying to make a political point here, I’m making a statement of fact. Property values in Europe have fallen and their banks are a mess. Their economic cycle follows ours by about 12-18 months.

Next it’s the BRIC economies …Brazil, Russia, India and China… These economies follow ours with a 20-24 month lag.

Stabilization is the Next Step

In the US we have seen a recent stabilization of property values and in the economy overall. Things may still be trending downward but not at as rapid a pace. The same is starting to happen in Europe, however, they still have a few big hits before they get to where we are.

But, China and the other BRIC nations are just starting to feel the heat. Remember earlier in this article I mentioned that property values in Hong Kong were on the rise? That’s because Hong Kong is one the few places in the world where the economy is somewhat insulated.

Their tax system (a consumption tax akin to the Fair Tax) has made the economy very insulated over the years. They follow patterns similar to the US so now that China is feeling the squeeze money is moving from China to Hong Kong!

What does all this mean to us …US…? It means this. We are getting close to the end of our economic down turn. Nobody knows if growth will be robust or sluggish, but that’s not the point. The point is we probably have one more big-hit coming and then we stabilize.

Ferocious Entrepreneurial Spirit!

This also proves another point. Many left-leaning ideologues would have us believe that capitalism can’t work without highly restrictive government oversight. But, they are wrong, capitalism works in spite of highly regulatory environments.

If you look at the data you will find that the government actions did very little to stop our precipitous fall. Some will argue that the TARP helped save banks, but did it really? Not all of the TARP money was even used.

The government still has hundreds of billions in unspent TARP money and the banks have stabilized. A very, very small percentage of the pork-filled, ear-mark laden, $800 billion dollar stimulus package has hit the economy. Yet, we are stabilizing.

The correction of the bubble in the economy was due to normal business cycles within the world wide Capitalist economy. No the ferocious entrepreneurial spirit will turn the American and World economies around despite the best efforts of central governments around the world and NOT because of them and their actions!

Filed under: Economics 101

Lending Lies

There is a great new show on Fox called Lie To Me. In the show the main characters are experts at facial expressions. They can literally tell when someone is lying by the look on their faces. Pretty amazing and fun to watch.

I wish I could get the bank execs in the room with these experts. Here’s why, the banks say they are lending, but are they really? The truth is that many banks have increased lending but at a paltry rate.

Bank of Americas recent revelation that they earned a profit of almost $4 billion dollars in the last quarter was quickly quashed and the ‘real’ number was reduced to $2.5 billion. But even that number may not be accurate.

B of A, Citi and other large banks would have us believe that these profits stem from an increase in lending to home owners, when the truth is that lending increased less than 2% over the same period last year. So where did the profits come from?

The profits came from thin air. As reported in a very eye opening article on MarketWatch.com, much of the banks profits were driven by the TARP money they received. With TARP plugging gaps in the banks balance sheets, huge write downs allowed by larger banks swallowing up smaller failing banks and additional relaxed accounting rules allowed by regulators, the banks all of the sudden look very strong.

But that’s not the real story. The real story is this, banks aren’t lending for good reason. After years of excess and easy money the banks have learned their lesson and their hording their cash to protect them from further market turmoil.
In a recent quote in The Wall Street Journal, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke talked about the need for more education about credit by addressing the inequities in wealth between whites and minorities.

He stated: “Part of it has to do I think with financial education,” Mr. Bernanke told students at the historically black college. “There needs to be broader understanding in minority communities … about the importance of saving and building a credit record.”

In my opinion Mr. Bernanke missed the point. This is more than a white vs. minority issue. He could have just said; There needs to be a broader understanding …and a core curriculum starting in grade school that teaches… the importance of saving …money… and building a …good… credit record. (the bold comments are mine.)

Additionally, I still hold to my belief that America needs to change our economy from a spending based econ to a savings based economy. Some have argued that this will limit growth and achievement.

Those that argue against a savings based economy miss the point completely. All a savings based economy refers to is an economy where the pace of credit spending does not outpace the rate of earned income and savings.

Filed under: Cons & Contradictions

Danger, Danger Will Robinson

It seems like I’ve been running around like that silly, bubble headed robot from the 1960’s ‘sci-fi drama’, Lost In Space! Danger Will Robinson, Danger!

Why have I been flapping my arms wildly about and pronouncing warnings for so long? It’s because our elected officials seem to have no concept of reality.

Little did I know that when I put the motto of my blog up; Cracked Up, Whacked Out and Completely Out of Control, how right I would be!

From our president who is proclaiming that we will unilaterally reduce our nuclear weapons arsenal while at the same time North Korea launches a test of an intercontinental missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to him bowing at the waste to the so-called King of Saudi Arabia, we seem to have lost our since of pride.

Added on top of these foreign relations miscues are domestic issue missteps such as the bonuses for AIG execs that were approved by a Democratic congress and signed by the president. Did Senator Dodd and the President really believe we would believe them when they said they knew nothing … didn’t they write the bill?

Now we have the situation of an American Flagged ship being held hostage by pirates. This demands a quick and concise response from our government.

Now I hear the Obama Justice department has sent FBI negotiators to the seen as if this were a criminal action. It is not, it is a war. I hear the DOJ wringing their hands over what to do and it sickens me.

‘We haven’t had to deal with this for 200 years…’ bla,bla,bla. Can someone help me out here, how do we deal with scum bags when we have a Navy ship in the area?

Can anyone say; Navy Seals? How about .50 cals and 5 inch deck mounted guns?

Negotiations my eye! In the old days we didn’t send out the constable to try to get Black Beard to stop terrorizing the Barbary Coast did we? Nope, we put a bunch of our war ships out to see and when we found him we blasted the heck out of him!

I’m fed up with the American Apology tour, the diminution of individualism and the fear of naming a ‘thing’ for what it really is because we might offend somebody. These pirates are thugs and terrorist and they deserve to be treated like we are at war with them!

This is NOT a police action. Let the military pop a few of the pirate support ships and put them on the bottom of the ocean and then see if this crap continues. Come on people, let me here a little H**L Yeah! (sorry, got a little carried away with that last part. LOL)

Filed under: Rants!

A Lesson on Greed

When you look around the world and see the haves and have-nots, does it make you wonder if this capitalist society filled with greed is injurious to the world?

A powerful question to be sure. I like the answer given by Milton Freeman and countless other modern day philosophers. Is there some benevolent benefactor within mankind that is so pure that they can order our society for us?

The answer is NO. When you look around the world, the truth is that the societies with a free enterprise system (capitalism) have the highest living standards on the planet. As a matter of fact the freest people have the best quality of life.

However, look at the world where governments restrict free trade and control societies. Their standard of living is squashed and the motivation to improve society is squandered.

Ah, but human nature is not abated. The leaders of these ‘controlled’ and closed societies are greedy. We need only look at the standard of living the leaders enjoy as compared to the poverty they force upon their populous. Is this not Greed?

The problem with heading towards socialism was best stated by Margaret Thatcher when she said that the problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.

But I think there is an even greater problem. When you look at the history of countries that trend towards Socialism and Communism you see what happens when men are entrusted with ultimate power.

Their Human Nature overtakes them and the next thing you know you move towards Totalitarianism. In a free trade, free enterprise, capitalist society with a Republic form or government, the market and the rule of law helps to minimize our human nature and acts as a checks and balance to human greed.

Sure, greedy people do succeed, but so do people those that aren’t greedy. In a capitalist system, the non-greedy can compete with the greedy and many times the non-greedy win. This creates a better society, not control by some authoritarian overseer.

Some would blame our current economic situation of the greed of capitalism, but the truth is that this situation was caused by poor government policy, shoddy oversight and mismanaged regulations.

In other words, this problem was caused by powerful politicians attempting to dictate to industry how they should operate.

Now the USA moves towards Socialist policies and I find it ironic that as our President visits his once vaunted campaign trail in Europe he is being met with cold shoulders and words of warning.

Even the once Socialist stalwart nations of Germany, France and Italy are now looking upon the actions of Barak Obama with disdain. They have publicly questioned the soundness of the Presidents push for governments to spend more money to get the world economy moving again.

What they are saying (without saying it) is that this has been tried before. They have tried it before …and…. IT DOES NOT WORK!

So I leave with this one question. If the great Socialist Utopias of Europe are not willing to go further down this path because they understand that it will only do more harm than good, then why are we the citizens of the freest nation on earth allowing our government to lead us this way?

Watch the video and learn… I welcome your opinion.

Filed under: Cons & Contradictions

Winners and Losers Who Chooses

It’s taken me a couple of days to completely absorb the fact that a sitting president just reached into the board room of a major corporation and fired the CEO. Notice I didn’t say that the Board of Directors asked for the government’s assistance …they didn’t…

The news has been all over the place on this one, some say he needed to go. Others say the government shouldn’t have this kind of power. Even others justify the action ‘this one time’ because of all the money given to the company to keep it afloat.

As is usual with me, I have a completely different take on the situation and it is one that hasn’t dawned on many people yet. My question is not whether government should be in the business of firing CEO’s of private companies.

My questions is have we crossing some precipice? Some invisible line that takes into a dark abyss where government decides which companies succeed and which should fail.

I know many will argue that this has gone on for years visa vie tax policy and regulations and I would agree. However, when this economic mess started in earnest and we allowed the Treasury and the Feds to save some investment banks while allowing others (Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns, etc.) to fail, we started down a slippery slope.

Now we are in full slide! It’s not just which banks should be saved and which should be allowed to fail, now it’s giving one company 30 days to fix a problem and allowing another 60 days. It’s firing a CEO and putting in another by dictation rather than a vote by the Board.

When the Obama administration announced that the government would stand behind the warranty of GM’s cars, they took an even greater step towards choosing winners and losers in this economy.

I ask one simple question, how is Ford to compete with GM (Government Motors) when Government Motors has billions of our Tax dollars funding it?

I admire Ford for recognizing its problems many years ago and setting out on a goal to fix them. I admire Ford for eschewing government hand outs and showing the rugged individualism and toughness that is genuinely American.

I am genuinely worried that we are on a destructive path here. When ‘BIG’ Government gets to choose the businesses that will be winners and the ones that will be losers, the people are bound to suffer.

I need only point to one example. Take a look at the history of England. You will see that at one time the government controlled all the car companies. You will also find out that there were waiting lists months and months long to get a new car.

So get ready, if government gets to choose the winners in this economy, you could be standing in a long line for your new GM, your new ‘free’ health care and maybe even your block of government cheese very soon!

Filed under: Uncategorized

Watch the Birdy

Recently in the news there was a lot of furor over AIG giving out millions in bonuses to some of it’s top executives. I don’t want to get into the argument of whether that was correct or not, I’m sure there are many opinions on both sides.

What I want to point out today is something that many of us missed. While the left hand was waving for our attention the right hand was doing something else that the dolts in the media didn’t see.

While the spectacle of Chris Dodd stuttering uncontrollably as he tried to explain his way out of allowing the AIG bonuses without throwing the Obama administration and Timothy Geihtner under the bus was amusing. It served to dupe the one-sided media types.

What didn’t get reported this weekend and last week was the fact that the Feds decided to throw and additional $1 Trillion dollars at the market and made an additional $6 billion dollar commitment to keep buying MBS (mortgage backed securities).

Sounds good right? What’s so bad about that. Well I’ll tell you. They don’t have the money …or should I say WE don’t have the money to do this with. So the printing presses were pushed into full gear and just to top the bad news off with more bad news… ready…

We used the freshly printed money to buy our own debt. Now in the real world this is essentially like ‘kiting’ a check. You know, you go down to the bank and you deposit a check from your own account back into that account.

You don’t really have an extra grand in the bank but for a brief while the books show that you do. The government just did that. I dare you to try it! They would nail you for fraud and throw you in the slammer for sure!

But the hypocrisy of all this nonsense is not the worst part. The worst part of all this is that we know, everyone with any common since and historical economic knowledge knows that printing money devalues the currency and leads to inflation.

Our only saving grace is that monetary policy with regard to printing new dollars has been relatively tight over the years and we are in a recessionary time, so maybe, just maybe we make it without getting dinged to hard this time.

It’s scary out there. While things should start to improve, we won’t see real improvement and wealth generation until the bureaucrats and blow-hards in Washington quit with their Tax & Spend ways.

America, this is our wake up call! We can’t spend our way out of the mess this time. We need to save and our government needs to save along with us. It’s time to STOP spending money we don’t have.

That’s my opinion, I welcome yours.

Filed under: Cons & Contradictions, Economics 101

Economics 101 – Raising Taxes Helps Nobody!

When I have conversations with close friends who may not agree with my fiscal conservative political view, I am always struck by one fact. Many of their views are formulated by an understanding of economics as described by the media.

And when I watch the major news networks and see their talking heads, I’m dumbfounded that these guys don’t have any clue about economics or the things they are reporting on.

It’s understandable that a majority of our citizens don’t understand economics but it is unfathomable to me that reporters who are supposed to investigate the stories they report on don’t have a clue.

I am going to attempt to strip the politics out of my statement but some will never see the truth of what I am about to say. For those people who are so partisan that you can’t get your head out the sand and see the truth then you deserve the totalitarian government that will one day befall us all.

There once was a Republican President that was followed by a Democratic President and they both ruined our economy. The commonality between their presidencies was a progressive tax rate with a mid range tax above 38% and the top rate above 50%.

Both these presidents believed in price controls and caused a calamity on commodities prices and production. Both presidents policies caused high unemployment, high interest rates and out of control inflation. Who were they? Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

Further stripping away the politics from the economics of our country, there were two presidents, one Democrat and one Republican that lowered taxes, stripped away regulations and allowed the markets to work freely and the economy boomed. They were John F. Kennedy and Ronald Regan.

When we analyze the histories here we see that tax increases “on the wealthy’ or tax decreases “for the wealthy” has no sound economic strategy, it’s just pandering and populism to garner votes and power. The real story is that the way our progressive tax system works is not beholden to how we “feel” about the rich.

To read the rest of this post please visit my blog at http://brainsnotincluded.com/

(BTW – Who defines who the rich are anyway? That’s a scary thought…huh?)

Here are the real facts of the matter. We don’t just live in the vacuum of a capitalist economy. Our capitalist economy is part of the world’s greater Capitalist economy.

The truth is that we can’t detach our economy from the world economy no more than we can tax the rich into oblivion and expect to be able to lift up the poor to a higher status. Ever since we took our economy off the gold standard we stopped employing a Static scoring methodology and moved to a dynamic scoring system.

So what does all this gibberish mean? It simply means that we can’t punish the rich without punishing everyone. Two presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, proved that raising taxes and imposing heavy regulations on a capitalist economy will kill the incentive and motivation to work and produce.

They proved that less money comes into the treasury because every thing just stops. They proved what Thomas Jefferson said about government. Government cannot create wealth, it can only redistribute other peoples wealth thereby destroying it.

These same two presidents also proved what Margaret Thatcher said; The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money. And a progressive tax system with a heavy handed government is very close to socialism.

Now on the other side of the equation we’ve had two presidents that employed a very different approach. One was a Democrat and the other a Republican and both lowered the tax rate to an optimum point to encourage, incentivize and motivate the populus.

These presidents created a robust economy and even with lower tax rates on ‘the wealthy’, they still managed to increase revenue to the treasury. This issue of whether to raise taxes or not has nothing to do with economics. If it did, we’d always keep taxes low.

No, the real issue is about feelings. Well, I for one am tired of feeling good about bleeding the rich for every red penny they have. I would much rather be happy because my own coffers are full and the economy is solid.

Let’s take the politics out of our discussion about taxation and let’s use real facts about how to get an economy moving and keep it growing. Higher taxes is not the answer!

Filed under: Economics 101

Obama Lied; The Economy Died

Obama Lied; The Economy Died

The title of this article is one powerful statement and I was in shock when I read it. It’s the title of an article written by a conservative author, Tony Blankley.

Before you cry foul! Remember that liberal Democrats used the saying Bush Lied; People Died as the center piece of an entire campaign, not just an article in a newspaper …much more incendiary rhetoric I’d say.

Blankly, playing on this same theme makes some very good points in his op-ed piece in the Washington Post. He posits that Obama ran as one ‘thing’ but is really another.

Take the Preisdents message of ‘change’ as example #1. Obama ran on the promise of change in Washington. His stated goal was a more civil tone and more bipartisanship.

However, what we see happening is Obama and his Democratic cohorts ramming legislation down the throats of the Republican minority. His side is using tricks like only issuing legislation in printed format (not electronic) and expecting thousands of pages to be digested and voted on in just days of review.

When legislation is opposed, the President says; ‘We were elected, it’s our turn.’ And when the Republicans decide not to vote for legislation they haven’t had time to review the Obama team calls them obstructionist.

What change? Sounds like the same ole Washington to me!

There’s more, Obama professed to be for fiscal responsibility and no ear marks. Here again he has lied. We have only to look at the huge stimulus package which was one giant earmark made into law and had nothing to do with stimulating anything!

Other examples of Obama’s lies exist as well. The omnibus spending package with over 8,000 earmarks in the billions of dollars is being pushed for passage. The President says its last year’s business, BUT, if that’s true then why wasn’t it passed last year.

This is another example of the big lie. Obama claims to have inherited the Deficit and he did inherent some of the deficit but in the two months since he’s been in office, he’s tripled the size of the deficit.

The constant, persistent and now accelerated growth in spending and government regulations is killing the markets and slaying our economy. Obama ran to the center as a fiscally conservative Democrat in order to get elected, what he’s become is a Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi tax and spend style liberal!

Obama Lied; The Economy Died; how very apropos.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Transparency Right?

Suffragette America: wham, bam, thank you mam’! Congratulations the recovery and reinvestment act is law!

Our government is borrowing and this bill is so freaking huge, both colossuses’ of Memnon couldn’t prop the thing between them if they tried. It’s ridiculous! Throughout the history of mankind this type of unchecked spending has collapsed societies.
While I am on the topic of ancient civilizations that no longer exist can I just scream out Rome! Thank you but I am dumbfounded by all of this and not in a good way. I can’t believe the people that are think certain aspects of this bill are good.
“Like, yo dude, I found an extra twenty-five dollars a week in my paycheck! It just appeared magically! Cool!” These knot heads don’t get it! Somebody will pay …all of us will pay… and we’ll pay and pay and pay!

Maybe it has all gotten to me but I see all of this borrowing as being a little like we have this giant drill and we’re boring through the earth. In the end we will pop out the other side and be siphoned into some impoverished third world nation but nobody will notice because it’s been such a slow downward spiral.
For many we are just nibbling on the sweet illusion of socialism but not quite ready for the commitment. Some are excited, some are exasperated and I just may be resigned to what is happening. Trust me I don’t want that and I am almost confident in saying that you don’t want to see it happen either, what a nightmare!
Now I know I am being a little rough on the new bill and some say we need to give it time. All I can say in my defense is that we’ve seen this before and it hasn’t worked. But this time we have ‘transparency’ so everyone can see what’s going on. Right? That makes it all different…
The seductress is Lady Transparency. She’s all dressed up for us and promises the fulfillment of our wildest fantasy, a government that is for the people, by the people and keeps the people free. A government with no corruption and where we can spend all this money and do ‘good’ for ALL people.
But underneath the seductive trappings is a two-timing tramp that is telling lies and stealing from us. You need proof, then just look at the new government web site, recovery.gov. It’s one huge piece of Socialist propaganda. The so called transparency is fiction, read the fine print and the asterisk on the site. Transparency my a**!
Hold on America! I started this blog entry with a song so I’ll end with one. Back in the USSR, you don’t know how lucky you are boy, back in the, back in the, back in the USSR!

Filed under: Uncategorized

Shut Up and Get Out of the Way!

There …I said it! The talking heads in the government need to just shut up and get out of the way. What gives me the right to be so pointed? Well I’ll tell you.

I have a unique perspective, being one of the few people in the mortgage industry that didn’t go gonzo and make loans to every breathing Jack that walked through my door. I didn’t get rich off the housing boom and I wasn’t part of the “problem.”

I sit everyday watching the stock markets, analyzing the bond market and reading about the mortgage backed securities market trying to give my clients some direction about where interest rates are headed. Right when I think I see a trend developing, BAM! something happens that causes huge volatility in the market!

That ‘something’ that causes volatility and turns good markets into bad is usually very simple to identify. It is a press conference. Not just any press conference, it’s usually a press conference by the President or one of his newly appointed minions.

Case in fact, on Tuesday, February 10, 2009, Sec. Tres. Geihtner has a press conference to announce how the Treasury plans to move forward to ‘fix’ the crisis, the markets tank and theirs huge volatility everywhere. It’s not directional, it’s just panic selling without solid trends. It’s mindless and crazy.

So what’s going on? Well the markets begin to settle and everyone is becoming comfortable. In many cases trends are forming and they are good trends, Whew! We can breath a sigh of relief right?

Wrong! Before a good trend has a chance to take hold and before the capitalism side of our capitalist economy can begin to do what it does, someone from the government announces some new spending, printing or borrowing plan that throws everything out of whack again.

The markets can fix themselves with some oversight and some slight tightening of regulations. But before a real fix can take hold two things have to happen!

One, the government has to Shut Up! Stop telling the markets what your going to do and start listening to what the markets are saying. Step two, is to supply the markets with what they say the need! THEN….. GET OUT OF THE WAY!

If the government officials would quit trying to get face time so they can claim credit for the fix then the fix would come a lot sooner. I for one am tired of seeing the people that got us in this mess claim that they have the fix to get us out.

And I dare you to tell me there’s a whole new crowd in charge now and they didn’t have anything to do with this mess, come on….I dare you… 😉

Filed under: Uncategorized

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