Archive for the ‘Boom Times’ Category
Land of the peaceful – no mexican gangs, no blacks shooting each other, no communists that want to take over the word – just peaceful folks. What a pleasure.
The big news from Christchurch was the earth quake of June 2011.
• New Zealand city of Christchurch hit by 6.3 quake
• At least 65 people confirmed to be killed
• Hundreds feared still trapped in collapsed buildings
• Centre of city evacuated as aftershocks continue
Damaged buildings are seen in Christchurch, New Zealand after a strong, 6.3-magnitude earthquake rocked the southern city Photograph: AP
2.45am/3:45pm NZ: : New Zealand’s second largest city has been hit by a strong earthquake, measuring 6.3 in magnitude, with first reports suggesting there are multiple fatalities and people trapped in buildings. This is the second earthquake in five months to hit the region, with a 7.1 magnitude quake in September last year which caused widespread damage but there were no deaths. You can follow a live-feed of the rescue here and read our latest news story on what happened when the quake hit.
2.55am/3:55pm NZ: Here are some of the latest details coming through from Reuters.
A strong quake hit New Zealand’s second-biggest city of Christchurch, toppling buildings, causing “multiple fatalities”, trapping people beneath rubble and sparking fires.
Local TV showed bodies being pulled out of rubble strewn around the city centre, though it was unclear whether any of them were alive, but police reported multiple fatalities after the 6.3 magnitude quake struck during the busy lunchtime.
“I was in the square right outside the cathedral – the whole front has fallen down and there were people running from there – there were people inside as well,” said John Gurr, a camera technician who was in the centre of the city when the quake hit.
“A lady grabbed hold of me to stop falling over … It’s not nice at all. We just got blown apart. Colombo Street, the main street, is just a mess … There’s lots of water everywhere, pouring out of the ground – its liquefaction – its an absolute mess.”
2.59am/3:59pm NZ: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is on his way to Christchurch following an emergency cabinet meeting in Wellington. Earlier he told cabinet:
This is a very populated time with people at work and children at school. Sadly, I cannot rule out whether there have been fatalities or not. But we are aware of significant damage to buildings that had people in them at the time.”
3.01am/ 4:01pm NZ: There are numerous reports of people trapped in buildings throughout the city though details remain unclear as to numbers.
Now Christchurch is rebuilding. They are in need of construction men – high wages are being paid to all those that come and help.If you are interested contact your local New Zealand embassy.
Latest news isThe Government today reaffirmed its commitment to driving the unparalleled $30 billion rebuild of post-earthquake Christchurch, despite Prime Minister John Key admitting that 2013 will be a “another challenging year”.
During his statement to Parliament this afternoon, Mr Key said the Government’s “final priority” lay in helping the nation’s second biggest city get back on its feet.
The Government has already promised a $13 billion contribution to the rebuild and Mr Key vowed today: “The Government remains absolutely committed to standing beside the people of Canterbury.”
As the second anniversary of the deadly February 22 quake looms, the focus has already shifted from demolition to construction.
A total of 930 total or partial demolitions have already been completed in the central city, Mr Key said, along with more than 30,000 house repairs.
“This year will be the first big year of pouring concrete in the central city,” he told the House.
“This year we will continue to lead and drive momentum in that rebuild – which is now estimated to have a total cost of $30 billion. This makes it without doubt the largest economic undertaking in New Zealand’s history.”
As the rebuild gathers momentum, the demand for workers and materials in Christchurch will be “huge”, he said, requiring innovative schemes from businesses and the Government to encourage people into the city.
“We do not intend to micro-manage that process, but we can help it,” said Mr Key, citing the example of the new Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub, which links local employers with people looking for work.
The Government has committed an extra $28 million to maintain the expanded training pipeline for tradespeople for the rebuild.
Over the “next few weeks”, the Government intents to go to market for the first phase of the convention centre precinct – one of the key anchor projects which should act as a “catalyst to reinvigorate” the new-look CBD, Mr Key said.
In the first half of this year, the Government will also deliver its full and comprehensive official response to the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission report and the remaining 119 recommendations still to be dealt with.
Mr Key said it would likely involve introducing legislation that establishes a mandatory national timeframe and process for dealing with the estimated 15,000 to 25,000 quake-prone buildings in New Zealand.
Although the global economic environment would remain “unsettled and uncertain” and Government finances would be “tight”, Mr Key said the country was “on the right track”, with the Canterbury rebuild at the forefront.
Radio giant Rush Limbaugh says he’s “jazzed” about Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate, and he expects an instant economic recovery if the Republican ticket wins in November.
“I guarantee you, if Ryan and Romney win this election, you’re gonna see the stock market go through the roof,” Limbaugh said this afternoon. “You’re gonna see small businesses start to hire. It’s gonna happen so fast, you’re not gonna believe it, the moment it’s known that Obama’s out of office.”
Limbaugh, the top-rated voice of the political right in America, says a true conservative is finally on the presidential ticket.
“I like the fact that there’s somebody who’s gonna be on the news every day that can talk like I do,” he said.
“And I don’t mean to make this about me. That’s not the point. We’ve got somebody who can articulate what we believe. It’s in his heart. He doesn’t need crib notes, he doesn’t need briefings, he doesn’t need a consultant to tell him what to think or answer a question. He’s lived it. It’s his soul. That’s why I’m jazzed.”
“We now have somebody on the ticket who’s us,” he continued. “Somebody’s on the ticket who can explain all of this, believes all of this in his heart and in his soul. His name is Paul Ryan and he can do it with optimism and a smile on his face and no bitterness and so forth. I like it because we’re tackling this head on. You know if [Romney would] have chosen say [U.S. Sen. Marco] Rubio, the accusation would have been that he was pandering to a group. If he had chosen Condi [Rice], same accusation: pandering to a group. This pick told me that Romney is not just serious about winning, but governing.”
Limbaugh said the presence of Ryan on a stage with Romney has elevated and energized Romney.
“Romney’s a new guy. Romney is a different guy,” he explained.
“I watched ’60 Minutes’ last night, Ryan chomping at the bit to answer every question. Ryan wanted in ’cause he’s got the answer. He had the answer for everything Bob Schieffer threw. He’s got the answer for every objection the Obama team is going to make. All the lies, all the distortions, all the smears, Ryan has the answers. Ryan knows how to react to those things, because he is an ideological conservative. He is from the camp of Ronaldus Magnus (Ronald Reagan).”
President Obama is welcoming Ryan to the race, saying, “Congressman Ryan is a decent man. He is a family man. He is an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney’s vision. But it’s a vision that I fundamentally disagree with. They have tried this before. They have tried to sell us this trickle-down fairy dust before. And guess what. It did not work.”
“It did work!” Limbaugh exclaimed in response. “It works every time it’s tried! What isn’t working, sir, is you. And your ideas are not fairy dust. Your ideas are garbage!”
“This election, we’ve said it before and others have said it, but this is ball game,” Limbaugh concluded.
“If Barack Obama gets four more years, I really don’t think that the American people have any idea what’s in store for them. I don’t think, particularly a lot of Obama supporters, I don’t think they have any idea what’s in store. I don’t think they have any idea what’s in store for this country if Obama gets another four years. In fact, I think there are probably a lot of Republican voters who don’t really understand.”
When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he assumed a degree of command over the federal government that few U.S. presidents have enjoyed. His party had just enlarged its already-large majority in the House of Representatives, and gained a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The president enjoyed tremendous popularity following his historic victory.
During his campaign, then-Sen. Obama argued that what had stopped us from meeting our nation’s greatest challenges had been “the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.”
To solve this problem, he pledged to help us “rediscover our bonds to each other and get out of this constant, petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics.”
The last three and a half years of divisive politics and broken promises have been disappointing.
The Obama administration did not cause the crisis we faced in January 2009. Bad policies from both parties in Washington and irresponsible behavior on Wall Street fueled the build-up of uncreditworthy mortgage liabilities in the financial sector, resulting in overwhelming debt levels and then a wave of panics, bankruptcies and foreclosures. The global financial system stood on the brink of collapse.
Yet, instead of keeping his campaign promises, advancing centrist policies to win the support of both parties, and addressing our real challenges, President Obama pursued an ideological agenda that made matters worse.
His administration and Congress sought to transform a free-enterprise society into a government-centered society. That meant a vastly expanded role for the federal government, higher spending to support that role, with higher taxes and debt to pay for his entitlement programs.
His party’s congressional leaders squandered hundreds of billions of dollars aimed to jump-start the economy and keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent. Unemployment rose above 10 percent and has remained above 8 percent for more than 40 straight months.
Instead of focusing on getting the economy back on track, the president and the last Congress enacted a government-driven health care program. They spent 16 months pursuing this disastrous law, ramming it through on a party-line vote despite warning after warning that Americans rejected his misguided plan.
Rather than address Wall Street’s financial accountability issue, the president and his Congress continued to funnel billions of dollars to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and enacted the Dodd-Frank law giving protection and preferential treatment to big banks and more power to regulators who failed in the last crisis.
In 2005, Sen. Obama and other Democratic members stopped the Senate from considering legislation that would have empowered a regulator to crack down on these ‘Government-Sponsored Enterprises,’ and control their buildup of risky assets. That legislation might have eased or prevented the home mortgage meltdown that led to the financial panic three years later. Instead, Fannie and Freddie’s executives were enriched, the taxpayer got stuck with a bill of more than $300 billion to bail them out, while millions of Americans lost their homes in ensuing financial crisis.
The crony capitalist approach is a failure: economic growth and job creation remain anemic. Unprecedented numbers of Americans have stopped looking for work. Real GDP crept up just 1.7 percent in 2011, and 1.9 percent in the 1st quarter of 2012 — well below private-sector forecasts for this year, the 3 percent historical trend rate of U.S. growth, and a fraction of the pace in a typical recovery.
The government’s fiscal position has sharply deteriorated during President Obama’s term. In three and a half years, debt held by the public grew by about $4.5 trillion — a 70 percent increase. Instead of the promised 50 percent reduction, this year’s deficit is expected to come in at $1.2 trillion. This failure may be the President’s most consequential broken promise. Our debt is projected to spiral out of control in the years ahead. This is paralyzing economic growth. Investors, businesses and families fear that the coming debt crisis portends a diminished American future.
Americans aspire to control our own destiny and remain free from foreign powers who would impose limits on our dreams for ourselves and our children. If our generation fails to meet this challenge, America will surrender her independence to an army of foreign creditors who already own roughly half of our public debt. The policies in place today guarantee that outcome, unless we change course soon.
The budget passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year drew the pattern for a new president and Congress to follow beginning in 2013. It is a plan to lift the debt and free the nation from the constraints of ever-expanding government.
This budget will promote economic growth and opportunity immediately, with bold and fundamental reforms to the tax code and a credible, principled plan to stop the debt crisis from occurring.
President Obama’s government-centered policies embody corporate welfare, taking from hard-working Americans to support politically connected companies and privileged special interests. Our budget proposes to end corporate welfare.
Our budget will strengthen welfare programs for those who truly need support.
Government safety-net programs have been stretched to the breaking point in recent years, failing the very citizens who need help the most. Relying on distant government bureaucracies to lead the effort to assist those in need simply does not work. As a result of a government-centered approach to the war on poverty, one in six Americans is now in poverty – the highest rate in a generation.
Our budget draws on the historic proven welfare reforms of the 1990s, empowering state and local governments, communities, and individuals who are closest to those in need. We also promote opportunity and upward mobility by strengthening job training programs that help those who have fallen on hard times in an era of economic and technological change.
Our budget lifts the debt, fosters economic growth, and ensures that government keeps the promises it is making to Americans. Instead of letting critical health and retirement programs go bankrupt, our budget saves and strengthens them to fulfill their mission in the 21st Century.
A debate about the future of Medicare is overdue. Unfortunately President Obama frightens seniors with false charges about our plan, while staying silent about how he has already changed Medicare forever. His health care law put a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats in charge of cutting Medicare.
Senior citizens should be greatly concerned about Democrats’ efforts to stop true Medicare reform, because this will result in painful benefit cuts for current recipients. Our budget makes no changes for those in or near retirement and keeps the protections that have made Medicare a guaranteed promise for seniors over the years.
To save Medicare for future generations, we propose to put 50 million seniors, not 15 unaccountable bureaucrats, in charge of their personal health care decisions.
President Obama will push us further in the wrong direction on taxes. He is committed to taking more from the paychecks of hard-working Americans – not to pay down the debt, but to chase ever-higher government spending.
Only with the right leadership in place can we move forward with ideas that renew the American promise of leaving our children a stronger nation than the one our parents left us.
I remain confident in the wisdom of the American people to choose a brighter path. With a decisive victory this November, we can get back to work, rebuild our country, and meet our generation’s defining challenge by ensuring greater opportunities for generations to come.
Webster’s II New College Dictionary defines capitalism as an economic system marked by open competition in a free market in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to increasing accumulation and investment of profits.
Open-market competition permeates the evolution of American culture and the American people. Capitalism has led to America’s hegemonic status among the nations of the world. Absent an environment allowing capitalism to be born and incubated, America would not have developed into the world’s only true superpower. An America sans capitalism would have arrested the flowering of American Democracy, the expression of the American spirit, and the ascendancy of American greatness. The birthright of every American to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” could not have had the remotest chance of becoming a reality except under a capitalist system. American capitalism is the framework that allows realization of the concepts expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Capitalism is the lynchpin in the concept of the American ideal. America’s strength and wealth are a testament to the superiority of capitalism as a political and social system of organization.
However, critics of capitalism in general and American capitalism in particular recite a litany of shortcomings, basically revolving around the idea that capitalism is fraught with inequity and unfairness in economic outcomes. Because of this idea, Karl Marx predicted that capitalism would be the cause of the growing schism between the “proletariat” working class and the industrial class, and at some point, there would be a class revolt. Even Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, who coined the term “creative destruction” to explain the march of economic progress under capitalism, speculated that capitalism would mature to the point that it would be fertile ground for a seamless transition to socialism.
The primary characteristics of a capitalist system that had run its course and was ready to ease into socialism, according to Schumpeter, were vanishing investment opportunities and “obsolescence of the Entrepreneurial Function.”
I disagree. Capitalism will not fail because of its maturing and running its natural course of existence, as Schumpeter thought; and capitalism will not fail because of any innate unfairness or failure tofairly advocate a system of material resources, as Marx suggested. If American citizens were left to make economic decisions that were in their own best interest, capitalism would work fine. It’s the interference of Washington’s elite that has been killing American Capitalism by the death of a thousand cuts. Washington, D.C. is the torturer and executioner of American capitalism. Politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists there constitute a powerful fifth column whose actions diminish every American’s endowment to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This effort has been prosecuted against the American populace by the current confiscatory progressive tax code, inflationary monetary policy, deficit spending, and protectionism.
Complicit in this torture and slow death are the Internal Revenue Service by usurping power from the American people, and the Federal Reserve by debasing the dollar. Critics of capitalism point to Wall Street and the recent carnage in the economies of America and the Euro zone as evidence of the travails of unfettered or under-regulated capitalism, proclaiming that capitalism must be reined in and controlled. However, the activities of Wall Street in its present iteration, and the incessant borrowing of America and the Euro zone countries, are not capitalism.
The fact that individuals, businesses, and sovereign governments got caught in a vortex of too-easy credit and developed an unsustainable thirst for easy money is no reflection on the soundness or attractiveness of capitalism as a superior economic system. The present state of the economy is due to collective greed, the universal suspension of common sense, and failure of the referees in our economic regulation. This greed and lapse of common sense in rationalizing economic decisions originated from the federal government’s interference with the free market through the current confiscatory tax code, inflationary monetary policy, deficit spending, and protectionism. These Four Horsemen of America’s economic apocalypse frustrate the workings of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand,” leading to a misallocation of resources within the American economy and a misalignment of economic incentives. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other economists who studied the Great Depression identified their “lessons learned” that would allow the Federal Reserve to steer monetary policy to mitigate business cycles.
With the typical policy options and his study of the Great Depression, Bernanke set out to navigate the American economy back to safety by calibrating money supply. His reliance on these tired and ineffective tactics rank with the foolhardiness of French generals on the eve of World War II, and their faith in the security of the Maginot Line to protect France from a German invasion. It didn’t and couldn’t. The Federal Reserve’s actions in the current financial crisis are proving just as ineffective and indeed counterproductive. Paired with the actions of the United States Treasury under Timothy Geithner this has turned out to be a total disaster. Competition is the hallmark of capitalism. Competition guides Adams Smith’s “Invisible Hand.” Competition breeds champions. Even Giacomo Casanova recognized the role of competition and limited government in his autobiography, “History of My Life,” describing the success of Lyons, France in the fashion industry: “Low prices come from competition, whose soul is freedom. Hence a government which wishes to see the state prospering by commerce has but to leave commerce completely free, only being watchful to prevent frauds which private interest may invent to the detriment of the general interest.”
The Four Horsemen of America’s economic apocalypse are killing American capitalism by strangling competition and thus, American democracy. The way out of America’s self-built economic hell is to change the system structurally, and return to limited constitutional governance that respects the sovereignty of the 50 states and the freedoms of the American people. We can achieve this goal with a fair tax, a balanced budget amendment, a return to the gold standard, and free trade.
With gas prices continuing to climb, there is an ever-increasing quest for ways to find a culprit that can carry the blame. More and more, the finger pointing is focused on the overseas sale of US petroleum product—with the belief being that selling American resources to the highest bidder increases the price of gasoline at the pump. This idea has made strange bedfellows of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA).
Addressing gas prices, O’Reilly claims: “They are much higher because the oil companies are shipping their products overseas.” Representative Markey (of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade fame) has “introduced legislation that would end the exportation of oil extracted from taxpayer-owned lands, and the exportation of refined fuels like gasoline produced from America’s oil.” Markey’s bill is called the “Keep America’s Oil Here Act.”
The idea has gained traction. It sounds good. Letters to the editor have popped up echoing the sentiments—with one even proposing “a massive letter-writing campaign to Congress insisting it creates a law that prevents the export of our gasoline and fuel oil.”
I was alerted to the trend by “Chip” who wrote the following in response to one of my columns: “So why is no one suggesting a tax on domestically produced oil, natural gas, or coal being taxed if sold overseas. With all of our natural energy resources, why let it count for so little if global demand will dictate that we pay the same general rates for oil, coal, and gas as anywhere else…”
Whether we have a bill like Markey’s that mandates that resources extracted from federal lands be sold in the US or a tax as Chip suggested, the idea that selling domestically produced resources overseas is driving up prices is being propagated from someone, somewhere and is accepted as fact.
With the Obama re-election campaign being staked on raising taxes, it may well be coming straight from the White House. Markey’s “Keep America’s Oil Here Act” tells us that the Democrats have bought into the theme of discouraging exports of US product—whether through regulation or tariff.
Wherever this “protectionism” idea is coming from, it is wrong on many counts. While keeping American oil here sounds like it would lower prices, it will not impact the price and could hurt the overall economy.
In essence, we are keeping American product here as, at present, we use far more than comes out of the ground domestically. Yes, it is true that some of the barrels of oil that come from Texas or North Dakota or the Gulf of Mexico may be sold as gasoline to Argentina or Peru, but we use far more in the US than we extract. Once in the refinery, the barrels of oil may well be merged and the refined product that comes out may, in fact, be interracial—with the gallon of gas’ lineage being a combination of Africa, Brazil, the Middle East, Mexico, Canada, and the US. Since we need the crude oil from some of the very same countries to which we sell the refined product, such as gasoline, is it wise to start adding a tariff to what they buy from us and incite a possible trade war? Here in the US we get many, many products from other countries and adding barriers to trade is likely to hurt the bigger picture.
The misunderstanding of the “keep it ourselves” camp is that there is a difference between the crude oil—from which gasoline is made—and the gasoline and/or refined products such as jet fuel and industrial feed stocks such as ethylene, butane, and propylene. The vast majority of the refined products used in America are produced here. (Some may come from Canada due to the location of the refineries being closer to the American user.) US refineries export the excess finished product—we import about 9 million barrels of oil a day and export about 1 million barrels of fuel. In refining crude oil into gasoline, there are byproducts that other countries need more than we do. If those products, such as kerosene, cannot be sold overseas, we develop a storage problem. American gasoline usage is down while usage in countries with emerging economies is up. For example, in August 2011, US consumers used 8% less gasoline than they had four years earlier. In India, the usage in October 2011 was 5.4% higher than it was one year earlier.
America has the capacity to refine a more diverse mix of crude oil—including the cheaper, heavier crudes, such as those from Canada’s oil sands. Much of the increase in crude supplies is from the heavier oils, and this gives America a competitive advantage. While refiners in some countries are shutting down, the US refineries are positioned for growth, which results in increased jobs and tax revenue. It would be disadvantageous to tell the refiners that they cannot sell their product overseas. Americans are not consuming enough gasoline to fuel growth. Our refiners need the foreign markets.
America finally has something the rest of the world wants! For far too many years we have been importing nearly everything and sending our dollars to other countries. Now we are getting some of that money back, as fuel has become America’s number one export. This helps our trade balance and strengthens the US dollar. A stronger US dollar means lower gas prices as it takes fewer US dollars to buy a barrel of oil. The smaller trade deficit and the stronger dollar can lead to lower US interest rates and that is a boost to American growth.
Additionally there are free-market and moral issues with the “keep it ourselves” model.
If your daughter wanted to set up a lemonade stand and the local city officials told her she could sell lemonade, but she could only sell it to the locals, she might still agree to do it—thinking, “Who else will come down my street?” So she sets up her lemonade stand and sells lemonade to the passersby. One day a bus of athletes headed to the high school breaks down in front of your house and the thirsty athletes flow out of the bus and straight for your daughter’s lemonade stand. Waving dollars at her, they order her ice-cold lemonade. But the local government watchdogs come in and tell her she cannot sell to the thirsty athletes. This is both a violation of free market principles, and it is immoral.
By not being allowed to sell to all customers, she is missing out on a lot of potential sales. Leaving the athletes dehydrated, while she is standing right there with lemonade is immoral. Yet, this is exactly what the protectionism attitude does. It prevents US companies from selling the surplus to customers who want to pay for it and deprives emerging countries from the resources they need to grow. If we thumb our nose at them, they will have to buy from someone else. We lose.
It is better to keep friendly relationships with our customers and encourage growth in US companies that hire our citizens and contribute to our tax base. The more customers we have, from a broader base, the better it is for US businesses.
Instead of a “letter writing campaign to Congress insisting it creates a law that prevents the export of our gasoline and fuel oil,” we need to be grateful that America has something the rest of the world wants: refined fuels made from a truly American melting pot of sources and that “something” has the potential to shrink the trade deficit and boost the declining dollar.