Energy Independence – and Beyond

Perhaps you’re hearing a lot of gloom and/or doom about the economy. Most of it is pretty easy to refute, as Barataria has shown. There is every reason to say that we are indeed turning a corner into next year and that Spring is Coming.

Could there be any more good news? Of course there is. Let’s talk about energy independence and the lingering trade deficits that have been plaguing this nation since about the mid 1970s. Could it be that we’re about to slay at least one of the 40 year old demons that has defined the United States for as long as nearly half of today’s voters have been alive?

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Part Time Work, Revisited

Are you not working a full 40 hours a week, though you would like to? A solid 4.1% of all workers report that they are, in technical terms, “Part Time for Economic Reasons”, which is to say that they’d jump at the chance for a full time job but don’t have one yet. It’s a decent improvement from the 5.3% in this position two years ago, when we last looked at the problem, but it’s still not good.

Worse, the San Francisco Federal Reserve, who studies the phenomenon, has come to believe that it’s a feature of the new economy.

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Yellen’s Dashboard – Update

Another quarter has come, and it arrived with good news on jobs. The stock market didn’t tank right away, but most investors agree that the daze of puffed-up valuations for everyone are over. The consensus seems to be that rather than a general fall, investors will have to be more selective and careful. This is consistent with an economy that is changing and gradually turning over, ahead of the next Big Thing that will propel a real bull market in coming years.

But where do we stand with respect to Yellen’s Dashboard – those key economic indicators that Fed Chair Yellen said she’d be watching for movement where there has been so little over the past few years? We don’t have all the data to fill in where 3Q14 stands, but we have most of it. And it all looks good. Which is to say bad, if you’re so minded, because it really does look like the Fed is going to raise rates.

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Job Loss Hits a Milestone

Of all the various measures of the economy we have at our disposal, one of the most consistent and real-time is the Unemployment Initial Claims, which comes out weekly. It’s nothing more than a measure of how many people filed for unemployment insurance in the previous week, so it’s a solid number that doesn’t come from a survey or other statistical measure.

It still has its problems, however. It’s noisy, bouncing up and down a bit each week – a problem taken care of by looking at a 4-week moving average. Initial Claims numbers also don’t tell us a thing about hiring, but rather how many lost their jobs.

It hasn’t been useful for at least two years as attention turned away from job loss to job creation that would absorb the surplus workers looking for employment. But it’s worth checking in with this handy number one more time because it has hit an important milestone – and may be as low as it will ever go.

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The Case for Optimism

A short time ago, I asked my friends on facebook if they were optimistic about the economy. Scratch that – I insisted that the negative case for this slowly improving economy was bunk and got an eyeful of responses. Needless to say, my friends aren’t in the mood for Mr. Sunshine, as some of the commentators here have called me. Talk about fundamentals improving? Show them the money. Building a strong foundation for the next economy is nothing compared to a strong roof overhead and comfortable home inside.

So it is time to make the case for optimism, which is to say why I feel that things are going to get better in 2014. Either I’m ahead of the curve or I’m just plain wrong – you get to pick. All I ask is that whichever you pick now you file away, with this piece, and evaluate the decision for keeps later. But this is the case for the economy finally picking up this year and developing strong momentum into 2015 and beyond – into 2017 when I still think good times will be had.

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Triple Threat

What’s the right thing to do to help the economy?  Clearly, Congress has no idea, making bizzy with games designed to impress their constituents.  Major economists don’t agree, either, with at least three different views on what is going on and the appropriate remedies. How can it be so chaotic and disorganized?

It’s always been Barataria’s creed that if you complain about how things are you have to stick your neck out and offer a better solution.  Our answer has always been that there is a totally new economy forming around us as we work through the Managed Depression, and that there is a dire need for public and private leadership to help us create that new world dynamically.  That’s a bit too hard to define , but we can offer is a different way of looking at the situation we’re in.  It doesn’t directly point to courses of action, but it suggests things that should be tried.

Here is a description of the Triple Threat to the US Economy – Business Cycles, Globalism, and Demographics – and how they are working together to make this a once in a lifetime change.

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Summing it Up

Much has been happening lately, but the news is hard to digest.  For now, I’d rather stay with the economic news and summarize what I think is going on.  This post is largely a repeat from last year, but it makes a jumping-off point.  I think that the context of the news is extremely important because without it all we have is a senseless jumble of events and not a coherent understanding.

If we can’t grab what is happening around us and make it our own, how can we call ourselves a free and democratic society?  Barataria does what it can to offer a different way of looking at what is happening and relate it in story form, free of unexplained jargon.  Hopefully, this will help to make a more real and useful politics.

After a few months of big events and heavy articles, it’s time to summarize the Baratarian view on the big economic picture in one polemic and invite your comments.

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