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Federal Spending Cuts Set to Hit a Down Economy

Sep 29, 2011, 12:38 pm EDT

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner seemed to be on the verge of a fiscal compromise at several points this summer. Obama signaled he might be willing to accept more cuts, and Boehner signaled “revenues” might be negotiable (although he later denied such an unorthodox position).

As of last week, Obama said unequivocally (no more Mr. Nice Guy) that he wouldn’t sign any legislation that didn’t raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Boehner, of course, has clearly instructed the Republicans on the “super committee” to ignore such crazy talk and work only on cutting spending.

Truthfully, we can’t know whether or not the super committee will add revenues to the legislation or call Obama’s bluff and pass a simple spending bill. But, thanks to the bizarre debt-ceiling compromise this summer, we are sure to have at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts either way. Read 

Uncle Sam Has a Grudge Against These Industries

Sep 28, 2011, 9:47 am EDT

On Friday, Sept. 23, executives from bankrupt solar firm Solyndra pleaded the Fifth in front of a Congressional oversight committee. The committee sought to probe how the company squandered a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy right before imploding. The episode has been one big embarrassment for President Barack Obama, as last year he touted Solyndra as a perfect example of a clean energy firm capable of creating high-tech, high-paying “green jobs.”

The Solyndra incident is a perfect example of government support for a company and/or industry gone wrong. It also clearly shows the damage that can be levied on taxpayers when the government tries to pick winners and fails. But perhaps more pernicious than the consequences of government support for a loser is when the government seemingly carries out a crusade against specific sectors of the economy, and even against specific companies.

Reviled and vilified industries such as big oil, tobacco and even restaurants all have come under scrutiny by the government in recent months, despite the fact that they sell legal products that consumers demand. Read 

The Score on Europe, Debt and the U.S.

Sep 27, 2011, 1:39 pm EDT

Being an investor used to be so easy. Don’t you pine for the days of studying P&L statements, creating valuation spreadsheets, assessing management and determining the likelihood of success of a cool gadget or product or marketing scheme?

Now everything has gone “macro,” with the success of virtually every sector tied to your ability to forecast political events — not economic or financial events.

Since modeling politicians is a lot harder than modeling financials, this might be one of the toughest environments ever seen. My biggest complaint is that Europe seems unwilling to act with the sense of urgency that befits the current situation, with Greek debts due and potential knock-on contagion effects very real, no matter what the optimists tell you on television. Read 

Why Herman Cain Will Struggle to Win the Black Vote

Sep 27, 2011, 11:16 am EDT

Richard Young engages in a thought experiment about Herman Cain winning the Republican primary (still a long shot) and going on to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 general election. He concludes that Cain can safely split the black vote with Obama. Two African-Americans running against each other for the American presidency would be unprecedented and probably make traditional political analyses moot. However, let us note the following impediments to Cain’s victory among blacks in the 2012 election:

1. Blacks vote overwhelmingly Democratic and have for decades. It’s a big leap to assume that you will see about half of them switch party affiliation.


Herman Cain’s Success Lies in the Black Vote

Sep 26, 2011, 1:15 pm EDT

Americans cast 131 million votes in the 2008 presidential election. Barack Obama received 9,522,083 million more votes than did John McCain, and a swing of less than 5 million votes would have put McCain, rather than Obama, in the White House.

Americans were rightfully fed up with George W. Bush and his cabal of neocon nation builders. The Bush record was low-hanging fruit for any Democrat contender, especially against another neocon sympathizer with little conservative support. McCain ran a lousy campaign. There is no other way to characterize it. In went an unknown Barack Obama with nothing in the way of a presidential résumé.

Under Obama, America, for the first time in history, has lost its AAA-credit rating. Obama jammed through his intrusive Obamacare, among the most divisive pieces of legislation in history. The president’s policies of income redistribution have led to an unemployment rate that still stands at a staggering 9.1%, despite profligate spending of the highest order in combination with full-scale money printing at the Fed. Along the way, Obama has sent two ultra-liberal justices to lifetime jobs at the Supreme Court. The mess in Iraq and Afghanistan continues unabated. Read 

History Shows Promise for ‘Operation Twist’

Sep 26, 2011, 11:55 am EDT

At the end of its two-day confab last week, the Fed said that — as expected — it would shift $400 billion of its enormous bond holdings from short-term to longer-term Treasuries in the hopes of knocking rates down further and stimulating the economy in what some are calling “Operation Twist.”

Have we heard this record before? In one way — yes, of course. But like many cover songs, this one comes with a different beat. Rather than spending new money, the Fed will sell short-term bonds (which should push yields higher) and buy longer-term bonds (which will push yields lower), flattening the yield curve. They don’t plan to do anything with their mortgage bonds other than to reinvest the interest and/or returned principal received on them.

For some historical perspective, it was more than 50 years ago that the Fed first put needle to vinyl on “Operation Twist.” In that version, which debuted in February 1961, the Fed initiated a similar strategy of selling short-term bonds and buying longer-term bonds. There still is some debate about how effective the measure was, but the Dow was up 7% a year after the policy took effect and up 50% four years later. Read 

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