Swallowing Obama’s and Romney’s Magic Economic Pills

Written by Steven Hansen

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all, go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall – Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit

Watching the Presidential debates when you know the data, and you are a student of economic dynamics – brings a different perspective to the political and media spin heard following the debate.  It is obvious to me that the politicos play to the weaknesses of human nature:

  • if something is wrong, it can be immediately fixed.

The Presidential candidates offered their economic “pills” which they suggested would solve the economic woes. What struck me was that neither candidate displayed any vision of economic dynamics.  Both used their parties “litmus” tests in the way they described what it would take to get the economy going:

  • protect the little guy
  • unleash greed to help the little guy
  • grow small business to expand employment opportunities
  • energy independence
  • bring back jobs from overseas
  • reduce taxes on business
  • reduce taxes on the middle class
  • reduce deficit

Come on – these elements are a mixture of economic headwinds and tailwinds.  It depends on they way they are implemented whether it could be economically positive, and neither candidate is exposing enough detail to make any determination.  Most know I tend to gravitate towards employment / unemployment analysis – and that I feel that if the USA could magically create jobs, it would be the economic magic pill.  The real economy is about people working and creating.

It seems economists and politicos believe money is the economy (and not one of the many measures of the economy). It appears to be true that small business is the jobs driver which is easily seen by using ADP’s employment data (the BLS does not issue data series on employment by company size).  Fewer and fewer jobs exist in the USA in companies with 500 or more employees – and this trend has been in play since 2000.

Both candidates must believe the dynamics of the above graph – as both want to energize small business.  The magic pill both candidates offered was increased profit potential so small business could hire more. Higher profits are not an incentive to small business to hire – an expanding economy is an incentive to hire.  An expanding economy creates jobs – and jobs create more jobs (jobs multiplier).

And likely, the poor employment dynamics today is in itself creating the headwinds for economic expansion.  The USA is in a real Catch-22. Is there a Catch-22 pill?  Likely it is a series of pills that will be very, very slow acting. And neither candidate exposed any real pills.  In fact, there is little difference between the candidates economically – or the economic approach of the previous President Bush.

Two countries jump to my mind as needing to import workers (employment demand above the population supply) – Germany and Singapore.  Both countries are:

  • very Austrian in their approach to their respective economies;
  • resource poor;
  • significantly better social safety nets than the USA (including universal health care)

Maybe the problem is the current Keynesian approach which has built up a permanent toxicity into the private sector from uncorrected government intervention errors causing imbalance -and now this is an economic headwind.  I am not suggesting that pure Austrian economics is the way out of poor employment dynamics at this point.

But the magic pill will not come from maintaining the economic doctrine which has been applied since World War II.  And neither candidate is offering any more than a color change of the same pills.

Other Economic News this Week:

The Econintersect economic forecast for October 2012 showed growth, but there was a serious degradation of the elements in the forecast. Overall, trend lines were broken to the downside. There is a diminishing whiff of recession in the hard data (plus a diminishing number of surveys are at recession levels), with container imports expanding for the first month in the last three.

ECRI is still insisting a recession is here (a 07Sep2012 post on their website). ECRI first stated in September 2011 a recession was coming . The size and depth is unknown. The ECRI WLI growth index value is enjoying its ninth week in positive territory. The index is indicating the economy six month from today will be slightly better than it is today.

Current ECRI WLI Growth Index

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Initial unemployment claims rose significantly – from 339,000 (reported last week) to 388,000 this week (the decline last week and increase this week nullify each other – and is likely due to reporting nuances). Historically, claims exceeding 400,000 per week usually occur when employment gains are less than the workforce growth, resulting in an increasing unemployment rate (background here and here). The real gauge – the 4 week moving average – rose insignificantly from 364,000 (reported last week) to 365,500. Because of the noise (week-to-week movements from abnormal events AND the backward revisions to previous weeks releases), the 4-week average remains the reliable gauge.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims – 4 Week Average – Seasonally Adjusted – 2010 (blue line), 2011 (red line), 2012 (green line)

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Data released this week which contained economically intuitive components (forward looking) were:

  • Rail movements (where the economic intuitive components indicate a moderately slightly expanding economy).

All other data released this week either does not have enough historical correlation to the economy to be considered intuitive, or is simply a coincident indicator to the economy.

Weekly Economic Release Scorecard:

September 2012 Existing Home Sales
Infographic of the Day: Is Your Job Killing You?
America: Let The Rich Run The Country Like China Does! The Costs and Risks of Dollar Cost Averaging Initial Unemployment Claims: More Seasonal Adjustment Distortions
MF Global and the Disappearing Money: Current Status
Fed’s Balance Sheet: 17 October 2012: Largest Weekly Gain this Year
Rail Week Ending 13 October 2012: Intermodal Shipments Less Good
September 2012 Sea Container Counts Show Slightly Expanding Economy
September 2012 Leading Economic Index Forecasting a Weak Economy
October 2012 Philly Fed Survey Has Very Good Improvement
13October2012 Unemployment Claims: Big Jump this Week
Infographic of the Day: Social Media vs. Salary
Stocks: Still Higher in the Fourth Quarter
Is Resistance Futile? The Corporate-Government Complex
China GDP Growth Continues to Slow, But Improvement may be Around the Corner
A123 Systems Bites the Dust – The Facts
Gallup: U.S. Unemployment Shows Persistent Decline
Reinhart and Rogoff Rejects Romney’s “This Time Is Different” Economists
CBO: Alternative Approaches to Funding Highways
Residential Building Permits Strong in September 2012 Infographic of the Day: Countries With Highest Economic Freedoms
Why the Bond Bull Market is Not Over
Unthinkable Iceberg for Europe’s Unsinkable Ship
Thoughts on the 4% Withdrawal Solution
Earth Polarity Reversals and Other Extreme Events
Euro Crisis: Are Germany and IMF Lighting a Fuse? Citigroup: Pandit Resigns Abruptly
Ticker Sense 15 October 2012 Blogger Sentiment Bearish
Industrial Production Expands in September 2012 September 2012 CPI Shows Annual Inflation Grew to 2.0%
Stratfor: Turkey’€™s Challenge and the Syrian Negotiation
Infographic of the Day: Skills in High Demand Today
Robots Now Used for Robo-Signing Mortgage Documents
Gold and Silver Peaking and Turning Down
This Week’s 10 Top Things to Watch
The Jilted Valley Girl
New York Fed Pres. Dudley: Mortgage Market Too Concentrated
Average Gasoline Price Falls $0.028 Week Ending 15 October 2012
The Data Behind Last Week’s ‘Wild’ Initial Claims
Nobel Prize in Economics
Heat Is Being Turned Up to Reform Money Market Funds (MMF)
Business Inventories and Sales Are Mixed in August 2012 October 2012 Empire State Survey Continues to Predict Manufacturing Contraction Retail Sales Seem A Little Soft in September 2012
Insider Trading 12 October 2012: Insiders Buy Over $24 million of Stock
Infographic of the Day: Romney vs Obama Tax Plans Compared
What Have Economists Ever Done for Us?
‘Crowding Out’ is Coming to Get You Expect A Counter Trend Rally In US Dollar
China: Disinflation and Deflation Continue
High-Frequency Trading: Market Destroying Scam
CoreLogic: Majority of Homeowners Not Taking Advantage of Low Mortgage Rates
Bernanke to IMF: Federal Reserve Doing Its Part To Stimulate Global Economy
Sunday Economic Comedy: Financial Markets At Work
The Week Ahead: Will Earnings Disappoint?
Credit to Small Enterprises: The silent crisis
Is There a Peace Prize for Failure?
Gold: Investor Cycle Top Trefis: Highlights Week Ending 12 October 2012
Nasty Trade Data Shows Weakening Economy Crestmont Quarterly Review
IMF: Less Austerity?
Austerity Down, Gold Up
Preliminary October 2012 Michigan Consumer Sentiment At 5 Year High

Bankruptcies this Week: A123 Systems,, Satcon Technology

3 replies on “Swallowing Obama’s and Romney’s Magic Economic Pills”

  1. Dear Steve:
    Neither candidate is suggesting there is a magic pill, and neither candidate is suggesting that the problems can be fixed immediately.
    If anything, President Obama’s theme is another four years because he could not fix the economy in the last four. Of course, he never will with these policies, but that is a topic for another day.
    Tax incentives COULD grease the wheel for hiring and help expand an economy. Let’s play “what if”.
    What if every employer received a significant tax credit for every new hire, on a sliding scale, based upon salary? (This is what if, so you can perhaps paint an even better set of possibilities). And, what if they get a greater tax write off for employee retention?
    What if… it’s not a magic pill but there are plenty of tax changes that would be meaningful.
    in my humble opinion

  2. hello Optionsgirl (long time no hear),

    my proposed fix is to empower mom and pop – and hopefully it spills over to larger small business. i would exempt income the first $100K from tax (income and self employment and obamacare – and even allowing an individual to get unemployment) for schedule c income. this would allow mom and pop to experiment with operating their own business. the incentive is paying no taxes.

    the objective of this is for mom and pop to create their own job – if the system is unable to create the job.


  3. If giving more money to corporations would start them hiring, they would be hiring like crazy. Corporations have trillions of dollars in the bank and/or disbursed to top management. The single and only thing which will induce corporations to hire is consumer demand for products they manufacture in North America. Tax cuts have been done over and over again with no hiring response from corporations – but simply as more money to be distributed to the executive bonus programs. Jobs are not created because corporations are rich, they are created because of consumer demand – nothing else. Government hiring and spending, like the government spending during the first and second world wars were the antidote for economic malaise which preceded them. When corporations are not hiring it is because there is no economic demand in the economy and so the government must hire workers to create the economic demand that will motivate corporations to hire workers.
    You are simply parroting the corporate lie (whine); give us more money and everything will be recovered.

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