Inflation Not Issue With Democrats’ Job And Revenue Generating Proposals

The news has lately been filled with stories about price increases from gasoline to beef. But just as many stories have been reported that airlines are selling tickets galore and sales are percolating at stores. This morning the lead story above the fold in The Wall Street Journal was titled Shoppers Increase Spending, Despite Inflation.

U.S. consumers withstood rising inflation to power a burst of shopping ahead of the holiday season, with big retailers reporting higher sales and expectations for a solid finish to the year.

Sales at U.S. retail stores, online sellers, and restaurants rose in October by a seasonally adjusted 1.7% from the previous month, the Commerce Department said.

While it is possible to track the reasons for inflation since the pandemic, the supply chain disruptions, and the unemployment numbers or as it has also been termed the “mass resignations’, it must be noted why we must not throw away the chance to advance our society with policies that have been long sought. We need to understand that these proposed initiatives are not inflation-inducing.

When it comes to the Build Back Better legislation some partisans who desire to undermine President Biden rather than listen to the strong support from the public, as polls show, have used the fear of inflation as their rhetorical tool. But the facts and logic are not on their side.

This week at the signing of the massive and much-needed infrastructure bill Republican Senator Rob Portman spoke words that did not make as much news coverage as they warranted. His message was clear. Investing in jobs and revenue-generating ideas is a path towards a strong US economy.

“It represents a long-term investment in our nation’s hard infrastructure assets that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and make us more efficient, more productive and more competitive against other countries like China. Importantly, economists agree that by investing over time in hard assets, it adds to the supply side of the economy, and will be counter-inflationary at a time of rising inflation. And it does all of this without raising taxes on the American economy as we are coming out of the pandemic. In contrast, the partisan tax and spend Build Back Better plan will increase inflation through massive stimulus spending and hurt the economy through massive tax increases.

While it is easy to locate the latest screed from the likes of GOP Senators Ted Cruz or Ron Johnson it obviously makes far more sense to listen to the words of economists and learned individuals. Such as Mark Zandi who for years has been read and heard in this nation about economic matters. He is now the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.

The hair-on-fire discourse over high inflation is understandable, but it’s overdone. … My inflation outlook could be Pollyannish, but only if inflation expectations — what investors, businesses, consumers and economists think inflation will be in the future — rise. If there is a widespread view that inflation will remain high, workers will demand higher wages to compensate and businesses will ante up, believing they can pass along their higher costs to their customers. This vicious wage-price spiral was behind the persistently high inflation we suffered 30 years ago. But there is no evidence that this is happening today.

All of this refutes the notion that the government spending and tax breaks to support the economy through the pandemic, including the American Rescue Plan this past March, are somehow behind the higher inflation. These factors certainly gave a boost to demand last spring, but that faded when the Delta variant gained momentum this fall. There is also no good way to connect the dots between the Build Back Better agenda, which is currently being debated in Congress, and higher inflation. The legislation provides support for public infrastructure and various social programs, and longer term, it is designed to lift the economy’s growth potential, which will ease inflationary pressures.

The fact is that inflation fears are being used by Republicans to confuse a certain segment of the nation and undermine the sitting president. They are not interested in, or understanding of the popular support for housing programs, climate-change policies, and a plethora of other matters contained in the Build Back Better legislation.

Fear may get them a headline now, but the nation is deserving of progress that history will long record.

And so it goes.

F-35s To Be Housed At Truax Field, Sun To Rise Tomorrow

The news today was good, even if not everyone as of yet understands why.

Members of the 115th Fighter Wing said goodbye to the first F-16 ever stationed at Truax Field as the Wisconsin National Guard continues preparing for the next generation of fighters to arrive.

In a post on Facebook, the Guard shared images of the jet, numbered 252, explaining that it first touched down in Madison in April 1993. At that time, Truax Field housed the A-10 Thunderbolt II and was starting its upgrade to the F-16s.

Nearly three decades later, the Guard is upgrading again, this time from fourth-generation aircraft to the fifth-gen F-35 Lighting II. Deputy Adjutant General Gen. David May described the upgrade as “moving from a flip phone to a smartphone” during an August groundbreaking ceremony for the base’s first major F-35 project.

It comes not as news to readers of this blog that I feel a shared responsibility as to the reason for my support of these jets. I expressed it in 2019.

We must take our responsibilities as citizens most seriously.   From voting, serving on a jury, or paying taxes it is our duty to step up and serve in a variety of ways.  That also applies to where the military trains, such as at Truax.  I do not know any person on a first name basis who is actively serving in our military.  So the least I can do is support the men and women who have accepted that role.  If I am advocating policies, such as no-fly zones in Syria, I then should also accept the placement of training for such missions near to where I reside. I am not one who suggests the F-35 be relegated to places like North or South Dakota.

This matter of the F-35 jets is not about noise, as many will try to argue.  A segment of the city and even in Dane County will try to spin their narrative about how their grandchildren will be scared–yes I have heard and read such arguments– but I suspect not since most play very violent video games where a jet taking off is the least dramatic event. To hear some of the dialogue about why people are opposed to the F-35s would lead one to conclude that deafening roars will shake windows from frames, and do everything but rattle the ground so much that caskets will pop out. 

Let us be honest and say at the heart of the matter is a deep disdain about the manufacture and use of the jets.   Madison is very averse to military policy and what has played out over the past couple years regarding these jets has alerted us, again, to that truth.

Here is the bottom line as to why we all need to care about that ginned-up rhetoric.

It is true that some of Madison loves to get caught up in their own self-generated hysteria.  This is what happens all too often and it takes a toll as when truly serious matters arise people are spent and not wishing to expend more energy.  The other half is so dismayed from the crying of ‘wolf’ they tune other messages out.

For the record I often hear the F-16s take off and land from Truax.  I assumed when moving into an urban environment, with an airport and military facility only a few miles away, that there would be sounds from aircraft.  The fact is that the military presence at Truax has proven to be a good neighbor for over 70 years.  Currently the 115 Fighter Wing flies F-16 jets, but those are to be replaced with 20 F-35 jets.

The first one will soon call Truax home.

And so it goes.

Shortages On Madison Store Shelves, Worldwide Economic Concerns

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism, but during the pandemic, I latched onto certain topics and followed them rather closely. (Anything that was not about people on ventilators!) Then again, I might just be a nerd and that explains why I follow up on certain topics. But really, how can anyone not find some desire to better understand the effects of swamping the shipping industry with cargo, as happened in 2020?

Regardless of the reason, I have found interest in the costs of homes, reading today that the median price of one in Californian is $800,000. The stock of available homes for sale, the construction of new ones, along with the housing bubble is a topic I enjoy hearing about from our realtor friends.

I also find my curiosity heightened by the worldwide problems with supply chains concerning a wide swath of products. When masks, disinfectant wipes, and meat products had shortages and distribution problems during the pandemic there was a desire to better understand why. In the middle of 2021, as the shortages continue, and the world is impacted, as with the lack of computer chips for new auto construction, there are many others now trying to understand the reasons, too.

WISC reported on this issue Tuesday.

Tim Metcalfe, owner of Metcalfe’s Market, has seen it too. Paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and bottles of water are once again in short supply at his Madison-based stores.

“We might not have Dasani,” Metcalfe said. “But we do have ‘Everyday Essential.’ There’s always product available. It might just be a different brand.”

Part of the problem is increased demand: Grocery sales are up about 14% nationally from this time two years ago. But it’s also the result of a supply chain issue.

With the supply shortages, comes naturally an uptick in prices.

Kurt Bauer, president of business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce said that the supply chain is also causing issues because production hasn’t rebounded from the downturn caused by COVID-19.

“It takes a while for production to fill that demand, and so there’s more demand than there’s supply,” said Bauer.

Bauer said those issues are feeding into inflationary pressures, which are trickling down to consumers.

“Right now, what we’re seeing is something akin to an accident on a busy highway,” said Bauer. “There’s a bottleneck, and it takes time for traffic to resume normal flow after the accident is cleared.”

Bauer said as shortages ease, some prices could be driven down, but he said inflationary pressures “are here to stay, at least for the time being.”

The New York Times approached this topic from a worldwide perspective this week.

In the face of an enduring shortage of computer chips, Toyota announced this month that it would slash its global production of cars by 40 percent. Factories around the world are limiting operations — despite powerful demand for their wares — because they cannot buy metal parts, plastics and raw materials. Construction companies are paying more for paint, lumber and hardware, while waiting weeks and sometimes months to receive what they need.

In Britain, the National Health Service recently advised that it must delay some blood tests because of a shortage of needed gear. A recent survey by the Confederation of British Industry found the worst shortages of parts in the history of the index, which started in 1977.

The Great Supply Chain Disruption is a central element of the extraordinary uncertainty that continues to frame economic prospects worldwide. If the shortages persist well into next year, that could advance rising prices on a range of commodities. As central banks from the United States to Australia debate the appropriate level of concern about inflation, they must consider a question none can answer with full confidence: Are the shortages and delays merely temporary mishaps accompanying the resumption of business, or something more insidious that could last well into next year?

The economic levers and interworking parts of a global supply network may seem dry and academic. Until the item we wish to buy at the local store or purchase overnight through Amazon is just not available.

And so it goes.

Anti-Vaxxers Causing Economic Woes, 4th Wave Of Pandemic Strikes Nation

The alarm bells are ringing again about the economy due to another wave of COVID-19. It goes without saying that economic downturns will result from any pandemic wave. But it also needs to be stated this 4th wave was totally and absolutely preventable as the cause of it is totally related to those who refuse to follow science and get the vaccines shots.

Mind-boggling, though it is, we hear from Republicans and conservatives that they care about economic growth. They tout tax cuts as growth measures, and cuts in regulations to stir business creation. But when it comes to the easiest and obvious measure to stop a pandemic and ensure a robust economy and stabilized markets those same people in places all over the nation refuse to get the vaccine.

The negative impact of their decisions is now showing up in business reporting.

“When companies began announcing tentative return-to-office plans this spring, there was a sense of optimism behind the messages. Covid cases were dwindling in the United States as the vaccine rollout picked up pace. Employers largely hoped their workers would get shots on their own, motivated by raffle tickets, paid time off and other perks, if not by the consensus of the medical community.”

“In recent days, that tone has suddenly shifted. The Delta variant, a more contagious version of the coronavirus, is sweeping through the country. Fewer than half of Americans are fully vaccinated, exacerbating the situation… It all adds up to a difficult calculation for America’s business leaders, who hoped the country would already be fully on a path to normalcy, with employees getting back to offices. Instead, individual companies are now being forced to make tough decisions that they had hoped could be avoided, such as whether to reverse reopening plans or institute vaccine mandates for employees.”

The recovery that was juicing upwards is soon to face limitations.

Coronavirus cases have been rising nationwide and are back to their highest level since early May as the highly contagious variant spreads across the country. The sharp uptick has reignited fears of the pandemic, particularly as cases rise among young children who are unable to get a vaccine and even among those who have been fully vaccinated.

“If people don’t feel safe, they’re going to close schools. If people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to go back to work,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist. “The recovery — it’s going, but it’s still vulnerable.”

Getting vaccinated should be considered an investment not only in one’s own personal health, but also with society’s health. That includes the nation’s ongoing economic recovery efforts. State data from around the nation shows that when vaccination rates increased, the share of people working also rose.  More money in the engine of the country allows for more people to buy what they put off during the pandemic year.

Policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels must redouble their efforts to increase vaccination rates in order to secure these benefits and build on past successes. But for them to succeed the chuckleheads who thus far have acted liked petulant children need to step up and begin to act like an adult.

And so it goes.

Wisconsin’s Economic Realties In Partisan Times

The final sentence in two articles in the Sunday newspaper popped off the pages and are statements not only about the issues of the day which need to be addressed, but more importantly they speak to a deeper truth concerning the partisan times in which we live. Over the past few years the most confounding topic I have attempted to better understand is how facts and data matter less than partisan alignment. We are not talking about small details at the margins of the issues, but rather the stark bold facts right in front of the eyes of state residents.

From the Associated Press Josh Boak reported the following.

Marvin Murphy, the 80-year-old owner of Fox Cities magazine lamented that so many people only process the world based on what they see and hear on TV.

“Reality is is not the most important thing,” Murphy said. “The perceived reality is what’s important.”

The article pointed out that by almost any measure, Trump’s promises of an economic revival in places like Appleton have gone unfulfilled. The area has lost about 8,000 jobs since he got elected.

Meanwhile Tom Still at the Wisconsin State Journal wrote a column about a congressional bill which would ramp up funding for research, drive manufacturing and provide innovative tools for more places nationwide. It is precisely the type of legislation that should be talked about in light of a pandemic and difficulty with supply chains worldwide. Still’s final sentence is not about the substance of the bill, however, but the higher mountain to climb in this unsettled partisan climate.

Let’s see if our fractured political times can bring it into sharper focus.

We have all read and heard much about the political tribalism that has embedded itself into our system, and we know this is not the first time when reason or facts have taken a back seat to the needs of the state. But the depth of the canyon between reality and partisan perspective seems, from my observations, to be more pronounced than anytime in my nearly six decades.

I grew up in a rural part of Wisconsin that was primarily older, blue-collar, Christian and mostly Caucasian. My adult life has been spent in largely the opposite environment with urban, multi-cultural, higher educated, and upwardly mobile people all around. I know how to talk with both groups, but have not found the answer as to why the same facts about an issue can be presented but the acceptance of that data is so different. It is that dilemma which stresses our political system not only in Wisconsin, but nationwide.

The New York Times Sunday reported from Janesville where economic promises and hope-for renewal has yet to occur.

Lingering hopes that the factory would be resurrected were dashed when the final smokestack that dominated the 300-acre campus was demolished in 2019.

Several shipping warehouses eventually arrived, including a huge Dollar General distribution center. While some residents welcome the new jobs, others say they’re no substitute for highly paid auto work that once guaranteed pensions and lifelong health insurance.

So how do we talk about the data from multiple places statewide showing economic distress over the past years and not have it rejected out of hand by those on ‘the other side’ of the divide? We know the wise route as citizens, and the essential path for our future, is to find a bridge for the sake of our state. Having said, however, we need to ponder the impact of marginalizing facts for the sake of unity. That is a price too steep for us to ever take.

I do not have an answer for the complexity of how to marshal facts for those who simply reject them. But I do wish to end this column with an uplifting thought. I enjoy having conversations with those who vote and think differently than I do and find the best way to make headway is to talk in broad strokes, and from the larger array of ideas ‘on the table’, gravitate to the ones where common ground exists.  If the other person is open to that style of conversation a cup of coffee and an hour can make a difference.

As Wisconsinites that might be the best place from which to start at rebuilding our shared factual commonalties.

Blue States Pay More Taxes, More Benefits Used In Red States Than Taxes Paid

I can not say that Donald Trump’s statement about dead Americans in Blue States is the most deplorable one from his term in office, but it is darn close.

“If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at” in terms of coronavirus deaths. We’re really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue state-managed.”

The nation I grew up in was made of Americans and when calamities struck it was not how you voted that mattered, but gauging how much help will be needed from government. But if Trump wants to dig down into the gutter and act like a complete idiot over Blue states and their worth during this pandemic as he strides to a resounding national defeat is about 50 days, so be it. He will notice that statisticians are ready to do battle with his words.

Let us see that would happen to his base should Blue states somehow disappear. His base of white males in Red states likely have not been following the numbers but the nation has a massive budget deficit. Given the extent to which Blue states often pay more in taxes than they receive in services, Trump should just keep his mouth shut.

The US overall pays 3.1 trillion in taxes and uses 3.8 trillion in benefits. But Red America pays 1.6 trillion in taxes but uses 2.1 trillion in benefits.

Then there is the part of the news today which makes me snicker. I am not a sports fan but I always take note of the cultural side to this pastime for many. So the data makes for news on this blog.

Extract blue states, and you lose 42 percent of NHL teams, 43 percent of NBA teams, 44 percent of NFL teams and fully half of Major League Baseball teams — including Trump’s favorite, the New York Yankees.

Then as The Washington Post noted if Trump were to undo the Blue parts of the nation suddenly a broad range of Trump-branded properties are excluded from the America Trump wants to lead. Trump Tower? No longer American. His hotel in D.C.? Out. His hotel in Vegas or his club in Bedminster, N.J.? Now foreign territory.

The New York Times summed up my dismay with Trump regarding his statement with a stinging editorial today.

While presidents running for re-election typically look at the map of the country through a partisan lens, they ostensibly take off such a filter when it comes to their duties to govern, or at least make the effort to look like they do. 

The contrast with his predecessors in moments of national crisis could hardly be more stark. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush invited the Democratic senators from New York, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, to the Oval Office to collaborate on how to help the victims and repair the damage.

When Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey just days before the 2012 election, President Barack Obama broke off from campaigning to travel to the ravaged state where he stood side by side with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who was supporting his opponent, to pledge solidarity in recovery efforts.

But these are more partisan times, and Mr. Trump is a more overtly partisan figure than perhaps any modern president. Through months of the pandemic, he has at various moments lashed out at Democratic governors, blaming them for any failures, while his comment on Wednesday about not counting deaths in blue states reflected an effort to lay responsibility for the worst pandemic in a century on his opposition.

“It’s so unworthy of a president,” Tom Ridge, a Republican former governor of Pennsylvania and later secretary of homeland security under Mr. Bush, said on Thursday. “It’s beyond despicable. It’s soulless.” He added that the virus was an equal-opportunity killer. “It’s almost unspeakable in the middle of the pandemic to try to divide the country on a political basis when Covid-19 is really bipartisan.”

Jay, Maine: What About Their Future?

My better-half comes from Maine and so stories like this one grabs for our attention.

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Smoke rises from an explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay on April 15.REBECCA BURHOE

Jay, Maine an hour north of Portland, has a Dollar Tree, a Hannaford, a half-dozen churches, a gun shop, and a convenience store, Franchetti’s Home Town Variety, reputed to have the best pizza on the planet.

With a population of just under 5,000, the town sits at the heart of the nation’s most forested state. Since the late 19th century, it has focused its economic energies on making logs into paper. In the early 1960s, Jay loomed so large in the industry that the International Paper Co. chose it to build what was then the world’s most sophisticated mill for wood pulp, there on the banks of the Androscoggin River. “It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen,” remembers Dennis Couture, who, at age 6, went to the grand opening holding hands with his mother (his father was a millworker). “And soon the mill was making the paper for those 1,200-page Sears, Roebuck catalogs. I thought, They’re making enough paper to feed the world.”

Many of Jay’s residents, predominantly French-Canadian Catholics, were already working at International Paper’s Otis Mill, which had been operating downtown for decades. Now workers began pouring into the new Androscoggin Mill, to feed the pulp digester at its center and shape the output into paper. Maine loggers from up to 300 miles to the north descended upon the mill with truckloads of pulpwood — the gnarled, skinny tips of trees, the twisting branches that could not be hewn into lumber — and drove away richer. And woodlot owners managed their lands with the confidence that they could turn their runt trees into Jay pulp, thereby giving their straighter, thicker trees sufficient space and sunlight to grow into lucrative lumber.

There are eight paper mills in Maine, and right up until this spring, the one in Jay, built more than a half-century ago for about $54 million, processed more low-grade wood — pine, hemlock, spruce, fir, tamarack — than any other. Then on April 15, just after noon, the digester exploded, bursting like a volcano and sending a brown geyser of wood chips several hundred feet into the air. A second, newer digester was bent and ruined by the fall of the first one. A widely-circulated video captured the logging trucks halted nearby as their windshields got pelted with dark slurry.

In Jay, those explosions spell money. In 2009, the mill accounted for 70 percent of Jay’s tax revenue. Last year it covered 46 percent. And now there’s a fear that the number may soon plummet to zero. Pixelle has made no promises that it will spend hundreds of millions to buy a new digester for the Androscoggin Mill. It’s kept its mill in Jay open, but it has also laid off 59 of the plant’s 500 employees and telegraphed that more job cuts may come. To feed the two working paper machines at the Jay mill, it’s buying pulp from another nearby mill — an expensive and likely unsustainable scheme. Maine’s paper and wood industry, which accounts for 15 percent of the state’s economy, is now up against the ropes, after many years of being repeatedly punched. And in town, the question on everyone’s mind is: How will Jay survive this?

Conservatives Need Rubuke Over Mask Wearing, National Economy Proof As To Why

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This morning, regardless of where one lived daily newspaper(s) told the story of what has happened to our economy from a failure of national leadership to deal with COVID-19.  With those headlines comes the continuing drama from Republicans who want to punish elected officials who care enough to stem the spread of the virus with mask mandates.  While much of the nation wants to confront the virus in effective ways, conservatives are pushing Free-dumb. There is no better example as to why education matters.

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The nation’s gross domestic product fell 9.5 percent in the second quarter of the year as consumers cut back spending, businesses pared investments and global trade dried up.  The drop — the equivalent of a 32.9 percent annual rate of decline — would have been even more severe without trillions of dollars in government aid to households and businesses.

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With Republicans not willing to participate in helping with cash infusions into local units of government, a necessary part of any future COVID relief bill, the next GDP report in October—just weeks before the election–will be most troubling.  The V-shaped swing in the economy that this White House claimed was going to happen clearly did materialize.  Frankly, no one ever thought it would.  But the economic implosion is much deeper than anyone would have dared predict.  Without the federal power of the purse, and with the climbing numbers of new virus cases, and the pall that places on business requires conservatives to pull their head from the sand.

This weekend is not likely to produce any great compromise in Congress as the Republicans are so politically screwed come November they are more concerned about positioning themselves within their caucus for the post-Trump world.   That political footwork does not bode well for the economy or unemployed workers.

Trump meanwhile has not done anything meaningful for the economy.  He lumbered into the office and profited from the Obama economy.   When given a chance to lead on the virus he instead called it a hoax and stated that the virus would just go away.

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There is only one reaction that this nation can have regarding Republicans and conservatives when it comes to their lack of concern about the health and well-being of the citizenry and economy.  They all simply need to be severely rebuked.

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