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Book Review: Paul Krugman, End This Depression Now (WWNorton, 2012)
Raymond Richman, 4/16/2014

The best part of this book is its dedication which shows Prof. Krugman’s heart is in the right place. It reads, “To the unemployed, who deserve better.” Indeed they do, but the public policies recommended by the book have not and will not help them at all! This is a book written by a Nobel prize-winner in economics. But there is not an original thought in the book. Krugman is a Keynesian circa 1950 but Keynes, had he lived to read it would not subscribe to it. Keynes showed an ability to learn from historical reality while Krugman does not.  ...

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Where Is the Economy Going? Sideways, Mostly.
Raymond Richman, 4/11/2014

As we noted on this site in January, the outlook for the economy looked bad for the economy. The number of claims for unemployment insurance unadjusted was quite high but one had to consider the much lower seasonally adjusted numbers as the table below shows. The range of the unadjusted figures for the weeks ending 12/28/13 to l/18/14 was between 411,678 and 532,698 but the seasonally adjusted figures were in a much lower range of 300,000 to 326,000. So we had to wait and see. From March 15, 2014, the unadjusted figures dropped below 300,000, quite good figures, really, and the seasonally adjusted figures were slightly higher ranging from 300,000 to 326,000. ...

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Why Economists Failed to Promote Recovery from the Great Recession 2008-2014
Raymond Richman, 4/8/2014

Pres. Obama had some stellar economists serving as his advisers but they ended up giving him and his staffers bad advice as to how to promote an economic recovery  from the 2008-14 recession. (Most economists consider a recession to be taking place while economic growth is negative. We do not consider it ended until full-employment is regained.) Consider who they were. Prof. Lawrence Summer of Harvard was head of the National Economic Council, Prof. Ben Bernanke of Princeton was head of the Federal Reserve and had been Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors in 2005-6, Prof. Christina Romer of Obama’s first Council of Economic Advisors (2009-10) was a professor of economics at Univerity of California at Berkeley. She was succeeded at the CEA by Prof. Austan Goolsbee (2010-11), of Chicago’s Booth School who received his Ph.D. in Economics at MIT. He was succeeded by another Princeton Professor, labor economist, Alan Krueger (2011-13). During the George W. Bush administration when the recession began, Prof. Edward Lazear, who had been a professor of Human Resources Management at Stanford University and chairman of the CEA from 2006-2009 and succeeded Ben Bernanke as chairman of the CEA. About Bush’s anti-cyclical policies, nothing good can be stated. Bernanke deserves double mention because he helped inflate the housing bubble and did nothing to prevent it during his tenure at the CEA nor during his tenure at the Fed beginning in 2007.

Bernanke’s predecessor at the Fed, Alan Greenspan who served as the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006 must be deemed to have been the economist most responsible for the housing bubble. Greenspan’s great mistake was in continuing the inconsistent role of the Fed under the Community Investment Act of 1977. The Act was intended to ensure that black and poor neighborhoods were not discriminated against by the banks and put the Federal Reserve System in charge of administering the program. The Fed lowered the standards for making housing loans so much that it ended up contributing to the housing bubble that burst in 2006 ushering in the Great Recession from which we have not yet recovered. The huge number of subprime loans that defaulted is a convincing demonstration of the Fed's failure to perform its duty to prevent the banks from making sub-standard loans.

This tells us that economists at the top of the profession did little to prevent the recession and little to promote a recovery. They were rewarded handsomely in honors and funds in academia and by government and international agencies. The millions still unemployed after six years, employed part-time, or forced to drop out of the labor force were betrayed by what masquerades as a science.  ...

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A Mixed Socialist-Capitalist Economic System Does Not Work, Either
Raymond Richman, 4/7/2014

One does not have to point to the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or to the failure of Labor Party policies in the U.K. to justify the conclusion that governments are incapable of efficiently producing goods and services although there are some few exceptions, principally in areas that economists call “natural monopolies” for example. The problem that popularly elected governments have is that democratic politics interferes with the essential efficiency force, competition.

The history of the U.S. with financial institutions is especially egregious as have been its efforts to provide public housing, subsidize higher education, and promote alternative green energy sources. Indeed, Wagner’s law of increasing government explains why there is no limit to government inefficiency. Governments do not compete with themselves.

Government enterprises have had some success in the production of electric power when it is a natural monopoly especially in the distribution of energy but its subsidies to energy-producing enterprises has been a failure regardless of what criteria you want to apply. We prefer economic efficiency. That requires the measurement of social costs and benefits. Unfortunately, the measurement of social benefits and costs is a political calculation and subject to the same difficulties as we have with running government enterprises....

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Democrats Condemn Blacks to Live in Urban Ghettos
Raymond Richman, 4/3/2014

During the Depression of the 1930s, Democrats created temporary government jobs in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Public Works Administration (PWA) but did little to encourage private sector jobs. In the current administration, Pres. Obama did even less. He spent nearly all of his first administration from 2009-2013, on enacting Obamacare, a health plan that actually discouraged hiring in the private sector. His economic stimulus plan of 2009 consisted almost entirely of pork, transfers to the states, and financing unproductive environmental programs. Pres. Franklin Roosevelt likewise spent most of his first two terms on a giant public program, the Social Security System, not a job-creating program, unproductive anti-competitive price-increasing policies, the NRA, and in 1937, he signed the Wagner-Steagall Act which provided for subsidies to local public housing.

This was followed by the creation of the Public Housing Administration, the U.S. Housing Authority, and the House and Home Financing Agency which Lyndon Johnson combined the into a new Department of Housing and Urban Development. We find no federal authority for such an agency. In any case, the record is filled with failures, high costs, new urban slums, and the bankruptcy of many cities, most recently the city of Detroit.

We know the record of the demolitions of huge public housing complexes in Chicago and a number of other cities, including the immense Pruitt-Igoe public housing development in St. Louis, and as recently as two years ago, the demolition of two high-rise public housing buildings in Pittsburgh. Despite this continuous record of the failure of public housing, the Department continues to exist.

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Great op-ed by Ken Davis and Will Wilkin about the Korea-US trade treaty in Samford Advocate on Wednesday
Howard Richman, 3/21/2014

The op-ed (Conn. suffers losses under U.S.-Korea trade treaty) discusses the effects upon Connecticut jobs of the US.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The authors are a former Assistant Secretary of Commerce who is also a former VP of IBM and the co-owner-operator of a solar company. They have founded an organization called "Balanced Trade Associates." That's an organization we'd like to join!

They take the Obama administration to task for misrepresenting the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement and point out that the new agreement (Trans Pacific Partnership) being negotiated with 11 Asian countries is modeled upon that disaster. Here's how they begin:

Creating more American jobs should be Congress' priority, which is why we cannot afford any more-of-the-same trade deals.

The latest evidence: Two years after the Obama administration's major U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) went into effect, new government data show U.S. monthly trade deficits with Korea have ballooned 47 percent relative to before the agreement, which represents the loss of at least 50,000 additional American jobs in the FTA's initial 24 months....

They point out that the agreement with Korea actually reduced U.S. exports to Korea:...

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End the Corporate Income Tax; Integrate the Corporate and Personal Income Taxes
Raymond Richman, 3/12/2014

This paper is an attempt to decide the best way to tax the owners of corporations. First is to tax the corporation on the basis of its earned income and capital gains, which is the present treatment.  Dividends that shareholders receive are included in their personal income subject to the personal income tax. Second is to tax corporate income as partnership income is taxed, namely shareholders would include their share of the earnings of the corporation in their personal income subject to the personal income tax, which is the way we tax income from partnerships and other limited liability companies. Third is to tax corporations not on their earnings but on the market value of the outstanding shares of each corporation at the end of the year.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages but of the three alternatives, the present Corporate Income Tax is the worst.

The Corporate Income Tax, as it exists at present, violates most of the principles of taxation developed by economists over the past two centuries. Those principles are:

1. Equal treatment of equals. Persons of equal taxable capacity should bear the same burden of the tax. Taxing corporate income at the same rate, e.g., 25%, taxes the low income shareholder at the same high rate as the most wealthy.

2. Progressivity. The burden of a tax should fall with greater weight on persons with greater taxable capacity than on those with lesser taxable capacity. They should never be lest than proportional to income.

3. Economic effects. The negative economix effects should be minimized.   ...

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How to Reform and Change the Corporate Income Tax
Raymond Richman, 3/12/2014

This paper is an attempt to decide the best way to tax the owners of corporations. First is to tax the corporation on the basis of its earned income and capital gains, which is the present treatment.  Dividends that shareholders receive are included in their personal income subject to the personal income tax. Second is to tax corporate income as partnership income is taxed, namely shareholders would include their share of the earnings of the corporation in their personal income subject to the personal income tax, which is the way we tax income from partnerships and other limited liability companies. Third is to tax corporations not on their earnings but on the market value of the outstanding shares of each corporation at the end of the year.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages but of the three alternatives, the present Corporate Income Tax is the worst.

The Corporate Income Tax, as it exists at present, violates most of the principles of taxation developed by economists over the past two centuries. Those principles are:

1. Equal treatment of equals. Persons of equal taxable capacity should bear the same burden of the tax. Taxing corporate income at the same rate, e.g., 25%, taxes the low income shareholder at the same high rate as the most wealthy.

2. Progressivity. The burden of a tax should fall with greater weight on persons with greater taxable capacity than on those with lesser taxable capacity. They should never be lest than proportional to income.

3. Economic effects. The negative economix effects should be minimized.   ...

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Donald Trump leads off with China's currency manipulation in his CPAC speech yesterday
Howard Richman, 3/7/2014

Here's his March 6 speech

Trump was referring to the recent action by the People's Bank of China which brought the yuan down from 16.38 cents on February 5 to 16.31 cents on March 1. You can see graphs of the yuan-dollar exchange rate at the following website:...

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Climategate: Revolt of the Physicists -- Revisited
Howard Richman, 3/4/2014

With Niagara Falls close to freezing, I thought it might be a good time to look back at my Nobember 30, 2009 commentary (Climategate: Revolt of the Physicists) on the Seeking Alpha website:

Climate science seemed settled in the 1990s. The only theory around was that the increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gases was causing the increase in world temperatures. But then physicists got involved. My guess is that the average physicist has an IQ of somewhere between 150 and 200. The progress that they have been making is incredible.

If you have a scientific background and you still believe in man-made global warming, get out a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, or a glass of brandy, whatever helps you think best, and watch the following lecture from the Cern, one of Europe's most highly respected centers for scientific research:...

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Don't miss Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout on the Watt's Up with That Blog today
Howard Richman, 2/27/2014

Don't miss Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout on the Watt's Up with That Blog today. It's got humor and wisdom.

It starts by showing how Greenpeace founder Dr. Patrick Moore has been written out of Greenpeace history -- much as Stalin wrote out his fellow Bolshevik leaders. Then it goes on to some very wise testimony by Moore to the Senate about climate change. Here's how his testimony begins:

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Public Citizen's Fact-Check of Obama Administration Claims about TPP
Jesse Richman, 2/21/2014

Public Citizen's Eyes on Trade blog recently posted an excellent fact-check on claims made by the Obama administration about its trade policy. It's a good read.

It begins:

Fact-checking Froman: The Top 10 Myths Used by Obama’s Top Trade Official

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman tried in a speech yesterday to defend the Obama administration’s beleaguered trade policy agenda: the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) pacts and an unpopular push to Fast Track those sweeping deals through Congress. The list of those publicly opposing the Fast Track push includes most House Democrats, a sizeable bloc of House Republicans, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and 62% of the U.S. voting public.

In attempt to justify the administration’s polemical pacts, Froman resorted to some statements of dubious veracity, ranging from half-truths to outright mistruths. To set the record straight, here are the top 10 Froman fables...

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Hospital layoffs continuing
Howard Richman, 2/16/2014

Health care has been a booming field. With baby-boomers aging, the demand for health care has been increasing. Young people who wanted to find a sure-fire job have been going into nursing and other medical disciplines knowing that the market for healthcare workers was growing. But that market suddenly changed in December due to the onset of Obamacare.

In order to hold down the costs of Obamacare, government administrators are placing price ceilings on government healthcare payments. Also, some healthcare consumers, facing higher costs for insurance, are cutting back on their elective procedures.

As a result of these two factors, hospitals are being forced to cut back on the services that they offer and are laying off workers. The result will be fewer hospitals and clinics and fewer services offered by the remaining hospitals and clinics. As healthcare supply decreases, customers will increasingly encounter long waiting times and other forms of healthcare rationing.

The last two monthly employment reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that the new trend began shortly before I first spotted it in the December 20th American Thinker (Jobless Claims Up). After going up month after month, hospital jobs started declining in December from 4,797,500 in November to 4,792,800 in December to 4,788,300 in January (on a seasonally-adjusted basis).

An article in a Nevada newspaper explains why these layoffs are occurring (Problematic hospital funding leads to layoffs, reconsiderations):...

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Voters not Sold on Fast Track
Jesse Richman, 2/12/2014

A new poll on trade policy preferences concerning Fast Track was recently released.  Overall these results are resoundingly consistent with previous surveys.  Public support for policies that continue to promote imbalanced "free" trade has been and remains very low.  Public support for granting the president authority to pursue a fast track to a bad deal is also very low.

There is some interesting material in the poll.  In particular, Republican rhetoric against Obama's assertion of unilateral presidential authority appears to be deepening Republican voters' opposition to granting the president Fast Track authority.  The numbers are quite striking.  Republican members of the House should clearly think twice and three times, and check if they have a primary challenger, before voting for Fast Track.

Republicans and conservatives especially believe that fast-track authority gives the president too much power. Among Republicans, 87% find the argument that fast track gives the president too much power a very or fairly convincing reason to oppose fast-track authority (85% among conservatives). Similarly, 61% of Republicans say their single greatest concern about Congress giving the president fast-track authority is that it would give the president too much power (64% among conservatives).

Overall the poll finds much more opposition than support. 62 percent of respondents oppose granting fast track authority versus 28 percent who favor granting that authority. 

Voters highest priorities for trade deals are preventing U.S. jobs from moving overseas (49 percent including 55 percent of Republicans) and preventing unfair competition that lowers workers wages....

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How to Reduce Inequality of Income and Wealth
Raymond Richman, 2/11/2014

The inequality of income has been raised as a political issue but neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have proposed anything resembling a reasonable policy to reduce it. The Dems would raise the rates of the personal income tax and increase entitlements while the Republicans argue that lower taxes would create more equality by helping achieving full employment. Both are partly right. But both overlook the fact that much of the income of the very wealthy is not really taxed at all. You would not suspect that the principal reason there are so many millionaires and billionaires is, believe it or not, the Corporate Income Tax.

And the solution is simple, treat corporate income as we treat partnership income. Partners report their share of partnership profits as personal income. There is no separate partnership income tax as there is for corporations. Corporate shareholders should report their share of corporate profits as personal income. Small corporations, so-called S corporations are now permitted to elect to have their earnings treated as the personal income of their shareholders. What we propose is that shareholders of all corporations treat their shares of corporate income as personal income for tax purposes. ...

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Terrence P. Stewart calls for balanced trade in Senate testimony
Howard Richman, 2/4/2014

Terence P. Stewart of the Washington-based international law firm Stewart and Stewart called for balanced trade agreements in written testimony to the Senate Finance Committee. I have not yet read his testimony, but I did read his law firm's press release about it. 

The title of the press release cites a disturbing fact: "United States Transforms from a Nation with Balanced Trade to a Country that Imports Approximately 50 Percent More than it Exports." The press release elaborates:

“The reality is that the past 40 years have expanded trade but at the direct cost to Americans of millions of manufacturing jobs,” Stewart wrote. “Indeed, using U.S. Department of Commerce figures … the trade deficit in 2013 cost the United States over 3.75 million jobs in that year alone.”

The press release recommends the following provisions to balanced trade:...

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Pat Buchanan ties together GOP establishment's immigration and trade policies
Howard Richman, 2/3/2014

In a commentary last week (How the GOP Lost Middle America), Pat Buchanan ties together the Republican establishment's positions on immigration and trade. He wrote:

To understand why and how the Republican Party lost Middle America, and faces demographic death, we need to go back to Bush I.

At the Cold War’s end, the GOP reached a fork in the road. The determination of Middle Americans to preserve the country they grew up in, suddenly collided with the profit motive of Corporate America....

 

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How the Corporate Income Tax Contributes to Income Inequality
Raymond Richman, 1/28/2014

The growing number of millionaires and billionaires and the increase in the inequality of income has being raised as a political issue by Pres. Obama. But his policies and those of his “liberal constituencies have helped exacerbate income inequality. One of the reasons there are so many millionaires and billionaires is the corporate income tax, which turns out on analysis to exclude corporate income from any tax at all.  As the readers of this site are aware, we have been campaigning for the integration of the corporate and personal income taxes, essentially to treat corporations as we treat partnerships. Partners report their share of partnership profits as personal income. There is no separate partnership income tax as there is for corporations.

Not only is the corporate income tax a very bad tax from an economic point of view, economists are not even in agreement that the shareholders bear the burden of the tax. Some believe that the tax is passed on to consumers and that little if any of the burden of the tax is borne by shareholders. To make matters worse, corporations that export are disadvantaged compared to those that produce for the domestic market. In international markets, the likelihood of passing the tax on to consumers is practically nil because their competitors may pay little or no corporate income tax. Value-added and sales taxes may be rebated to exporters but income taxes cannot be rebated under international law.  

...

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Environment America: Global Warming Threatens Super Bowl Teams!
Howard Richman, 1/25/2014

Wow! Was Environment America right or not when it predicted that global warming would affect the Super Bowl? In a February 2, 2008, column New York Times columnist John Tierney criticized Environment America's prediction that global warming would have a significant effect upon the Super Bowl (Global Warming Threatens Super Bowl Teams!):...

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Fast Track to a Bad Deal -- we're published in American Thinker this morning
Howard Richman, 1/22/2014

Here's a selection:

In their press release, the sponsors all claimed that TPA would increase jobs by boosting exports:

• Democratic Senator Max Baucus: "TPA legislation is critical to a successful trade agenda. It is critical to boosting U.S. exports and creating jobs. And it's critical to fueling America's growing economy."

• Republican Senator Orrin Hatch: "TPA will help advance a robust trade agenda that will help American businesses, workers, farmers and ranchers by giving them greater access to overseas markets..."

• Republican Representative Dave Camp: "The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act will give us the tools we need to move more job-creating trade agreements..."

The following graph illustrates their fallacy. It shows that even though U.S. exports, as a percentage of GDP, have been increasing in recent decades, economic growth (per capita real GDP) has been slowing, a decline paralleled by declining net exports (exports minus imports) as a percentage of GDP.


To read the article, to to: 

http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/01/fast_track_to_a_bad_deal.html

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Rising Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Bodes an Economic Downturn
Raymond Richman, 1/20/2014

Once again, there are grounds for concern that we are experiencing a downturn in economic activity and may headed for an Obama recession. The advance number of actual number of initial claims totaled  534,431 during the week ending January 11, 2014 an increase of 51,190 over the previous week. During the preceding week ending January 4, 2014, an increase in initial claims of 34,384 was reported and in the week ending December 28, 2013, an increase of 25,875 was reported.  This increase in the number of claims was not reported in the media.

The media reported the BLS “seasonally adjusted” estimated of initial claims which reported a decrease of 2,000 in the number of initial claims. We consider the seasonally adjusted figure as unreliable. For weekly data, there is no good reason for a seasonal adjustment. But that is what the BLSs reports and the media publish. We consider that to be a great disservice to the community. 

In the last few months, one sees a steady deterioration in the employment data. Starting from a relatively good showing of 229,485 to 255,110 initial claims in September, one observes a range of 311,516 to 368,832 in October and November, and, with the exception of the week of 12-28-2013 when 397,667 was reported, a range of 414,002 to 534,431 in December, 2013 and January, 2014. The trend is unmistakable and does not bode well for the future of the economy.  Following are the data:

 ...

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Rep. Alan West says no to fast track
Howard Richman, 1/16/2014

Rep. Alan West who was redistricted out of his Florida Congressional speech by his fellow Republicans is fighting the Republican establishment on giving Obama Fast Track Trade Authority. He makes some good points. The whole article is worth reading. Here's a selection as it appeared at TradeReform.org after being reposted from Brietbart:

All trade agreements come with predictions of new jobs for Americans, but those promises are always empty. Obama said our free-trade deal with Korea would be a major job creator, but after it went into effect, sales of U.S. goods fell and imports from Korea rose. When you hear someone say TPP will create jobs, hold on to your wallet....

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Gem of a column on Keynes plans for balance of trade
Jesse Richman, 1/11/2014

It's a few years old, but I just stumbled upon it. 

Monbiot begins: 

Poor old Lord Keynes. The world’s press has spent the past week blackening his name. Not intentionally: most of the dunderheads reporting the G20 summit which took place over the weekend really do believe that he proposed and founded the International Monetary Fund. It’s one of those stories that passes unchecked from one journalist to another.

The truth is more interesting. At the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, John Maynard Keynes put forward a much better idea. After it was thrown out, Geoffrey Crowther – then the editor of the Economist magazine – warned that “Lord Keynes was right … the world will bitterly regret the fact that his arguments were rejected.”(1) But the world does not regret it, for almost everyone – the Economist included – has forgotten what he proposed.

One of the reasons for financial crises is the imbalance of trade between nations. Countries accumulate debt partly as a result of sustaining a trade deficit. They can easily become trapped in a vicious spiral: the bigger their debt, the harder it is to generate a trade surplus. International debt wrecks people’s development, trashes the environment and threatens the global system with periodic crises.

The entire column is worth reading.  It can be read at: http://www.monbiot.com/2008/11/18/clearing-up-this-mess/

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Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Are a Wake Up Call Again
Raymond Richman, 1/10/2014

In the week ending January 4, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims reported by the Department of Labor was 330,000, a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 345,000. But the actual number of initial claims totaled 486,033 an increase of 34,384. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 3,295,112, an increase of 451,828 from the preceding week.  We consider this a negative report and reinforces our conclusion last week that the economy may be slowing. While it is too soon to cry wolf, the optimism of spokesmen for the Federal Reserve and the administration and others appears to us to be wholly unjustified. ...

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    Wikipedia:

  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

    Journal of Economic Literature:

  • [Trading Away Our Future] Examines the costs and benefits of U.S. trade and tax policies. Discusses why trade deficits matter; root of the trade deficit; the “ostrich” and “eagles” attitudes; how to balance trade; taxation of capital gains; the real estate tax; the corporate income tax; solving the low savings problem; how to protect one’s assets; and a program for a strong America....

    Atlantic Economic Journal:

  • In Trading Away Our Future   Richman ... advocates the immediate adoption of a set of public policy proposal designed to reduce the trade deficit and increase domestic savings.... the set of public policy proposals is a wake-up call... [February 17, 2009 review by T.H. Cate]