Friday, December 30, 2011

The Dow is up 6% for the year!..Wow, great!...What is "The Dow"?

At the daily close of the US stock market the media reports how the stock market has done overall for the day by announcing how "The Dow", or "Dow Jones" has performed.  I don't think most people know exactly what this means.  The offical name is "Dow Jones Industrrial Average (DJIA)". 

Below are the 30 "Blue Chip" companies that comprise the Dow. Each of these companies are supposed to be representative of the industry they compete in. In theory, how goes the price of the stock of the major company in the sector so goes the entire sector.

Go HERE for a more detailed explanation how DJIA index is created and the math behind it.

The Dow itself is up 6% for the year which means if you invested $1,000 at the begining of the year in the components of the Dow, you would have earned an additional $60.00. Don't spend it all in one place...

My modest proposal to help low income people save 10% today on a necessity for their children...This policy is DOABLE! Why do Dems and Reps hate poor people?

Now that the Spiderman and the X-Men, along with their trade lawyers, have defeated (sort of) tariffs on their action figures (see previous post HERE) they can turn their attention to helping poor/low income people.

Tariffs (taxes) on imported shoes are VERY regressive--the lower the price of the shoe the higher the tariff.

""Footwear tariffs are simply a hidden, regressive tax on a household necessity. Their sole effect is to reduce the amount of income families have to spend on all other goods and services. This expense is most onerous for low-income families with children who spend the largest share of their income on the necessities of life..."

""The consequences for families—especially those with low incomes—are dramatic. Tariffs inflate the cost of the cheapest shoes by about a third. A $2.28 pair of sneakers arriving at the border is assessed a 48 percent excise tax, adding $1.09 to the price, which is passed along to shoppers...." (Source: Cut Shoe Tariffs to Help Low-Income Families)

Asume that the $2.28 shoes retails at a store for $10.00, the tariff represents about 10% of the total price of the shoe.

Tariffs, in general (not exclusively, though), are imposed to protect domestic producers from less expensive foreign competition.  But there are NO domestic producers of inexpensive (ok, cheap) shoes to protect anymore. 

So, WHY are these tariffs left in place by Congress?  Want to do something EASY that will benefit low income/poor people?  Repeal these tariffs!!

How many OTHER tariffs are imposed on basic goods that low income people purchase everyday and are NOT produced in the US anymore, so NO domestic production jobs are threatened?

How about it, Wolverine/Spidey or.... CONGRESS...Are y'all up to banishing these anti-poor policies?
Note: Read he two page summary of the research cited above  HERE.

Also, listen to a short NPR podcast on this topic:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spiderman and the X-Men have met their match: International Trade Lawyers have stripped them of their Humanity...Why is Marvel Inc NOT upset with this development? Two words "$$"

In their quest to be accepted for their humanity in light of their super-natural powers, the likes of Spiderman and the X-men have been foiled by mighty International Trade Lawyers.  In this case, the Marvel brand is VERY happy for this outcome.

Imported "Dolls" have a much higher import tariff than items classified as "Toys".  Marvel action figures imported from China are  classified as "Dolls".  What is the Big Deal??

 Read the following from Matthew Yglesisias at MoneyBox to find out why this is significant:

""Marvel-licensed action figures are generally made abroad and imported into the United States. But "dolls" (which are representations of people) face a higher import duty than "toys" (which are representations of non-humans), so it's in the interests of Marvel to argue that X-Men action figures should be taxed at the low non-tarrif rate. Here's a sample of litigation:
Plaintiff Toy Biz, Inc. ("Toy Biz") brings this action to challenge the tariff classification by the United States Customs Service ("Customs" or "Defendant") of various items imported from China and entered at the ports of Seattle and Los Angeles in 1994. The items are action figures from various Marvel Comics series, including the "X-Men," "Spider-Man," and the "Fantastic Four," and an additional item called "Jumpsie," which is not an action figure. The items are packaged in boxes or blister packs attached to colorful cardboard backing covered with printed illustrations and writing. The packaging of a number of items includes small accessories, such as weapons and other equipment. Customs classified the items as "Dolls representing only human beings and parts and accessories thereof: Dolls whether or not dressed: Other: Not over 33 cm in height," under subheading 9502.10.40 of the HTSUS (1994), dutiable at 12% ad valorem. Toy Biz contends that the action figures at issue are properly classifiable as "Toys representing animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters) and parts and accessories thereof: Other," under subheading 9503.49.00, HTSUS (1994), dutiable at 6.8% ad valorem. Toy Biz further contends that "Jumpsie" should be classified as a "toy set," under HTSUS (1994) subheading 9503.70.80, dutiable at 6.8% ad valorem.
It's remarkable, incidentally, the extent to which the politics of "trade deals" have gotten away from the fundamental issues of free trade as seen in an economics textbook. What we have here is a federal 12% sales tax on dolls, but only if the dolls are made in foreign countries, and a different -- arbitrarily lower -- 6.8% federal sales tax on toys, but again only if the toys are made in foreign countries. There's no good reason to have special higher sales taxes on toys made in foreign countries, and there's certainly no good reason to tax dolls and non-doll toys at different rates. It's nuts and it could and should be addressed by a unilateral acts of congress. The amount of revenue that would be lost to the federal government by repealing these taxes would be tiny, and it's trivial to think of better ways to raise the money. And yet this core -- and quite simple -- trade policy issue is a world away from the incredible complexity of the trade deals of the past decade.""

Tariffs on imported goods are levied for a variety of reasons, but the main one is to protect domestic producers from low-price foreign competition.  I am not aware of a significant domestic producer of action figure toys/dolls that needs protecting. Perhaps there was one in the past, but not now.
 Listen to a very interesting Podcast about this issue (starts at 3:00 minute mark).

So...Why is the tariff still in place to protect a non-existent industry? Just askin'...

Why young women are better than young men during these economic hard times...

Here is what (some/many) young men are doing during economic hard times...

This from the WSJ regarding Nike's release of the new Jordan sneaker:

"Sneakerheads," as they are referred to in the industry, tend to be young, male and live from paycheck to paycheck, Mr. Hicks said. As a result, he said, many launches are scheduled for the second Friday of the month or the end of the month, when they tend to have the most cash..."

Here is what (many, not some) young women are doing during economic hard times (NYTIMES):

"Workers are dropping out of the labor force in droves, and they are mostly women. In fact, many are young women. But they are not dropping out forever; instead, these young women seem to be postponing their working lives to get more education. There are now — for the first time in three decades — more young women in school than in the work force....

"Now, as was the case then, one sex is the primary beneficiary. Though young women in their late teens and early 20’s view today’s economic lull as an opportunity to upgrade their skills, their male counterparts are more likely to take whatever job they can find. The longer-term consequences, economists say, are that the next generation of women may have a significant advantage over their male counterparts, whose career options are already becoming constrained....""    

Interested in a programming or computer/ software engineering as a career? Want to work for a Start-Up firm? Nice Infographic and links here that might be helpful to you...

Go HERE for the Source and perhaps a better view...For those of you already aware of this type of info, does it provide good advice?  Are the suggested links legit? Thanks!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Who's on First?"---See why Big Sugar is Suing Big Corn over naming rights to Corn Syrup. How much do we subsidize these 2 industries EVERY year??

I hope in the opening arguement one of the lawyers uses is a modified "Who's on First" routine...The Sugar industry is suing the Corn industry because the Corn industry wants to change the name of corn syrup to "Corn Sugar" which the Sugar s industry believes will confuse consumers into thinking Corn Sugar is comparable to "real" sugar.  Got that??? Sweet....

Big Corn, Big Sugar in bitter US row on sweetener

Big Corn and Big Sugar are locked in a legal and public relations fight in the US over a plan to change the name of a corn-based sweetener that has gotten a bad name.

The fight began last year when Corn Refiners Association, a trade association, proposed changing the name of high-fructose corn syrup to merely "corn sugar."

The group said the new name "more accurately describes this sweetener and helps clarify food products labeling for manufacturers and consumers alike."

But the sugar industry argued this change would be a bitter pill for US consumers and would only add to the confusion about a sweetener that has drawn criticism by some health advocates.

Sugar producers have filed suit alleging the corn industry has spent $50 million in "a mass media rebranding campaign that misleads the consuming public by asserting falsely that HFCS is natural and is indistinguishable from the sugar extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets."

Nice (scary) Infographic on the 2011 Federal Budget. Increasing/Decreasing taxes and/or Decreasing/Increasing spending is NOT going to get us out of this hole. Only one thing will...

Click HERE (The CBO) to go to original source and a better view...Massive net job creation is the ONLY thing that is going to get us out of this mess.  Increasing/decreasing taxes and/or increasng/decreasing govt spending are all political distractions undertaken by political ideologues who have no idea what else to do.  Losers of the high ground always look for others to blame: "Blame the Rich!!" "Blame the lazy unemployed!! This political season is going to be the worst ever....Bleh...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Is that a Flash Drive in your pocket...or the First IBM super computer? Nice photo showing the change over time of computer storage capability...

(Via Carpe Diem)  For those of us of a certain age and novice users of computers, this is a reminder of how far technology has evolved in our lifetimes.  Still dont know how those little pin drives work, but I am happy they do...
‘In September 1956 IBM launched the 305 RAMAC, the first ‘SUPER’ computer with a hard disk drive (HDD). The HDD weighed over a ton and stored 5 MB of data.’
- Texomatube

Friday, December 23, 2011

If you like back-stories on history (or Literature), this is for you--Who was the REAL Scrooge and was he as bad as Dickens portrayed him? I did not know this before. VERY interesting!!

(HT: Conversable Economist)
 Revealed: the Scot who inspired Dickens' Scrooge

""HIS name became an aphorism for meanness, but the base nature of Ebenezer Scrooge was inadvertently fashioned by failing light and an author whose eyesight was equally dim.
The real "Scrooge", an Edinburgh merchant, could not have been more different from his literary counterpart.

But the gloaming of an evening in the Capital, allied with an episode of mild dyslexia suffered by Charles Dickens, has forever associated Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie with one of the Victorian author’s most famous characters.

In life, Scroggie was apparently a rambunctious, generous and licentious man who gave wild parties, impregnated the odd serving wench and once wonderfully interrupted the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland by grabbing the buttocks of a hapless countess.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Would YOU pay $5,300 for this TV to watch the Bowl Games coming up?

Me either. It WAS made in the USA, but not many could buy one.  We had a crappy, tiny black and white one...

Another way to look at it---the average wage in 1964 was $2.50 per hour (production and non-supervisory workers--Source HERE).  At that wage, it would take someone ($749.00, the price of the first TV in 1964, divided by $2.50) 299.9 hours, or 7 1/2 weeks, to earn enough to buy this TV. 

I was at Best Buy yesterday (example below) and saw a rather large 50' screen HD/Plasma TV for $500. At this price a worker in 2011 earning an average wage of $19.54 would have to work 25.5 hours to purchase a very nice TV that has features the richest person in the world in 1964 could not fathom or even imagine. 

Interesting situation: One TV made in the USA and few people could buy one. One TV not made in the US and a large majority of the US population can afford one or HAS one (I don't, though).  How does THAT happen? Rhetorical question...I know the answer and so do you...
Source: Carpe Diem

China just surpassed the US in terms of manufacturing output. This MUST have been at our expense, right?? See this graph and you tell me, please...

China just surpassed the US in terms of the dollar value of manufacturing output/finished goods, i.e. "stuff").  China is the BLUE line and the US is the RED line.  The US trend line has been remarkably consistent over time.  Post-recession, we are recovering and it looks like we are going to be back on that long term rend. (For my math friends out there, if you were to draw a US trend line, would it be relatively constant over time, or has it fallen since 2000--I am just eye-balling it. Not very scientific. :) )  Graph  from CARPE DIEM
Source: Carpe Diem
My question when I look at this graph: If China had not industrialized as it has, would OUR manufacturing output (I am NOT including manufacturing employment in this discussion)  have increased MORE than what our historical trend in manufacturing shows we could do, OR would it be LESS? If so, how and why?

Excellent Interactive for adults and kids alike! See how the prices of the items in the classic song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" have changed over time. Christmas and Economics---Does it get any better? I think not...

A very nice interactive HERE showing the change in prices over time of the items in the classic Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas".  An entertaining holiday distraction for you and/or your kids AND you/they get to learn a little economics as well....Win!! :)

PNC---Christmas Price Index

Here is a video sample:

I bet "10 Lords a Leapin'" are relatively inexpensive to hire now-a-days...An example of "Flexible Prices and Wages", no doubt. :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ATTN TEACHERS: This one is for you! Here is a list of "High Paying Jobs that GREW in number during the recession"...I am just the messenger...

7th one down....the graph below this one shows the change in teaching jobs since 2006.  How can the number of administrators INCREASE and the number of teachers DECREASE? Who are those Administrators administratin' to???

Source: EconomicModeling via Carpe Diem

I am living in the Chicago area now...I need survival tips...And a job!

Due to a job promotion and transfer (from Dallas/Ft Worth area) for my wife (@Verizonwireless), I am living in the Chicago area (Deer Park) now.  This is quite an adjustment.  I grew up in Northern New England so I know cold, but as a young person. I have resided in Texas since getting out of the Marine Corps in 1984-85.  I may need some cold weather survival tips from some of you Northerners or other cold weather countries (who I know visit this blog).

I will continue to post things of general/specific interest to me, my collegues (economic teachers and otherwise) and for the high school students (and former students in college as well)  I teach or have taught. My goal is just to keep some basic economic(s) knowledge alive and relevant in your lives. Nothing heavy duty or in-over-my-head analysis...

I hope to secure a job in the next school year teaching Advanced Placement Economics somewhere close to home here in the "Northwest Suburbs" Chicago , as it is known.  Through the grace of God, I have secured a long-term sub position for an AP Econ teacher going out on maternity leave in Feb/March, but I need to look long term.

It is the longest of long-shots, but if anyone knows of anything permanent for the next school year for an AP Econ teacher, I would appreciate the lead.

I will continue to post stuff to keep busy and to stay up on current economic news, events and analysis. I hope this blog helps you in some small (or big!) way... :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Attention Students: You are short-changing yourself if you don't look off-shore for career potential---this graph shows you all you need to know...

A stunning reversal of fortunes...Since the year 1999 the change in trade flows to "Emerging Economies, mainly Brazil, Russia, India, China has been dramatic.  This graph shows imports into Developed and Emerging Markets. One countries imports is another countries exports.  If you are pondering a career with growth potential, look outwardly.  Incomes around the world are rising and businesses/entrepreneurs with foresight will find a way to sell to these countries/customers. Are YOU on board?
Source: The Economist

From The Economist: ""In 2012, an important new milestone will be reached when emerging-markets import more goods and services than the rich economies combined. That is a dramatic change since 2000, when they imported barely half as much as rich countries did. Policymakers will hope that the rapid growth in developing countries’ buying power will boost the profits of companies in rich economies over the coming years.""

Nice Venn diagrams showing the hazards of the relationship between the Federally Regulated and the Federal Regulators who Regulate Them...I thought this was supposed to STOP???

Nice Venn diagrams showing the revolving door of regulator to regulated and vice versa.  You will see people from industry appointed to Federal agencies responsible for regulating the industry that person came from, AND you will find former elected officials who now lobby for the same companies they were responsible for regulating when they were in office.  Can you say "Conflict of Interest?" or at the minimun it creates moral hazards for the people involved.

A positive aspect of this arrangement is you have industry insiders who are familiar with the inner workings of the industries they regulate and can be more effective in setting/creating policies that can have the desired effect on the regulated.

A negative of this arrangement is the same as above, but the outcome toward the tail-end is the opposite--the industry gets protection by way of the politically appointed regulator who is/was "one of them".

Source: KPC

Another interesting Millennial Info-Graphic---How you consume your media (fancy way of saying music/video/movies/TV)---Music is King/Queen...

Source: Adweek

Here is an "Inconvenient Truth" about Kim Jong Il---One of the World's Greatest Environmentalists..

If you are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find something positive to say about  Kim Jong Il's legacy, then this might be it.  He could be the most "Green" Dictator in history.  I think one can win a Nobel Prize for that now-a-days...

One Great Thing About North Korea's Stagnant Economy

While it continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world, North Korea has at least one good thing going for it.

"Grim communist stereotypes soon give way to unspoiled natural beauty, one of the few upsides of having stagnant economic growth," said Allen.

"The sea here is so clean," said a Chinese tourist. "It's pollution free and it's so pristine. This is definitely something you can't easily see in China."

China is the anti-North Korea in that it has experienced rapid economic growth, which has led to massive pollution.""

Kind of reminds me of this cartoon:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Millennials: The BEST Generation or Worse Generation Ever? Nice info-graphic showing generational characteristics...

Source: Chartporn
Created by: Online Graduate Programs

Here is an objective view of our persistent Unemployment problem that people don't want to face because it is too difficult to address BUT is the primary problem in the Long Run...

While politicians and partisans of all stripes, literally and figuratively, howl at the moon in terms of blame for our economic woes, I prefer students block that out and look at root causes. 

Below is an excellent commentary on a significant part (I believe) of our labor employment problem in the US.  Much of it is self induced. By that I mean through the collective actions of individuals, government and industry, we have put ourselves "in between a rock and a hard place" because of choice and policy. 

The over-arching theme of the article is we don't have enough skilled workers for the manufacturing we do have in the US, and too many college graduates underemployed because they have degrees in either (1) fields that are ALREADY declining or (2) in subjects that have little "market value". 

Here are some excerpts, but I encourage you to read the whole thing (short and informative).  Instead of joining in political shouting matches that have no end (which is easy to do intellectually), please learn about this important issue and shout instead for solutions to the ACTUAL problems, which is harder to do but is the only way out of our doldrums LONG TERM....

Wanted: Blue-Collar Workers

“There are very few unskilled jobs any more,” says Wright. “You can’t make it any more just pushing a button. These jobs require thinking and ability to act autonomously. But such people are not very thick on the ground.” Among the affected industries will be the auto companies, which lost some 230,000 jobs in the recession. David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, predicts that as the industry tries to hire more than 100,000 workers by 2013, it will start running out of people with the proper skills as early as next year. “The ability to make things in America is at risk,” says Jeannine Kunz, director of professional development for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in Dearborn, Michigan. If the skilled-labor shortage persists, she fears, “hundreds of thousands of jobs will go unfilled by 2021.”

Some of Gibson’s fellow manufacturers blame the shortage of skilled workers on the decline of vocational education, which has been taking place for two decades now. Such training is unpopular for several reasons. For one thing, many working-class and minority children were once steered into vocational programs even if they had aptitude for other things, an unfair practice that many people haven’t forgotten. Today’s young people, moreover, tend to regard craft work—plumbing, masonry, and carpentry, for instance—as unfashionable and dead-end, no doubt because they’ve been instructed to aspire to college. “People go to college not because they want to but because their parents tell them that’s the thing to do,” says Jeff Kirk, manager of human relations at Kaiser Aluminum’s plant in Heath, Ohio. “Kids need to become aware of the reality that much of what they learn in school is not really needed in the workplace. They don’t realize a pipe fitter makes three times as much as a social worker.”

The reason for the low rewards is that many of the skills learned in college are now in oversupply. A recent study by the economic forecasting firm EMSI found that fewer computer programmers have jobs now than in 2008. Through 2016, EMSI estimates, the number of new graduates in the information field will be three times the number of job openings.""
Source: New Geography

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nice Graphic...Jobs/Careers projected to need the most workers in the next decade...Are YOU on the right path?

What is not debatable is the fact that continued education is needed to make sure you have the necessary skills to be an employable worker in the future.  Do not stagnate and think you have enough knowledge to perform a job.  Always look to the next step within your chosen career field and be ready/prepared to move in any career direction. 
Source: Jared Bernstein

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pop Quiz: "Are there more or fewer Federal Government employees today as compared to 1970?". The answer WILL surprise you...

In my last post, I showed a graph of the trend in government employment since 1970.  That graph showed employment at ALL levels of government---Federal, State and Local.  Got me to thinking...
Has employment at the Federal level increased dramatically, as many would assume? Even if it has in the short run, what has Federal employment been historically?

The graph below shows on the Left scale: the BLUE line (ALL Government employment) and the GOLD line (ONLY Federal employment/employees.  The difference between these two lines will be the number of State and Local government employees. Add 3 zeroes to the numbers you see there, indicating millions of employees.

On the Right scale, the RED line is population growth since 1970. Add 3 zeroes to the number you see there, indicating millions of people.

FRED Graph

When you look at the GOLD line, factor out the jumps you see at the beginning of every decade---that is when significant part-time employment increases to do the Constitutionally required census.

Are you surprised that the Federal employment line is virtually flat over 30 years? 

Let's look at the same graph, but now in an index form so we can see percentage-wise how these three measurements have changed relative to each other.

FRED Graph

Using 1970 as a base year (Index = 100), we can see that Federal employment is about the same after 40 years! If you take the difference between the RED line and the BLUE line you can see State and Local employment has increased significantly as a proportion of government employment overall.  In other words, there does not appear to be a major shift in employment at the Federal level but certainly lots of growth at the State and Local level. 

US population has increased approx 53%, Federal employment has remained about the same, and State and Local government employment has increased approx 77%. 

The sheer number of Federal "bureaucrats" has not varied much over time.  However, this says nothing about the power of EACH (on average) of those Federal employees. 

I think people mix up the two---IF in peoples minds the Federal govt has become more powerful it is because of reasons OTHER than the sheer number of employees wielding influence. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Which President in the last 40 years can claim the title of "Small Government" President, in terms of the Federal Workforce? Better look at this before you answer...

Can you identify the US President(s) since 1970 who have decreased the Federal Workforce significantly during their time in office?...Regardless of your political affiliation, are you feeling a little conflicted right now?? Kinda looks like there is only ONE "small government" President, doesn't it??
FRED Graph

Snapshot of where jobs were gained and lost in the lastest Employment Report...Read it and weep...

Here are the major categories of industries and the change in jobs in each of those industries.  Under "Nov 2011" are the number of jobs created (or if a negatice, jobs lost)  in those industries in the month of November (add 3 zeroes to the number you see to get the correct number in thousands).  It also shows a comparison to Oct and Sept 2011 AND compares to a year ago (Nov 2010). 

The biggest number to jump out is "Retail Trade"---a net increase of 49,000 jobs.  This would in large part be seasonal hiring for the holidays. One would have to assume most of these jobs will go away in a month.  This will show up in the January report, which would come out in Feb 2012.

Read it and weep...


US becomes a Net Exporter of Petroleum products for the first time in 62 years!! Is this a good thing? Nice new graphic showing the cause...

This caught me by surprise. The US, for the first time in 62 years, has become a net EXPORTER of petroleum and petroleum based products.  Gasoline and diesel fuels (for cars and trucks) lead the way.
The following graph may help explain some of the reason.  It shows a leveling-off of gasoline supplied in the US starting in about 2005 and then declined in 2007-08 (recession started).
Source: EIA

However, this does not mean that  the production of gasoline has decreased.  While demand is soft in the US, many other economys in the world are growing and have an increased demand for gasoline.  This graph shows the production of gasoline. 

Notice how production varies in the short term, but if I am reading the trend line correctly, it has increased in the past year.  Use your imagination and put these three graphics together---A declining supply of gasoline in the US market, an increasing supply of gasoline produced in the US = export of the difference---its gotta go somewhere...

From the WSJ:

""U.S. customers have been pulling back in part because an anemic economic recovery has left millions still looking for work. In August, U.S. drivers burned 7.7% less gasoline than four years earlier, when gasoline usage peaked...

But U.S. drivers aren't seeing much benefit in the form of lower prices because refineries on the Gulf Coast are shipping much of their output to places where demand is strong, keeping prices high....
Mexico and Brazil were major consumers of U.S. exports, according to the September data, while the Netherlands—home to key European ports —and Singapore also were significant net importers.

Argentina and Peru are now net importers from the U.S. For the next year or two, "the economies in Latin America will be growing faster than in the U.S. and the trend of increasing exports should continue," says Daniel Vizel, U.S. head of oil trading for Macquarie Group Ltd.
Singapore's net imports from the U.S. roughly quadrupled in the past five years, while Mexico's rose by about two-thirds. Mexico, in particular, is having trouble keeping pace with gasoline demand and buys about 60% of gasoline exports from the U.S...;""

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Green Energy is People!!"**

I did not make this up, but wish I did. To get it, you will have to be familiar with the theme of the movie "Soylent Green"...

Crematorium May Generate Electricity

""A CREMATORIUM wants to install turbines in two of its burners to generate electricity.

The burners at Durham Crematorium would use the heat generated during the cremation process to provide the same amount of electricity as would power 1,500 TVs.

A third burner is to be used to provide heating for the site's chapel and its offices.

The scheme would be the first of its kind in the UK but industry experts say that it could be followed by other similar projects.

Many crematoria are currently replacing their furnaces, to meet government targets on preventing mercury emissions from escaping into the atmosphere.

The substance accumulates in the air and water and is harmful to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and unborn children. It also has an impact on the food chain, particularly when it is deposited in water and ingested by fish.

Crematoria are required to halve such emissions by next year and eliminate them altogether by the end of the decade.

Some have already fitted systems which use the heat from the burners to provide heating for their buildings, nearby offices and, in one case, a swimming pool. ""

Those of you in college struggling with finals preparation, here is some motivation for you (see Chart)---Education PAYS in terms of earning potential and likely-hood of being unemployed...

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Want to know how close (or far) you are from being a "1%-er" in terms of income? You may be closer then you think. Enter your income and press the button...EASY!

Want to know where YOU fit in as far as percentile of income relative to everyone else? Below is an example.  If your yearly income is (based on tax return filings) $10,000 then you are in the 11th percentile---89% of other income earners earn more than you do. Go HERE to enter your income and see where you rank...
Source: Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two nice graphics showing energy consumption by source. We are failing...

Reality Check.  As much as I would like the us to move to a cleaner and less political (by political I mean we dont have to go to war or maintain a military presence to get it) source of energy, this is the real world.

The first graphic shows the sources of fuel for electricity. The second one shows what we need for everyting else. Look how Oil "pops" from the first to the second. Oil is not only used for electricity production but also gasoline and it is an input into the production of many goods, like plastic.

With all the subsidies and other support we (and other rich countries) have put into alternative sources of energy, the dial on those has barely budged.  I  don't think I would even count the category "bio-mass". I am sure this includes the disasterous Ethanol policy.  Using food or even other organic matter for fuel has to be considered a no-go to meet our massive energy needs. 
Source: Wattsupwiththat

Source: Wattsupwiththat

Monday, November 21, 2011

Science Friction: Read this "Tariff-ic" posting on the issue of "Tomato Paste/Sauce as a Veggie--Congressional Edition". Read, Cuss and Discuss...

The hottest debate in Congress these days is how much tomato paste (derived from a fruit) is required on a slice of pizza to classify said tomato paste as a vegetable (which is NOT a fruit).  Ha! And you thought it was the Super-Committees failure to arrive at a budget solution.

We have all heard the timeless debate as to whether tomatoes are a fruit or vegetable.  I think the botanical science is clear that it is a fruit, but in the public square it ain't a fruit, because, well, you don't pluck it off a vine or tree and eat it directly.  If you do, you just trying to be a hippie rebel...Simple as that...

I always look for an economics-related reason for the way things are and this debate did not disappoint me.  A quick search on Wikipedia brought me this unexpected gem:

""...In 1887, U.S. tariff laws that imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits, caused the tomato's status to become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the controversy on May 10, 1893, by declaring that the tomato is a vegetable, based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, that they are generally served with dinner and not dessert (Nix v. Hedden (149 U.S. 304)).[51] The holding of the case applies only to the interpretation of the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, and the court did not purport to reclassify the tomato for botanical or other purposes...."

So, the Supreme Court added to the blurring of the lines of science by using the popular notion of the tomato-as-a-vegetable in a ruling on a tarrif case. 

Looking a little deeper, I found a short history of the tomato in the US (not indigenous to the US, by the way, AND Thomas Jefferson had a huge influence in promoting it) HERE and the origin of the reason the Supreme Court took this case on in the first place.

""...tomatoes became very popular in the US. By the 1880’s, demand far outpaced US production, and tomato imports steadily increased. Ketchup and tomato soup (new foods to America) were becoming popular. Tomato sales soared.

In the Tariff Act of 1883, Congress dramatically increased taxes on imported vegetables. President Chester Arthur supported these taxes to protect American business from foreign competition. However, due to special interest lobbyists, fruit was not taxed at all.

A tomato importer named John Nix classified his tomatoes as “fruit”, the appropriate botanical classification, to avoid the tax. The government insisted on collecting the tax anyway. Nix sued. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Believe it or not, the Court ruled that even though the tomato is in fact a fruit, for purposes of the tax it should be considered a vegetable! Goodbye love apple, hello tomato tax.

That Supreme Court ruling is the reason we call the tomato a vegetable. It is the law of the land!...""

There you have it...Political interests over-riding simple science in the 1880's and 2011.  The more things change, the more they stay the same....

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lesson in Productivity...More food with fewer workers...Should we be OUTRAGED that employment in agriculture has declined so much??

Productivity (Output per worker) down on the farm is amazing.  The first graph shows the yield per acre of various agricultural commodities relative to the growth of the US population.  Food production per capita has increased dramatically post-Depression Era. 
Source: Coyote Blog
This second graph shows productivity in agriculture has been achieved with fewer workers. Notice in both graphs 1930 to 1940 was a seminal year---a dramtic divergence in the production of food and the number of workers needed to produce that food.
Source: NASS

Why is this?...

Source: HERE: ""The use of technology in modern agriculture began with the replacement of the horse with modern tractors, combines, and cotton pickers after the turn of the 20th
century. The nextrevolution in crop production began in the 1930s with “hybridization” of crops, or the breeding of

select crops to produce desirable characteristics not typically found in the original crop. As a

result, crop yields have increased from 25 bushels per acre in 1930 to more than 140 bushels

today. During the 1940s came increased availability of fertilizers to further increase crop yields,

and in the 1950s we saw the introduction of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides to help

control weeds, insects and diseases that can reduce crop growth. In the mid 1990s, the

introduction of food biotechnology helped to increase the quantity and quality of the foods we

grow by making them tolerant of pesticides and preserving nutrients and other desirable traits. As

with other industries, farmers have had much to gain from the availability of computers, software,

satellites, and the Internet. Such technologies enable farmers to practice what is often referred to

as “precision agriculture,” which gives them the ability to more effectively use crop inputs such

as fertilizers, pesticides, tilled or cultivated land, and irrigation water. More effective use of these

inputs means greater crop yield and/or quality, without polluting the environment. Additionally,

since 1930, the time necessary to produce a bushel of corn has decreased from more than 30

minutes to a fraction of a minute in 2002."""

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nice chart showing the difference in gasoline prices between the US and Europe...Why the big difference???

Here is a chart showing the differences in the price of gasoline between the US and Europe at-large.  Why is there such a large disparity between the two continents?
Source: Business Insider

Much of the difference comes from the level of taxation on gasoline. Here are a few examples of countries shown above and the dollar amount in taxes levied on a gallon of gasoline.

Belgium $4.26

France $4.12

Germany $4.37

Italy $3.95

Japan $2.81

Netherlands $4.79

United Kingdom $4.47

United States $.39 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"So, how did you make your millions? I invented the "OBOL". REALLY? YOU are THAT guy!!"

The above is a conversation I WISH I was able to have. How many times have you had a great idea?  What is the difference between me and the inventor of the Obol?  Follow-through....

From Brookstone:

Hate soggy cereal? Problem solved! Obol® has two sections--an upper area for your cereal, and a lower reservoir for milk. Scoop a spoonful of your cereal into your spoon, then swoop into the milk for the perfect bite every time. Obol® is also great for milk and cookies, soup and crackers, even chips and salsa. Its uses are as unlimited as your imagination!

Obol's unique Swoop n Scoop® design lets you enjoy cereal or anything crispy until the last bite.
And with its easy-to-hold, textured non-slip grip and rim, you can eat wherever you like--in bed or while watching a movie. Kids love Obol®! And moms will, too. It's made in the USA from BPA-free, unbreakable polypropylene--and it's dishwasher-safe.

Enjoy bite after crispy bite with Obol, the Never Soggy Cereal Bowl. Order from Brookstone today!

Source HERE via KPC

Friday, November 11, 2011

New energy pipeline and the thousands of jobs private sector jobs it would create has been shelved for environmental reasons. Look at this map and tell me if this action is justified...

Below is a map of existing oil,natural gas, and gasoline pipelines that criss-cross the US. The building of a new pipeline, called the KeystoneXL, has been shelved by the Administration on evironmental grounds.  This pipeline would provide 1,000's (10's of thougsands??) private sector jobs relatively quickly and meet some/alot of your domestic energy needs more efficiently...Not going to happen, though. I did not realize we already had such an extensive network of pipelines already. 

This from Carpe Diem: ""In a temporary victory for environmentalists, the Obama administration has delayed its decision on whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline until after the 2012 election. Environmentalists claim that the Keystone XL pipeline's route across the Midwest "would endanger sensitive lands and drinking water supplies."

With all of the environmentalism alarmism about the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, it might be a good time to point out that: a) the United States already has a huge network of existing pipelines for oil, natural gas and gasoline illustrated in the map above, b) pipelines have been used successfully and safely in the U.S. for more than 100 years, and c) pipelines are an integral part of our domestic energy system. In other words, we live safely with energy pipelines every day and the Keystone XL pipeline would simply become one new part of an existing and extensive pipeline network that makes a significant contribution to America's dependable and affordable energy. ""

Source: HERE via Carpe Diem

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Be prepared to pay a new Federal Tax on Christmas trees. The money will be used to promote the Christmas Tree Industry. This is NOT an Onion story...

Obama Couldn’t Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax

""President Obama’s Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees—the Christmas Tree Tax—to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.

In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)). And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).""

Teachers: Something to reinforce what you tell students EVERYDAY. Students: PLEASE read this and don't take it for granted. You WILL hurt yourself if you don't!

Teachers: Something to share with your students.

Students: BEING ON TIME IS IMPORTANT!  However, this is something you will have to learn on your own.  I have seen people who make $50,000 per year lose their jobs because they cannot get to work on time...Sad...

""Much has been made of the failure of the U.S. educational system to produce highly skilled science and engineering professionals. But it isn’t only technical expertise in demand. Finding people who get to work on time seems to be difficult.

In August, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York asked regional manufacturers about finding good workers. The second biggest challenge — after computer skills — was hiring workers who were punctual and reliable.""

Monday, November 7, 2011

Follow up to my College major/earning power posting--See these visuals on Unemployment Rates and Salary potential for a wide variety of majors...Good stuff...

As a follow up to my previous post on college majors, here are some screen shots from the Wall Street Journal that show a pretty comprehensive list of majors, there approx unemployment rates and rough estimates of earning power in the market place.  This might encourage or discourage you. I just provide the info...

From College Major to Career

Choosing the right college major can make a big difference in students' career prospects, in terms of employment and pay. Here’s a look at how various college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data.

My short commentary on a graph that all students in college (or going to go) should see and think about...

Below is a selective grouping of college majors to illustrate the point that since 1985 there has been a rapid increase in the number of students getting degrees in majors, that, well, for the lack of a better term---don't have much earning power in the marketplace.  (Go HERE for the original source for this and a more extensive discussion)

The number of students that get degrees in majors that DO have earning power in todays marketplace has not changed much at all (Note that this number does NOT included foreign students receiving a degree from a US college--that number is relatively large!).

Students that spend/borrow LOTS of money to get a degree with limited earning power  need to understand this from the get go.  I am not saying this because I dont think these majors are important. That would not be true.  You need to do what is best for you. However, to not consider your earning potential, especially when you have to pay for it yourself, is not being responsible to your "future self" that has to live with a loan debt to pay back..
Source: Marginal Revolution
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