By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“The White House is making an all-out push to win passage of [TPP] in the lame-duck session of Congress, organizing 30 events over the congressional recess to gin up support for the agreement, considered key to Obama’s strategy to counter China in the Asia-Pacific region. The game plan is to offer support and cover to the small flock of Democrats who supported legislation to fast-track the deal and to remind wavering Republicans that they oppose it at their own peril because of its strong business support” [Politico]. “Despite his embrace of Clinton, Obama has been unwilling to abandon a deal that he regards as central to his legacy simply to avoid political fallout for her campaign.” Kayfabe, IMNSHO.
“[Former Nucor CEO Dan DiMicco] highlighted a passage of the Statement of Administrative Action that states the TPP implementing bill, in order to bring U.S. law fully into compliance with TPP, will amend ‘existing federal statutes that would otherwise be inconsistent with the agreement and, in certain instances, by creating entirely new provisions of law.’ He contrasted that with Obama’s comments at Nike headquarters in May 2015: ‘Critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation. They’re making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.'” [Politico]. Shocked, shocked…
“We know that Clinton opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and that she supported it as secretary of state” [Bloomberg]. “What we don’t know is whether she would accept minor changes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal Barack Obama negotiated and pronounce those concessions adequate, or whether she will ditch the agreement entirely. The difference is huge, yet she has never been asked to explain what would make the existing agreement less of a job-killer or wage-dampener.” At least somebody else is saying this. Odd, though, that she’s “never been asked.” Why, it’s almost like our famously free press is in the tank!
“NAFTA, Corn, and Mexico’s Agricultural Trade Liberalization” (pdf) [Americas Program Special Report (2004)]. Still horrid today!
“Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort named in Ukraine anti-corruption probe” [WaPo]. I love the oxymoronic “Ukrainian corruption probe.” Still, it’s useful to know where the Ukrainians are placing their bets. The ingratitude!
“Pennsylvania attorney general convicted of perjury, other charges” [Reuters]. Democrats being convicted at the state and local levels is pretty routine, by now.
“When it comes to the presidential candidates’ plans for shoring up our nation’s infrastructure, we’re faced with two choices: a recycled, inadequately financed idea and a mystery plan” [DC Velocity]. “The Democratic strategy is much more straightforward. It provides for a five-year program of spending $250 billion on infrastructure and allocating another $25 billion to a national infrastructure bank, paying for it ‘through business tax reform.’ The bank would leverage its funds to support an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other credit enhancements for those willing to invest in infrastructure improvements. Theoretically, that could result in total spending of up to $500 billion.” Great. A public-private partnership. Ka-ching.
“An expert says we won’t have to wait until October for an election-changing surprise” [Business Insider]. “‘I don’t think we’re going to have to wait until October,’ Dr. Peter Singer, a strategist at the think tank New America and coauthor of Ghost Fleet, told Business Insider. ‘There’s clearly more to come.'” Ghost Fleet is big in the national security class, so but and Singer is also beating the Putin war drums. Surprise!
“But with only 12 weeks before Election Day, voters still don’t know which of Clinton’s hundreds of proposals are her top priorities, or how she’d get Congress’s support for ideas both parties have rejected before” [Bloomberg]. “Clinton’s strategy is to mock Trump’s proposals with clever ripostes.”
Our Famously Free Press
“Beginning in 1988, major TV networks granted journalistic control over the debates to a private organization with no official status: the Commission on Presidential Debates. The CPD is often called ‘nonpartisan.’ That’s absurdly inaccurate. ‘Bipartisan’ is the right adjective, as it has always carried out the joint will of the Republican and Democratic parties. (See George Farah’s meticulously reported book, ‘No Debate.’)” [HuffPo]. ” The commission grew out of a deal cut in the 1980s by GOP and Democratic leaders. Today, even though the US public largely distrusts the presidential candidates of the two major parties, TV networks seem willing to allow them to again dictate the terms of debate, including who gets to participate.” With a history of the CPD.
“Robert Fitrakis: Sanders May Have Lost Due to Election Fraud” [Defend Democracy]. “we allow these private, for-profit partisan companies to count our vote, to set our databases with secret proprietary software that nobody can look at. It violates every principle of transparency. [Two of these companies,] Hart Intercivic and Dominion both made contributions to the Clinton foundation. So you wonder, when a candidates running for president, why are voting machine companies making donations to their campaigns?” No links in the article (which, to be fair, is an interview) on Hart Intercivic and Dominon. Readers?
“Trump is supported by 1 in 5 younger voters — an astonishing and consequential collapse for the GOP. Though the young don’t turn out at election time with the same frequency as older voters, they always get (and deserve) particular attention from the parties. In the long run, younger voters are older voters. In the long run, older voters are . . . companions to John Maynard Keynes” [David Frum, WaPo].
“Inside The Head Of Trump Voters” [The American Conservative]. More interesting than the headline.
“Trump’s current approach has the benefit of helping his political opponents. So again, it’s worth asking who in the end really gains from Trump’s paranoid, fact-free campaign style. After all, a lot of people are saying it’s Hillary Clinton” [Bloomberg].
“Biden’s made his mission for the election delivering the Senate back to Democrats, and he’s already made clear three seats that he’s prioritized, and where the party clearly needs help: for Ted Strickland in Ohio, for Patrick Murphy in Florida and for Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania” [Politico]. That’s “the horrid Patrick Murphy.” Fixed it for ya.
“DCCC Internal Docs on Primaries in Florida” [Guccifer 2.0]. FWIW.
“First on CNN: Top Jeb Bush adviser leaves GOP, will vote for Clinton if Florida close” [CNN]. I’m so old I remember when “progressives” called the Bush administration a fascist regime. Good times…
Clinton Email Hairball
“FBI to Hand Over Hillary Clinton Email Probe Materials to Congress Today” [ABC]. ” The FBI has decided to give certain members of Congress interview notes and other materials produced during its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, and the handover is set to happen by the end of today, sources told ABC News.”
Industrial Production, July 2016: “Strength in manufacturing leads a strong industrial production report where the July headline jumped 0.7 percent to give a big 1/2 point lift to the capacity utilization rate which is at 75.9 percent” [Econoday]. “Manufacturing output rose 0.5 percent in the month which follows a downward revised but still very respectable 0.3 percent gain in June. Vehicle production was exceptionally strong in June and was also very solid in July…. Manufacturing output rose 0.5 percent in the month which follows a downward revised but still very respectable 0.3 percent gain in June. Vehicle production was exceptionally strong in June and was also very solid in July.” Converting the negative of climate change into a positive, I guess. Concluding: “[W]eakness in separate data on factory orders unfortunately is not pointing to further gains ahead for manufacturing production.”
Housing Starts, July 2016: “Housing starts are strong but permits are flat in what are mixed indications for the nation’s housing sector” [Econoday]. And: “The building permits issued are contracting year-over-year, but there are still more building permits being issued than construction completions. Multi-family housing building permit growth rate improved this month” [Econintersect]. “Be careful in analyzing this data set with a microscope as the potential error ranges and backward revisions are significant. Also the nature of this industry variations from month to month so the rolling averages are the best way to view this series – and the data remains in the range we have seen over the last 3 years (although permits is at the low end of the range).”
Consumer Price Index, July 2016: “The headlines for the consumer price report look very soft but there are important offsetting pressures. The CPI came in unchanged in July, pulled back by a 1.6 percent monthly decline in energy prices and other weakness including flat prices for food and contraction in transportation. And it doesn’t look much better when excluding food & energy where the gain for the core is only 0.1 percent” [Econoday]. “But two important categories — medical and housing — both show life. Medical care prices jumped 0.5 percent in the month for a year-on-year rate that leads the major readings, at a downright inflationary 4.0 percent. Housing costs rose 0.3 percent in the month with this year-on-year at 2.4 percent which, next to medical care, is the second highest on the list.” So awesome. “But medical and housing costs are a core of their own and should give policy makers confidence that their efforts to lift inflation are making incremental progress.” The cheap gas is gonna be great when I have to live out of my car because I lost my house after the medical bills. Anyhoo: “As a generalization – inflation accelerates as the economy heats up, while inflation rate falling could be an indicator that the economy is cooling. However, inflation does not correlate well to the economy – and cannot be used as a economic indicator” [Econintersect].
E-Commerce Retail Sales, Q2 2016: “Year-on-year, ecommerce sales were up 15.8 percent in the quarter. As a percentage of total retail sales, ecommerce continues to move higher, up 2 tenths to 8.1 percent” [Econoday].
ETFs: “U.S.-listed exchange-traded funds saw net inflows of $52.5 billion in the latest month, almost as much money as had flowed into ETFs in the first six months of the year, according to FactSet” [ETF.com]. “That put the year-to-date haul for ETFs at $117.2 billion, and the total amount of assets under management in U.S.-listed ETFs at $2.37 trillion.” That’s real money!
Shipping: “July 2016 Import Sea Container Count Trends Are Mixed But Pointing To A Flat Economy” [Econintersect]. “Depending on how you want to spin this data, any opinion could be truthful. But if one concentrates only on year-over-year growth – there is literally no growth in this sector which has a good correlation to the USA economy.”
Shipping: “The Cass Freight Index recorded a 17th consecutive decline in volumes, weighed down by slow manufacturing growth and uneven consumer spending” [Wall Street Journal, “Freight Shipments, Spending Declined in July”].
Supply Chain: “The burgeoning auto supply chains forming in Mexico may be getting more expensive. The rush by car makers to establish plants in the country, and the draw it has created for a growing field of auto-parts suppliers, has led to tougher competition for workers. Although the growing job vacancies and rising labor costs won’t shift the economic basis for the pushing factory work to Mexico, the WSJ’s Christina Rogers and Dudley Althaus report that they’re causing sticker shock among manufacturers. Companies including Toyota Motor Corp., BMW AG, Ford Motor Co. have committed to spending $15.8 billion to build or expand assembly plants. Those sites, along with those of parts makers, are increasingly hard-pressed to hire and retain skilled workers, particularly in the industrial strongholds in the north of Mexico. One expert says the region faces a “huge supply gap” of skilled workers and that rising wages may even push some factory work further south, extending supply chains still further in a bid for lower labor costs” [Wall Street Journal].
Housing: “No one ever regretted buying California real estate aside from all those that regretted buying California real estate” [Dr. Housing Bubble]. A “Real Homes of Genius” award.
China: “China’s appetite for European-made industrial robots is rapidly growing, as rising wages, a shrinking workforce and cultural changes drive more Chinese businesses to automation. The types of robots favored by Chinese manufacturers are also changing, as automation spreads from heavy industries such as auto manufacturing to those that require more precise, flexible robots capable of handling and assembling smaller products, including consumer electronics and apparel” [Wall Street Journal, “China’s Factories Count on Robots as Workforce Shrinks”]. “Shrinks.” Where does it go?
China: “Exploiting Singapore’s regional familiarity could help Chinese companies navigate local politics complicated by tensions over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. It could also help them avoid pitfalls from prior investment in Africa and Latin America, where China has faced criticism at times for a heavy-handed approach, insisting for example its companies and laborers carry out the bulk of a contract” [Bloomberg]. “Xi is offering vasts amounts of money to Southeast Asia for infrastructure projects for the maritime portion of his revitalized Silk Road. Combined with an overland route through Eurasia, the project is known as ‘One Belt, One Road.'”
The Bezzle: “Mutual Funds Boost Returns With Unicorn Markups” [ETF.com]. “Boston/San Francisco (Reuters) – Some U.S. mutual funds are boosting their performance with relatively big bets on private companies such as Uber and Pinterest, which they have been marking up at a rate far greater than the broad stock market… [S]ome have taken a more aggressive approach, boosting the share of these companies to more than 5% of assets and awarding them rich valuations that in some cases have helped them beat their benchmarks and peers by a wider margin.” Cum grano salis since ETFs compete with mutual funds, but they would, wouldn’t they?
Fodder for the Bulls: “[N]o recession in the immediate future (not in 2016 or the first half of 2017). Note that all 2017 forecasts assume Ms. Clinton will be the next President” [Calculated Risk].
“The good news is that we are nowhere close to panic levels on auto loans delinquencies and loan defaults. The bad news is that any uptick in trends will have to be watched closely. If those numbers were to spike higher then there might be more areas for concern” [247 Wall Street].
“In year-over-year comparisons, the [hotel] industry’s occupancy decreased 1.6% to 75.6%. However, average daily rate was up 2.7% to US$127.69, and revenue per available room increased 1.1% to US$96.59” [Hotel News].
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 80, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 80 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 16 at 12:21pm. Mr. Market seems to have decided there’s enough greed. But how can that be?
“For the past 60 years, the Ogallala has been pumped out faster than raindrops and snowmelt can seep back into the ground to replenish it, thanks largely to irrigation machinery like the one sleeping nearby. As a result, in parts of western Kansas, the aquifer has declined by more than 60 percent during that period. In some parts, it is already exhausted. The decline is steady now, dry years or wet. In 2015 rain was exceptionally heavy—50 to 100 percent above normal. Even so, water levels in the wells dropped again. [Brownie] Wilson’s field report will put the best face on it, noting it was the slowest decline in five years” [National Geographic]. (WIlson is the water-data manager for the Kansas Geological Survey.)
“Aetna will drastically cut back its 2017 participation on the individual markets, the for-profit insurer said Monday evening, just months after expressing optimism in the future of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges” [Modern Health Care]. Damn. What’s that gurgling? It sounds like a drain…
” Watch Your Coastal Property. Here Comes the Sea” [Bloomberg]. ” A new study finds that the rate of the oceans’ rise is itself not only increasing—it’s going to start increasing exponentially.” How much you wanna bet every owner of a second (or third) home on the beach gets bailed out? Metaphorically, it not literally?
“Book Review [Which Side Are You On: Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back]” (pdf) [Santa Clara Law Review]. This is from 1993, but even more true today.
“There’s a Minimum Wage Controversy on This Restaurant Receipt” [Attn].
“Combining insights from psychology, behavioral economics and neuroscience, University of Oregon researchers have found converging signs of pure altruism and behavior that increase with age in the brain” [Eurekalert]. Study nerds, is this a good one? And since I filed altruism here, let me continue with the companion link: “Altruistic People Have More Sex” [New York Magazine]. So, those altruistic old people finally know what they’re doing?
News of the Wired
“Twitter Can Fix Twitter With Just a Few Lines of Code” [Jester’s Court]. Interesting! So why don’t they?
“It’s been rumored for months now that the next iPhone will be removing the standard analog headphone jack — the same jack that’s existed on portable audio devices for ages. It would immediately make a whole bunch of headphone and microphone products obsolete overnight for those who use iPhones” [TechDirt]. “forcing audio through the iPhone Lightning connection would mean DRM.” Wait ’til Apple keyboards start checking the Intertubes to see if what I type has already been typed somewhere else. Kidding!
10 true facts about Woodstock on the occasion of its 47th anniversary [Across the Curve].
— Josh Weinberger (@kitson) August 15, 2016
Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (LR):
Decaying stump from the rainbow gathering in the Stanislaus National Forest California!
Readers, I know it’s the dead days of August, but if you can, please use the dropdown to choose your contribution, and then click the hat! Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. Water Cooler will not exist without your continued help.