Category Archives: business news

Why is economy such a drag on election?

Some things I just don’t get, such as why polls keep showing that the economy remains such a worry for Americans.

Incumbents from both parties are sweating out the election that takes place Tuesday because the economy, for crying out, is on voters’ minds.

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/midterms-governor-races-economy-incumbents/2014/10/30/id/604083/

I keep seeing the numbers and I actually am heartened by them. Joblessness is down; job growth is up; retirement accounts (such as mine) are up; budget deficits are down; energy production is up; energy consumption is down; home construction is up; auto sales are up.

Who’s badmouthing the economy? Oh, I keep forgetting. It’s foes of the Obama administration in Congress, on talk radio, on cable news shows and a smattering of right-wing economists who keep saying that the economy is in mortal danger of collapse at any minute. They grabbed Americans’ attention when the government enacted aggressive stimulus incentives in early 2009 to try to rescue the failing economy and haven’t let go.

It appears from my vantage point that the economy has been in full recovery mode for about a year, but the doom-and-gloomsayers keep instilling this fear in us that it’s all about the collapse.

OK, it’s not rosy in every corner of the country. As the link attached to this blog notes, some governor are taking it on the chin because job growth isn’t what it should be. Other governors, such as the one in Texas, are crowing about superior growth and are taking all the credit they deserve — and even more than they deserve — for that growth. That’s all fine.

So help me, though, while I might be slow on the uptake a lot of the time, I fail to understand how the economy continues to strike such fear across the land.

 

Price goes up … then comes back down

Update: I thought for a moment I had been hallucinating earlier today when I noticed the price of gasoline had jumped 20 cents per gallon during the night. But nope. I saw it.

Then I noticed a competing convenience store chain had kept its prices the same as the day before, $2.79 per gallon of unleaded gasoline. Lo and behold, the two stations I noticed the big jump had rolled the price back to $2.79 during the day, and then dropped the per-gallon price a penny more by the end of the day.

Could there have been, shall we say, a gasoline pump trial balloon sent aloft this morning?

***

A mystery of economics has been made even more mysterious as of this very morning.

While completing an errand a few minutes ago, I noticed the price of regular unleaded gasoline jumped 20 cents per gallon overnight.

It’s still under $3, but it’s now at $2.99 at one local gasoline station. It’s a local chain, so I’m betting I’ll see a similar spike at other corner gasoline stations later this morning when I trudge off to work.

The mystery is this: I keep reading stories in the media about the plummeting price of crude oil and the accompanying decline of gasoline — which is a product of aforementioned crude oil. Then I witness this upward spike in prices here in West Texas, which supposedly is one of the centers of the domestic oil production boom that I thought was helping drive the price of energy down.

What in the world am I missing here?

I get the supply-and-demand drivers that fuel the economy.

News reports keep telling us that our supply is outstripping our demand. Production is up, demand is down. Thus, prices are supposed to come down. Isn’t that how capitalism works? It’s kind of basic.

Now the price of gasoline here in Amarillo, Texas, has shot back up — by a lot!

It’ll take some time for the price to trickle back down. That’s how it works. What jumps up quickly comes down at a snail’s pace.

I’ll be waiting and watching.

Footballer gets goofy underwear endorsement deal

Joseph Randle, who plays football for the Dallas Cowboys, gets accused of trying to steal underwear and cologne from a Frisco, Texas, department store.

Then he gets an endorsement deal from an underwear maker, which then supplies him essentially with a lifetime supply of skivvies.

So help me, I don’t whether to laugh, scream or see a shrink.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2236838-joseph-randle-and-meundies-partnership-announced-following-arrest?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=programming-national

The underwear company is MeUndies, which agreed to pay Randle enough money to pay him back for the fine levied against him by the Cowboys for getting caught trying to filch the goods from the Dillard’s store in Frisco — allegedly.

A MeUndies official said this about the deal: “Joseph felt the need to turn a negative situation into a positive and teamed up with MeUndies to give back to his community and help families in need.”

Negative into positive?

The negative is that he’s been charged with a misdemeanor. The positive is that he’ll be paid for it?

Someone needs to explain this one to me … please.

Keep falling, fuel prices

It’s been a strange past couple of weeks around the Texas Panhandle as the price of gasoline drops — occasionally several times during the day.

It’s $2.88 per gallon for regular unleaded gas as of this morning. It’s likely to fall even more, perhaps even today.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/money/cramer-oil-hit-by-perfect-storm/ar-BB9eoxV

CNBC economics analyst Jim “The Screamer” Cramer thinks the price of crude could fall to $70 per barrel. If that happens, he says, we could see a “concerted decline” in oil production.

I’m not too worried about that decline. The energy market’s reaction to many factors is encouraging on a number of fronts.

* Supply is exceeding demand, which means Americans are a bit less gluttonous about oil consumption than we used to be.

* Alternative energy sources are replacing petroleum and coal to fire such things as electrical power plants. Natural gas exploration is way up, including in the Panhandle and throughout West Texas. Natgas burns cleaner and more efficiently, correct?

* Automakers are having to produce more fuel-efficient motor vehicles, which has had an impact on consumption. Hey, weren’t those new fuel-efficiency standards supposed to spell doom for the auto industry? Isn’t that what some in Congress protested?

I’m less worried now than I might have been two decades ago. Americans hadn’t yet absorbed the message about fuel conservation. We seem to be getting it now.

Town poised to join 21st century?

Canyon, Texas, is a lovely college community. It’s the Randall County seat, where my wife and I live, although our house is about 12 miles north of Canyon’s city limits.

It also engenders this perception among outsiders of being a place that’s a bit old-fashioned. Its residents seemingly adhere to some archaic social mores, such as its time-honored ban on selling alcoholic beverages.

Well, on Nov. 4, voters have a chance to drag Canyon into the 21st century by allowing the sale of alcohol, as in beer and wine.

It’s time for the city to let its municipal hair down just a bit and allow the sale of these products.

I do take seriously the opposition to this idea, which has been — pardon the pun — brewing for some time. A lot of hardened opponents think the sale of beer and wine at grocery stores is going to open the door to — gasp! — liquor by the drink, sold in bars and taverns.

I read a letter to the editor opposing the idea in today’s Amarillo Globe-News. The author of the letter is a gentleman with whom I’m acquainted and based on my knowledge of his political leanings, he no doubt would like to see a return of Prohibition.

Glen Stocker refers to the “Canyon crooks” who are “trying to push booze down our throats. “The lack of alcohol sales may not stop all drunken pregnant women,” he states, “but why make it easy for them?”

Sheesh! Let’s get a grip here.

The sale of this stuff doesn’t create a society of drunks. Nor does it promote alcohol abuse. It’s a realization that in our mobile society it makes no sense to ban the sale of such products when all one has to do is drive a few minutes (in this case, north to Amarillo) to purchase the stuff, bring it back home and swill it to their hearts’ content.

The very idea of dry cities and dry counties in this era of extreme mobility no longer makes sense. It might have at one time, when we traveled by horseback.

Those days are long gone.

'Ban the box' from job applications

OK, I’ll stipulate that I am a bleeding-heart liberal on a lot of issues.

Hiring policy is one of them.

I ran across this item in the Charlottesville, Va. Daily Progress that got me thinking about a certain question employers occasionally ask prospective employers.

http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/roanoke-joins-charlottesville-in-removing-felony-question-from-city-job/article_3e05c5c0-5073-11e4-9508-001a4bcf6878.html

It’s the one that asks if you’ve been convicted of a felony.

I believe the question is counter-productive and that employers shouldn’t ask it.

The link attached notes that Roanoke and Charlottesville — two substantial cities in Virginia — have eliminated the required question from applications for public-sector jobs.

I’ll go along with those who say the question deters employers from hiring someone who’s done his or her time and is trying to rebuild a life outside of prison. Asking the question about their criminal history acts as a disincentive to employers looking for people for their payroll.

It’s an unfair question.

Yes, I get that employers have a right to know as much as they can about applicants. They can perform background checks, though, without asking the individual to confess to whether he or she is a convicted felon.

And what about Amarillo? City Hall asks applicants to fill out a “criminal history” section, listing convictions and the nature of the charge.

I understand that some states have enacted laws prohibited all employers from asking the question. That’s a step toward enabling folks to rebuild their lives.

Will it ever happen in Texas? I doubt it. Strongly. But it should.

Silence on job growth is quite telling

That silence you hear from the Republican side of the political divide is quite instructive as the nation digests the latest job-growth numbers.

The Labor Department today reported that 248,000 jobs were added in September and that the jobless rate fell to less than 6 percent for the first time since 2008.

No cheers. No backslapping. No “congrats, you guys” are coming from the GOP gang.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/september-2014-unemployment-numbers-111583.html?hp=l1

Indeed, this morning — just before the jobs figures came out — Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary during the George W. Bush administration, disputed President Obama’s claim the other day that we’re better off now than when he took office in January 2009. Fleischer told Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe” that Obama inherited a “100-foot hole” but still has a “95-foot hole” from which the country must emerge.

What utter bunk!

The economy is growing. Every independent analyst I’ve read suggests the nation has turned the corner from where we were six years ago.

Of course, the task now is to keep marching forward and to keep the momentum going.

Today’s job numbers suggest we’re continuing to make progress.

I get that politics requires muzzles when the “other side” has good news to report. That’s the way the game is played. Democrats do it, too, when the news involved a Republican administration.

Rest assured that if the next job report isn’t as glowing as this one, the loyal opposition will awaken quickly from its silent slumber.

AEDC turns 25

The year 1989 proved to be a time of tumult and triumph for Amarillo.

Voters rebelled against the City Commission (as it was called then) and tossed most of its members out. Times were tough then. The economy was in the tank, the city was fighting with prominent businessman Boone Pickens, who had gotten angry at the local newspaper over its coverage of certain issues.

City voters, though, did have the good sense to approve the formation of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, a body tasked with spending a portion of sales tax revenue on job-creation projects for the city and the surrounding region.

Voters said “yes” to AEDC and it came into being.

It’s been collecting a half-cent of sales tax every year since, building a handsome investment fund for the past quarter century.

It has had some notable successes and some stinging defeats over the years.

The big daddy of the successes, of course, was the return of Bell Helicopter to Amarillo. Bell/Textron set up huge aircraft assembly operation next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport after AEDC dangled about #45 million in inducements to the company to relocate its assembly operations from Fort Worth to Amarillo. Suffice to say the good folks of Cowtown were none too pleased with what they thought amounted to corporate bribery of a company using public money.

Bell came here, began assembling the V-22 Osprey for the Marine Corps. The site has grown in the years since then, adding hundreds of jobs.

AEDC also lured Hilmar Cheese to Dalhart, another venture that drew criticism from local folks who couldn’t grasp why AEDC was spending sales tax money on something built way up yonder in Dallam County. Well, that project has been a boon to the region as well.

Not all the projects have panned out. But all in all, the AEDC has provided an innovative inducement to companies looking to expand their payrolls or to relocate from other locations to the High Plains of Texas.

Billboards are cropping up around town saluting AEDC. TV spots are airing that do the same.

All in all, the AEDC has helped the city stay afloat while other communities have struggled during tough times.

That’s reason enough to offer a good word.

Economy becomes Democratic trump card

Who’da thunk this could happen?

The economy is looming as the Democrats trump card as they fight to retain control of the U.S. Senate and try to prevent Republicans from grabbing even tighter control of the House of Representatives.

http://thehill.com/opinion/juan-williams/219140-juan-williams-economy-could-tip-election-to-dems

That’s the view, at least, of Juan Williams — one of Fox News’s token liberals.

Williams noted in an essay that President Obama is now using President Reagan’s legendary line from his 1980 campaign when he asked: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Obama is turning that question on its ear for the GOP.

Are we better off today than we were four years ago, or six years ago, or even one year ago?

The answer unquestionably is a resounding “yes!”

The economic reality, though, hasn’t yet registered with Americans, according to RealClearPolitics.com, Williams reports. “RealClearPolitics has 55 percent of Americans disapproving of the president’s handling of the economy, to only 40 percent approving.” Why is that? My guess is that the GOP has done a better job of bad-mouthing the economy than Democrats have done talking it up.

The data tell a different story. This past month, we added 142,000 jobs to the economy, but that was seen as a “disappointment.” The previous several months registered more than 200,000 jobs monthly. The unemployment rate is now at 6.1 percent. Manufacturing is up. Exports are up, knocking down the trade deficit.

Will any of this work in Democrats’ favor when the mid-term elections are decided? That remains to be seen.

Still, it boggles my mind that the economy — which seemed to be in such a shambles just three years ago — now has become Barack Obama’s major bragging point.

Who knew?

Tax cuts pushed off GOP table

Tax cuts used to be the mantra of the Republican Party.

No more, or so it seems. Cutting taxes now appears to be the bane of the Grand Old Party. Why? Some states that have cut taxes too much now face the dreaded “d” word, budget deficits that are blowing apart any effort to do something constructive for constituents.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/republicans-shift-away-from-tax-cutting-mania-111359.html?hp=t1

Meanwhile, at the federal level we’re seeing the deficit shrinking as the federal government has reduced spending while holding the line — for now — on tax revenue.

“We have to stop being one-trick ponies,” said California Rep. John Campbell, a member of the arch-conservative Republican Study Committee and the No. 4 Republican on the House Budget Committee.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who once served in the U.S. Senate, might be in serious trouble this election year because he’s pushed too hard for tax cuts that have cost the state too much revenue to pay for certain things — such as, oh, road maintenance and public education.

As Politico reports, the tax cuts that once were the mainstay of a party dominated by Ronald Reagan are MIA in the current political discussion. GOP candidates are talking about the Affordable Care Act and terrorism. Tax cuts? Forget about it.

Well, rest assured that Democrats will remind voters of the danger of cutting too much. They’ll be talking enough for both political parties right up until Election Day.