Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Economic Recovery Gathers Steam

Private-sector employment increased by 217,000 from January to February on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report released today. The estimated change of employment from December 2010 to January 2011 was revised up to 189,000 from the previously reported increase of 187,000. This month’s ADP National Employment Report suggests continued solid growth of nonfarm private employment early in 2011. The recent pattern of rising employment gains since the middle of last year was reinforced by today’s report, as the average gain from December through February (217,000) is well above the average gain over the prior six months (63,000).

The fears of a jobless recovery may be receding but the US economy has a long way to go before pre-recession employment levels are achieved. As we stated previously the economy needs to create over 200,000 jobs per month for 48 consecutive months to achieve pre-recession employment levels. The six month average of 63,000 is still well below the required rate of job creation for a robust recovery to occur. The Unemployment Rate still exceeds 9%.

The February report is encouraging because it points to an accelerating pace of job creation. The post Christmas season employment surge represents a 30,000 job gain over January’s strong report that triples the six month moving average. The service sector accounted for over 200,000 of the job gains. The manufacturing and goods producing sector combined to create 35,000 jobs. Construction continues to mirror the moribund housing market shedding an additional 9,000 jobs during the month. The construction industry has lost over 2.1 million jobs since its peak in 2008.

The robust recovery in the service sector is welcomed but sustainable economic growth can only be achieved by a robust turn around in the goods producing and manufacturing sectors. Service sector jobs offer lower wages, tend to be highly correlated to retail consumer spending and positions are often transient in nature. Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME) is where the highest concentration of service jobs are created and the employment figures bear that out with SMEs accounting for over 204,000 jobs created during the month of February.

Large businesses added 13,000 jobs during the month of February. The balance sheets of large corporations are strong. The great recession provided large corporates an opportunity to rationalize their business franchise with layoffs, consolidations and prudent cost management. Benign inflation, global presence, outsourcing, low cost of capital and strong equity markets created ideal conditions for profitability and an improved capital structure. The balance sheets of large corporations are flush with $1 trillion in cash and it appears that the large corporates are deploying this capital resource into non-job creating initiatives.

The restructuring of the economy continues. The Federal stimulus program directed massive funds to support fiscally troubled state and local government budgets. The Federal Stimulus Program was a critical factor that help to stabilize local government workforce levels. The expiration of the Federal stimulus program is forcing state and local governments into draconian measures to balance budgets. Government employment levels are being dramatically pared back to maintain fiscal stability. Public service workers unions are under severe pressure to defend employment, compensation and benefits of workers in an increasingly conservative political climate that insists on fiscal conservatism and is highly adverse to any tax increase.

The elimination of government jobs, the expiration of unemployment funds coupled with rising interest rates, energy and commodity prices will drain significant buying power from the economy and create additional headwinds for the recovery.

Macroeconomic Factors

The principal macroeconomic factors confronting the economy are the continued high unemployment rate, weakness in the housing market, tax policy and deepening fiscal crisis of state, local and federal governments. The Tea Party tax rebellion has returned congress to Republican control and will encourage the federal government to pursue fiscally conservative policies that will dramatically cut federal spending and taxes for the small businesses and the middle class. In the short term, spending cuts in federal programs will result in layoffs, and cuts in entitlement programs will remove purchasing power from the demand side of the market. It is believed that the tax cuts to businesses will provide the necessary incentive for SME’s to invest capital surpluses back into the company to stimulate job creation.

The growing uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa is a significant political risk factor. The expansion of political instability in the Gulf Region particularly Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia; a protracted civil war in Libya or a reignited regional conflict involving Israel would have a dramatic impact on oil markets; sparking a rise in commodity prices and interest rates placing additional stress on economic recovery.

Political uncertainty tends to heighten risk aversion in credit markets. The financial rescue of banks with generous capital infusions and accommodating monetary policies from sovereign governments has buttressed the profitability and capital position of banks. Regulatory uncertainty of Basel III, Dodd-Frank, and the continued rationalization of the commercial banking system and continued concern about the quality of credit portfolios continue to curtail availability of credit for SME lending. Governments are encouraging banks to lend more aggressively but banks continue to exercise extreme caution in making loans to financially stressed and capital starved SMEs.

Highlights of the ADP Report for February include:

Private sector employment increased by 217,000

Employment in the service-providing sector rose 202,000

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 15,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector declined 20,000

Construction employment declined 9,000

Large businesses with 500 or more workers declined 2,000

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased 24,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased 21,000

Overview of Numbers

The 202,000 jobs created by the SME sectors represents over 90% of new job creation. Large businesses comprise approximately 20% of the private sector employment and continues to underperform SMEs in post recession job creation. The strong growth of service sector though welcomed continues to mask the under performance of the manufacturing sector. The 11 million manufacturing jobs comprise approximately 10% of the private sector US workforce. The 20 thousand jobs created during February accounted for 10% of new jobs. Considering the severely distressed condition and capacity utilization of the sector and the favorable conditions for export markets and cost of capital the job growth of the sector appears extremely weak. The US economy is still in search of a driver. The automotive manufacturers have returned to profitability due to global sales in Latin America and China with a large portion of the manufacturing done in local oversea markets.

The stock market continues to perform well. The Fed is optimistic that the QE2 initiative will allay bankers credit risk concerns and ease lending restrictions to SMEs. A projected GDP growth rate of 3% appears to be an achievable goal. The danger of a double dip recession is receding but severe geopolitical risk factors continue to keep the possibility alive.

Interest rates have been at historic lows for two years and will begin to notch upward as central bankers continue to manage growth with a mix of inflation and higher costs of capital. The stability of the euro and the EU’s sovereign debt crisis will remain a concern and put upward pressure on interest rates and the dollar.

As the price of commodities and food spikes higher the potential of civil unrest and political instability in emerging markets of Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America grows. Some even suggest this instability may touch China.

The balance sheets of large corporate entities remain flush with cash. The availability of distressed assets and volatile markets will encourage corporate treasurers to put that capital to work to capitalize on emerging opportunities. The day of the lazy corporate balance sheet is over.

Solutions from Sum2

Credit Redi offers SMEs tools to manage financial health and improve corporate credit rating to attract and minimize the cost of capital. Credit Redi helps SMEs improve credit standing and demonstrate to bankers that you are a good credit risk.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

You Tube Video: John Handy, Hard Work

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME, political

March 3, 2011 Posted by | commerce, credit, Credit Redi, economics, government, lending, manufacturing, recession, risk management, SME, taxation, Tea Party, unemployment, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Raising My Country’s Flag

Today is the 234th birthday of the United States of America and I’m struggling to articulate my feelings and concerns for my country.   This morning like millions of Americans I walked outside to hoist the flag to honor my country and convey support for its principles and ideals.  I still believe in those principles and ideals but I am having a tremendous crisis of faith on how those principles and ideals are put into action.

When I removed the flag from its draw my first thought was a tinge of personal shame because the flag was not properly folded in the requisite three star triangle.  This former Boy Scout knew of the proper way to fold the flag but when I lowered it after Memorial Day I had no one to assist me in the proper way to fold it.    It takes two people working in common purpose to accomplish the task.  One to fold while the other holds the flag taut.  It brought to mind my country’s ossified two party systems inability to administer effective governance.   Its time we call other care takers who have the conscience and maturity to sacrifice partisanship for the greater good of the country.

Holding the flag I was struck by its age.  I date the flag to the late 40’s.  The flag was given to me by my father and has only 48 stars.  When it was sewn Alaska and Hawaii had yet to join the grand union of states.  They would join in 59 four years after my birth. This flag boasts strong double stitches that holds the stars, stripes and blue field securely in place.  A united conglomeration of shapes, symbols and colors manufactured by top notch craftsmen guided in their work by care and skill to assure quality.  I surmise that  the workers who crafted this flag were inspired by a love of country and pride of workmanship now long gone.  Blue collar workers and the unions that represented them have been crushed by the immutable power of global capital.  In the greater cause of profits workplaces have been dismantled and livelihoods off shored to the outer regions of the global economy.  I wonder how the 11,000,000 people who are unemployed today perceive our flag this morning?  Surely most will  bless the grace of daily bread that is placed on their table today.  I  also wonder if the big time financiers who profit from grief will pause with a moment of reflection during their extravagant soirees on the source of their wealth and the price of their amusements.

My flag has but 48 stars.  In my short lifetime of 54 years my country granted statehood to two states.  Fifty states is a rounded number suggesting a divine hand that predetermined a Pax Americana halfway to a celestial century mark.   I worry that this glorious symbol of Federalism is at danger of unraveling again.    Texas, Alaska, Arizona and a few other stars  have expressed a desire to withdraw their stars from the sacred blue field of our flag.  Seditious murmurs from opportunistic politicians.  They eagerly dip their political cookies into the toxic brew stewed up by pissed off  Teabaggers and other deranged Falangists.  This new confederacy condemns them.  They complain that the rights of individual states are being trampled upon by an oppressive authoritarian government.  They shout  prayers from rooftops, wave hand guns, tote rifles and salute the Don’t Tread On Me flag.  They want the right to be left alone to create a personal version of a world unencumbered by responsibility to anything but a selfish self.  They damn the collective needs of the union and condemn its necessity to operate as an interconnected link in a world fraternity of nations.  The ability to express an  unencumbered will in the pursuit of self interest is their idea of citizenship.  They are prepared to defend it with guns and preemptive aggression to assert the right of the stronger.  They prefer barbarity to civility, selfishness to fraternity, personal affectation to civil rights, sameness to diversity, vigilante tribunals to social justice.

With care and reverence I wrapped the flag around my tree, envisioning flag draped coffins being off loaded from C-130 transport planes onto the impersonal gray tarmac of  a military airbase in Dover.  These selfless souls are reunited with the ground of the land they gave their last full measure of their devotion offered up to senseless conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The fallen will receive a reverence in death that our politicians failed to offer them in life by condemning them to a wasteful demise, wholly avoidable and absolutely unnecessary.  No these unfortunate patriots have not shed their blood in vain.  Their stars will forever burn bright on a blue field of valor as condemnation of the blasphemous  chicken hawks whose screaming squawks for war are nothing but hallow patriotic pronouncements spoken to secure political careers and profit financial backers.

Arranging the flag around the tree the bark of the Black Oak clings to the fabric of Old Glory.  It allows me to run a finger along the long red strip at the base of the flag.  The blood shed for the cause of this flag continues to flow.  When will it ebb?  In the cause of this flag seemingly righteous blood mixes with the awful blood of innocents.  Both stain the hands and conscience of our nation.  My two sons just entering young adulthood  are  proud members of the armed forces.  One in the Navy the other in the Army.  Their blood is my blood.  They speak of  deployment to the “Sand Box” a euphemism for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A future raising of this flag lays on my brain like a nightmare, praying that their blood doesn’t stain the grim crimson of our national symbol.

Stepping back to examine if the flag is properly hung I notice a paint stain on the field of stripes.  The splotch of beige paint now darkly blanched was splashed from a careless paintbrush I used to coat the walls of my boyhood bedroom.  I did not take the proper precaution of removing the flag from the wall before proceeding with the task of painting.  It was a small blotch about the size of a couple of 50 cent pieces lying on a dresser drawer.  It reminds me of the gushing oil spill flowing into the pristine Gulf of Mexico.  This catastrophe will forever alter the ecology and lives of the many social and ecological communities that comprise the Gulf.  This stain will remain on our flag for many generations.  The dimensions of this disaster are still beyond measure or comprehension.  It threatens to forever alter the colorful fabric of our culture, economy and political lives.  The inexorable march of corporate power in pursuit of profit threatens to crush a sustainable human habitat.  We the people alone can call them to account and require that human needs take precedence over corporate greed.

Yet today is not the day for a recitation of what I believe to be wrong with my country.  Readers of this blog can click  any subject on the cloud tag a get my doubled barreled critique of America’s behavior in a rapidly changing world.  But I have been struggling for the past few days about a theme for today’s post.  And it finally came to me when I was dutifully hanging the flag on this meaningful day.  I really want to believe in the correctness and goodness of my country and its people.  Its my country warts and all.  The warts are growing big and uglier everyday.  My country and countrymen have lost their way.  Two seemingly endless and pointless wars, the economic debasement of  “The Great Recession”, the egregious assault on the delicate ecological communities of the Gulf of Mexico, a voracious Falangist movement, the juggernaut of corporatism, the continual erosion of civil liberties, careless concern for social justice and rapidly accelerating slide into an aggressive self seeking raises my sense of outrage.

As a boy growing up this flag hung on the wall of my room for many years.  I put it up on my wall when I was an adolescent still playing with toy soldiers.  I was enamored with national pride by America’s WWII triumphs, John Wayne war heroics and Victory at Sea news reels.  I was a staunch Cold Warrior.  During grammar school I imagined myself dying a hero’s death as I fell in the victory over the USSR’s Red Army at the decisive battle of Washington School.  That patriotic zeal would continue throughout most of the Vietnam War springing to attention at Sargent Barry Sadler’s Ballad of the Green Berets.  On Saturday evenings I would watch the  Channel 5 News.  I can still hear the solemn grimness of the haunting trumpet dirge as the weekly Honor Roll scrolled the names of the fallen from the conflict in Southeast Asia.

As we grow the meanings of symbols change.  Symbols can never remain immutably fixed because its subject changes.  Failure to understand  this the symbol becomes a fiction of stale dogma unconnected to a living reality of real living things in an ever changing world.   Inane nationalists content to swaddle themselves in the flag believe their fervor and force of statement is the test of love of country.   But in fact these unfortunates  trod a dangerous path and in fact pose the greatest risk to the continued wellness of our nations ideals.

As the Sixties gave way to the Seventies the meaning of my flag  evolved.  It became a symbol of  imperial power and distrusted authority as the Vietnam war  droned on.  It became a symbol of naked repression as it quelled urban rebellions.  It became a symbol of  reaction when assassins silenced beloved reform leaders.  It became a symbol of deadly suppression when the Ohio National Guard murdered students at Kent State.   this flag would evolve into the sacrilege of a Warholian commercial symbol.  To my horror this flag became a  weapon in the hands of white racists threatening to use it to impale an African American man during a school busing demonstration in Landsmark in Boston.  During college as my political activism grew, Peace flags, Earth Day flags, Liberation flags, Rainbow flags all captured my imagination and had profound personal meaning but they would never replace the preeminent position the American flag holds in my heart.

I wish my countrymen well on this July 4th.  I behold my incomplete, paint stained, 48 starred Old Glory.  Its in a proper place on a good and proper day.   The white colors tinged in a yellow fade its getting on in age.  But I have hope.  I take consolation from  a voice  resonating in my ear.  As a slight breeze ripples the posted colors I recognize the not so distant call of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas.  He’s whispering “agitate, agitate, agitate”……..

You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA

Risk: democracy, civil liberties, country, culture

July 5, 2010 Posted by | class, culture, democracy, ecological, Federalism, LGBT, manufacturing, psychology, seasons, unions, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bring the Warriors Home

Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
Of the gray-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray.
Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!”

The Ballad of the King’s Jest

Rudyard Kipling

The irony of President Obama’s selection as the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2009 was not lost on the recipient. In one of the receptions held to honor him, Mr. Obama spoke about Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite and its use as a weapon of war as the source of wealth that funds the prestigious peace prize.   Earlier in the day during his acceptance speech, Mr. Obama spoke eloquently on the motives for his decision to continue the prosecution and escalation of the Afghan war.  As a war time President, Mr. Obama sees war as a tool to bend the will of history toward justice and good.  He believes the greatest global good will be served by the pursuit of the Afghan conflict.  I respectfully disagree.

The greater irony in Mr. Obama’s acceptance speech for a peace prize is that it was essentially a discourse of war apologetics.    Mr. Obama delivered a speech void of any contrition and never once equivocated as he outlined his commitment and reasoning why a nation should engage in war.  To be fair to Mr. Obama, his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan is not a surprise. Throughout his Presidential election campaign, Mr. Obama was explicitly clear that he intended to pursue Osama bin Laden and his band of murderous terrorists to the Gates of Hell.  Even if those gates led to a protected compound in downtown Karachi,  Mr.  Obama’s resolve to check mate al-Qaeda remains steadfast.

The problem with the continued prosecution of the Afghan War is that our enemies are not a nation state nor do they occupy a single geography.  Al-Qaeda and their confederates are stationed throughout the globe.  They exist in underground sleeper cells waiting to be summoned by unconscionable puppet masters.  They are guided by an ideology of hate neatly disguised and wrapped in a hajab of religious orthodoxy. They use asymmetric strategies and tactics to wage war on citizens and soldiers alike.  A conventional army garrisoned in a provincial  hamlet is ill suited to fight an enemy that knows no bounds in territories and tactics and is prepared to conduct a military operation that spans multiple generations.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda’s access and control of Afghanistan’s lucrative opium trade forms the socio-economic base that allows them to leverage considerable political power to pursue their terrorist agenda.  The opium trade is weaved into a complex tribal culture whose power and prominence supersedes a weak and corrupt central government that derives its right to govern by the tepid consent of friendly tribal leaders and the military might of foreign armies.    Afghanistan like other narco dependent states will remain politically unstable and continue as a terroristic threat to the United States until the opium trade is supplanted as the countries principal source of economic and political power.

Afghanistan is not the world’s sole narco-terrorist state.  A number exist in the Western Hemisphere and one need look no further then across the Rio Grande to witness the growing power of a narco-dollar financed state subversion.  Mexico’s difficulties serve as a reminder that the risks to the stability of our republic lie much closer to home and is in fact in full residence within our borders.  Engaging a war in Afghanistan is a clear and present distraction from addressing the pressing issues that undermine our national security.

True al-Qaeda’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon conjures up many unimaginable and terrifying scenarios.  Unfriendly regimes that are hostile to the United States like North Korea and Iran control nuclear capabilities.  But we have  no armies attacking them.  Perhaps the solution is to remove nuclear weapons and uranium devises beyond the reach of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other avowed enemies of our republic.  If this is the major threat, its mitigation can be achieved without the prolonged deployment of 130,000 troops.   It can be accomplished by having an international force guard and quarantine Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  Certainly the Bush Doctrine allows for this type of intervention.  Some will object to this course of action on the grounds that we must respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.  But Mr. Obama’s escalation of the Afghan War will require unilateral incursions into Pakistan.  This action to eliminate the ultimate horror of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists is the surest way to mitigate this pressing threat.

The multifaceted omnipresent dangers to the United States transcend nuclear terrorism. Economic degradation is compounding social problems and creating deep political fissures within the country.  Our countries fractured culture is being exploited by powerful self serving interests.  A cabal of corporate elites equate national security with their economic well being.  They employ armies of lobbyists  and ply multi-channel media platforms to stoke fear and division to advance their narrow interests.  Usually at the expense of supporting initiatives that address the complex threats that weigh on the security of the country.  These special interests attack programs that stabilize social safety nets.  They finance expensive media campaigns condemning aid for local government fiscal stability, universal health care, meaningful environmental policy, expanded funding for public education, infrastructure improvements, support for trade unions, job creation programs and social assistance programs.  The well being of our people is the basis of our national prosperity.  The sources of social instability remain strong and continue to grow.  The recession,  a jobless rate of 10%, 4 million foreclosed homes, 30 million citizens unable to have access to affordable health care, failing school systems, bulging prison systems and environmental degradation represent a greater threat to national security then 100 al-Qaeda fighters holed up in an ice cave in the Tora Bora tribal regions.

No doubt  the United States was attacked by terrorists enjoying protection of a friendly regime in Afghanistan.  On 9/11 I witnessed first hand the horror of fellow countrymen jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center.  Moments later as I stood in front of Trinity Church I escaped the pyroclastic cloud of the falling South Tower through a revolving door on Wall Street.   I understand the irrational hatred terrorists harbor in their hearts and the devastating consequences of their insane acts.  They are a cancer that must be eradicated.

Mr. Obama, has stated that the Afghan insurgency enjoys no popular support.   Afghanistan has a long memory and a longer history of a people subjected to the designs of imperial powers and foreign invaders since the time of Genghis Khan. The resistance to foreign occupation by the Afghani’s is legendary.  From the massacre of Elphinstone’s Army trying to escape blood thirsty tribes through the Khyber Pass, to the Soviets disgraceful retreat from the hail of Stinger Missiles supplied by the United States; it now  may be our time for a  ride in this horrible wheel barrel.

Afghanistan is a region of the globe where the great powers and trends of history clash.  It is a vortex of a turbulent maelstrom that brings the powers of China, Russia, India and Islam into a volatile mix.  The forces of national interests and modernity is held at bay by tribesmen toting WWII rifles, expedient tribal allegiances and ancient codes of honor.  Why doesn’t China and India have a more prominent role in ending this conflict?   It is in their geopolitical interest.  Better let the United States  send its nations finest young people to chase phantoms and fight in the endless canyons of the Hindu Kush; while Chindia builds their economies at home and forge new alliances abroad.  Perhaps they hope that this war could be the Pax Americana’s Waterloo?

Mr. Obama quoted from Dr. Martin Luther Kings Nobel acceptance speech, stating, “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.”  This above all else may prove to be the most prophetic and ironic truth to Mr. Obama’s war.

The United States cannot afford this war. It is a distraction. It weakens us.  National security is more then a well provisioned and gallant army. A nations strength and its ultimate security is based on an enlightened, well fed, healthy and industrious people.

Mr. Obama acknowledged his indebtedness to those that went before him.  He stated that, Mahatma Gandhi, George Marshall, Albert Schweitzer,  Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela are worthy figures that we should emulate.  Their greatness showed us that a better path must be chosen if we are to progress as a people.  Their choices and examples of leadership were not based on expediency and some came at  terrible cost.  The pathway of war is worn and old.  The world is much too weary from the familiar journey.  Its time to choose a better path.  End the war now Mr. Obama.  Bring the troops home.

You Tube Music Video: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Battle Hymn of the Republic

Risk: war, peace

December 14, 2009 Posted by | 9/11, China, economics, Obama, recession, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Economy Bleeding Jobs

The ADP National Employment Report was just released. The US economy is bleeding jobs. Over 693,000 jobs were lost during the month of December 2008. The report shows steep declines in all market segments that include, small and mid-size businesses, large businesses, manufacturers, service businesses and construction. The Report shows that job loss is accelerating more rapidly then observed levels during the 2001 recession.

Full ADP report and an explanation of their methodology can be accessed here.

You Tube Video: Johnny Cash, The Ballad of John Henry

Risk: economy, jobs

January 7, 2009 Posted by | economics, unemployment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hair on Fire!

As expected the Labor Department has released employment report for November and it is dire. Employers laid off 533,000 workers last month raising the unemployment level to 6.7% its highest level since 1974. Secretary of the Treasury Paulson believes unemployment could rise to 11% before this is through. I recall a Risk Rap post from 5/1 that quoted Paulson saying that we were half way through the economic slowdown. If Paulson’s past prognostications concerning the duration of the recession matches his assessment of its severity I fear that an 11% unemployment rate might just be a best case scenario.

This should have all the lights on Capitol Hill and in the nations corporate board rooms flashing red. This is truly a hair on fire moment. But as the country floats along in the existential netherworld of the Bush/Obama interregnum, America’s economy is in a free fall, rudderless and bereft of any leadership. Our leaders see the flashing red lights but they are more concerned with “free market” political posturing on the right and “big business bashing” on the left then getting down to the business of fixing a very broken a listless ship of state.

First order of business is too expeditiously lineup a credit facility for the Big Three auto makers. That will send a powerful message that America is dedicated to its workers and the country’s future by supporting and encouraging its manufacturers to reaffirm their preeminent position as world class providers.

You tube video: Bing Crosby, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime

Risk: depression, unemployment, government policy

December 5, 2008 Posted by | jazz, Paulson, recession, unemployment | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Economy Sheds 157,000 Jobs


Lost in the euphoria of Barack Obama’s electoral triumph is todays rude reminder of the the continued deterioration of the economy.  ADP published its monthly report on employment yesterday revealing that the US economy shed another 157,000 jobs during the month of October.

According to the report, “large businesses, defined as those with 500 or more workers, saw employment decline 41,000, while medium-size companies with between 50 and 499 workers declined 91,000. Employment among small-size businesses, defined as those with fewer than 50 workers, declined 25,000. This is the first outright decline in small business employment reported by the ADP Report since November of 2002, and the largest percentage decline since the economy was emerging from recession in early 2002.”

The recession is now enveloping small businesses.  This is a most ominous sign.  It should be born in mind that the ADP report usually reports numbers that are not as severe as numbers that the Department of Labor will issue later this week.

Not surprisingly manufacturing lost 85,000 jobs during the month.  This was the 26th consecutive monthly decline for the sector.

The full ADP Employment report can be accessed here.

President elect Obama will have a tough row to hoe.  The revival of the economy will be a prolonged and difficult effort requiring patience and careful attention to undo three decades of erosion to the countries industrial infrastructure.  Sum2 advocates The Hamilton Plan as a recovery program for the economy and SME manufactures.

Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Pay Me My Money Down

Risk: recession, industrial capacity, unemployment

November 7, 2008 Posted by | folk, manufacturing, recession, unemployment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ADP Job Report Minus 8000

Nonfarm private employment decreased 8,000 from August to September 2008 on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the ADP National Employment Report®. The estimated change in employment from July to August was revised down from a decrease of 33,000 to a decrease of 37,000.

September’s ADP National Employment Report continues to offer evidence of a weak labor market. Note that this month, the ADP Report does not reflect two special factors that might have further depressed employment in September. These are the strike of some 37,000 machinists against Boeing, and job losses related to hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast.

This month’s employment loss was driven by the goods-producing sector which declined 72,000 during September, its twenty-second consecutive monthly decline. The manufacturing sector marked its twenty-fifth consecutive monthly decline, losing 48,000 jobs. These losses were somewhat offset by employment gains in the service-providing sector of the economy which advanced by 64,000.

Details on the ADP Report can be found here.

Music: The Silhouettes- Get A Job

Risk: unemployment, manufacturing, job loss, recession

October 1, 2008 Posted by | recession, unemployment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Job Loss Up / Economy Down

The erosion of jobs continues as the economic malaise seemingly deepens in the United States.

Today the Labor Department issued its employment report for August and it points to a weakening economy and an unemployment rate at a 5 year high.

We cannot detect any sector recovery drivers in the US economy. Global drivers are also slowing down as demand from the worlds largest market continues to abate.

One silver lining of the global economic downturn is the slowing of inflationary pressures. This might provide the impetus for the Treasury to send out another round of tax rebate checks. Don’t count on it though.

Hedge funds are deleveraging market positions and raising cash. This may impact market liquidity and contribute to extended market softness.

Yesterday on CNBC Bill Gross, CEO of PIMCO indicated that banks need additional $400 B infusion by the Fed to maintain sufficient capital levels to assure credit availability and market liquidity. Hedge funds and SWF’s are waiting for this demonstrated commitment by the Fed before they can feel confident about a strengthening economy and a more favorable investment environment.

The Hamilton Plan outlines a program to reignite economic growth for a moribund economy.

Music: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck: I’m Goin Down

Risk: recession, banking, unemployment, credit crisis, banking

September 5, 2008 Posted by | blues, Hamilton Plan, recession, unemployment | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buffalo Bob vs. Zbigniew Brzezinski

Today I woke late and loitered in bed a bit. I was flipping back and forth between Zbigniew Brzezinski on Morning Joe and Buffalo Bob on Good Morning America. Under normal circumstances I would not have flinched from my attention to ZB. He was-as usual- great this morning and spot on concerning the precarious world situation. But I caught wind that GMA was airing a tease for this evening’s 20/20 show. They were interviewing a Millennialist Buffalo Bob from the House of Yahweh Compound in Texas. This prophet was prophesying that nuclear war will break out in 6 days! Now that’s a tease. A must see. Sorry ZB.

After this great news and a quick review of this morning’s local paper, I wanted to rush to my computer to blog on a few news items. But pressing matters of commerce took precedence and I would have to pass on my daily pontification and as the day progressed the economic and political news seemed to deteriorate as the heat and humidity began to rise to uncomfortable levels.

The Record (the paper of record for Northern New Jersey) led with a headline about Continental Airlines rising financial difficulties and it’s need to cutback on flights, fleet and jobs. The slow economy and rising fuel costs are blamed. This is hardly a shock to anyone who follows business news. Ever since I can remember the airline industry has been in perpetual difficulty. It is really incomprehensible to me how a business straining its capacity to accommodate customers has never been able to create an industry that is consistently profitable. Not even close. What’s even more incredible is why investors put their capital at risk in a business that has proven its inability to make a profit. That includes legendary capitalists like Carl Icahn and Julian Robertson. The later the iconic founder of the Tiger Management hedge fund had to close the doors to this storied fund due to his oversize position in US AIR.

Does anyone remember, Braniff, Eastern Airlines, TWA and PAN AM? Great bands all now happily camped at the top of the corporate scrapheap.

Can anyone say sustainability? The airline industry as now constituted is a non-sustainable industry. As its contribution to the global carbon footprint needs to be accounted for as a cost of doing business and remediation funded through carbon credits or cap and trade futures it will become more so.

The next story from this morning’s paper to catch our attention was the reminder that the State of New Jersey’s unfunded pension liability is approximately $25,000,000,000. Though some might consider the sum a rounding error in the federal budget deficit or a small accounting oversight in a procurement over billing for Mr. Bush’s War, the deficit will need to be addressed through some hard measures and demonstrates the absolute fallacy of the wonderful effects of the pandering Republican mantra of tax cuts. Baloney! The bill comes due sooner or later and I suspect that I’ll be getting a dunning message very soon.

Maybe we can sell the NJ Turnpike, Rt. 80 and the Garden State Parkway to a group of Chinese Private Equity Funds. And while we’re at it, let’s throw in our public school system, township libraries and local police forces. I would feel very comfortable having the Red Army police the streets of my community and enforce the law for all ez pass violators.

Next story in today’s Record led the Local section. The Essex Street Bridge that spans Rt. 17 has been closed for some time. It has choked off access to local businesses and they may be forced to close. This is a story about eminent domain, crumbling infrastructure and the pressing need for business people to be mindful of facilities risk and to practice risk management to mitigate the negative effects of these events. Fortunately our firm offers small business managers the Profit | Optimizer which helps to anticipate and plan mitigation initiatives if these events occur.

The Labor Department employment report was released and indicated that unemployment was now 5.25%; the highest in many years. This slowdown is speeding up and I don’t perceive any sector leadership emerging that can begin to lead us out of this recession. This one could get ugly.

I had an appointment with a small manufacturer this afternoon. As I was returning from the call I learned that the DOW sunk 400 points as crude oil futures went limit up at $11 on the remarks of an Israeli transportation minister who hinted that an air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities by the Israeli Defense Forces may be unavoidable. I shook my head.

Maybe Buffalo Bob knew something that Zbigniew did not. Or maybe the GMA marketing department is really a kick ass organization.

Maybe we are on the eve of destruction?

Do you think we’ll make it to the year 2525?

Risk: airlines, facilities, market, nuclear war, religion, serenity, pension funds, labor

June 6, 2008 Posted by | Bush, commodities, community, faith, nuclear, pop, Sum2, sustainability, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bottom of the 5th

According to Paulson “we are closer to the end of the credit crisis then to the beginning.” He surmises that we are about half way through an 18 month cycle. If the Credit Crises were a baseball game we would be in the bottom of the 5th. Ideally would be sending our best hitters “the sweet spot in the lineup” to face a measly rubber arm that is running out of steam. “Ideally” being the operative word.

We just escaped a quarter of .6% growth in our GDP. Paulson believes that the only reason any growth occurred at all was that manufacturers built stockpiles and increased inventory. Apparently had that not occurred the US economy would have experienced negative growth.

Yesterday ADP reported that April employment in the service-providing sector of the economy grew 64,000, while employment in the goods-producing sector declined 54,000, the seventeenth consecutive monthly decline. Manufacturing employment fell 26,000 in April and marked the twentieth consecutive monthly decline.

What gives me pause is ADP’s assertion that manufacturing employment has fallen for 20 consecutive months. It’s not news to anyone that the manufacturing base of America continues to dwindle but if manufacturers did not “build up inventories and stockpiles” during the past quarter the US economy would not have grown at all because service industries can’t build inventory. So at least for this quarter American factories and a little dollop of inflation saved the day. Hoping that the credit crisis doesn’t go into extra innings we still got 4 and a half innings to go.

Banks will not be lending to build commercial space and new housing construction probably won’t pick up until later in the year when the excess inventory is worked out of the market. That leaves manufacturing as the strategic economic engine to get some base hits, put runners in scoring position and start putting some runs on the board.

Automakers can provide some leadership but their earnings continue to be anemic. We need them to get out of their slump. The economy needs this industry to hit the ball well. Automakers can become a locker room leader that manufacturers can look to for indications of forward traction and a restored sense of confidence. The bad news is that banks will not lend capital to manufacturers to build inventory. The better news is that the weak dollar is a good and present helper to manufacturers that export goods. It is the national interest of the US to promote the growth and stability of the global economy. Brand America needs to reposition itself as a promoter of peace so we can win the war against recession at home. We only have a few more innings to win this game.

You Tube Video: Eddie Vedder, Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Risk: Recession, Manufacturing, Banking, Credit, Employment

May 1, 2008 Posted by | banking, Bush, credit crisis, folk, Paulson, recession | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment