James Pethokoukis

North Korea collapse could cost $1 trillion

July 13, 2009

This from my Reuters colleague Dean Yates:

South Korean estimates have said it would cost $1 trillion or more to absorb the North. Financial markets in Seoul would plunge given how expensive and messy such a transition could be.

The bull case for the economy and Democrats

July 13, 2009
Brian Wesbury and Bob Stein of First Trust Advisers give the bull case for the economy. If these smart guys are right, 2010 might well be the third consecutive wipeout for Republicans. Some excerpts (bold is mine):
To be more precise, we are forecasting that real GDP grows at a 3.5% rate in the second half of 2009 and 4.5% next year. But, in all truth, we are much more confident about the overall 4%+ figure for the full 18-month period then about the exact growth rate for any particular quarter. … First, we project business inventories are going to end 2010 about $25 billionlower than they are right now. (But with businesses no longer reducing stockpiles as forcefully as they have been in recent months, inventories will contribute 1.3 points to the real GDP growth rate.) Second, we expect continued declines in the trade deficit, although not as quickly as in the last two years. The trade deficit was 5.4% of GDP in early 2007 and is now only about 2.2% of GDP. If the trade gap declines to 1.1% by the end of 2010, net exports can contribute 0.9 points to the real GDP growth rate. Third, we expect home building to bottom later this year and rise in 2010, contributing 0.4 points to the real GDP growth rate. Housing starts are now only one-third of the long-term trend, justifiably so due to excess home inventories. But excess inventories have already dropped from about 4.5 million a few years ago to 2 million today. We think, realistically, it will take another three or four years to fully eliminate the excess. Fourth, for government, we assume government spending contributes its long-term average of 0.4 points to real GDP growth, despite massive stimulus spending. Fifth, despite our gut instinct that business investment in plant and equipment is going to turn around much faster, we assume an annualized rate of decline of 3.2%, which subtracts 0.3 points from the real GDP growth rate. And last, we expect real consumer spending to rise at a relatively modest 2.1% annual pace, adding 1.5 points to the real GDP growth rate. To put this in perspective, we are forecasting that real consumption will be up at only a 0.6% annual rate from the end of 2007 through the end of 2010, the slowest three-year period for real consumer spending since World War II, including the early 1980s, when the jobless rate went up to almost 11%. It also means consumer spending drops to the lowest share of GDP since 2001.

About that terrible Consumer Financial Protection Agency …

July 13, 2009

I just debated the CFPA on CNBC with Conn. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (who also said he was not going to challenge incumbent  Chris Dodd for US Senate in that state). A few things about the CFPA:

Why is the healthcare reform effort failing?

July 13, 2009

Healthcare reform enthusiast Ezra Klein (WaPo) seems very worried about the troubled healthcare reform effort:

Larry Summers: US not doomed to low-growth future

July 11, 2009

This interesting bit from an FT chat with Larry Summers,  director of the National Economic Council

Here comes the healthcare surtax!

July 10, 2009

From The Hill:

The House will propose raising taxes on people earning more than $350,000 a year to pay $540 billion for healthcare reform, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said Friday. … Rangel said Democrats will seek to enact one large tax increase targeting wealthier workers to generate the revenue they need to finance their $1 trillion-plus healthcare reform bill. “We have decided that instead of putting pieces of different revenue raisers together, that the best that we can do [is] we would have graduated surtaxes starting at [$]350],000],” Rangel said. The tax hikes would begin in 2011 and raise $540 billion over 10 years, he said after a meeting with Democratic committee members.

Does the U.S. need a dose of Viagra economics?

July 10, 2009

The Obama presidential campaign was one of the all-time great branding efforts, from message to packaging to platform. So how disappointing it must be for the Obama administration that its signature achievement so far, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has been utterly misunderstood by the American public.  Listen to what megabillionaire Warren Buffett, an unofficial Obama economic adviser, had to say earlier this week: “Our first stimulus bill, it seemed to me, was sort of like taking a half a tablet of Viagra and then having also a bunch of candy mixed in … It doesn’t have really quite the wallop that might have been anticipated there.”

The all-powerful consumer? Feh. Boost business …

July 10, 2009

My colleague, confidant and occasional kick-boxing sparring partner, the fantastic Felix Salmon is worried about what comes the Day after Tomorrow:

Is Falling America losing out to Rising China?

July 10, 2009

There was a bit of a kerfuffle about the new Fortune global 500 rankings which showed  that the number of U.S. businesses fell to lowest level ever while more Chinese entries appeared than ever before. A few thoughts:

Is cap-and-trade a lump of coal for Democrats?

July 10, 2009

The wonderful Jennifer Rubin of the Contentions blog opines thusly:

By December we will see how attractive a massive energy tax would be. (Talk about a lump of coal in your stocking.) But Boxer is smart to shove this off to the side. Democrats who cast a hard vote in the House and are now being pummeled by conservatives, business and taxpayer groups, and potential opponents (as are the Republican Eight who are in the dog house with the base). Those who supported cap-and-trade despite warnings about job losses and the adverse impact on the already struggling economy (especially in energy-producing states) are finding little support for having placed a pet issue on the liberal wish-list ahead of their constituents’ economic interests. Then the G-8 didn’t help matters either. And really, if the EPA’s own administrator says it will have no effect on climate, what’s the point of the whole exercise?