Monday, December 14, 2015

The Mystery of Missing Inflation Weighs on Fed Rate Move (Original article)
by Josh Zumbrun -- Wall Street Journal

U.S. near full employment, but inflation hasn’t risen as predicted; Fed officials can’t figure out why 

Fed Chair Janet Yellen, in a speech at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in September, 
acknowledged ‘significant uncertainty’ about her prediction that inflation would rise. 

Federal Reserve officials this week are expected to raise interest rates for the first time in nine years on the expectation that employment and inflation will hit targets reflecting a healthy U.S. economy.

But Fed officials face a troubling question: Jobs are on track, but inflation isn’t behaving as predicted and they don’t know why. Unemployment has fallen to 5%, a figure close to estimates of full employment, while inflation remains stuck at less than 1%, well below the Fed’s 2% target.

French Far-Right Faces Unexpected Defeat After Turnout Soars


Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
France's far-right National Front performed unexpectedly poorly in Sunday's regional elections, securing control of exactly zero regions. In the first round just one week ago, they finished in first place in six out of 12 regions and were expected to prevail in second round voting in at least two, and perhaps as many as four, regions.

The unexpected defeat came in the context of soaring turnout. Just 48 percent of eligible voters cast ballots last week, but faced with predictions of National Front victory, that surged to 59 percent today.

Part of the context for the growth of the far-right is, obviously, the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this fall and the earlier attacks on Charlie Hebdo. But another issue is France's struggle with unemployment. French joblessness has essentially never recovered from the Great Recession of 2008:

Back in 2012, discontent with that performance led voters to vote out President Nicholas Sarkozy in favor of Socialist Fran├žois Hollande. But Hollande has not done anything to revise the basic macroeconomic framework of the Eurozone and while the situation has stopped getting worse on his watch, it isn't getting any better either. The mainstream right is now led once again by Sarkozy who is preparing to challenge Hollande for the presidency next year.

Given this circle of back-and-forth economic failure, it's not surprising that some voters would turn to the far-right which — unlike the two mainstream parties — offers an alternative to the endless stagnation of the Eurozone. What we see this weekend, however, is that the National Front simply remains toxic to most French voters. Demoralization with the mainstream parties can put it in first place, but when the Front threatens to actually win people show up and vote.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

"Both Sides Do It!"

Do you see any correlations, here?

This is for the fence-sitters... the self-styled "independents" who refuse to take a position on the grounds that "both sides do it".

If one side is at 1 on a scale of one to ten, while the other side is at 9 on the same scale, then it is "true" that "both sides do it". It is a "truth" that makes a mockery of truth...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The homeownership rate has plunged more than people realize


After the housing bubble pushed up homeownership rates to historic highs, we've crashed to a new historic low in homeownership — at least for non-retired Americans. That's according to the latest State of the Nation's Housing report from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, which shows that aggregate numbers mislead.

First up, the report shows a chart illustrating a trend that gets circulated a lot — homeownership spiked because of the mortgage lending boom, and now has reverted to its normal level:

But a big underlying trend in America these days is the growing number of senior citizens. The report shows that if you break out homeownership by age bracket, the "return to normal" is really an illusion. Old people are more likely than ever to own a home — and more numerous in the population — but younger cohorts are all owning homes at abnormally low levels.

One upshot of this is that the 55-to-64 cohort, in particular, is even worse prepared for retirement than a conventional scan of financial assets held in 401(k) and IRA plans would reveal. Older homeowners have typically paid down a large share of their mortgage and have successfully turned their house into a savings vehicle, but the unusually low level of homeownership among Americans of this approximate age means that won't be available to them.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Blood of American Christianity Will Be The Seed Of The Church

by Benjamin L. Corey

green plants
It’s a funny thing what makes Christianity grow and flourish.
In the Second Century, Tertullian (one of the early Christian theologians), wrote in Apologeticus that the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
For the first few hundred years of our faith, Christianity was an illegal cult of nonviolent enemy lovers who were systematically slaughtered by the powers that be, even though they refused to fight back. Dying instead of fighting had an interesting effect: it caused the growth of the church to explode. Thus, Tertullian argued that death is the very thing that makes the church to grow.
We still see this principle play out today. For example, if we look to China, we see a place where there is systematic persecution of Christians, yet an explosion of Christianity to the point they are on pace to become the largest Christian nation in the world.
We often call the Kingdom of Jesus an “upside-down” Kingdom because it operates on principles that are contrary to anything else we find in the world– and this is also true with how it grows.