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"Economics with Attitude"

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Outsourcing Firms Hit Hard under Trump’s ‘Hire American’ Agenda

Firms like Infosys and Cognizant, which are responsible for mass lay-offs of Americans under the H-1B visa and outsourcing business model, have been hit with a round of problems are expected to continue into the next few years, a new report from CNBC reveals:

Information Technology companies like Infosys, Cognizant and Tech Mahindra have announced redundancies this year and some analysts have said that this string of layoffs are expected to continue for the next two years. A recent report from McKinsey India says that at least 200,000 software engineers in India will lose their jobs each year over the next three years.

Every year, more than 100,000 foreign workers are brought to the U.S. on the H-1B visa. Most recently, that number has ballooned to potentially hundreds of thousands each year, as universities and non-profits are exempt from the cap. With more entering the U.S. through the visa, Americans are often replaced.

Cognizant, the outsourcing firm responsible for offshoring hundreds of jobs at Carnival Corporation and others, has planned to cut 6,000 jobs in India, the country which benefits the most from the H-1B program. Sara Blackwell, an attorney who represents Americans who were fired because of the H-1B, previously told Breitbart Texas that outsourcing firms’ end goals are offshoring the most U.S. jobs as possible to maximize profit margins.

Handout Nation: Combined Enrollment In America’s 4 Largest Safety Net Programs Hits A Record High Of 236 Million

Margaret Thatcher once said that the problem with socialism “is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”. As you will see below, the combined enrollment in America’s four largest safety net programs has reached a staggering 236 million. Of course that doesn’t mean that 236 million people are getting benefits from the government each month because there is overlap between the various programs. For example, many Americans that are on Medicaid are also on food stamps, and many Americans that are on Medicare are also on Social Security. But even accounting for that, most experts estimate that the number of Americans that are dependent on the federal government month after month is well over 100 million. And now that so many people are addicted to government handouts, can we ever return to a culture of independence and self-sufficiency?

On Wednesday, CNN ran an editorial by Bernie Sanders in which he called President Trump’s proposed budget “immoral” because it would cut funding for government aid programs.

But is it moral to steal more than a hundred million dollars from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day to pay for these programs? Of course the answer to that question is quite obvious. There will always be some Americans that are unable to take care of themselves, and we should want to help them.

But as millions upon millions of Americans continue to jump on to the safety net, eventually we are going to get to the point where it is going to break. As I mentioned above, the combined enrollment in the four largest safety net programs has reached a new all-time record high… –More than 74 million Americans are on Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). –More than 58 million Americans are on Medicare. –More than 60 million Americans are on Social Security. –Approximately 44 million Americans are on food stamps. And even though we are supposedly in an “economic recovery”, this number is still dramatically higher than the 26 million Americans that were on food stamps prior to the last financial crisis.

10 percent of Americans trading in a car plan to use Uber and Lyft instead of buying a new one

Wally Nowinski got his first car when he turned 16 in Michigan, the home of the U.S. auto industry. But after two years of living in New York City, he sold his wheels, using ride services, carsharing and bike sharing to get around.

"My mom didn't think I could do it. She thought I would buy a new car in six months," he said. But that was more than a year ago, and his car budget of $820 per month fell to $250 for carsharing and ride services last year. "I take Uber like pretty frivolously," he said. Nowinski, 32, is not alone.

Nearly a quarter of American adults sold or traded in a vehicle in the last 12 months, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll published on Thursday, with most getting another car. But 9 percent of that group turned to ride services like Lyft Inc and Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] as their main way to get around.

About the same percentages said they planned to dispose of cars and turn to ride services in the upcoming 12 months. Though a small percentage, the figure of people switching to ride services could be early evidence that more consumers believe that ride sharing can replace vehicle ownership.

Mnuchin Urges Congress to Raise U.S. Debt Limit

FT: 'Economic Dynamism' Plunging Across America

New research warns that America has essentially lost its economic mojo and must somehow get its groove back. Just seven U.S. states have bucked this long-term trend since the last recession, the Financial Times reported

The findings are in a report from the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a research organization that has been tracking the troubling deterioration in America’s economic vibrancy, the Times explained.

The U.S. “has seen a long-term decline in business births, less migration between states, and a growth in the economic power of incumbent companies, sounding alarm bells in Congress,” the Times reported.

“America has seen a pervasive drop in the economic dynamism of every one of its states since the early 1990s as new business formation sinks and workers move jobs less frequently, according to new research that underscores the challenge the country faces in restoring its entrepreneurial verve,” the FT explained. EIG defined “economic dynamism” as the rate and scale of change in the economy brought about by the constant opening and closing of businesses, movement of workers to new areas, and regular turnover of jobs.

‘Credible’ Islamic State propaganda video features short clip of Las Vegas Strip

A legitimate Islamic State group propaganda video posted on social media last week features brief footage of the Las Vegas Strip while calling for lone-wolf terrorist attacks, and Las Vegas police are treating it as a credible threat.

The video is about 44 minutes long, which is unusual because Islamic State group propaganda videos are often much shorter, according to a representative with SITE Intelligence Group, a nongovernmental counterterrorism organization. Similar, shorter Islamic State group propaganda videos are posted daily, the representative said.

The video featuring the Las Vegas Strip was posted last Wednesday on Telegram, a cloud-based instant messaging service, the representative said. It showcases the Islamic State group’s newly developed weapons, and its final scene has a series of shots, including the Las Vegas Strip and New York’s Times Square, while a narrator calls for general lone-wolf attacks in America, Europe and Russia.

The short clip of the Strip was determined to be 2015 footage, but Las Vegas police and their federal partners are taking the video seriously, Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Christopher Darcy, who heads the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center, said Tuesday.

OPEC, non-OPEC extend oil output cut by 9 months to fight glut

OPEC and non-members led by Russia decided on Thursday to extend cuts in oil output by nine months to March 2018 as they battle a global glut of crude after seeing prices halve and revenues drop sharply in the past three years.

Oil prices dropped more than 4 percent as the market had been hoping oil producers could reach a last-minute deal to deepen the cuts or extend them further, until mid-2018. OPEC’s cuts have helped to push oil back above $50 a barrel this year, giving a fiscal boost to producers, many of which rely heavily on energy revenues and have had to burn through foreign-currency reserves to plug holes in their budgets.

Oil’s earlier price decline, which started in 2014, forced Russia and Saudi Arabia to tighten their belts and led to unrest in some producing countries including Venezuela and Nigeria.

The price rise this year has spurred growth in the U.S. shale industry, which is not participating in the output deal, thus slowing the market’s rebalancing with global crude stocks still near record highs.

Disney CEO: It's time for corporate tax reform

More employers planning to offer student loan repayment benefit

Here's some good news for recent college graduates: if you're entering the job market with student loan debt, chances are improving that you can find an employer that will help you pay it off.

Companies often spend millions of dollars on incentives to attract the best young talent. In recent years, with student loan debt emerging as a major burden for young people just entering the workplace, firms have tried to set themselves apart by applying some of that incentive money to student loan debt. The idea seems to be catching on.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports nearly 73% of the firms it surveyed either offer, or plan to offer, a student loan assistance package.

“With the average student loan borrower from the class of 2016 facing about $37,172 in debt according to Forbes, - and those with advanced degrees likely have much higher debt - it’s no wonder employers have begun to see this as an opportunity to recruit young workers,” said Andrew Challenger, the firm's vice president.

Sears Could Stay Afloat… If It Had A Few Dozen More Tool Brands To Sell Off

Given all the doom and gloom headlines about Sears Holding Corporation, you might be surprised to hear that the company turned a profit last quarter. Until you realize that the only reason Sears didn’t lose money is because it sold its once-beloved Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker.

That transaction will bring in around $900 million, and the buyer made an initial cash payment to Sears Holdings of $525 million. Without the Craftsman sale, the company would have posted a loss of $222 million in the first quarter of 2017, the company announced today during a pre-recorded earnings call.

The last time that this happened, Sears Holdings had a profitable quarter because it sold a substantial amount of real estate to the Seritage real estate investment trust, a venture that’s able to rent out former Sears and Kmart buildings for more than four times the rent that Sears Holdings was paying.

Chief Financial Officer Rob Riecker also noted that the company reduced the value of its inventory from $5 billion to $3.7 billion by closing stores and, as he put it, “efforts to tightly manage our inventory.”

California Farmers Fear Worker Shortage From Crackdown on Illegals

Farmers in California are struggling with decreasing number of available workers, according to a report by Sacramento's CBS 13. "If we can't change the way we're doing business, we're at risk," Brad Goehring, a fourth-generation wine grape grower, told CBS 13.

"It's been a real struggle and it's been increasing the last five to six years," Goehring said, referring to finding people to work on farms. Goehring and other agricultural business owners have tried offering benefits such as health insurance and 401(k)s. He increased pay on some jobs to $22 an hour. However, other farms then raise their pay rates higher.

"Really, nothing seems to work when you raise your wages," he told CBS 13. The San Joaquin Farm Bureau said that raising California's minimum wage to $15 an hour is part of the issue.

"The cost for our growers to just simply put that product on your table, is going through the roof," said Bruce Blodgett, executive director at the San Joaquin Farm Bureau, adding that he has called on Congress for a guest worker program, but "unfortunately, it's fallen on deaf ears."

Why Gary Wagner Is Not Taking $1,300 Gold Off The Table | Kitco News

Counting on Student Loan Forgiveness? Don't Bet on It

Nearly half of college students surveyed earlier this year said they expected to be helped by the federal government’s various student loan forgiveness programs. But new government figures suggest that their hoped-for windfall won’t be that generous.

In a first-of-its-kind public analysis, the U.S. Department of the Education projects that borrowers who next year enroll in loan forgiveness programs would, on average, repay every penny they borrowed, and then some. Some debtors in the programs, which cap monthly payments relative to earnings and offer the possibility of debt forgiveness, are projected to pay as much as 76 percent more than they borrowed. The forgiven amount would largely be interest that accrued over what could be as long as 25 years of making payments.

In fact, the feds project that just 53 percent of debtors who’d enroll in these plans in the 2018 fiscal year would receive any forgiveness at all, according to estimates made public on Wednesday. Even that estimate may be too high, separate government figures suggest. Less than half of all government-owned student debt (by dollar volume) belongs to people enrolled in income-based repayment plans, Education Department data show.

The projections raise the possibility that many borrowers hoping for debt relief will instead make payments for so long that they’ll end up paying off their debt. For others lucky enough to experience debt forgiveness, the repayment plans effectively amount to a long-term loan that charges less interest than originally advertised.

Puerto Rico is Bankrupt: Is the Worst Yet to Come?

The people of Puerto Rico have no say at the moment in the future of their debt-ridden island. The price of surviving bankruptcy has been a surrender of sovereignty to a federal oversight board that will control every law and every budget for years to come. That’s the story behind headlines heralding an “escape from disaster” and “second chance.”

Puerto Rico owes roughly $74 billion to bondholders and $49 billion for public employee pensions. It is the worst meltdown in the history of America’s bond market. “There is no US precedent for anything of this scale or scope,” according to a report by former World Bank economist Anne Krueger.

In response, Congress enacted a new form of bankruptcy for the island last year (the PROMESA act). It empowers a seven-member Financial Oversight and Management Board – the “junta” as the Puerto Ricans call it – to override Puerto Rico’s democratically elected government.

Juan Torruella, an Appeals Court judge who was born on the island, calls the imposition of the junta, “the most denigrating, disrespectful, anti-democratic, and colonial act in our entire history with the United States.”

US Ownership of Smartphones Hits Record High

New research from the Consumer Technology Association shows that 80% of homes in the United States now have smartphones. This is a 6% increase year-on-year and means consumers have 27 million more smartphones than a year earlier.

The research also showed that televisions are still the most popular technology device in the United States, with 96% of households owning at least one TV. From 2016 to 2017, the installed base of connected devices that include smart televisions and smart home devices, wireless speakers and wearable technology has also increased.

In the press release, Gary Shapiro, president, and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association is quoted as saying “Connectivity – the anytime/anywhere access to information and entertainment we now expect – is a driving trend of our time, supported by the continued growth we’ve seen in smartphone ownership. Smartphones are our personal hubs for innovative technologies like smart homes, connected cars, and voice-recognition services. And, as more of us recognize the ability of technology to change our lives for the better, smartphones will continue to be one of the most pervasive technologies owned in homes throughout the US.”

Steve Koenig, senior director of market research at the Consumer Technology Association said, “Three of the top five most frequently owned technology devices are products with screens-televisions, smartphones, and laptops – and these numbers will continue to grow as one-third of consumers tell us they will buy at least one smartphone in 2017, and one-fifth say they plan to buy a television or laptop in the coming year.”

Don’t Forget About Gold Just Yet; ‘Expect The Unexpected' - RBC Capital Markets

With so many unknowns still lingering in the marketplace, investors shouldn’t forget about gold just yet, at least that’s what some RBC Capital Markets analysts suggest.

“We see a number of risks in the marketplace to either side but our baseline view is the reason to hold gold is as a risk overlay, especially in this market of low volatility,” Chris Louney, commodities strategist for the bank, said in a Bloomberg interview Wednesday, quoting a recent report from the bank.

He added that the risks currently in the market are “inherently difficult to forecast” and that makes gold an attractive safe-haven asset for investors. “Gold is a good opportunity and merits an allocation in a lot of portfolios,” he said.

The risks Louney refers to include political uncertainty in the U.S. with the Trump administration as well as unknowns when it comes to the Federal Reserve’s pace of tightening for the remainder of the year. There are also persistent geopolitical tensions in Russia, North Korea and the Middle East.

Are we heading toward Debt Bubble 2.0?

Is another debt bubble about to burst? The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently reported that total household debt reached $12.73 trillion in the first quarter of 2017, surpassing its $12.68 trillion peak reached in 2008. Before you start panicking, the new record debt level “is neither a reason to celebrate nor a cause for alarm,” according to the NY Fed. In fact, “it took an unusually long time from a historical perspective for debt to reach the 2008 level again.”

Almost nine years after the last debt bubble exploded, the big change in household debt is its composition. The problem child of the financial crisis of 2008 was debt associated with real estate. But today mortgage loans, which account for just over two-thirds of all household debt, are still below pre-crisis levels.

Part of the reason has to do with the unwillingness of consumers, many of whom struggled to stay afloat amid the worst recession since the Great Depression, to buy anything with borrowed money. Meanwhile, after getting singed in the financial crisis, lenders became far choosier when it came to creditworthiness.

As of the first three months of the year, the median origination score for mortgages was 764 last quarter (FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and anything above 720 is considered to be excellent) and only 3.5 percent of home loans were delinquent, compared to 10 percent a decade ago. In other words, gone are the bad old days when anyone with a heartbeat could snag a housing-backed loan!

How To Steal A Lot of Money From CalPERS, The Nation's Largest Public Pension

How hard would it be to steal millions from CalPERS, the nation’s largest public pension with $320 billion in assets? Easy-peasy. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported a disturbing fact—a fact well known to pension insiders for years. That is, officials at CalPERS do not know the full extent of the fees the pension’s private equity managers take out of the pension.

At a 2015 meeting, the chief operating investment officer openly acknowledged that no one knew the performance fees paid. Let’s clarify what’s going on here. Presumably the mega-pension knows, or can readily establish, all the fees—asset-based and performance—it pays its money managers pursuant to fee invoices. (A breakdown of other operational fees—which can be significant—can either be gleaned from investment fund financial statements or specifically requested from managers.)

What CalPERS doesn’t know is the performance and other fees its managers take directly from the funds they manage for CalPERS without asking, disclosing or invoicing.

At the same 2015 meeting, the chief operating investment officer admitted, “We can’t track it today.” CalPERS claims to have turned to "big data" computer models—algorithms—to understand private equity costs. Supposedly, a software program developed by outside firms determined at the end of 2015 that the pension paid $3.4 billion in performance fees over the past quarter-century to private-equity firms. In 2016, that number was said to be $490 million. Don’t believe these figures for a second.

NEWS to Disturb the Comfortable...

We don't tell you what to think,

but we give you something to think about.