Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Top Five Consumer Cyber Security FAQs

By Equifax

Business, technology, environmental and economic changes are a part of life, and they are coming faster all the time. All of these changes and advancements can be distracting and make us more vulnerable to cyber scams. That's why protecting your credit is a critical part of protecting yourself from cyber security threats. Security researchers have reported that hackers and scammers are using any opportunity or vulnerability to target both individuals and companies. You may have already seen these attempts in the form of fake emails or calls.

Here are the top five questions Equifax® has received about how individuals can protect themselves from cyber security threats and help to improve your credit protection.

1. How can I better protect my credit?

  • Check your credit reports frequently. You can get free credit reports from the nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian® and TransUnion®) at annualcreditreport.com. Check your credit reports frequently to closely monitor any unauthorized changes.
  • Utilize key tools. There are many tools available that can help you better protect your identity while staying on top of your credit. You can place a free fraud alert or a security freeze by creating a myEquifax™ account. Other products, like the Equifax ID Patrol™ include features like Equifax credit report lock and lost wallet assistance, in addition to other services for credit protection.
  • File your taxes early to help prevent tax related id theft. The longer you wait to file, the more time fraudsters have to claim an unauthorized refund on your behalf.

2. What are some basic tips to avoid scams and security threats?

There are some key things you should always do to avoid scams and cyber security threats:

  • Always look out for phishing scams, and be careful about clicking links from unfamiliar email or text message senders. Phishing scams and messages are used by scammers to trick you into clicking a link or opening an attachment that will provide them access to your information or download malware onto your computer. Hackers aren't just targeting corporate email accounts – they're also sending messages with malicious links to personal email addresses and even to phones in text messages. Before you click on anything, make sure it is a legitimate link - even if it looks genuine.
  • Install the updates on your devices. If you've been ignoring that pop-up about updating your phone, don't! Install it now. Many updates for phones, tablets, and laptops include patches for known vulnerabilities. In other words, they prevent hackers from using outdated software on your devices to get access to your device or information, making you more vulnerable to a cyber security attack.

3. How do I identify fake websites, scam calls and fake phishing emails?

Be skeptical of any unsolicited outreaches. The saying that “if it is too good to be true, it probably is” applies with scams and phishing. Avoiding fake websites and avoiding phishing scams and emails are similar in that for both, you want to (1) look for clues that they are fake and, (2) if you're suspicious or just want to be cautious, type in the website name or phone number you know to be correct rather than clicking/calling back.

4. What are best practices for securing online conferencing services?

As many businesses utilize online conferencing services, bad actors are taking this opportunity to gain access. The easiest and most effective way to protect yourself is to make sure that you add a password when you organize a call. Most major services give the option to set a password, but it may not be turned on by default.

5. Shopping online continues to become more common and convenient. What are some of the ways I can keep my personal and financial information safe online?

There are several things you can do to protect yourself and avoid credit card scams when providing payment information online.

  • Make sure that you are actually dealing with the correct vendor. Phishing is increasing and before you execute any transaction, check the web address to make sure it is valid.
  • Do not pay with a debit card if possible. A debit card provides direct access to your bank account, while credit cards may offer more protection. Credit cards offer better consumer protections against fraud compared with debit cards linked to a bank account.
  • Enable multi-factor authorization. Again, it may be a hassle, but it drastically reduces your exposure to an issue and offers better credit card fraud protection.
  • Avoid performing financial transactions over unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.

Friday, October 13, 2023

School Choice Passed by Texas Senate

The Texas Senate on Thursday approved a $500 million school choice bill mostly along party lines after hours of passionate debate. It will now head for consideration in the House, where members rejected similar proposals during the regular session.

Senators passed Senate Bill 1 by a 18-13 vote, with one Republican joining all Democrats in voting against the measure. The bill will likely face steep resistance in the House, where Democratic members and many rural Republicans have vehemently opposed such proposals.

School choice programs, also called education savings accounts or vouchers, use public money to help pay for a child’s private schooling.

“We must recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't fit the needs of our diverse student population,” said Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who authored SB 1 and estimated the proposal could serve about 60,000 students. Texas has about 5.5 million children in public schools.

Public schools have failed the American people, especially our young people. This is a change for the better.

Diversity Programs Don’t Make Companies More Profitable

A new study by two scholars at the University of North Carolina and a professor at Texas A&M examined the impact of DEI programs in corporate America and found no evidence that these programs lead to higher returns.

The study reported:

“The business case for diversity” is the dominant rhetorical paradigm for how U.S. corporations debate actions and policies around racial/ethnic diversity. In this paper, we conduct an empirical test of the paradigm by gathering data on the race/ethnicity of the individuals shown on the leadership pages of S&P 500 firms’ websites as of mid-2011, 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2021, and then determining if any of nine measures of the racial/ethnic diversity of these executives reliably predict…their firms’ financial performance over the next fiscal year. We do not find reliable evidence that they do. As such, our results do not support the “business case for diversity” when the claim is assessed using 1-year-ahead financial performance metrics and multiple measures of the race/ethnicity of S&P 500 executives over the last decade.
Diversity may be a goal in its own right – or pure corporate virtue signaling - but there is very little evidence that it benefits shareholders or the sustainability of the business. Firms are better off choosing employees based on their competence, not their gender or skin color.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Drawdown of the Strategic Oil Reserve

Given the recent events in the Middle East, how dangerous is this Biden energy policy?

Biden abused his power when he drained our Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an attempt to lower oil and gas prices, so his popularity wouldn't wane. While that didn't work, he has placed this country in a perilous position. As if his open borders wasn't threat enough.

And it's also worth remembering that Chuck Schumer blocked Trump's request to buy 77 million barrels in March 2020, when lockdowns had pushed the spot price close to zero:

The Radical Left Supports Terrorism

They used to embrace Stalin and Mao. So I'm not surprised...

For nearly 100 years, the political Left prided itself on being the side of peace and anti-militarism. The Western left supported peace talks in the Middle East, backed a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and called for noncombatant lives to be spared. 

But over the past week, loud voices on the radical Left endorsed Hamas’ brutal and horrific terrorist attack on Israeli civilians. Several left-wing organizations released statements that appeared to condone the attack. The day after Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) held a protest “in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to resist 75 years of occupation and apartheid.” 

Thirty-four Harvard student organizations signed a joint statement excusing the murder and kidnapping of women and children. “The apartheid regime is the only one to blame,” the statement read. “The coming days will require a firm stand against colonial retaliation.” Wrote Yale Law Professor Zareena Grewal on X/Twitter, after the attack, “Prayers for Palestinians. Israel is a murderous, genocidal settler state, and Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle, solidarity.” 

Leaders of Black Lives Matter (BLM) wrote that it stands “in solidarity with our Palestinian family” and called on people to “understand the resistance in Palestine as an attempt to tear down the gates of the world’s largest open air prison.” The Chicago BLM chapter posted a graphic stating, “I Stand With Palestine,” along with a silhouette of a paraglider, referring to Hamas terrorists who had paraglided into a music festival and killed 260 young people...

Friday, October 6, 2023

Life Lessons from Meditations by Marcus Aurelias

1. Obstacles are opportunities

Marcus mastered the art of turning every obstacle into an opportunity. Nothing was universally negative in his mind. In this vein, every hardship has at least one positive aspect.

2. Don't spend time worrying about what people think of you
"Your energy and time are both limited, so don't waste them on what those inconsequential to your life are doing thinking and saying."
3. Focus on the present
"Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or it impossible to see."
4. You are the architect of your perceptions
"You have the power over your mind -- not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength."
5. Value the right things in life and your life will have value
“A person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he values.”
6. No goal is out of reach
“Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.”
7. Be grateful for what you have

"Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours."

8. Be a good person rather than thinking about being a good person

Marcus says this with such class that we ought to simply quote: “don’t go on discussing what a good person should be. Just be one.”

9. Don't mistake opinions and preference for facts
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Treasury Yields Hit 16-Year High


Required Reading: The Richest Man in Babylon

The Richest Man in Babylon is an absolute gem of a book that imparts timeless financial wisdom in a captivating and relatable manner. George S. Clason's storytelling takes you on a journey to the ancient city of Babylon, where simple yet profound financial principles come to life.

This book is a masterpiece in teaching the art of managing money, showcasing principles like saving a portion of your income, investing wisely, and living within your means. Through relatable parables and anecdotes, Clason delivers valuable lessons that remain as relevant today as they were when the book was written.

What sets this book apart is its ability to simplify complex financial concepts. The storytelling format makes it engaging and easy to understand, even for those who are new to financial literacy. As you follow the characters' journeys to financial success, you'll find yourself not only entertained but also inspired to apply the lessons to your own life.

"The Richest Man in Babylon" doesn't just provide financial advice; it presents a philosophy for building wealth and achieving financial security. It encourages a mindset shift towards responsibility and disciplined financial habits, making it an essential read for anyone looking to take control of their finances and build a prosperous future. 

Whether you're a seasoned investor or someone just starting to explore personal finance, this book offers a treasure trove of wisdom that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: George Samuel Clason was born in Louisiana, Missouri, on November 7, 1874. He attended the University of Nebraska and served in the United States Army during the Spanish-American War. Beginning a long career in publishing, he founded the Clason Map Company of Denver, Colorado, and published the first road atlas of the United States and Canada. 

In 1926, he issued the first of a famous series of pamphlets on thrift and financial success, using parables set in ancient Babylon to make each of his points. These were distributed in large quantities by banks and insurance companies and became familiar to millions, the most famous being 'The Richest Man in Babylon', the parable from which the present volume takes its title. These 'Babylonian parables' have become a modern inspirational classic.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Kicking the Can Down the Road: Congress Passes Continuing Resolution

Trillion Dollar Deficits as Far as The Eye Can See

From Investopedia

The Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives passed a funding bill on Saturday evening, avoiding a shutdown. 

The bill will fund government operations through November 17, leaving the door open for future negotiations. It includes natural disaster relief, but there is no additional funding for Ukraine to continue fighting Russia. There is also no additional funding for border security, but it does have funds to keep the Federal Aviation Administration operational.

The House bill received strong Democratic support after Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy reversed his stance on seeking bipartisan support.

Lawmakers  worked to avoid the federal government's fourth partial shutdown in a decade, which was set to come into force at 12:01 a.m. Sunday (Oct 1). The Democratic-majority Senate passed the bill. The House voted 335-91 to continue funding the government for 45 days and received more support from Democrats than Republicans, at 209 to 106.

This week, a government shutdown looked inevitable, with hardline Republicans threatening to furlough 4 million employees due to their demands for tightened immigration and lower spending levels. The latest spending standoff comes only a few months after the Senate agreed to raise the U.S. debt ceiling limit.

CNN. "The Senate just passed the debt ceiling bill. Here's what happens next." That Kevin McCarthy-Biden deal staved off a default with a $1.59 trillion cut in discretionary spending for fiscal 2024.

House Republicans were seeking a further $120 billion in cuts. Republican lawmakers were also seeking a partisan vote for any spending bill and have turned on Speaker McCarthy with Florida Republican Matt Gaetz saying his role was "On tenuous ground." His future will remain uncertain until Monday when the House is gaveled back into session.

The deal allows another 45 days for lawmakers to negotiate final spending plans. Federal disaster relief funds expanded by $16 billion to $25 billion. And a proposed further $6.2 billion in funding for Ukraine has been dropped.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Enlightenment Now By Steven Pinker

If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

Far from being a na├»ve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature — tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking–which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.

Buy the book at Thriftbooks

(Note: I do not get any residuals or commissions on the sale of books.)

Friday, September 29, 2023

Border in Crisis (It's an Invasion)

Eagle Pass is the latest Texas town to be overwhelmed by our border crisis. It has 28,000 residents, two hospitals, and a police force of 100 people. Thousands of migrants are arriving in the town every day. Mayor Rolando Salinas issued a disaster declaration. Over just three days of this crisis, three migrants died near the crossing, including a three-year-old. Migrants are overwhelming the border because the Biden administration dismantled the web of executive orders and the remain-in-Mexico policy that successfully stopped the crisis under the last administration. The new amnesty for Venezuelans will not improve matters. This humanitarian disaster is a choice Biden made. (National Review, Sept 28, 2023)

Eagle Pass, Texas

The continuing incursion of illegal border crossers into the United States is the most astonishing story in American politics. There have been days recently in which 10,000 people crossed illegally into the country -- and remember, in a long-ago era, when Barack Obama was president, a tenth of that was considered a crisis.

The current emergency can be attributed entirely to President Joe Biden. In word and deed, from the 2020 campaign on, Biden sent a message to would-be illegal border crossers around the world: If you come to the United States, you will be allowed to stay. And millions have.

Lately, though, Biden's welcome-to-illegal-crossers policy has become a burden on some important Democrats. New York City Mayor Eric Adams is screaming about the arrival of an estimated 110,000 new asylum seekers in his city. The cost of caring for the new residents will "destroy New York City," Adams said. And even though Adams tried to blame Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for sending illegal border crossers to New York, the fact is that Abbott has sent just 13,000. In any event, the presence of all 110,000 in New York is the result of Biden policies.

Biden Officials: What Crisis?

“Orderly” and “humane.” That’s how White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre describes the Biden administration’s handling of illegal immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. Others within the Biden administration have denied there’s a crisis at all, insisted the border is secure, and said everything is under “operational control.”

For many in the mainstream media, along with Democrats on Capitol Hill and others on Team Biden, all this is said to be true without any scrutiny or grounding in reality. Yet, the Biden border narrative collapses entirely with just one look at what’s actually happening at the border.

Recently, Townhall’s Julio Rosas traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to report on the reality of what’s going on and, unsurprisingly, it’s not at all what the Biden administration — including Border Czar Kamala “Do Not Come” Harris — is trying to get the American people to believe.

On the ground in Eagle Pass, Texas, Julio saw first-hand and reported on the thousands of illegal immigrants surging into the United States within a matter of hours, surpassing the capacity of processing facilities that have already been expanded in attempts to handle the ongoing surge of illegal immigrants since Biden’s border policies kicked in.

Related Articles:

The BorderLine: Boggled by Biden’s Border Crisis? Relax, AOC Is in Charge

Biden Has ‘Completely Abandoned’ Border Patrol, Texas Lawmaker Says After Crossings Reach Record High

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Where Does Your State Rank in Defense Spending?

Top 10 States Receiving Department of Defense spending

  1. Virginia ($62.7 billion)
  2. Texas ($58 billion)
  3. California ($56.2 billion)
  4. Florida ($30.2 billion)
  5. New York ($28.1 billion)
  6. Maryland ($26.4 billion)
  7. Connecticut ($22.3 billion)
  8. Pennsylvania ($17.9 billion)
  9. Massachusetts ($15.2 billion)
  10. Arizona ($15 billion)

See all the states here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Government Shutdown Looms

History Channel: How Many Times Has the Federal Government Shut Down?

In the United States, a government shutdown happens when there is a gap in federal funding and the government furloughs federal workers without pay. Although there are exceptions for certain “essential” employees (including the president and members of Congress, all of whom continue to receive pay) a shutdown means that a large portion of the federal government stops functioning.

Kelly Evans: The $2 trillion deficit: how did we get here?

It’s a little unnerving that we’re seeing record budget deficits, soaring government debt, and steadily rising interest rates--all at the same time.

How much of this can be undone? And how did we get here? The short answer is, government spending remains notably higher than it was pre-Covid, while revenues are more or less the same. And the fact that both deficits and debt are higher than in the past while our borrowing costs have soared means that paying interest is also taking up an increasing share of that revenue pie.

Here’s what we know: the budget deficit has doubled over the past year, to $2 trillion. It would have actually been $2.3 trillion if the Supreme Court hadn’t scuttled President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. That’s not only double what we ran last year ($1 trillion in fiscal 2022), it’s also double what we ran pre-pandemic, in 2019.

A government shutdown isn't inevitable – it's a choice. And a dumb one.

With recent setbacks in negotiations and the deadline quickly approaching, emerging consensus among lawmakers, staff, the Capitol Hill news media and longtime Washington operatives is that the federal government is almost certainly heading for another government shutdown come Oct. 1, the beginning of the government’s fiscal year.
A government shutdown isn’t inevitable – it is a choice. And it is among the dumbest decisions Washington can make.

Since 1995, there have been five government shutdowns, instigated by both Republicans and Democrats on the theory that withholding support for keeping the government open and functioning could somehow provide leverage to force the other party to agree to certain demands.

More (Illegal) Immigration Nightmares

Previously, here and here

Even 'Fact-Checkers' Can’t Cover Biden Losing 85,000 Kids & Flying In Migrants

Under Joe Biden’s centralized federal bureaucracy, the migrant flood along the borders of southern US states has become such a pressing problem that many conservatives are starting to acknowledge the wisdom of federalism and of states to handle things unfettered by the feds. And many are acknowledging that, no matter how many old-guard news agencies and how many US bureaus try to hide the truth, this federal immigration bureaucracy is both losing track of vulnerable migrant kids who have been separated from their parents, and also literally flying migrants into and around the US – while trying to keep it quiet.

Kamala Harris Fails to End Border Crisis, So Biden Taps Her to Also End Gun Violence

Despite her failure to secure the nation’s border, Pres. Joe Biden’s Border Czar – Vice Pres. Kamala Harris – has been given a new responsibility: stopping gun violence.

On Immigration, Who Are You Rooting For?

In his book We Wanted Workers, Harvard economist George Borjas says the main question in immigration policy is “Who are you rooting for?” (It should be “whom,” of course, but I think we’ve lost that fight.) Every government policy results in winners and losers, those who benefit from it and those who be hurt. Our preferences will be based, at least in part, on who the winners and losers are likely to be.

One of those choices is whether we should favor a tighter or a looser labor market. In a looser labor market, workers have to hustle to find jobs; by contrast, in a tighter labor market, it’s employers who have to hustle to recruit and retain workers. Different people benefit depending on which approach policy takes, but any and all decisions will tip the balance one way or the other.

Governors ask Biden for 'honest, accurate' information on illegal immigration

Twenty-four Republican governors said illegal immigration burdens every state and asked President Joe Biden for "honest" and "accurate" information about the situation.

A letter sent Tuesday blamed Biden's policies for a surge in illegal crossings at the southern border.

"States are on the front lines, working around-the-clock responding to the effects of this crisis: shelters are full, food pantries empty, law enforcement strained, and aid workers exhausted," the letter said. "As governors, we call on you to provide honest, accurate, detailed information on where the migrants admitted at the southern border are being relocated in the United States, in addition to comprehensive data on asylum claim timelines and qualification rates, and successful deportations. We ask for this information immediately, but also regularly as the crisis at the southern border continues."

Trudeau Cracks Down on Illegal Immigration

After reminding the world that Canada is “a country of laws,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the nation will no longer be ignoring refugees who enter the country illegally. Faced with a rash of border crossings from the U.S. and growing criticism of his quixotic approach to border control, Trudeau’s decision marks a major turning-point from his campaign.

Evidently, Trudeau is recognizing what any head of state who campaigns for radically loose immigration policies must at some point: Opening borders poses serious problems, both practical and political. Angela Merkel is facing pressure to accept an upper limit of refugees in Germany, and many see Britain’s exit from the European Union as a rebellion against the EU’s more liberal refugee policy.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

What Is the Real Value of $100 in Metropolitan Areas?

If you’ve traveled to New York or San Francisco recently, you’ve likely noticed the price of your Starbucks order change from terminal to terminal. The difference is due to price level variation throughout the United States.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently released data detailing the disparities in spending power across metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas of each state for calendar year 2021. Using the data, we can compare how much $100 buys across the country.

The differences can be large and they have significant implications for the relative impact of economic and tax policies across the United States. $100 tends to buy the least in large cities in the Northeast, California, and the Pacific Northwest. On the other hand, $100 goes the furthest in rural areas in the Southeast and Midwest. Prices can vary significantly within states too—$100 in California tends to buy $89.45 worth of goods on average, but in the Los Angeles area, $100 can purchase about $87.86 worth of goods and services, while rural Californians can purchase $99.15 worth.

View Full Story at Tax Foundation

Note: It seems to me the most expensive areas to live have been run by Democrats. The correlation merits further study. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Again, Mortgage Rates Rise

More than reversing a notable two-day drop, rates on 30-year mortgages roared back Thursday, surging almost a quarter percentage point higher to set a new historic record. Rates for every single mortgage type were up Thursday, with most averages rising by double-digit basis points.

Mortgage Rates Rise Across the Board, Setting New Record for 30-Year Average

Kelly Evans: Who is really raising rates in Washington?

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Here’s How Biden Admin Destroyed Our Immigration Law

By Victor Davis Hanson

Since early 2021 we have witnessed somewhere between 7 million and 8 million illegal entries across the now-nonexistent southern border of the U.S.

The more the border vanished, the more federal immigration law was rendered inert, and the more Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spun fantasies that the “border is secure.” He is now written off as a veritable “Baghdad Bob” propagandist.

But how and why did the Biden administration destroy immigration law as we knew it?

The Trump administration’s initial efforts to close the border had been continually obstructed in the Congress, sabotaged by the administrative state, and stymied in the courts. Nonetheless, it finally had secured the border by early 2020.

Yet almost all the Trump administration’s successful initiatives were immediately overturned in 2021.

Construction of the wall was abruptly stopped, its projected trajectory canceled. The disastrous Obama-era “catch and release” policy of immigration nonenforcement was resurrected.

Prior successful pressure on Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to stop the deliberate export of his own citizens northward ceased.

Federal Border Patrol officers were forced to stand down.

New federal subsidies were granted to entice and then support illegal arrivals.

No one in the Democratic Party objected to the destruction of the border or the subversion of immigration law.

However, things changed somewhat once swamped southern border states began to bus or fly a few thousand of their illegal immigrants northward to sanctuary city jurisdictions—especially to New York and Chicago, and even Martha’s Vineyard.

The sanctuary-city “humanists” there who had greenlighted illegal immigration into the southern states suddenly shrieked. They were irate after experiencing the concrete consequences of their own prior abstract border agendas. After all, their nihilism was always supposed to fall upon distant and ridiculed others.

New York Mayor Eric Adams went from celebrating a few dozen illegal immigrants bused into Manhattan to blasting his own party for allowing tens of thousands to swamp his now bankrupt city.

But why did the Biden administration deliberately unleash the largest influx across the southern border in U.S. history?

The ethnic chauvinists and Democratic Party elites needed new constituents, given their increasingly unpopular agendas.

They feared that the more legal Latino immigrants assimilated and integrated into American society, the less happy they became with left-wing radical abortion, racial, transgender, crime, and green fixations.

Democratic grandees always had bragged that illegal immigration would create what they called “The New Democratic Majority” in “Demography Is Destiny” fashion. Now they slander critics as “racists” who object to left-wing efforts to use illegal immigration to turn southwestern red states blue.

Mexico now cannot survive as a modern state without some $60 billion in annual remittances sent by its expatriates in America. But many illegal immigrants rely on American state and federal entitlements to free up cash to send home.

Mexico also encourages its own abject poor and often indigenous people from southern Mexico to head north as a safety valve of sorts. The Mexican government sees these mass exoduses northward as preferable to the oppressed marching on Mexico City to address grievances of poverty and racism.

The criminal cartels now de facto run Mexico. An open border allows them to ship fentanyl northward, earn billions in profits—and kill nearly 100,000 Americans a year. Illegal immigrants pay cartels additional billions to facilitate their border crossings.

Don’t forget American corporate employers. Record labor nonparticipation followed the COVID-19 lockdown. In reaction to the dearth of American workers, the hospitality, meat packing, social service, health care, and farming industries were desperate to hire new—and far cheaper—labor.

Human rights activists insist that the borders themselves are 19th-century relics. And the global poor and oppressed thus have a human right to enter the affluent West by any means necessary.

Many in the tony suburbs and in universities do not live anywhere near the southern border. So they pontificate on the assurance that thousands of unaudited illegal immigrants will never enter their own enclaves or campuses.

The result is elite bottled piety—but not firsthand experience with the natural consequences of millions chaotically fleeing one of the poorest countries in the world to pour into the wealthiest. Without background checks, vaccinations and health audits, legality, high school diplomas, English facility, skill sets, or capital, the result is an abject catastrophe.

Polls continue to show that the American people support measured, diverse, legal, and meritocratic immigration as much as they oppose mass illegal immigration into their country and the subsequent loss of American sovereignty on the border.

They understand what the Biden administration does not: No nation in history has survived once its borders were destroyed, once its citizenship was rendered no different from mere residence, and once its neighbors with impunity undermined its sovereignty.

Ending illegal immigration now depends solely on the American people overriding the corrupt special interests and leaders who profit from the current chaos and human misery.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The (Illegal) Immigration Problem

American Has Fallen, And Can't Get Up

...There’s no denying the crisis. In some areas, the border between Texas and Mexico looks like a refugee camp in sub-Saharan Africa. There are thousands of African and Latin American migrants coming through daily. More than two million came last year, over 5,000 per day, and nearly as many will come this year.

...That hardly means we’re helpless to stop the flow. This year, for the first time, US Border Control is encountering more migrants from outside Latin America than from within it. That means people are flying from Africa to Latin America and entering through Mexico.

Is this part of a plan by Democratic leaders to expand the voting rolls? Some Republicans say so. And in California, some progressive politicians want to give undocumented immigrants the right to vote. They already provide official California state driver’s licenses and IDs.

But if that was the plan, it’s turning the nation against them

The migrants are overwhelming not just the state of Texas but also New York, whose Democratic leaders, both Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul, say bluntly that the city is filled up.

“The national government has turned its back on New York City,” said Adams in April. “This is impacting our schools, public safety, our ability to take care of those who were already in shelters. This is impacting the entire city.” Hochul is now proposing eliminating New York’s “right to shelter” law.

Maybe the progressive Democrats who run Chicago, Illinois, have more room — or compassion?

Not quite. “Let me state this clearly,” said Chicago’s progressive new Mayor. “The city of Chicago cannot go on welcoming new arrivals safely and capably without significant support and immigration policy changes.”

What, then, is to be done?

The Biden administration doesn’t even bother offering an answer. Democrats can only say what must not be done. We must not build a wall. We must not deport. Anyone. We must instead find jobs for the millions of mostly unskilled and uneducated immigrants to the US who, critics say, will drive down working-class wages and tax.

Biden's Bogus "Visa" Program

The Biden administration has made up its own bogus visa program to let hundreds of thousands of aliens illegally cross into the U.S. and remain indefinitely—as long as they have sponsors here willing to “support” them. Shockingly, those sponsors can include other illegal aliens.

In January, Texas and 19 other states sued the Department of Homeland Security complaining that:
DHS … under the false pretense of preventing aliens from unlawfully crossing the border between the ports of entry, has effectively created a new visa program—without the formalities of legislation from Congress—by announcing that it will permit up to 360,000 aliens annually from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela (CHNV) to be “paroled” into the United States for two years or longer and with eligibility for employment authorization.
“Parole” in immigration law gives the secretary of Homeland Security the authority to let foreigners enter the U.S. on a very temporary basis when they don’t have time to get a visa through the proper channels. Congress intended for parole to be very limited, such as when a foreign national’s testimony was crucial in an important trial.

The 20 states claim that the Biden administration’s mass parole of inadmissible aliens into the U.S. “fails each of the law’s three limiting factors” in that it is (1) not case-by-case, (2) not for urgent humanitarian reasons, and (3) advances no significant public benefit. The states specify their “substantial, irreparable harms” include millions of dollars in uncompensated education, health care, and social service costs.

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Biden Open Border Policies Have Created Immigration Crisis

President Donald Trump was committed to enforcing US immigration laws and policies. His policies were intended to slow illegal immigration and were thus opposed and criticized by many on the left.

Yet while Trump’s policies were controversial and widely criticized, they largely worked to the extent that immigration did not continue to expand rapidly under his administration. His efforts were dramatically affected by the outbreak of COVID which forced immigration changes in many countries, including the US.

President Biden, on the other hand, is committed to increasing immigration, and from day one in the White House, he worked very hard to reverse Trump’s policies. One of his first actions was to declare our southern border open to immigrants which essentially invited foreigners to enter this country and automatically receive benefits and rights normally available only to US citizens.

Since Mr. Biden became president, we have seen a flood of illegal immigrants enter this country. Specific numbers are not available, which could be as high as eight million illegals which have entered this country since he took office in 2021. Many believe the numbers could be substantially higher.

The question is, what have the effects been due to Mr. Biden’s open border policies? It depends on who you ask, of course, but today we’ll take a look and see if we can draw some conclusions. I trust most of my readers will conclude, as I have, that President Biden’s immigration policies have not been good.

It’s no secret that President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have presided over a national security and humanitarian crisis at our nation’s southern border. In the week leading up to the expiration of Title 42, Border Patrol saw more than 11,000 migrants crossing the border illegally each day – the highest single daily totals ever recorded.

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‘Absolutely unsustainable’: Hochul calls on Biden to fix NYC migrant shelter crisis

Karine Jean-Pierre refuses to answer question from Peter Doocy on illegal immigration

Illegal border crossings are on the rise: 7,500 migrants were stopped on Sunday alone

NYC shelters set to dump thousands of migrants to discourage new arrivals

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Biden Created 13.5 Million Jobs? Not So Fast!

from Gary D. Halbert's "Between the Lines"

President Joe Biden officially kicked off his 2024 re-election campaign in August, and he has been crisscrossing the country with campaign stops since then. His main re-election pitch is that the US economy is surging as a result of his economic policies.

On that subject, the president repeatedly touts that the US economy has added almost 13.5 million new jobs since he took office in January 2021. If true, that would be more jobs than created by any previous president over four years.

The question is: Is it true? The answer is a little complicated but I’ll sort it out for you below. The fact is, nearly 13.5 million jobs have been gained since Mr. Biden took office. But what is critical to realize is that the vast majority of those new jobs were simply businesses which shut down during Covid and are now reopening – and calling back their laid-off workers.

The issue when it comes to President Biden claiming he has created a record 13.5 million jobs since he took office is whether he should get credit for those workers being called back to their old jobs because their former employers are simply reopening. I say NO!

Let’s look at the actual jobs numbers from the House Budget Committee and the Labor Department. Of the 13.5 million jobs gained since Mr. Biden took office, nearly 72% of those were simply jobs that were being recovered from the pandemic, not new job creation.

In fact, when looking at today’s economy compared to pre-pandemic levels, employment is up only by 3.7 million under Biden. By comparison, prior to the pandemic, job creation under President Trump was 6.7 million -- 3 million more jobs than the current President.

So, the next time you hear President Biden claim that 13.5 million new jobs have been created on his watch, just know that he is lying. Almost 10 million of those jobs came from businesses that closed during the pandemic and have been merely reopening and rehiring workers which were laid of in 2021 and 2022.

The fact is, millions of American families are in serious financial trouble. A recent Morning Consult survey found that in the third quarter of this year only 46% of Americans could cover a $400 unexpected expense without going into debt.

It shows how expenses as commonplace as a surprise car repair or a medical bill are forcing many American families into debt – at a time when interest rates are disturbingly high.

The Lending Club’s “Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report” for June confirms the Morning Consult survey noted above. It found that a majority of Americans (54%) were living paycheck to paycheck. That includes 53% of consumers who earn $50,000 to $100,000 per year. So, this problem extends well beyond lower-income families, although it certainly hits you harder the less money you have.

But what about personal savings? Americans received a lot of cash from the government during the pandemic. In fact, when Biden took office, Americans had $2.3 trillion in personal savings. That number shot up to $5.7 trillion following Biden’s March 2021 legislation ironically named the "American Rescue Plan."

But by June of this year, a mere 27 months later, personal savings had dropped by nearly $5 trillion to a much diminished $862 billion.

Again, it isn’t just lower-income Americans who have watched their savings diminish. According to a Bloomberg analysis, the average middle-class household has lost over $33,000 in real wealth in just the past year. That’s huge!

The situation is so bad that many Americans are even draining their 401(k) plans to cover expenses. According to Bank of America’s analysis of its clients’ employee benefits programs (with a total of over 4 million plan participants), 36% more people drained their retirement accounts to make ends meet in the second quarter of 2023 as compared to the same period last year.

So, where did all that money go? Well, you may have noticed that Bidenomics-induced inflation has driven the cost of living up – a lot. Let’s look at it in dollar terms, which is how most Americans experience inflation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the Consumer Price Index (CPI) each month, a common measure of inflation. CPI takes a basket of commonly purchased goods and services and prices them on a monthly basis. In January 2021, when Biden took office, that basket cost about $261.50. In July of this year, the same basket cost $305.70. That’s a huge 16.9% increase in only two and a half years. It’s also larger than the CPI increase for any full four-year presidential term since the 1980s, and Bidenomics has 16 months to go.

Exacerbating the problem, wage growth has failed to keep pace with inflation – increasing only 13% since Biden took office (versus nearly 17% for inflation). When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, as over half of Americans are, that kind of disparity hurts.

The bottom line is: Bidenomics is not working out well for at least 54% of American families, as reported by Lending Club. It’s not working well for the other half of families not living paycheck-to-paycheck either. Most Americans know this.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

30-Year Mortgage Rates Rise Again, Flirting with Historic Peak

By SABRINA KARL, Investopedia

Rates on 30-year mortgages rose again Monday, adding to the jump they saw Friday and pushing the flagship average almost back to the historic 22-year high it registered earlier this month. Averages for most other loan types were flat to mildly up Monday, with only a couple of averages declining.

Rates on 30-year new purchase mortgages gained 6 basis points Monday, after jumping 16 basis points Friday. That raises the 30-year average to 7.82%, which is just barely below Sept. 7's historic reading of 7.84%—its highest mark since 2001.

Monday rates on 15-year loans rose only a minor 2 basis points, nudging the average to 7.15%. Like 30-year rates, the 15-year average is now back within a couple of basis points of its recent peak—a 21-year high of 7.17% reached in mid-August.

Jumbo 30-year rates held steady for a second day Monday, at the average's high-water mark of 7.02%. Though daily jumbo averages are not available before 2009, it's reasonable to assume that August's peak average of 7.02% was the most expensive level reached for jumbo 30-year loans in at least 20 years.

The biggest climbers Monday were the FHA 30-year and VA 30-year averages, each of which gained 12 basis points, while the FHA 15-year average sank 11 basis points. The only other average to decline was a minor dip of 3 basis points for the 7/6 ARM average.

What Causes Mortgage Rates to Rise or Fall?

Mortgage rates are determined by a complex interaction of macroeconomic and industry factors, such as:

  • The level and direction of the bond market, especially 10-year Treasury yields
  • The Federal Reserve's current monetary policy, especially as it relates to bond buying and funding government-backed mortgages
Because fluctuations can be caused by any number of these at once, it's generally difficult to attribute the change to any one factor.

Macroeconomic factors kept the mortgage market relatively low for much of 2021. In particular, the Federal Reserve had been buying billions of dollars of bonds in response to the pandemic's economic pressures. This bond-buying policy is a major influencer of mortgage rates.

But starting in Nov. 2021, the Fed began tapering its bond purchases downward, making sizable reductions each month until reaching net-zero in March 2022.2

Since that time, the Fed has been aggressively raising the federal funds rate to fight decades-high inflation. While the fed funds rate can influence mortgage rates, it does not directly do so. In fact, the fed funds rate and mortgage rates can move in opposite directions.

However, given the historic speed and magnitude of the Fed's 2022 and 2023 rate increases—raising the benchmark rate a cumulative 5.25% over the last 18 months—even the indirect influence of the fed funds rate has resulted in an upward impact on mortgage rates over the last two years.

The Fed's next rate-setting meeting is scheduled to conclude Sept. 20, and financial markets have priced in a near-certainty that the central bank will hold rates steady this time. A rate increase in November or December is still a possibility, however, with traders forecasting odds of 35-40% of an increase being announced at one of those meetings.

Homebuilder sentiment: Foundation Cracks Under Weight of Mortgage Rates

By Stephen Culp, Reuters

The mood amongst U.S. homebuilders took an unexpected dour turn this month.

The National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Housing Market index (USNAHB=ECI) slid five points to land at 45 - the lowest since April - defying analyst expectations that it would hold firm at a neutral 50, which is the dividing line between optimism and pessimism.

Coming on the heels of a 7-point drop in August, the residential construction sector is feeling the stress of rising mortgage rates; the average 30-year fixed contract rate has been above the 7% level since early August, and applications for loans to purchase homes are down 27.5% from a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"High mortgage rates are clearly taking a toll on builder confidence and consumer demand, as a growing number of buyers are electing to defer a home purchase until long-term rates move lower," writes Robert Dietz, NAHB's chief economist.

Home construction initially benefited from rising mortgage rates, which resulted in a dearth of pre-owned homes on the market and prompted a demand shift to new builds.

But amid tightening credit conditions and downbeat consumer sentiment, that particular party appears to be over.

The index "has broken sharply to the downside in the past two months as the surge in mortgage rates, and the subsequent drop in mortgage applications to their lowest level since 1995, has made homebuilders nervous," says Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

A current-month indicator, NAHB is among the more up-to-date housing market metrics.

But for a glimpse into where investors see the sector six months to a year down the road, look to the stock market.

Through that lens, market participants appear to be seeing a Fed pivot in their crystal balls, which should help bring borrowing costs back down to earth.

Over the last 12 months, the S&P 1500 Home Building index (.SPCOMHOME) and the Philadelphia SE Housing index (.HGX) have risen 61.0% and 43.8%, respectively, handily outperforming the broader S&P 500's 14.9% advance over the same period:

Friday, September 15, 2023

UAW Strike May Cost Economy Billions

Note: As of 9 AM, GM is up .58 or 1.72% to $34.24, while Ford is up .10 or .7% to $12.72. 

Sometimes I side with the unions, but mostly I don't. In this case, the UAW has asked for too much, in my opinion. Democrats talk about greedy companies all the time, but ignore greedy workers. 

Full-time assembly plant workers at Ford and GM earn $32.32 an hour, while part-timers currently make about $17 an hour. Full-time employees at Stellantis earn $31.77 an hour, and part-time workers earn close to $16 an hour.

The $32 an hour translates to approximately $67,000 annually, based on a 40-hour work week. According to the U.S. BLS, the median wage in 2022 was $54,132. So the plant workers are already making above-average pay, some 25% more.

They want that $32 an hour to go up some 40 percent over four years, or to about $45 an hour. This equates to $94,000 a year, based on a 40-hour work week.

The strike will initially target one plant at each of the Big Three automakers and will not involve all of the union’s nearly 150,000 members walking out at once.

Walkouts have started at a General Motors plant in Missouri, a Stellantis plant in Ohio and a Ford plant in Michigan.

More workers may be called on to join the strike as time goes on, UAW said.

Collectively, just under 13,000 workers are striking at the three plants.

The union is also pushing for making all temporary workers at the automakers permanent, cost-of-living adjustments, increases in pension benefits for current retirees and restoring pensions for new hires, among other benefits. But one of the main sticking points at the table was GM's decision to close four US factories, including a large assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. The sides eventually agreed to a deal that saw GM investing billions of dollars in a battery joint venture in Lordstown, which unionized with the UAW in late 2022. In return, GM was allowed to shutter three other factories.

Corporate leaders aren't happy with the union's demands, which at the high end call for a 40% wage hike. "There's no way we can be sustainable as a company" if those demands are met, Ford CEO Jim Farley told CNBC yesterday. Deutsche Bank analysts estimate the full demands would cut $1-2 billion from annual profit for the automakers. GM had a profit of less than $10 billion last year on $157 billion in revenue. Ford lost $2 billion.
Experts say the strike could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.

$5.4 billion. That’s how much Moody’s Analytics estimates each of the Big Three automakers could lose from halted production over the duration of a six-week strike, roughly the same amount it said General Motors lost during a 40-day strike in 2019. All three of the companies could offset those losses with supplies of “ample cash and borrowing capacity,” Moody’s said, though it warned a prolonged strike could hamper the automakers’ pushes toward producing electric vehicles, which all three have embraced in recent years as the EV market skyrockets.

That is according to a new analysis from the Anderson Economic Group, a Michigan-based think tank that specializes in the economic impact of labor strikes. The report estimates that economic losses from a 10-day work stoppage could cost about $5.6 billion.

If you want to know just how bright the market thinks these companies' prospects are, well, they already look pretty dim. Ford shares peaked in 1998 around $35 and currently trade at $12-and-change. GM went bankrupt during the financial crisis and has been trading in the mid-$30s for the past decade, aside from a Covid spike. Both companies are valued around $50 billion today. Chrysler was fully bought by Fiat (now Stellantis) in 2014 and only its Jeep and Ram brands may even survive.

While there are dozens of different historical reasons for the Detroit automakers' struggles, their current diminution boils down to the fact that the market is shifting to EVs, and it's unclear how big--and profitable--a role they will even play in the global auto industry going forward.

According to Kelly Evans at CNBC, "we are at...one of the biggest inflection points the auto industry has ever had; and the "big three" are looking smaller by the day."

Sources for this story: Business Insider, FoxNews, Forbes, CNBC, CNN 

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