Friday, April 04, 2008

Bear Stearns, Big Oil and your DCP...

Why are gas prices high? I had assumed demand is high and the dollar is weak - ergo, high prices. Only maybe demand isn't that large.
Rounding out the list of experts discussing our oil and gasoline situation is Bill Klesse, head of San Antonio (Tex.) Valero Energy (VLO). He spoke in San Diego a week after those comments from Goldman Sachs, the President, and Secretary Bodman. Believe it or not, Klesse said poor margins may cause Valero to sell one-third of its refinery operations; he stated that poor margins in recent months had caused planned refinery expansions—which would have produced 500,000 more barrels per day—to be canceled. Moreover, according to a report from Reuters on Mar. 11, 2008, Klesse recently released the information that gasoline production has been curtailed in response to slowing demand.

Imagine that: Refiners cut gasoline production, yet gasoline reserves have grown to their largest since late 1992. So much for "surging demand."

Klesse also called for the government to start imposing a tariff on imported gasoline to protect U.S. refiners' profits. Protectionism? As famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith correctly said, "In America, the only respectable form of socialism is socialism for the rich." [More]
Wallace's assertion will likely be echoed from various ramparts in coming months, as capitalism, so popular on the way up, becomes a drag on the way down. The fallout looks to rain mainly on the incumbent administration - which leaves John McCain with some pretty hard choices.
Instead, the Bush administration is protecting those responsible for creating yet another speculative bubble in oil futures, and is protecting investors in the ethanol industry—much to the detriment of food-processing companies such as Pilgrim's Pride. And the net result of all this is that the prices of crude and gasoline rise ever higher thanks to a "shortage" that does not exist, while food costs are soaring thanks in part to the ethanol mandate.

The Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, but the cost of mortgages goes up six weeks in a row—and last month Bank of America (BAC) credit-card holders started being charged more than 24% interest on new purchases.

This is what they call "Republican Prosperity?" Ronald Reagan was both right and wrong when he said, "Government is not the solution, government is the problem." And government is still the problem. Instead of a fair and open market they gave us a free-for-all marketplace with no regulations at all, which lately these "bubble boys" have sent south for all of us.
For McCain it looks like that economy stuff may be another kind of war altogether. Plus if you listen closely the blowback from the Bear Stearns bailout is increasing, I think. I'm not sure it was a bad idea, but as layoffs mount on Wall Street (and your street) for the rank-and-file, the image of big investors getting the bulk of the aid will be hard to deny.

This theme of the government helping the rich at the expense of others is growing and agriculture is a poster boy.
Well, isn't this rich: Max Baucus of Montana and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Finance Committee are suddenly in a lather that taxpayer funds might be implicated in the Federal Reserve's rescue of Bear Stearns.

Would that be the same Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley who have made careers out of protecting and enhancing the lavish system of import restrictions, price supports and other subsidies that have transformed American farming and ranching into a vast socialist enterprise? You betcha.

Whatever you want to say about the sharpies on Wall Street, they are pikers compared to Max's and Chuck's friends down on the farm when it comes to picking the pockets of taxpayers and consumers, or concocting a system in which the farmers get all the gains while the government assumes most of the risk.

In case you hadn't noticed, this last year has been a banner one for farmers, thanks to bountiful harvests and record commodity prices. The average farm household income in 2006 was $77,654, or about 17 percent higher than the average for nonfarm households. And next year, that's expected to rise to $90,000.

But for Max and Chuck, that's no reason to cut back on farm socialism. No siree. Farmers are expected to pull in $13 billion in federal subsidies this year. And there will be plenty more once Congress gets around to passing a new five-year farm bill later this spring. [More]
I suspect some spectacularly bad economic moves are about to be committed, and those who benefited most from recent prosperity will be the targets, rightly or wrongly.

And that would be thee and I.

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