America is Land of the Free, Because of the Brave. My ‘thank you’ to those who made it so.

Heavy bomber crewman, U.S. Army Air Force, World War 2. Photo from Legacy Flight Museum in Rexford, Idaho by James Ulvog.

Our freedom is under rapidly increasing assault by many politicians who think they are kings and queens appointed by divine right instead of having merely won a few more percentage points of the vote than their opponent in the last election.  In the last year public health officials at the federal, state, and county levels who lack self-awareness of how often they beclown themselves have joined in the efforts to shred our liberty.

As a result of these attacks, it is ever more important that on this Memorial Day we remember those who shed all their blood so that we may be free.

A ‘thank you’ from me is so trivial, yet that is all I have.

I will demonstrate my appreciation for freedom purchased by others by exercising freedom.

Yesterday I exercised my freedom of religion. Tomorrow I will exercise my economic freedom, also called pursuit of happiness, by running my business the way I choose.

I have posted variations of the following ideas several times before.  I will continue to make these points routinely.

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To everyone on active duty today, I often accept a ‘thank you’ on your behalf.

Union Infantry private, U.S. Civil War, 1961-1865. Photo from Legacy Flight Museum in Rexford, Idaho by James Ulvog.

While touring the U.S.S. Midway Museum in San Diego early this month, I wore a “U.S. Air Force” ball cap with various stuff pinned to it, such as the rank I wore, a missile badge (“pocket rocket” for those who know), SAC logo, and a rectangular piece of metal that declares “Combat Crew.”

During the course of walking around, I got lots of glances and several comments of “thank you for your service.”

Also got some joshing comments from the retired Navy guys about them ‘allowing’ me on their ship. Since we were all on the same team back in the day, the kidding was pure fun.

I was on active duty for only four years and that was decades ago. I never got within 3,000 miles of hostile action. (Of course if the flag had gone up, I would have been radioactive dust at 20,000 feet altitude about 40 minutes later.)

As a result, I was uneasy for a long time when someone said “Thanks for your service.”

It took me a few years to get to get comfortable with those comments.

I now graciously and proudly accept those expressions of appreciation from my fellow Americans, but not because of what I did so long ago. 

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Monitoring inflation through the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) price index.

Another way to keep track of inflation trends is by watching the price index for the Personal Consumption Expenditure.

Please journey along with me as I continue my education.

In the news yesterday was the April increase which showed a 3.1% year-over-year increase compared to an expectation of a 2.9% increase. For one article discussing the news, check out the following:

I have started to track this data, gathering information back to the start of 2020. The month by month change in the headline index and the core index (which excludes food and energy costs) can be seen in the graph at the top of this post.

Before look at the year-over-year change, we need to look at the nature of the index. There are two main indices used to monitor inflation. The first is the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which everyone knows about. The other is the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE).

What’s the difference? Great question.

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New claims for unemployment decreasing at end of May 2021. Ongoing claims are flat.

Since my last post on 4/30/20, a month ago, there has finally been visible progress in the number of people losing their job.

Since 4/24/21 the number of new claims for unemployment has dropped from 590,000 to 406,000 in the week ending 5/22/21. Graph above shows improvement. Average had been running around 800,000 from early October 2020 until late in February 2021.

The number of new claims is still double the average from before the pandemic. As recently as February it was four times, so that is progress. From quadruple for oh so many months to merely double is good. Not great for all those people losing their job now, but at overall level it is progress.

Purpose of these posts on economic statistics is to help all of us sort out what is going on in the overall economy.

Revised number of new claims in state programs over the last four months:

  • 754K – 2/27/21
  • 728K – 3/27/221
  • 590K – 4/24/21
  • 406K – 5/22/21

Following graphs show the ongoing human cost of the economic shutdown.

New claims

New claims for unemployment by week since the start of 2020:

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Have masks done any good?

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

More research is emerging that suggests the answer is no, masks have not helped reduce spread of infection.

5/26/21 – Town hall – Masks Didn’t Slow Covid Spread: New Study – Study cited in the next paragraph calculates “mask mandates and use not associated with lower SARS-CoV-2 spread among US states.” In other words study finds there is no correlation between the level of mask use and infection rates. Their research does not support the idea that higher use of masks results in lower transmission rates.

5/18/21 – medRxiv – Mask mandate and use efficacy in state-level Covid-19 containment – Using proper statistical methodologies, study finds there is no difference in infection rates between states that mandated masks and states that did not require masks.

Infection rates are “comparable” for the states with early adoption of mas requirement and states with late adoption.

The research paper uses technical language, which is exactly what you would expect, so it is difficult to read. I will still quote the abstract, which says:

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Timeline of California’s unconstitutional restrictions on worship.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Liberty Council, attorneys representing Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, announced on 5/17/21 the permanent injunction against religious discrimination practiced by the State of California against places of worship:

CA Churches Permanently Quarantine Governor Newsom

Previous post discusses the permanent injunction. The above announcement provides more detail.

The wonderful news is summarized by Liberty Council:

“Under the settlement agreement, discriminatory restrictions on worship and religious gatherings may no longer be applied to churches and places of worship.”

For future reference, I will quote Liberty Council in their timeline of restrictions on religious worship. Their timeline, again quoting:

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Permanent injunction issued against religiously discriminatory Covid rules in California. Oh, $1.35 million legal fees also awarded.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

People of faith gain another victory in California.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has read the U.S. Constitution and a long string of Supreme Court rulings (any one of which should have long since been sufficiently clear to the State of California).

The court issued a permanent injunction against Gov. Newsom, and “all State officers, agents, employees, and all other persons in active concert or participation with him” prohibiting any of those individuals from engaging in ongoing religious discrimination against churches and other places of worship in the state of California.

I will guess that broad definition of who is covered by the permanent injunction would also include all county public health authorities.

The state’s behavior is so egregious that the court awarded $1,350,000 in legal fees to attorneys for Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry.

The harsh slap down of religious persecution includes permanent injunctions against, quoting the order:

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Still more grim news from the lockdown.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The bad news caused by the government imposed shut down of the economy keeps rolling in.

Merely a few recent articles:

  • The “laptop class” did well, while the working class was delivering their stuff, taking on the risks of infection.
  • Rents in New York City are in freefall.
  • Record levels in discount off the posted tuition rate for private colleges, which is an indicator of collapsing demand and indicator of future financial distress.
  • Millions are unemployed while companies can’t find enough workers.

5/20/21 – Glenn Reynolds at New York Post – The rich and powerful thrived as the rest of us suffered in the year of lockdowns – Fourteen months of the “two weeks to slow the spread” has shown that the rich and powerful did quite well while working class and poor folk suffered.

The laptop class was able to stay at home, fully employed with no loss of income. In fact, with no commuting costs and not eating out for lunch many in the laptop class were left better off.

They stayed home and the working class delivered their stuff.

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How can a football team’s position for scoring the game winning points illustrate the differences between an audit, review, compilation, and preparation?

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Let’s think about a football team and how they are positioned for scoring the winning points in the last few seconds of a tied game. They could be 4th-and-goal or perhaps not yet to a position for a field goal attempt.

Let’s use that illustration to explain the services provided by your outside accountant.

A CPA can provide four levels of services if you’re looking for financial statements.

You can hire a CPA firm to provide:

  • audit,
  • review,
  • compilation, or
  • preparation service.

What is winning the game?

We all know what that is in football.

In our accounting illustration a winning score would be perfect financial statements. Every number is correct. Not just close-enough, but exactly correct. Every disclosure complies with every single requirement.  The presentation and classification are picture perfect.

That probably never happens in real life, so let’s simplify it by saying that there is nothing even close to materially incorrect in any number, presentation, or disclosure. The financial statements are as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

That is what a win looks like.

Audit

Let’s say there is under a minute left in a tied game. Our favorite football team has just completed a successful drive and is sitting on the 1 yard line on fourth down. There’s only one play left in 30 seconds and the game is over.

Likelihood of getting a touchdown and winning the game is pretty good. Right about now the odds look incredible.

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Three more parents sentenced in college admissions scandal. Lori Loughlin and husband have completed their sentence.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Since we last checked in on the college admissions scandal back on 11/5/20, three more parents have been sentenced.  In addition, Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli have served their sentences.

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli

12/28/20 – Associated Press – Lori Loughlin released after prison term in college scam – Ms. Loughlin was released from the federal prison in Dublin, California on Monday 12/28/20 according to the article. This is consistent with information listed at the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator page.

Having been incarcerated on 10/30/20, her expected release date would be 12/30/20, or 61 days later.

By my calculation that means she served 59 days of her two month sentence. That is two days short of the expected release date.

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More indications of economic damage from shutdown.

Federal judge ruled the moratorium is a flagrantly illegal power grab. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A bit of good news to go with the ongoing indications of economic destruction.

  • Federal judge ruled the CDC can’t force landlords to provide no-cash-payment housing.
  • Black homeowners having more difficulty getting back on track with mortgage payments than other ethnic groups. Economic impact of shutdowns are falling disproportionately hard on minorities.
  • Rent prices in New York City continue in freefall.

5/6/21 – Foundation for Economic Education – A Federal Judge Just Struck Down One of the CDC’s Most Blatant Power Grabs – The Centers for Disease Control assumed for itself the power to prohibit evictions of renters because they were not paying rent.

No, although it may be your first reaction, that is not socialism. The government telling you what to do with your property, how much to produce, and controlling the price you can charge, thus converting the property into de facto government property, actually falls into the definition of the economic system of fascism.

Article reminds us that in 9/20, CDC issued an order that non-paying tenants cannot be evicted in most situations. Serious penalties involved.

The extreme rationalization to grab this power was shut down by a federal judge on 5/5/20.

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More indications of health consequences caused by economic shutdown.

How many more advanced cancer cases and how many more cancer deaths will we see because of the economic shutdown? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A few of the recent articles pointing to health consequences from shutting down the economy:

  • Flu bug has essentially disappeared.
  • Rapid increase in alcohol deaths in England and Wales during the lockdown.
  • One study finds being at home is more dangerous than being at work.
  • Three articles point to the harsh medical consequences of the drop in cancer screenings; people are dying because of lack of access to health care during the lockdown.

I hope someday there will be accountability for the politicians and public health officials who put us in this place.

4/29/21 – Scientific American – Flu Has Disappeared Worldwide during the Covid Pandemic – Since the Covid pandemic began the incidents of influenza have shrank to level of inconsequential. One expert is quoted as saying there is “no flu circulating.”

Tally of deaths in the United States from influenza:

  • 34,000 – 2018-2019 flu season
  • 22,000 – 2019-2020 flu season
  • 600 – 2020-2021 flu season, yes 600

Article has graph of influenza cases per week in North America. Graph of the previous eight flu seasons shows huge spike a couple months ago. The graph for the 2021 flu season is a flat line indistinguishable from zero. Looking at the graph you assume that flu has completely disappeared from North America.

“Experts” mentioned in the article unanimously attribute the disappearance to the same protocols used in an attempt to limit Covid infection – wearing masks, washing hands, frequent use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing.

Amusingly, missing from the article is even the mere possibility of considering that there might perhaps be the option of miscoding or erroneous diagnosis. There is no hint that could even possibly happen.

5/6/21 – Lockdown Skeptics – Alcohol Deaths Rise to Highest Level Since Records Began in England and Wales – Deaths from alcohol abuse have been rising for many years in England and Wales. However, there is a 20% increase in 2020 over 2019 with most of the acceleration happening after the lockdown began.

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Unemployment rate up slightly in April 2021 after slow decline since November 2020.

The unemployment rate skyrocketed during the pandemic heating a frightening 14.7% in April 2020, a year ago. It declined substantially, hitting 6.9% in October 2020.

Since November, he sent to the corresponding to the election, the employment rate has been slowly declining, drifting down to 6.0% in March 2021.

In April 2021, then upon rate inched up to 6.1%. This is the first monthly increase since the peak in April 2020.

To help understand the data and underlying trends, let’s dive deeper into the numbers.

The U-3 and U-6 unemployment rates since the start of 2019 are visible in the graph at the top of this post.

General trend visible in that graph is unemployment rate has been flat at around 6% since the fall after having been at below 4% for over a year before the pandemic.

For a longer-term perspective, check out the U-3 and U-6 unemployment rates since before the Great Recession:

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Continued struggles in recovery of job market.

Lots of companies are looking for new staff but can’t find enough workers. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Spending by consumers is growing while the number of new jobs is not as strong as expected and employers are having a hard time finding enough staff.

5/7/21 – Wall Street Journal – U.S. Employers Added 266,000 Jobs in April as Hiring Slowed – Expectation among economic forecasters was employers would add 1 million new jobs in April. Actual results were a mere 266,000.

This follows a downward revision to the March data.

Leisure and hospitality (that means entertainment, hotels, and motels) saw most of the growth in April. In more detail, there are 331K new jobs in those sectors which offset a net decline of 65K in all other sectors.

Article repeats the comment seen in many of other articles that employers are having a hard time attracting new staff.

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New claims for unemployment slowly decreasing at end of April 2021.

The number of new unemployment claims for week ending 4/24/21 decreased by a small 13,000 to 553,000.  That is the lowest level of newly unemployed since the start of the shutdown.

New claims dropped a lot in the week ending 4/10/21, going from 769K the prior week to 576K, a drop of 193K.

New claims in state programs at the end of the last three months:

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