Will Lebanon Fall Into The Hands Of Iran?

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

There is growing concern among the Lebanese and other Arabs that Iran is planning to exploit the severe political, economic and financial crisis in Lebanon to complete its takeover of the country.

Iran already has a political and military presence in Lebanon through its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. The current crisis, however, is likely to facilitate Iran’s mission of adding Lebanon to the list of countries it already occupies: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

“Iran is already very dangerous without a nuclear bomb. The region is witnessing a state of chaos and agitation by fundamentalist forces, which threaten all Arab countries without exception.” — Mishary Dhayidi, Saudi writer, Al-Arabiya, July 21, 2021

The Arabs appear clearly worried about the perceived apathy of the US and other Western powers towards Iran’s scheme to extend its control to Lebanon. They seem particularly alarmed that Lebanon will meet the same fate as Iraq, Syria and Yemen…. thanks to Iran’s continuous efforts to export terrorism and the “Islamic Revolution” to the Arab countries.

The mullahs in Tehran are doubly dangerous: they aspire not only to develop nuclear weapons, but also to occupy Arab states.

There is growing concern among the Lebanese and other Arabs that Iran is planning to exploit the severe political, economic and financial crisis in Lebanon to complete its takeover of the country. Iran already has a political and military presence in Lebanon through its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.

There is growing concern among the Lebanese and other Arabs that Iran is planning to exploit the severe political, economic and financial crisis in Lebanon to complete its takeover of the country.

Iran already has a political and military presence in Lebanon through its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. The current crisis, however, is likely to facilitate Iran’s mission of adding Lebanon to the list of countries it already occupies: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

For several weeks now, the hashtag “# Lebanon is Collapsing” has been trending on various social media platforms, including Twitter. Many Lebanese and Arabs are using this hashtag to describe the dire economic and financial situation in Lebanon and warn of Iran’s ongoing meddling in the internal affairs of the country. They seem to fear that that Iran’s mullahs are about to instigate instability and chaos in Lebanon as they have done in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

“The Lebanese people are dying,” commented Lebanese social media user Marianne Mouzaya. “No medicine, no hospitals, no electricity, no water, and an almost non-existent purchasing power.”

“Lebanese people feel despair about this situation, and they do not believe that anything good will happen soon,” according to Ferhat Tutkal, an international affairs graduate student at the Lebanese American University. “The country suffers from a brain drain, and qualified people leave Lebanon for developed countries that offer a better life. Mass migration is also possible in the future if the crisis continues as it has. Such a situation may affect the balances in the region and cause other problems.”

Egyptian writer Ali Masoud believes that the Lebanese have finally realized that Iran and its Hezbollah proxy terrorist group are leading Lebanon toward “humiliation, starvation and an unknown future.”

Iraqi political analyst and columnist Farouk Yusef pointed out that “Lebanon today is in its worst phase. For many, there is no Lebanon. A large part of the international community is no longer able to deal with Lebanon as an independent, sovereign state. It is an Iranian protectorate. But Hezbollah sarcastically calls on the world to save Lebanon.”

Yusef scoffed at the appeal of some Lebanese leaders to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to rescue Lebanon and said that the request for help should instead be directed to Iran, which is directly responsible for the country’s crisis.

“Lebanon will remain deprived of the means of life because Iran, which has tightened its control over the country, is determined to drive it toward annihilation,” Yusef wrote. He said that if the Lebanese were aware that Hezbollah was using Lebanon as a launching pad to attack Israel and that they would end up without electricity, water or medicine, they would have preferred that Israel remain in their country.

Roger Edde, a Lebanese lawyer and president of the Lebanese Peace Party, warned that Lebanon will remain a “failed state” as long as it is “occupied” by Iran.

“There is no glimmer of hope in the horizon unless the Security Council declares Lebanon a failed state that is occupied by Iran and its tools,” Edde stated.

Echoing the same sentiment, Lebanese social media user Rita Ballan accused Hezbollah of working to “perpetuate the [Iranian] occupation.” According to Ballan, Iran and Hezbollah have taken Lebanon back to the stone age, and the Lebanese are now suffering from “isolation, deprivation and humiliation.”

Abdel Wahab Badrakhan, a prominent writer and political analyst who previously served as deputy editor of the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, said that Lebanon has “entered the stage of grave imminent danger, not only because the comprehensive collapse continues politically, economically and socially, but especially because the features of the Iranian takeover of the country are becoming clear and confirmed.”

Badrakhan too believes that Iran and its Lebanese supporters have chosen “to prolong the financial-economic crisis to facilitate the handover of Lebanon to Iran.”

The international community, he noted, has failed to realize that that Lebanon is about to fall into the hands of Iran.

Saudi writer Mishary Dhayidi holds Iran responsible for the unrest and instability in a number of Arab countries, including Lebanon. “What is happening in Iraq and Lebanon and the decline in public services and infrastructure — electricity, fuel, food, medicine, security, and the dominance of the militias over the state, is because of the Iranian Khomeinist regime,” he wrote.

He warned that the Biden administration needs to take note that the threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons was not the only problem.

“Iran is already very dangerous without a nuclear bomb,” he argued. “The region is witnessing a state of chaos and agitation by fundamentalist forces, which threaten all Arab countries without exception.”

Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah said that Iran is using Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq as “regional cards” to pressure the Biden administration to return to the 2005 Iran nuclear deal and lift the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic by former US President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Iran believes that it has its pressure cards and that the US administration should yield to it,” Khairallah cautioned. “The question remains how the international community will deal with the Lebanese situation.”

When Khairallah and other Arabs talk about the international community, they are specifically referring to the Biden administration.

The Arabs appear clearly worried about the perceived apathy of the US and other Western powers towards Iran’s scheme to extend its control to Lebanon. They seem particularly alarmed that Lebanon will meet the same fate as Iraq, Syria and Yemen — countries that have been riven by years of civil war thanks to Iran’s continuous efforts to export terrorism and the “Islamic Revolution” to the Arab countries.

Judging from the remarks of many Arab political analysts and columnists, the message they are sending to the Biden administration is that the mullahs in Tehran are doubly dangerous: they aspire not only to develop nuclear weapons, but also to occupy Arab states.

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This article was published on July 26, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from the Gatestone Institute.

Monetary Policy Since the Great Recession

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

After the 2007-2009 financial crisis, the Great Recession it precipitated, the exceptionally sluggish recovery, and now the pandemic recession, the U.S. has essentially entered a new macroeconomic environment. For most of the 2010s, there was a general consensus that inflation was not too much of a problem. This very complacency has now set the stage for higher inflation by limiting our viable policy options. At this point, it will be helpful to review the 2010s’ macroeconomic rollercoaster to fully appreciate how we got where we are, and what it bodes for the future.

This article will discuss some of the monetary developments that emerged during and after the 2007-2009 financial crisis, to help provide an understanding of where the U.S. economy is in 2021, how we got here, and where we might be headed. Until the Great Recession, textbook accounts of the U.S. Federal Reserve System recognized three instruments of monetary policy. These were the reserve requirement, the discount rate, and open market operations (OMO).

The reserve requirement is the amount of deposits banks are not permitted to lend. The Fed’s role in holding these reserves is why it is called the Federal Reserve System. Traditionally, the reserve requirement had a three-tiered structure: zero for the lowest tier of deposits, 3% for the second tier, and 10% for the highest tier. The dividing lines between tiers were periodically reset upward as the money supply grew. Making banks hold certain levels of reserves guaranteed, they would always have enough money for withdrawals. Raising the reserve requirement disciplines banks to lend less, and because the money supply is highly leveraged, with most of it created when banks lend, raising the reserve requirement reduces the money supply by reducing lending. As discussed below, the Fed reduced the reserve requirement to zero in 2020, but this has not allowed the money supply to explode out of control, at least not yet.

The second traditional instrument of monetary policy was the discount rate, the interest rate the Fed charged member banks when they needed to borrow to meet their reserve requirement. The term discount rate is an anachronism, referring to the long-abandoned practice of lending banks a smaller, discounted, amount than what they would have to repay. In the early days of discount lending, the difference between the amount borrowed and the higher amount banks had to repay the Fed constituted the interest on those loans. The higher the discount rate, the more expensive discount borrowing was, so the greater the banks’ incentive to avoid the need to borrow. Banks could avoid discount borrowing by keeping larger buffers of unloaned excess reserves, over-and-above their required reserves. Since the reserve requirement has been abolished, there is no longer any need for discount lending, and adjusting the discount rate can no longer be used to control the money supply.

The third instrument of monetary policy was—and remains—open market operations (OMO). This consists of purchasing government debt—U.S. Treasury bonds, bills, and notes, to put new money in circulation. If needed, the assets the Fed acquired through OMO can be sold to remove money from circulation, enabling the Fed to control the money supply to fight inflation. This standard textbook account was largely satisfactory until the 2007-2009 financial crisis. The Fed’s response to the crisis was called quantitative easing, which can largely be understood as an extended OMO. Quantitative easing was fundamentally different only due to the extent and nature of the Fed’s purchases.

Figure 1 illustrates how the Fed’s balance sheet has evolved over time as monetary policy became progressively more expansionary over the 2010s. The Fed’s assets were all acquired through OMO to put money in circulation, and theoretically, these assets could be sold to reduce the size of the money supply. The first round of quantitative easing, QE1, more than doubled the size of the Fed’s balance sheet from 2008-2009—mostly with distressed assets. These were low-quality mortgage-backed securities, which unlike the government debt traditionally used to implement OMO, could not be sold to remove an equivalent number of dollars from circulation. This was when the Fed lost much of its ability to control the money supply. The Fed currently still holds over $2 trillion worth in mortgage-backed securities. Subsequent rounds of quantitative easing increased the Fed’s balance sheet further in 2011 and 2013-2014, and from 2020 on, to $7.7 trillion as of mid-2021.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Assets: Total Assets: Total Assets (Less Eliminations from Consolidation): Wednesday Level [WALCL], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/WALCL, June 9, 2021.

Prior to the financial crisis, the Fed had already put $800 billion in reserves into the financial system. The banks that held these reserves generally loaned out the majority at a profit, creating additional reserves whenever borrowers deposited this money in other banks. If the Fed needed to fight inflation and support the value of the dollar, it could remove the $800 billion by selling its portfolio of Treasury debt and other assets. These sales would have had a leveraged effect on the total money supply, because they would also remove any additional money that had been created by bank lending on the affected reserves.

During the financial crisis, the Fed started buying mortgage-backed securities and other distressed bank debt. Part of the rationale for this first round of quantitative easing (QE1) was to bail out distressed financial institutions, rather than carry out monetary policy. That was why these distressed assets were purchased at face value rather than at their much lower—in many cases practically zero—market value. The Fed did this to keep distressed banks from failing, which would, in turn, have required even larger direct bailouts. Unlike the Treasury debt, there was no market for the overvalued mortgage-backed securities, so there was never any possibility for the Fed to sell them off to help reduce the money supply. By June 2010 the Fed held $2.1 trillion in assets, about half of which were distressed assets acquired through QE1, more than twice the assets it held before the financial crisis. Although the Fed could not sell the mortgage-backed securities in its portfolio, the amount of distressed assets naturally diminishes over time as this debt gradually expires.

Open market operations and quantitative easing suffer from an inherent asymmetry because the Fed buys debt instruments which mature and expire over time, paying with dollars that never expire. In the short run, there should always be a perfect balance between debt held by the Fed and dollars of base reserves created this way. This is important because the Fed needs to be able to remove dollars from circulation to maintain the dollar’s relative scarcity and value, and fight inflation.

Over time, however, the debt matures and the dollars don’t, creating an imbalance that impairs the Fed’s ability to fight inflation. This imbalance gets worse the larger the money supply and the larger the Fed’s balance sheet. In some ways, the distressed assets the Fed acquired through QEs 1 through 3 counteracted this effect, because as the economy entered into a very shallow recovery, markets for mortgage-backed securities began to resume some semblance of normality. Part of the reason for this was that the Fed’s drastic injections of liquidity helped reinflate housing prices.

The Fed conducted a second round of quantitative easing in November 2010, QE2, buying primarily government debt—QE1 had already bought up virtually all the mortgage-backed securities in the economy. QE3 started in 2012, with the Fed purchasing $40 billion monthly, later increased to $85 billion. By the end of 2014 the Fed held $4.5 trillion in assets—six times what it held before the financial crisis. The Fed’s balance sheet only began to fall in 2018, but the response to the Covid-19 pandemic was to further accelerate asset purchases in QE4, almost doubling a Fed balance sheet that was already unprecedentedly bloated, now standing at $8 trillion, with no telling when it might end.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Total Reserves of Depository Institutions [TOTRESNS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TOTRESNS, June 8, 2021.
The Fed’s strategy to restore confidence in the financial sector can be seen even more directly in Figure 2. Prior to the financial crisis, bank profits depended on each bank holding a productive loan portfolio, with the result that banks minimized their excess reserves. Starting in late 2008, the Fed began to pay interest on reserves, providing banks risk-free income as an alternative to lending, which had suddenly become far riskier. At one point the Fed’s interest rate on reserves was as high as 2.5%, significantly more than what banks were paying on most checking accounts. The Fed reduced the interest it paid on reserves to 0.1% in early 2020, but recently raised it to 0.15%.

Paying interest on reserves lowers the money supply because it discourages banks from lending—even though the Fed has to create new money to pay the interest, the net effect is still to reduce the money supply. With each new round of quantitative easing, the Fed expanded its balance sheet as banks accumulated additional reserves. Once the Fed stops paying interest on these huge buffer stocks of bank reserves, the banks will lend them out, further leveraging the amount of money already circulating. When this happens, inflation will skyrocket.

In theory, the Fed could retire some of this money by selling government securities, but its balance sheet is now so large that trying to sell enough government debt might depress its value—meaning the Fed has further lost control of the money supply. Paying interest on reserves has been an attempt to return to normalcy. Once inflation becomes omnipresent, the only way to fight it will be to tighten the money supply by raising interest rates generally throughout the economy. High-interest rates will choke off investment and might trigger new real estate and stock market crashes. In a high-interest rate environment, homebuyers would be well-advised to opt for variable-rate mortgages in preference to fixed-rate.

None of the foregoing necessarily matters until the Fed needs to fight inflation. However, the minute the Fed realizes it needs to worry about inflation, it will become obvious that it has painted us into a corner. Discretionary Fed policy has limited the range of how it can respond to inflation in the future. In response to each development since the 2007 financial crisis, the Fed has repeatedly opted for policies with short-term benefits while disregarding the very real long-term costs. The U.S. economy has now entered unexplored territory, though this territory has unhappy similarities with Revolutionary-era hyperinflation, Civil War inflation of the 1860s, and the stagflation of the 1970s. None of these historical experiences were something anybody would want to relive.

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This article was published on July 25, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from FEE, American Institute for Economic Research.

Hamilton, The Musical, Will Be Getting At Least $30 Million in Federal Aid. Hamilton, The Man, Is Partly to Blame.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Alexander Hamilton had some great ideas, but he had some pretty bad ones too.

The past year and a half have been a trying time for the theater industry. Though auditoriums around the country used to host music, dancing, and laughter, they have now grown accustomed to silence, and perhaps even a bit of dust. Productions that were not killed outright have been on life support, clinging to desperate hopes that the pandemic will be over sooner rather than later.

One of the most famous shows caught up in this mess is the musical Hamilton. Though it has been wildly successful since its 2015 opening, the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have forced it to go into hibernation like nearly every other show. However, as the New York Times recently reported, the musical is set to receive $30 million in federal aid, and could receive up to $50 million in total.

The aid is coming from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which is designed to help movie theatres and other entertainment venues stay in business until the lockdowns are over. The program was created as part of the $900 billion COVID relief bill passed by Congress in December, and it is just one of the many federal bailout programs that are now propping up businesses and organizations across the country.

Through the program, which commands $16 billion in total, productions can apply for grants of up to $10 million. Currently, Hamilton’s Broadway production and two of its touring shows have each received $10 million grants. Its other two touring shows are still waiting to hear back.

Hamilton and Subsidies Go Way Back

At first glance, the case for these grants almost seems obvious. Here is an industry that is clearly struggling through no fault of its own. It only makes sense to help it weather the storm.

What’s curious about this line of reasoning is that it actually stems directly from Hamilton himself. In many ways, Hamilton was the main champion of subsidies among the founding fathers, and it is largely his arguments which people appeal to when they defend the practice today. And though Hamilton’s original proposals were restricted to subsidizing manufacturers, his arguments have been applied to increasingly wider spheres of business over the years. Indeed, the government he helped to create is now even subsidizing the musical that bears his name. As Mark Twain is credited with saying, “History doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes.”

So what were his arguments? Essentially, Hamilton believed that the general welfare could be improved if the government gave “pecuniary bounties” (subsidies) to manufacturing industries that were still in their infancy, because the subsidies would help grow a new industry that would otherwise struggle to get off the ground.

“In new undertakings,” Hamilton wrote, “[subsidies] are justifiable, as they are oftentimes necessary.”

Now, a common objection Hamilton faced was that subsidies merely “serve to enrich particular classes at the expense of the community.” But Hamilton didn’t buy this argument.

“There is no purpose,” he wrote, “to which public money can be more beneficially applied, than to the acquisition of a new and useful branch of industry, no consideration more valuable than a permanent addition to the general stock of productive labour.”

Though Hamilton only made the case for supporting infant industries, a similar line of reasoning has been used to recommend subsidies for industries that are temporarily weak or disadvantaged (like musicals about founding fathers in the wake of a pandemic), with the idea being that the economy would simply be worse off without them. But while it may be tempting to embrace the pro-subsidy argument as a means of “saving” these industries, there are gaping holes in this analysis that deserve scrutiny.

Hamilton, Meet Hazlitt

The main problem with Hamilton’s position is that it ignores trade-offs. Though it’s true that government subsidies can help businesses that are struggling, the question is, at what cost? Every dollar the government gives to a business is a dollar that must be taken from somewhere else. But such redistribution can hardly be said to grow the economy as a whole. It merely helps one part of the economy at the expense of the others. It grows one sector by shrinking the rest.

So how do we determine the best allocation of scarce resources? This is where free markets are pivotal. Whereas government subsidies merely pick winners and losers based on political connections and popularity, free markets systematically funnel resources toward ventures which best meet the demands of consumers.

If a business venture looks promising, investors will shift capital in its direction, and the profitability of the venture will reflect the extent to which it helped consumers. Likewise, if businesses are taking a loss, it is an indication that the resources they use would better serve the interests of consumers in other parts of the economy. Thus, it would actually be in the best interest of consumers to let weak businesses fail, because the capital they employ can then be used for other, more valuable purposes.

Henry Hazlitt explained this well in his classic book Economics In One Lesson.

“The result of [a] subsidy is not merely that there has been a transfer of wealth or income, or that other industries have shrunk in the aggregate as much as the X industry has expanded. The result is also (and this is where the net loss comes in to the nation considered as a unit) that capital and labor are driven out of industries in which they are more efficiently employed to be diverted to an industry in which they are less efficiently employed. Less wealth is created. The average standard of living is lowered compared with what it would have been.”

“The idea that an expanding economy implies that all industries must be simultaneously expanding is a profound error. In order that new industries may grow fast enough it is necessary that some old industries should be allowed to shrink or die. They must do this in order to release the necessary capital and labor for the new industries…Paradoxical as it may seem to some, it is just as necessary to the health of a dynamic economy that dying industries be allowed to die as that growing industries be allowed to grow. The first process is essential to the second.”

Consumer Demand Will Return: We Just Need to Wait for It

As we can see, the problem with Hamilton’s suggestion to subsidize new manufacturing industries is that resources would be taken away from other industries where they would be put to better use. If the new industry is truly promising, it should have no trouble raising capital from investors eager to make a profit (the flood of capital into the emerging cryptocurrency space is a great example). But if investors are not willing to fuel its growth voluntarily, they are signaling that they do not see enough consumer demand there, so it would be counterproductive to effectively force them to devote resources to that industry.

A similar line of reasoning can be used regarding the grant for the musical. Simply put, the money that went to Hamilton would probably have been better used in a different industry if it had been left up to investors and consumers.

Of course, it’s tempting to try to bring back the structure of production we had before the pandemic, but the reality is that market conditions have changed. Even without the lockdowns, it’s likely that most productions would have shut down, either of their own volition or due to a lack of demand. Thus, trying to artificially restore the pre-pandemic status quo is simply hampering our ability to adjust to the new reality we find ourselves in.

With that said, I’m a big fan of Hamilton, and I’m truly hopeful that it will come back in full strength once this is all over. But the government should let me contribute to that outcome as a willing customer, not as a begrudging taxpayer.

American manufacturing never needed subsidies to thrive, contrary to Hamilton, the man. Neither does Hamilton, the musical.

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This article was published on July 24, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from FEE, Foundation for Economic Education.

 

Sixth Circuit Rules CDC Eviction Moratorium Is Unconstitutional

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the national eviction moratorium mandated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unconstitutional. The court said in its ruling that the matter ultimately needed to be resolved by Congress.

The three-judge panel ruled that the CDC engaged in federal overreach by mandating that tenants who are unable to pay their rent and are in breach of their rental agreements may not be evicted. The CDC had implemented a moratorium in response to millions of people losing their jobs due to governors shutting down their state economies to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The court upheld a ruling from U.S. District Judge Mark Norris, who in March blocked the eviction moratorium from being implemented in western Tennessee.

The CDC had argued in court that Congress authorized the eviction freeze as part of COVID-19 relief legislation and that issuing the moratorium was within its regulatory authority. The three-panel appeals court rejected their argument Friday.

“What’s the difference between executive-branch experts and congressional ones? Executive-branch experts make regulations; congressional experts make recommendations,” they wrote. “Congressional bureaucracy leaves the law-making power with the people’s representatives – right where the Founders put it.”

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the opposite way in a 5-4 decision in a case brought by landlords seeking to end the eviction moratorium.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that while he believed the CDC had exceeded its authority by implementing the moratorium, he voted against ending it because the policy was set to expire on July 31 anyway.

“Landlords have been losing over $13 billion every month under the moratorium, and the total effect of the CDC’s overreach may reach up to $200 billion if it remains in effect for a year,” the National Association of Realtors said in an emergency petition they filed with the Supreme Court.

The CDC has not said if it plans to appeal the ruling, but since the ban is slated to end this month, the Pacific Legal Foundation argues the ruling reduces the likelihood that the CDC would renew the moratorium or appeal the ruling. The Foundation has sued the CDC twice on behalf of landlords. In Skyworks v. CDC, a court ruled that the CDC lacked statutory authority to enact the eviction ban.

“From the moment the CDC banned evictions nationwide, Pacific Legal Foundation has maintained that the CDC was acting both unlawfully and unconstitutionally,” Steve Simpson, a senior PLF attorney litigating cases against the CDC, said in a statement. “The Sixth Circuit has now confirmed that we were correct. It’s gratifying to see courts take their constitutional role seriously even during a pandemic.”

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This article was published on July 23, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

And the Number #1 Housing Market in America Is …

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

The average population of the top 20 metros on the WSJ/Realtor.com Housing Market Index is just 300,000. That’s not the whole story, however.

For the first time in more than a decade, my wife and I are looking at moving. So it piqued my interest when I stumbled upon a Wall Street Journal article examining the hottest housing markets in the US.

For those unaware, the Journal regularly publishes the Emerging Housing Markets Index, a collaborative project with Realtor.com that ranks housing markets in the top 300 metros across the US on various factors, including real-estate demand, price trends, wages, small business activity, and employment opportunities.

This underscores one of the strengths of the US system: federalism.

It turns out that Billings, Montana, claims the top spot in America because of its beauty, strong appeal to remote workers, and affordability. For homeowners in Billings, the results have been favorable.

“The average single-family home-sale price in Billings and the surrounding area was $376,248 in June, up 32% from a year earlier, according to the Billings Association of Realtors,” the Journal notes.

Image

That’s not the whole story, however. It turns out that Billings is part of a much larger trend. According to the index, smaller metros are dominating larger ones in home buying activity. In fact, the average population of the top 20 cities on the index is just north of 300,000. Home prices in these markets rose 13.7 percent over the last year, on average, and include the likes of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Rapid City, South Dakota, and Huntsville, Alabama.

While no single factor explains the trend, evidence suggests that Americans are “voting with their feet” to embrace safer, freer communities. (Respondents who moved to Montana admitted safety was an important factor in their decision, following the most violent year in the US in decades, while others cited low taxes.)

Don’t be surprised if more Americans decide to exercise one of their great freedoms: the power of exit.

This underscores one of the strengths of the US system: federalism. In their wisdom, America’s founders realized that the best way to protect liberty was to disperse power by allowing the states to be largely self-governing. As “laboratories of democracy” (to use the phrase of Justice Louis Brandeis), states and local governments will naturally govern in different ways, and as long as citizens enjoy the freedom of movement they will tend to gravitate toward states and communities that are peaceful, prosperous, and suited to their needs.

With many major US cities (and states) struggling under massive debt, regulatory burdens, and dysfunctional governments that only got worse during the pandemic, don’t be surprised if more Americans decide to exercise one of their great freedoms: the power of exit.

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This article was published on July 21, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from FEE, Foundation for Economic Education.

A Prescott Mayor for All Seasons (and Reasons)

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The next Republican Prescott Mayor will be chosen in the August 3, 2021 primary. The two candidates are Phil Goode and the incumbent, Greg Mengarelli. Early voting began on July 7th.

When people ask me why Prescott is so special and what does it mean to me, I always respond that Prescott is traditional America with the values and the culture that Americans have always loved and sought.

Many of us are fed up with the political class in Washington, D.C. and throughout state and local governments that holds its citizens in low regard and favors itself rather than the citizens it supposedly represents. Such a culture appears to be raising its head locally in this election.

Let’s look at the two candidates seeking victory on August 3rd. Which of these two candidates can best represent American values and protect Prescott culture, its small town feel, and critically, its future, with governance of water policy and development that is competent, honest, transparent and without even the perception of self-interest?

The key question is who will best “serve” the citizens of Prescott as Mayor? A generic description of the individual who will best “serve” the citizens of Prescott is the candidate who has a history of service for fellow citizens and community organizations and proven leadership roles in the real world not conflated with personal gain and profit.

The individual elected must be focused on the critical issues of water policy and carefully planned growth in the Prescott area, not allowing commercial and developers’ profits to drive poorly planned and damaging expansion, especially when tangled with self-interest or gain. The next Mayor and those around him should be free of any and all conflicts of interest, legal, perceived or otherwise.

Phil Goode has served America, his communities and his pre-retirement career positions and responsibilities with honor and commitment. He is a decorated combat Vietnam veteran, continuing to serve veterans in many leadership roles to the present day. He has served and led in many community organizations throughout his adult life and has been an active member in multiple Republican state and national election cycles.

He is a true constitutional conservative understanding the essence and uniqueness of the American experiment and the critical role of honest and transparent governance. He has served on the Prescott Zoning and Planning Commission and has been on the Prescott City Council since 2017. He knows well the trend of poorly planned growth, congestion and very real threat to our most precious resource, water, and recognizes the inaccurate projections for its use and maintenance currently occurring and facilitating huge increases in residential and commercial development.

His many service roles in Yavapai County and Prescott demonstrate his commitment to this community and his intention to “serve” as Mayor, not work and gain from the role but to apply a lifetime of experience in the practical affairs of organizations and industry to further the vision of preserving the culture, protecting the area’s critical water supply and managing Prescott’s growth, the city’s fiscal integrity, its small businesses and the way of life we enjoy and treasure in Prescott.

Phil Goode demonstrates fully the generic description of the person most qualified to lead Prescott as Mayor. His entire life has been about service. He is retired from a successful career in health care management at high levels. He knows from experience and intellectual depth the skills of management and leadership. He serves the city and the county at many levels as a committed but volunteering citizen.

The current Mayor, Greg Mengarelli was first elected in 2017. He is not retired and has recently negotiated with the Rodeo Board a position with Prescott Frontier Days which leases the rodeo grounds from the city for the annual Rodeo event. Will a Mayor Greg Mengarelli negotiate business arrangements with Rodeo Business Development Manager Greg Mengarelli? Will the Mayor, as Rodeo Business Development Manager receive bonuses or incentive payments for new business and events brought to the rodeo grounds, the grounds of which are owned by the City of Prescott? The Rodeo Board President is Chris Graff who also heads up an asphalt company (involving some of the rapid growth of projects throughout the Prescott area) doing tens of millions of dollars of business with the City of Prescott, the city whose mayor is Greg Mengarelli. The mayor’s wife, coincidentally, is a realtor having done residential sales previously, but is now active in commercial sales in the Prescott area.

None of this is necessarily illegal but does it reek of conflicts of interest? Does it seem “swampish” to use a deep state, Washington, D.C. description of the deal-making and abuse of position and power by those in governance? It isn’t just impropriety that makes politicians less than servants for their fellow citizens and generates disdain and distrust by voters. Just as importantly, it is the perception of impropriety that we as citizens should reject when we vote, granting the “consent of the governed”.

America is at a crossroads as is Prescott. The future of our nation and the future of this very special City of Prescott are at a critical junction hinging on the quality of leadership at the national and local level. It is a season of decision, a season of choices and with critical reasons for the right choices. Phil Goode is the clear Mayoral choice for all the reasons listed above. Phil Goode is A Prescott Mayor for All Seasons (and Reasons).

Vote in the 2021 Mayoral primary for this and future seasons of Prescott’s special nature and for the right reasons.

Home Sellers Are Coming Out of the Woodwork: New Listings, Unsold Inventories & Supply Rise

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sales edge up, after sagging for months, amid Crazy Spiking Prices

Inventories of existing single-family houses, condos, and co-ops rose for the fourth month in a row. Sellers are coming out of the woodwork, and new listings have been rising for months, this being a perfect time to sell a home. Sales ticked up a tiny bit from the prior month, after months of sharp declines that worked off the entire Pandemic spike. And prices spiked to high heaven. That’s the housing market in June, according to data from the National Association of Realtors today.

Sales of existing homes of all types ticked up 1.4% in June from May, after the prior steep declines, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.86 million homes, below July 2020, the month when the pandemic spike in home sales began, having now mostly unwound the spike that started last summer (historic data via YCharts):

Sellers are now gradually coming out of the woodwork. There may have never been a more perfect time to sell a home: Prices have spiked amid clickbait stories in the media of crazy bidding wars where FOMO-driven buyers bid up no-matter-what, sight-unseen, inspections waived, and sellers can get away with anything. For buyers, this is a perfect time to make a terrible deal. But who cares. For sellers, it’s ideal. And sellers are starting to see it that way.

New listings rose by 11% in June, from May, when they normally, in the pre-pandemic years, declined from May, May being the seasonal peak of the year for new listings. But not this year: 446,600 new homes were listed for sale in June, up 11% from May, and the most since September 2019, according to the realtor.com residential listings database (the Junes are connected by a green line):

Total inventory of unsold homes on the market rose 3.3% in June from May to 1.25 million homes, the fourth month in a row of increases. Inventories are still very low, but are at the highest level since last November….

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Continue reading this article at Wolf Street.

 

Corporate Media Outlets Lost More Than Half Their Audiences In The Last Year

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

Corrupt corporate media outlets that revolved their coverage around the quest to take down former President Donald Trump saw a significant decrease in traffic after he left office.

According to recently released data, The Atlantic, ABC News, Time all saw a more than 50 percent decrease in audience since summer 2020. Forbes saw the largest drop with more than 60 percent declining viewership while Vox and Politico experienced more than 40 percent in audience reduction.

The New York Times, CNN, NBC News, CNBC, The Guardian, The Hill, Los Angeles Times, and Axios, some of the other publications that capitalized on anti-Trump rhetoric and fake news reporting saw traffic fall more than 20 and sometimes even thirty percent compared to traffic in 2020.

The same trends occurred in cable news. Not only did corporate media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC see large declines in audience viewership during the second quarter of the year, but Fox News, a notably right-leaning network, topped ratings for the quarter and the month of June.

“In total day, Fox News averaged 1.17 million in total viewers, down 35%; MSNBC posted 763,000, down 37% and CNN was at 580,000, down 49%. In the 25-54 demo, the numbers were 195,000 for Fox News, down 42%, 133,000 for CNN, falling 59% and 99,000 for MSNBC, dropping by 48%,” Deadline reported.

In 2017, Trump predicted the corporate media’s inability to capture viewers once he left office.

“Newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there, because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes,” he said.

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This article was published on July 19, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from The Federalist.

Big Batteries Could Be Bigger Bombs Than Beirut Fertilizer

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

It turns out storing Megawatts of high-density energy in a confined space is “like a bomb”. Who could have seen that coming, apart from everyone who understands what a megawatt is?

Clean, green, noisy, and explosive.

And they are “unregulated” in the UK.

GWPF

UK’s giant battery ‘farms’ spark fears of explosions that can reach temperatures of 660C
Amy Oliver- Mail on Sunday

…according to a troubling new report from leading physicists, these vast batteries amount to electrical bombs with the force of many hundreds of tons of TNT.

With the potential for huge explosions, fires, and clouds of toxic gas, they could devastate towns and villages nearby, says Wade Allison, emeritus professor of physics at Oxford University and co-author of the report.

The batteries, designed as reservoirs of spare electricity for when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun fails to shine, are spreading around the British countryside. And this, says Prof Allison and his fellow scientists, could spell catastrophe.

It’s like a potential bomb,’ he says. ‘When batteries catch fire, you can’t just squirt water on them and put out the flames. It’s evident from our research that nothing has been done to tackle this problem.’

Given the size of the proposed plants, Prof Allison says this could, in theory, lead to an explosion several times bigger than the one that destroyed the harbour in Beirut last year.

The threat of fire is not merely theoretical. South Korea saw 23 battery farm fires in just two years. A recent battery fire in Illinois burned for three days and thousands of residents were evacuated.

Such blazes release highly toxic gases. One – hydrogen fluoride – is lethal if inhaled, and causes irreversible health effects after an hour of exposure, according to Public Health England.

Meanwhile, 3 – 4,000 people were evacuated in Morris Illinois the week before last, as 100 tons of batteries burned. The fire burned for days. They could not use water or foam, and in the end, the burning batteries were smothered with 28 tons of cement.

These were run-of-the-mill cell phone and car batteries.

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This article was published on July 16, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from CFACT, Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.

Chaos And Calamity For College Republicans

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

A close and contested election may spell the end for the influential party auxiliary.

This past Saturday, the College Republicans National Committee held their biannual convention to elect their national leadership. To say the elections descended into chaos would be an understatement; what happened was closer to a calamity for the organization.

The election was between two factions: a reform ticket led by Arizona’s Judah Waxelbaum and an establishment ticket led by Virginia’s Courtney Britt. The two sides had exchanged heated accusations for months leading up to the election, many of them the routine party politics observers should expect during any election. But the stakes were dramatically escalated when the incumbent national chairman, Chandler Thornton, stripped several state federations supporting the reform ticket of their delegations to the national convention to support his preferred successor, Britt.

The brazen attempt to rig the election was shocking to members of the College Republicans and even drew the attention of influential elected officials. House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, Senator John Boozman, and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, elected officials in states that the CRNC stripped delegates from, released statements supporting the disenfranchised students. Several other state Republican parties also weighed in on behalf of their collegiate counterparts.

Despite the enormous outcry from elected officials and the party grassroots, the CRNC Convention moved forward. The day’s business mainly consisted of heated debate and party-line votes. Courtney Britt delegates systematically voted to strip Waxelbaum-supporting state federations of their delegations to the convention. The plan worked: Courtney Britt was narrowly elected the next chairwoman of the College Republicans.

Or so she thought, as it has become clear her victory was pyrrhic. In the aftermath of the election, outraged state federations across the country began to consider disaffiliation from the CRNC, which would leave Courtney Britt the humiliated chairwoman who broke a 139-year-old party auxiliary. This includes large state federations such as Florida and Pennsylvania, which were stripped of delegates. The Texas and New York College Republicans have already called meetings to formalize their exits. Asked for comment, Texas College Republicans Chairman Brandon Kiser confidently stated, “our vote to exit the CRNC will be unanimous.”

It is not clear how a chairwoman who scorned influential elected Republicans, disenfranchised her members, and set off an organizational secession crisis will be able to rebuild the College Republicans National Committee. After the disaffiliations, it can hardly accurately be referred to as a “National Committee.” The organization is now on life support, and the work to rebuild will fall to the tens of thousands of College Republican grassroots activists on campus. While the CRNC concerns itself with power politics and fiasco, campus conservatives can at least take solace in the honesty and decency of their fellow grassroots activists, upon whom the burden to fight the left without party resources will now fall.

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This article was published on July 19, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from The American Conservative