What positive steps can we take? The energy that is now expended by well intentioned, freedom-seeking individuals on the destructive course of politics can be turned into powerful steps that will have a positive effect on the future. All are moral, right and just. None require aggressing. Consider the following...
The Affordable Care Act creates a new health insurance marketplace (the exchange). But because of the great uncertainty about what buyers will enter the market and who will buy what product, the law creates three vehicles to reduce insurance company risk.
Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
The Largest Company in History:“The United States Corporation of Government (USCOG)”I follow global social and commercial networks, looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.Innovation surges when industry and government models change. Buggy whips. Landline phones. Railroads. The Soviet Union. Apartheid South Africa. All marked social and commercial innovation, both bad and good.We are witnessing a new form of […]
We’d like to give the banks in Australia some credit. They’ve finally gone and done it. They have caught up with 1960s technology. They’ve figured out how to use PIN numbers.How to only use PIN numbers, that is. They’re considering scrapping signatures on credit cards to cut down on fraud. Apparently, having to verify your […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Dr. William C. Padgett is a retired optometrist who has been trying to bring an elderly care facility to Beaufort County, North Carolina, for over a decade.“Our senior citizens,” he laments, “are finding that it is difficult and in many cases impossible to find an appropriate long-term care facility locally.” Though he has received several […]
If you don’t have the angst out of your system concerning Wall Street banksters, Government Sachs, and the Affordable Care Act, settle in with Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia to make your blood boil one more time.Investors should be reminded of 2008 as they shrug their shoulders and put their money back in the stock market. The […]
What do 8 of the 10 wealthiest people in the U.S. have in common?Aside from being able to fly in private jets, the common thread is that each of them has made their fortune thanks to a start-up.Let me explain…From tech titans like Bill Gates and Larry Ellison (founders of Microsoft and Oracle, respectively), to […]
“Inequality is the defining challenge of our time,” according to President Obama. It’s certainly the topic of the day for Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and a whole raft of liberal pundits.But have you noticed that hardly anyone else is talking about it? When is the last time you heard a shoeshine person or a taxi […]
In December of last year, I left my career to travel the world for one year.My plan was to visit as many countries as possible on my Star Alliance Around-the-World ticket in the first nine months, then, for the remaining three months, return back to the country that most caught my eye and my curiosity.Nine […]
Economic history is primed to repeat in the nastiest of ways unless the government stops distorting the price of something we use every day.Every product, good, or service has a price, which is essential to rational decision-making. We use prices every day as vital data that guide us. Without true prices, prices not distorted by […]
A new survey from Harvard University found a large majority of young Americans do not believe the law will save them money, do not believe it will improve their health, and do not intend to sign up for insurance through the new exchanges.
Uh-oh!The new pope, Francis from the Pampas, has just warned us to beware the “tyranny” of capitalism.Each man worships his own gods. Some worship at the altar of Jesus of Nazareth. Some at the altar of the Almighty Dollar. The capitalists don’t bad-mouth Francis’ god. You’d think he would cut them the same slack.Bad-mouthing Catholicism […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
You remember when Hostess declared bankruptcy last November? There were outcries that the iconic snack pastry would be gone forever. Speculators began to stockpile the tasty treats.
As Zero Hedge documented, eBay featured the following items:
- For a price of $89.95, three boxes of SEALED Box of Hostess Chocodiles 3×10 Chocolate Twinkies
- For a price of $99.99, four boxes of SEALED Box of Hostess Chocodiles 4×10 Chocolate Twinkies
- For a starting bid of $500, one Box of Twinkies; Unopened
- For a starting bid of $10, and a price of $595, a box of 10, opened and half-eaten
- For a starting bid of $5,000, a single Twinkie
- And finally, for a starting bid of $10,000 … a box of Twinkies (“one of the last boxes that will be available, its seller helpfully notes, before the Zombie Apocalypse”)
Even now, there’s a rotting Twinkie for sale on eBay. Supposedly, Twinkies will remain edible for decades, even outliving their cellophane wrappers (or so goes the mythology).
The belief was that unyielding union workers could make the Twinkie vanish. But that’s not how real capitalism works. However, we understand the confusion. In this bailout economy, whenever an enterprise is on the rocks, the workers cry out to their political friends that the employer must be saved or the jobs and products will be lost for good.
The government and media preached that not only would General Motors and Chrysler perish if the taxpayer didn’t step in, but all of the suppliers would be gone as well. Millions would lose their good, high-paying jobs. The Center for Automotive Research, a Michigan think tank, estimates that the bailout saved 1.5 million U.S. jobs by keeping GM and Chrysler, and the companies that depended on them, in business.
Uncle Sam shoveled $80 billion to the automakers, some of which has been paid back through a GM IPO. The taxpayers still own a slug of Government Motors and will be made whole only if or when the shares reach $51 (currently trading at $28). Chrysler still owes $1.3 billion.
And remember, this rescue happened in 2009. Time flies when you’re bailing out.
The automakers are now making a profit, but the U.S. Treasury’s latest figures estimate the Detroit bailout will ultimately cost taxpayers $25.1 billion. This number has been revised upward more than once, so don’t carve it in stone. Let’s just say at least $25.1 billion.
So $25 billion divided by 1.5 million jobs comes to nearly $16,700 per job.
Meanwhile, Hostess Brands couldn’t reach an agreement in November with the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union and began liquidation. According to the company’s website, “The wind down was necessitated by an inflated cost structure that put the company at a profound competitive disadvantage. The biggest component of the company’s costs was its collective bargaining agreements that covered 15,000 of 18,500 employees.”
The Obama administration must be more partial to cars than pastries. Administration officials were nowhere to be found as the company circled the drain. The shutdown of Hostess meant the closure of 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes, and 570 bakery outlet stores, as well as the loss of 18,500 jobs.
The company was founded in 1930 and built some iconic brands such as Hostess, Wonder Bread, Nature’s Pride, Dolly Madison, Butternut Breads, and Drake’s brands.
General Motors was founded in 1908 and owns iconic brands such as Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC.
Chrysler was founded in 1925 and owns brands such as Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Fiat, Mopar, and SRT.
Here we are less than three months after Hostess filed for liquidation and the bids are flooding in for the assets of the company. Its hoping to sell the brands, factories, and other assets for $1 billion.
Flowers Foods Inc. bid $390 million for the bread brands. United States Bakery Inc. agreed to pay $28.85 million for the Sweetheart, Eddy’s, Standish Farms and Grandma Emilie’s bread brands, four bakeries, 14 depots and some equipment. “We believe the assets and brands will allow us to provide fresh-baked Franz Bakery products to a wider and diverse geographical base,” Bob Albers, United States Bakery’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Two bids came in Monday for cakes and bread that brought the total offered to more than $440 million. These aren’t final bids, but are what’s known as “stalking horse” bids.
Stalking horse bidders are selected by the company to make the initial bid in a bankruptcy auction. This allows the distressed company to avoid low bids on its assets. Once the initial bid is put in place, competing bids can commence.
Hostess then selected C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. and their financial partner Apollo Global Management to provide the initial bid for its cake brands that include Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos. As I write, Forbes is reporting that Metropoulos and Apollo will bid $400 million for the treats. This would set a tasty floor for the bidding, and if they were outbid, they would earn a breakup fee.
The point to all this is that the beloved Twinkie will be back on the shelves before you know it. Plus, many of the jobs required to make them will be reinstated. Yes, there may be fewer of them and they may be lower paying, but hungry consumers will be served.
Taxpayer cost per job saved: nothing!
Writing for Policymic.com a couple months ago, Lenny DeFranco wrote, “Let’s recognize that a company like Hostess is supposed to go out of business. Liquidation is a proper burial when you sell products no one wants and are unable to change.”
DeFranco said the whole idea that union wage demands and management incompetence took down the company was nonsense. “I think Twinkies lost their appeal when the possibility of having to survive a nuclear hellscape passed, or when people realized that subsisting on them in such a scenario would lead to a more agonizing death than leukemia,” he sniffed.
Well, Mr. DeFranco, the market is speaking, and the score looks to be Twinkie 840 million, DeFranco 0.
The same liquidation proceeding would have sorted out the brands, jobs, and assets of the automakers four years ago if Washington would have kept its nose out of it. No doubt some company would have bought Jeep, Cadillac, and the rest with production never missing a beat. Instead, taxpayers are $25 billion poorer, not to mention the odious CAFE standards Washington forced into the deal.
It turns out the Twinkie has an official shelf life of 25 days — not exactly immortal, but a long time for a baked good. But a fresh new supply is likely just months away.
Long live the Twinkie, thanks to bankruptcy
The lesson for economics, investors, and everyone is that bankruptcy can be a new beginning, a rebirth, the most bullish sign there is. It is not an end, but a light that shows the way to a wonderful future. Bankrupt but unsubsidized business can be a great place to place your bets on future growth. Now, if only all the bailed-out zombie institutions that are weighing on U.S. growth could be so lucky.