Following a less-than-spectacular holiday shopping season, two 20th century mainstays of America’s retailing culture appear to be a step closer to historical nostalgia. As reported by the Associated Press, the parent company of Sears and K-Mart announced that it is planning to close at least 100 stores, “a move that sparked speculation about whether the 125-year-old retailer can avoid a death spiral fed by declining sales and deteriorating stores.” AP reported that Sears Holdings Corp., “a pillar of American retailing that famously began with a mail-order catalog in the 1880s, declared Tuesday that it would no longer prop up ‘marginally performing’” Sears and K-Mart locations.
According to economist Mark J. Perry a consumer doing some Christmas shopping in December 1964 with a budget of $750 could have purchased a single Sears Silvertone Entertainment Center color television set.
Zachary Karabell, writing at The Daily Beast on Thursday, claimed that the latest numbers on the US’s economy were showing some modest improvement. After reviewing comments from the Federal Reserve in their final statement of the year (the economy is “expanding moderately”), the Institute for Supply Management (index above 50 for several months, indicating growth), the Gross Domestic Product numbers (growing at about 2 percent on an annual basis), unemployment (dropping slightly), and consumer sentiment (up a little), Karabell concluded “The real dirty little secret of the American economy is that we are doing OK.”
Conservative economist Robert Higgs' (pictured at left) warnings about the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Dependence on Government were already outdated when they were published on Thursday. The updated statistics from Heritage for 2011, published the next day, showed the situation in the United States to be even worse than Higgs warned.
When Kyle Bass defended his decision on BBC Radio Hard Talk on November 17th to purchase 20 million nickels, he was just putting Gresham’s Law into operation. Bass, the founder and principal of the hedge fund Hayman Advisors, did the math and discovered that he could purchase 6.8 cents worth of copper in each nickel for just 5 cents. Nickels are 75 percent copper while pennies (minted between 1909 and 1982) are 95 percent copper and the recent spike in copper’s price simply made it too good a deal for Bass to pass up.
House Republicans, accelerating efforts to combat the frenetic influx of federal regulations that continue to flood the U.S. economy, passed the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) Friday, which would require all federal agencies to audit proposed rules more thoroughly before they are enacted, and make sure procedures for rulemaking follow proper steps. Federal courts would be more involved in the process, and regulators would be forced to examine potential costs and benefits of alternatives.
As the economic crisis in the European Union grows day by day, there is a proportionate degree of speculation around the world about the final extent of the damage that will be done by the looming collapse of the euro. According to Daniel Mitchell, a contributor to Forbes.com, many individuals among the wealthy elite in Europe are already planning to flee their respective countries for safe havens in nations such as Costa Rica or Australia. Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office is making plans to evacuate Britons from the Continent in the event of widespread rioting.
On the lookout for perceived injustices in the marketplace, Cornell University professor Robert Frank decided that Black Friday needed his attention and wrote in the New York Times about just what was needed: more taxes to discourage unreasonable behavior.
The Wall Street Journal virtually called the Obama administration’s efforts to create “green” jobs a joke, decrying the President’s efforts to jump-start the economy with them as mere “conjuring” and suggesting instead that he drop his “ideological illusions” and face reality.