Sunday, December 13, 2015

Fully 65 percent of U.S. universities unable to successfully teach their students math, economics, government, science and literature

by: Daniel Barker
University education
(NaturalNews) The 2015–16 edition of What Will They Learn? – a review of 1,100 colleges and universities – has just been published by the The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). The study shows that most institutions of higher learning are allowing students to graduate without a basic grasp of many key subjects.
From an ACTA press release:
What Will They Learn? finds that the majority of college-educated students graduate without exposure to fundamental courses like American history, basic economics or literature. At many institutions, it is possible for students to graduate with little more knowledge of these basic courses than a high school student, often after paying $200,000 or more for their degree.”
The various institutions were given “report cards” on their performance in terms of providing students with adequate knowledge of seven fundamental subjects considered essential for a classic liberal arts degree: “literature, composition, economics, math, intermediate-level foreign language, science and American government/history.”
Out of the 1,100 colleges and universities involved, only 24 (two percent) were given an “A” grade for requiring six of the seven essential subjects.
Only three percent of both private and public institutions require Economics. Of public institutions, only 27 percent require US History/Government courses and only 10 percent of private institutions require the same.
A mere 13 percent require intermediate-level fluency in a foreign language.
In a letter published on the What Will They Learn? website, former Harvard Dean Harry Lewis wrote:
“At its best, general education is about the unity of knowledge, not about distributed knowledge. Not about spreading courses around, but about making connections between different ideas. Not about the freedom to combine random ingredients, but about joining an ancient lineage of the learned and wise. And it has a goal, too: producing an enlightened, self-reliant citizenry, pluralistic and diverse but united by democratic values.”

Education is now a ‘game’

Lewis decries the trend of colleges and universities reducing “general education” to what he terms a “game.”
“Students have to work their way through a vast menu of general education requirements,” he wrote, “and do their best to find courses that fit the various categories as well as their schedules.”
The result is that many students graduate with major gaps in the type of knowledge required to give them a sense of “democratic principles” and “nationhood.”
When the majority of institutions make government and history courses optional, the nation suffers.
Lewis notes:
“Many studies have shown that our college graduates are ignorant of the basic principles on which our government runs. For starters, most cannot identify the purpose of the First Amendment, what Reconstruction was, or the historical context of the Voting Rights Act. …
“This is especially dangerous in America, where nothing holds us together except our democratic principles. If universities don’t pass them down, our children will not inherit our nationhood genetically.”
The classic concept of a university education has been tossed in favor of a mixed bag of course requirements that often have little relation to one another. In the past, a liberal arts degree was designed to instill a balanced worldview – to provide students with a grasp of the essentials along with the knowledge required to master their specific fields of study.
The modern educational approach has seemingly lost its rudder. We are no longer turning out graduates who have a well-rounded education and who are ready to lead the next generation of Americans.
Rather, we are creating career-oriented specialists who haven’t a clue about our nation’s past, don’t speak foreign languages, have no knowledge of economic theory and very little about literature.
The word “university” comes from the Latin “universitas,” meaning whole or total. We seem to have forgotten the roots of the term, somehow. …


Gas Prices Excelling SUV and Pickup Sales

00029The recent drop in gas prices across the nation has helped SUV and pickup sales take a jump.
Sales of both jumped 10% this year, according to sales tracker Autodata. That’s nearly twice the increase in overall vehicle sales. Meanwhile, sales of some fuel efficient cars have plunged, even as the industry is on pace for record sales this year. Sales of Toyota (TM)’s Prius, the hybrid that pioneered that market, are down 12% this year, while sales of the Chevrolet Volt, one of the first mass market plug-in electric cars, are down 23%.

Read more at CNN money

Zuckerberg Shredded for Multi-Billion Dollar Donation Idea

00030Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has drawn some negative attention after his decision to donate to charities.
Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, pledged to donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares over the course of their lives to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Those shares are currently worth some $45 billion. The couple said they set up the initiative with the mission to “advance human potential and promote equality in areas such as health, education, scientific research, and energy,” according to its Facebook page.
But after Zuckerberg got a windfall of positive publicity, critics started to question his motives and where the money will go.

eBay Now Giving Mothers Paid Time Off

00031eBay will now give new moms a six month paid maternity leave.
The company announced Friday that new moms will be able to take 24 weeks of leave at full pay following the birth of their child — an increase from 10 weeks at 80% pay. New dads, who previously weren’t offered any paid leave, will be offered 12 weeks at full pay. eBay (EBAY) also announced a new Family Care Leave policy that allows workers to take 12 weeks off to care for a sick family member at full pay.
Paid parental leave is not mandated in the U.S., and according to the Labor Department, 12% of private sectors workers get paid family leave.

Sears’ and Kmart Sales Take Dip

Retail giants Sears’ and Kmart’s income hits a wall during third quarter.
For the period ended Oct. 31, the owner of Sears and Kmart stores lost $454 million, or $4.26 per share. That compares with a loss of $548 million, or $5.15 per share, a year ago. Stripping out certain items, Sears Holdings Corp. lost $2.86 per share.
The retailers reduced expenses and remained focused on its reward program customers. Its sales continued to soften though. Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert, a billionaire hedge fund investor, combined Sears and Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring the latter out of bankruptcy.

CBO says ObamaCare to reduce workforce by 2 million full-time jobs

by DCG
We’ve been Gruberized….
A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report says ObamaCare will reduce work hours equivalent to 2 million jobs in the next decade amid a host of incentives not to work or to work less. Fox News reports that the CBO report estimates the Affordable Care Act will make the labor supply shrink by 0.86 percent in 2025. This amounts to a shrinkage equivalent to approximately 2 million full-time workers.
CBO estimates that the decline will come primarily due to workers responding to changes made by the law to federal programs and tax policy. This includes the introduction of health care subsidies tied to income as a key factor, which raises effective tax rates as someone’s earnings rise, therefore reducing the amount of work Americans choose to do.
Because math is tough for proggies, here’s how the report describes what will happen: “Subsidies decline as income increases, reducing the return on earning additional income. That decline is effectively an increase in recipients’ effective marginal tax rate, so it generally reduces their work incentives through the substitution effect.”
It gets better! Because the subsidies also reduce the burdens attached to unemployment, the CBO predicts that the law will create additional “work disincentives” for those who are unemployed for part of the year. It concludes that those exchange subsidies will contribute to half of the overall reduction of the labor supply.
It gets better! The ACA’s hike of the payroll tax on high earners for Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Program could be a reason for discouraging some from working.
It gets better! Another pressure on wages will come from the employer mandate, which imposes a penalty on employers if they have more than 50 employees and do not provide insurance. The CBO predicts that within a few years this charge will be passed on to employees in the form of lower wages.
Nancy Pelosi will be proud of this achievement, no doubt: In what will be seen as a positive by ObamaCare’s supporters, the CBO predicts that a contributing factor to the shrinkage in the labor force will be the consequence of insurance subsidies that will make it easier for some people to stop working, or work less, without losing health insurance. “Some people would choose to work fewer hours; others would leave the labor force entirely or remain unemployed for longer than they otherwise would,” the report says.
O laughs


Euro zone central banks printed billions of euros before QE

Euro zone central banks have quietly bought hundreds of billions of euros worth of assets over the past decade using an obscure facility that allows them to print some money for purposes other than monetary policy, an academic study has revealed.
While the European Central Bank’s €1.5 trillion quantitative easing programme is well known, the existence of this separate scheme to buy bonds and other assets was first publicised this week by researcher Daniel Hoffmann.
His study - part of his PhD thesis and now published with a foreword by Hans Werner-Sinn, one of the ECB’s harshest critics in the German public debate-- has intensified criticism in Germany of the euro zone central bank’s lack of transparency.
Total assets held by national central banks (NCBs) beyond their normal monetary policy operations swelled to €623 billion late last year from €214 billion in 2005, according to Mr Hoffman, who aggregated data from NCBs’ balance sheets.
The study raises questions about NCBs’ use of this scheme -- which is meant for non-monetary purposes, such as the management of central banks’ pension funds - especially during the 2008-12 financial crisis, when rising government bond yields pushed several countries to seek financial assistance.

Significant pick-up

The purchases picked up significantly in the crisis years, especially those by the Central Bank of Ireland, and the central banks of France, Italy and Greece.
“I see no problem in being more transparent on this matter,” ECB executive board member Peter Praet said in a Handelsblatt interview published on Thursday. “But the decision has to be taken by the Governing Council.”
The ECB said on its website on Thursday that no “uncontrolled money creation” can take place using the facility, known as Agreement on Net Financial Assets (ANFA), because there is a cap on how much each NCB can buy to prevent it from interfering with monetary policy.
But these limits are not published, and while NCBs have to inform the ECB of what they buy, not all of them make such details public.
The research found that assets classified as “other securities” in the balance sheet of national central banks, which are those purchased with self-created money, jumped from €122.6 billion in 2005 to €374.9 billion in 2014.
They now stand at €358.2 billion, according to the consolidated financial statement of the Eurosystem.
“This increase in volume ... almost entirely escaped the public eye,” Mr Hoffmann said in the study.
A Eurosystem source said total assets held by euro zone central banks for non-monetary purposes stood at €575 billion euros at the end of 2014. That compares with a monthly spend of €60 billion 4 under the ECB’s asset-purchase programme, launched in March and now scheduled to run for 25 months, implying an overall size of €1.5 trillion.

Questions raised

Mr Hoffman’s figures raise questions about whether the NCBs’ purchases might have contributed to financing heavily indebted euro zone governments or struggling institutions.
The ECB’s governing council can, with a two-thirds majority, veto any action by an NCB that it finds would interfere with Eurosystem’s tasks and ECB president Mario Draghi dismissed any concern about foul play.
“I would exclude completely any possibility of monetary financing,” he said last week. “They (the NCBs) are not buying from the primary market, and their investment policies are pretty broad-based.”


This Is How America Has Changed Since The Last Fed Rate Hike

On June 29, 2006, the Fed did something it would not do again for (at least) nine and a half years: it hiked rates by 25 basis points, its 17th consecutive rate hike. Everyone knows what happened after.
On December 16, 2015, the Fed is expected to do something it hasn't done for 3,457 days: hike rates by 25 bps, ending the longest period in US history (84 months) of zero interest rates.
How has the world changed in the interim? Some quick observations from BofA:
  • Back then US housing starts were booming (2¼ million per annum), a stock market bubble was taking place in Saudi Arabia, another one was forming in China, no one had heard of “Quantitative Easing” and there was no such thing as the iPhone.
  • Today, US housing starts are moribund (around 1 million per annum), the Saudi’s have just been downgraded (a devaluation of the Saudi riyal is one of BofAML’s noted “black swan” events in 2016), Chinese debt deflation has reduced China’s “growth” opportunity set to babies, tourists & capital outflows, central banks have purchased a remarkable $12,400,000,000,000 of financial assets since Bear Stearns, and the iPhone now powers retail sales.
And here is the biggest difference: back then total debt/GDP was 61%, with total debt just over $8 trillion. Now, it is 104%, with the total US debt just shy of $19 trillion.

Good luck Fed.

Turkey Is Tanking - Lira Plunges Most In 6 Months; Stocks, Bonds Hammered

While one could take their pick of bloodbathery today, Turkey seemed like an appropriate place to focus as its bond yields are exploding higher, currency collapsing, and stocks plunging to the lowest since March 2014. How long before Erdogan decrees all of this impossible and fires another 'dependent' central banker?
The Lira is plunging at its fastest in 6 months...

Stocks are getting hammered...

And Turkish bond yields are spiking across the entire complex...

Given Russian sanctions, it would appear Bilal is going to have to transport a lot more ISIS oil (allegedly) to keep the economic dream alive in Turkey.

Charts: Bloomberg

Junk Bond Prices Tumble To 2009 Levels

With the biggest single-day drop in over 4 years, US High-Yield bond prices have collapsed to their lowest levels since July 2009. Crucially, it's not just energy companies as the painful illqiuidty has careened across the entire space, not helped by fund liquidations and the biggest outflows since August 2014.

As we warned here, and confirmed here, something has blown-up in high-yield...

With the biggest discount to NAV since 2011...

The carnage is across the entire credit complex... with yields on 'triple hooks' back to 2009 levels...

As fund outflows explode..

And here's why equity investors simply can't ignore it anymore...

It is getting harder to ignore that this isn’t just about crude oil prices and the death of “transitory.”