Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Financial Sarcasm Roundup for 12/25/12

The capital markets are closed for Christmas but Alfidi Capital never sleeps.  The holidays are a perfect time to get sarcastic.

The stealth nationalization of health care payments will really get going in 2013 with new tax increases.  I fully expect employer-sponsored health insurance plans to be taxed as the equivalent of income.  I admit the principle of taxing a benefit makes sense; after all, if cash compensation from employment were higher then workers could pay for health insurance out of pocket.  Employees really don't know the difference because this tax break encourages companies to enroll their workers in plans.  The health insurance sector will love this tax but most small businesses will hate it.  I also expect small businesses to accelerate the transformation of full-time positions into part-time jobs to avoid providing health care and paying this tax.  The insurance sector has begun its sea change toward a system with the federal government as single payer.  You will be forced to pay a premium for routine access to an overstressed system because the government isn't the least bit interested in controlling costs.

Unionized labor is about to deliver a very unwelcome post-holiday gift to the economy.  Stupid ILA dockworkers are about to launch a Maine-to-Texas strike that will curtail or shut down shipping at every East Coast and Gulf port for weeks.  Even dumber, the ILWU is threatening to strike at Northwest grain ports.  Midwestern farmers ought to be up in arms about the prospect of their grain being shut out of Asian markets.  The National Retail Federation isn't taking the ILA threat lying down; they urge the Administration to force workers to stay on the job under Taft-Hartley.  Fat chance.  This Administration is a big friend of organized labor and is not at all inclined to use the law as it was intended.  I expect a strike, and a big hit to the stock prices of carriers transporting containerized cargo.

It's hard to ignore the scary headlines about no fiscal deal forthcoming in Washington.  Hitting the fiscal cliff would be good for America so we can all get the shock of living within our means and living with reduced benefits from our government.  Politicians don't want that to happen but don't want to explain anything to folks back home.  The real deal will still get done in a couple of days, just like the last debt-ceiling emergency, and everything will be fine until the bond market boycotts a U.S. Treasury auction.

I hope you're all enjoying this year's winter solstice. That's what Christmas used to be before Emperor Constantine foisted monotheism upon the Roman Empire and politically appointed clergy began appropriating pagan holidays.  I celebrate today with the original intent in mind, devoid of late-Roman innovations.