Category Archives: The World

The Price of Gas, Europe and the US

I hear a lot of people say we should not complain about the price of gas in the US because in Europe they pay twice as much for gas. I find this argument to be a bit misleading and used to create a false argument for why Americans should pay even more for gas.

Yes the price at the pump is higher in Europe, but the cost of gas itself is not. There are two issues involved, the price of gas and the tax on gas. In the US we have 11% federal, in Europe (France, Germany, Netherlands) you are looking at about 60% for gas taxes. So if the base rate on a gallon of gas is $3.35, the price at the pump in the US is going to be $3.72. In Europe you are looking at about $5.36 for the same gas. The difference is in the taxes.

There is not a price for Europe and price for the US, we all buy our oil on the same global market, so no, Europeans are not actually paying more for gas, they are paying more in taxes. Huge difference in how you look at the fundamentals. Of course there are other factors like local taxes, regulations on emissions, transportation costs, etc…

One thing people don’t realize is the fuel efficiency in Europe is much higher thanks to the lower emission standards on diesel. Yes, that’s right; the Europeans have less stringent standards than the US. Lets take the Honda Fit, which is a diesel version in Europe, it is far more fuel efficient than it’s gas driven American cousin. Same car, a just different engine. So yes, the European is paying more per gallon of gas, but is driving further on that same gallon. If it was not for the higher standards on emissions in the US, the American driver could probably also be driving just as far and being as fuel efficient.

So when people claim Europeans are paying more for gas, remember, they are paying the same, they are just paying more for the taxes on gas and that is what makes the difference in price, not the gas itself.

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Filed under Business, Consumerism, Economics, Energy, Europe, Gas, Life, The World, US

IMF says $100 Oil is OK

The IMF once again shows how out of touch with everyday people they really are.  $100 oil is not ok for the global economy; we saw it at $80 and even $60.  If you go to some developing nations, you will find many cars that run on non oil based fuels.  Why?  They can’t afford to buy oil.  And this is before oil hit $100, this was back when oil was at $80.  So already a large portion of the world is priced out of the market.  The US consumer can’t last another 5 years of such prices.  When gas eats up $70 a week that adds up!  That means less goes into the real economy the true engine that drives the global economy.

 

Too many analysts have forgotten what really makes the world go around.  Oil doesn’t, oil is a piece of it, but when oil prices are out of alignment as it is now, the real engine starts to shut down.  Consumers can’t consume because they don’t have money.  And things that rely on oil get priced higher and higher.  And unlike the developing nations, for some reason, the will to create real viable alternatives just doesn’t seem to be present in the US or Western Europe.  Why?  I really don’t know, how can small island nations transition to biofuel and natural gas to power cars and we can’t with all our technology, already have real working solutions on the road being used by everyday people; just like those developing nations have now?  It’s shocking and shameful we as the technology leaders do not have working solutions and better engines on the road.  We have the technology, I guess we just lack the will.

 

The IMF is just way out touch on this one, it’s going to spell trouble if they and Wall Street don’t put down the sparkling water and realize it is Main Street USA, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Kenya, Japan, etc… that is the driver of this world.  It’s time we move away from oil, there are plenty of ideas out there to do this; we should be putting our money into those ideas.  From a practical point of view, it only makes sense; the current system makes less and less sense everyday.

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Filed under Alternative Fuel, Business, Consumerism, Energy, Europe, Globalization, Government, International Trade, Renewable, The World

China Selling you Counterfeit Computers

It wasn’t enough to poison our kids and our pets, now Chinese companies want to sell you counterfeit parts for your computer too.  The US and EU are actually cracking down on this one, which is telling in itself, cracking down on computer parts but not food, but that’s another blog post. 

 

As a fair trade capitalist, I think it is about time we slap some real penalties on China, they obviously do not want to play by the rules so do like you do in anything, penalize those that break the rules.  In hockey if you do unsportsmanlike conduct, you get thrown out, do the same to China, throw them out of the WTO until they learn that safety and brand promises are important aspects to a business and it is not for them to make money at all costs, some costs are not worth it, like a consumers health and safety.

 

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Filed under Business, China, Consumer Activism, Consumerism, Globalization, International Trade, The World, Trade

A Weak Dollar is just Dumb

We currently are experiencing a very weak dollar, for many this is news, but really a weak dollar isn’t news, it’s been around for 30 years and the reasoning behind a weak dollar are as out dated as writing on clay tablets.  A strong dollar is what is needed, as strong a dollar as is possible and here’s why.

 

Back in the 70’s, when we actually had a manufacturing base in the US, people realized that a strong dollar made it hard for people in developing nations or what was called the third world back then, found it hard to buy US goods because their currency was so weak.  So instead of trying to improve the quality of life and value of the currency for these other people, the then new idea of globalization and free trade, came around and said “lets have a weak dollar so our stuff is cheap overseas.”  People went along with that idea, probably not realizing what a bad idea it was.

 

So since the mid 70’s the dollar has been weakened intentionally.  So when I hear conspiracy theories about the intentional weakening of the dollar by Bush, I kind of shake my head.  Yeah he is weakening it, but not like he is the only one who was doing it, so was Clinton and all the others before since 1975.  Now this doesn’t excuse anyone from knowing the facts on the issue.  The idea back then was to make our products competitive, back when manufacturing was king of the economy.  Fast forward to the present, manufacturing is not king, the consumer is.

 

So all those manufacturers who wanted to sell cheap stuff to people in the developing world, decided to go produce their goods there, leaving we the consumers as the king of the US economy.  Now the logic of that is another debate, which I am not discussing here so please refrain from debating this point.  70% of the economy is driven by consumer spending, about 10-15% by manufacturing, so we have a weak dollar to help 10% at the expense of 70%.  A strong dollar means everything is cheaper, gas, food, cheap junk from China at Wal Mart, etc…  A weak dollar means all those things cost more.  You spend more money to buy the same donut that was 63 cents last year, now is 67 cents, same donut, it doesn’t taste any better!  So as you spend more on the same thing you can’t spend enough on all the things you want and the consumer engine slows down and so does the economy.

 

It is unfortunate that the free traders fail to realize that their policies are failing.  First off, if they were so concerned about people in other countries being able to buy their products, they should have focused on quality of life, not price.  So the theory was flawed from the start.  Second, why are we the consumers paying the price for all this?  If you want to have a strong dollar and as a consumer, you do!  Fight to impose taxes on companies that outsource and are just branding companies trying to sell you junk that is probably tainted with lead anyway.  But first you need to ensure we vote in people who understand a weak dollar is just dumb and will fight to have the strongest dollar possible.  When the corporations complain about it, who cares, they are 10% and they will leave and have left us to produce overseas.  In fact it should be a law that a company can not lobby unless 70% of its manufacturing is based in the US.  That would solve a lot.

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Filed under Business, Consumer Activism, Consumerism, Globalization, International Trade, Politics, The World

A Year Without WalMart

I’ve been reading this wonderful blog here on WordPress called That’s Swell by a fellow blogger and her experience with giving up WalMart.  I particularly liked part II of the series as it talks about Sam Walton and how he was a real believer in Buy American and how after his death, the company took a dramatic change. 

 

Remember back then, we had NAFTA to worry about.  We had some companies already producing in China but it was so small, nobody really noticed.  The reflections on how times have changed in the last 15 years is amazing.  And something as small as stock prices of a discount retailer from Arkansas having that much impact on globalization and daily life for, millions if not billions around the world.  Cheap tainted goods for Americans and pollution and tainted goods for Chinese.  Was the stock price of Wal Mart worth it? 

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Filed under Business, China, Consumer Activism, Consumerism, Globalization, International Trade, Life, The World, Trade

Recall Conspiracy?

I have been hearing a lot of talk now that there must be a conspiracy going on against China goods, why all the recalls?  Well it is quite simple and easy to explain without the need to rely on conspiracy theories of any kind.  This isn’t anything new, we have known about it for a while, the problem with China goods.  Just look at the FDA’s own records, the fish problems have been going on for years. Nobody paid attention to it, until some pets got sick and people started looking around at other products.  This is natural.

 

Never underestimate the anger of pet owners whose beloved family member got sick from bad pet food.  China was the problem and the source.  It actually took some time for this to get rolling, very little in March or April.  Some news in May and then an explosion this summer in the form of massive recalls.  If you look at the way most trends, products or information gets spread, this follows a natural pattern.  A few early adopters notice, the trend setters catch on and then the masses. 

 

So we had a few people who caught on, then the trend setters and finally everyone is looking around every corner wondering if their product from China is safe.  Add to that, the products in question are for kids, that gets people’s attention!  When you mess with someone’s kids, you are asking for more trouble and people are now questioning anything from China, where as before they just believed the brand promise without question.  The alarm is sounded, this is going to get wider.  Which is a good thing because if it had gone unchecked, imagine if people became ill or worse from these products on a wide scale.  Remember the spinach scare last year?  I know a lot of people who do not eat spinach anymore.  The ball is rolling so this is here to stay, and with the Christmas season coming, you can be assured more testing is going to bring up more recalls.

 

I don’t have any sympathy for the producers or China; they failed in their brand promise to deliver us quality goods, which does imply a safe good.  They will have to work hard to earn the trust of consumers.  Which is a good thing, consumers should question their manufacturers about the products they sell.  That’s how consumers stay informed and keep producers focused on quality.

 

Why some people want to claim the recalls are a conspiracy are because they don’t fully understand how people as a group react to alarming information.  I’ve been watching this since the first story on pet food hit the media and this is not a conspiracy, it’s not even a fad, it moves too slow.  We haven’t even hit the peak yet.  The great thing is, companies are taking advantage of this and new channels for businesses are cropping up.  In fact I just read how a local supermarket is going locally grown for produce as a result of concerns about where produce come from and they are doing great.  This is great, consumer demands are being met.  It goes to show that when given a chance, consumers will pick quality over cheap goods. 

 If anything the above example probably shows if there is a conspiracy, it was on the part of big multinationals who claimed we were getting inexpensive goods by moving production to China.  Not really, just their profit margins got better, the prices didn’t get that much lower. 

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Filed under Branding, Business, China, Consumer Activism, Consumerism, Customer Satisfaction, Food, Globalization, International Trade, Recalls, The World, Trade

Chocolate, Flip Flops and Toys

Well a busy day for recalls, also a rather gross day. 

Now I never think of China when I think of chocolates but then that’s just me.  But for some unlucky shoppers in South Korea, they found a little something extra in their chocolates and it wasn’t a caramel center.  It was worms.

  

This is just breaking so it is hard to say where the worms entered into the chocolates, but it is still raising questions and the manufacture’s less than up front stand, only raised more questions.

  

A woman bought some flip flops from Wal Mart, only to experience what she says is basically a chemical rash burn on her feet.  According to some news sources, Wal Mart is finally pulling these off the shelves.  You can view the woman’s site, but I’ll warn you, it’s kind of gross at times.  

And finally, paint sets and crayons are being recalled, again, made in China.  I’ve lost count of how many children’s items have been recalled but the fact that it is in the millions already, is shocking enough.  And the fact most of the Christmas toys are already on their way, means we can probably expect a lot more.    

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Filed under Branding, Business, China, Consumer Activism, Consumerism, Customer Satisfaction, Food, Globalization, Health, International Trade, Marketing, Recalls, The World, Trade