The following clip encapsulates the chaos that is starting to unfold in the West as a consequence of the United States and Europe trying to crush the Russian economy. I am inclined to see the United States as Oliver Hardy and Europe as Stan Laurel, except in this case it is Europe chiding the United States with the Laurel and Hardy tagline, "Another fine mess you've gotten us into." But I welcome your views on which comedian best embodies the foilbles of the United States and Europe.
The worm is definitely turning in terms of Western solidarity in backing Ukraine. The Politico just published a story with this telling headline, Europe accuses US of profiting from war:
Nine months after invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is beginning to fracture the West.
Top European officials are furious with Joe Biden's administration and now accuse the Americans of making a fortune from the war, while EU countries suffer.
"The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons," one senior official told POLITICO.
Amazing. The Politico authors blame Putin for what the United States and Europe did to themselves. I can hear Europe's lament, "It is another fine mess you've gotten us into America."
I am amused by the European official's complaint that the United States is profiting at Europe's expense. When I was working at the CIA as an analyst, we had a phrase for this kind of Captain Obvious moment - we called it "No Shit Analysis", NSA for short. The coming days and weeks will see the recriminations and resentment towards the United States grow and spread throughout Europe. This will make it more difficult for Europe to support the war in Ukraine at the very time that Ukraine's needs for foreign aid and military support will increase.
While Europe correctly perceives that some sectors of the U.S. economy are raking in profits at the expense of Europe, the economy of the United States is showing clear signs of a retracting economy on multiple fronts.
Sundance, at the Conservative Tree House, has an excellent piece on the anemic start to the Christmas shopping season in the United States - The Consumer Economy Has Completely Collapsed - "It's a Ghost Town" for Holiday Shopping Everywhere. In years past, eager consumers would queue up in the early morning on Black Friday (i.e., the day after Thanksgiving) outside stores like Best Buy. Here's what it looked like in 2020 notwithstanding Covid lockdowns:
Now, two years later, we have this:
Sundance quotes a Reuters piece that succinctly buttresses the video:
Reuters -... About 166 million people were planning to shop from Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday through this coming "Cyber Monday," according to the National Retail Federation, almost 8 million more than last year. But with sporadic rain in some parts of the country, stores were less busy than usual on Black Friday.
"Usually at this time of the year you struggle to find parking. This year, I haven't had an issue getting a parking spot," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser of the NPD Group Inc.
"It's a lot of social shopping, everybody is only looking to get what they need. There is no sense of urgency," Cohen added, based on his store checks in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.
At the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, there were no lines outside stores. A Toys 'R' Us employee was handing out flyers with a list of the Black Friday "door buster" promotions. ( read more)
It is not just Christmas shopping that is suffering. Purchases of Recreational Vehicles (i.e., "campervans" and "motorhomes" in Europe) is faltering as well. This piece, RV Boom Over? Monthly Shipments Plunge As Dealerships Overflow With Campers, provides some concerning details:
There are dozens of recreational vehicle dealerships lining highways up and down the US East Coast. As of the Thanksgiving holiday week, driving down Interstate 95 and 85 from the Mid-Atlantic region into the Deep South, RV dealerships are overflowing with inventory, a massive change from the empty parking lots when RVs were in high demand during the pandemic.
RV Industry Association's October 2022 survey of manufacturers shows total RV shipments ended the month with 32,652 units, a massive decline of 43.7% compared to the 57,971 units shipped in October 2021. Through October, RV shipments are down 12.2% compared with the same period last year, with 448,246 wholesale shipments.
Remember the dire prediction in early November that the United States was running out of diesel? Well, looks like that warning was wrong. Good news, right? Nope. Read this - The Diesel Crunch Is Finally Causing Demand Destruction
Earlier this autumn, U.S. distillate stocks slumped to their lowest level for this time of the year since 1951, just as the heating season started and a few months ahead of the EU embargo on Russian oil product imports, which goes into effect in February.
Now signs have emerged that weaker demand in the past weeks may have slowly started to rebuild diesel inventories, contrary to seasonal trends. Distillate inventories in the U.S. rose by 3 million barrels in the six weeks to November 18, according to estimates by Reuters' senior market analyst John Kemp based on EIA data.
In products supplied - a proxy of implied demand - distillate fuel product supplied averaged 4.0 million bpd over the past four weeks, down by 3.5% from the same period last year, the EIA data showed.
When you are building inventory because demands has dropped, you should realize that the economy is troubled and moving in the wrong direction.
What better way to start the holiday season than to lose your job. This news out of Mississippi is not an isolated event.
A former United Furniture Industries employee claims the furniture manufacturer, headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi, violated federal law by failing to give 60 days' notice of its abrupt shutdown to nearly 2,700 employees and truck drivers, who found themselves without jobs two days before Thanksgiving.
Former UFI employees, operating under the Lane Furniture brand name, were blindsided early Tuesday morning after receiving either an email or text message instructing them not to report to work that day because their jobs were being immediately terminated "due to unforeseen business circumstances."...
In late July, the furniture manufacturer closed its plants in Winston-Salem and High Point, North Carolina, resulting in more than 270 workers losing their jobs, according to WARN Act notices filed at the time with the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Another 220 jobs were eliminated in late July at the company's plant in Amory, Mississippi. "The new leadership had been working extremely hard to put new processes in place," the former employee told FreightWaves. "There was too much effort being put in for anyone to really know they would close overnight."
When people are buying new homes they usually spring for some new furniture as well. That demand appears to have dried up and United Furniture Industries is retrenching. Maybe they will shift these jobs overseas, but it does not appear that the current demand is sufficient to justify expanded production.
At the start of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union, despite suffering early losses, dramatically ramped up production of weapons, aircraft, ships, tanks and ammunition needed to fight the Nazis and Japan. Today, as the war in Ukraine grinds on, the West is busy begging for military supplies from any country with a stored surplus and dusting off out dated weapons systems and sending them off to Ukraine. No sense of emergency and no significant ramping up of production. In contrast to the agility of U.S. manufacturing during World War II (e.g., the United States built one air craft carrier a month), timelines for U.S. defense contractors who are being tasked to produce replacement weapons and ammunition is counted in months and, sometimes, years. I suppose this is Putin's fault as well.