Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SAR #9041

You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts

Stinker Shock: We're about to spend about $1 trillion and not even get a lousy T-shirt. The tax cut half will be ineffective ( & has been for years), alternative energy gets a tiny bit, and there is some funding to help the casualties - states, the unemployed, schools, but mostly it's poorly thought out pork. The $35 billion to be wasted playing "let's move!" should go into building walkable cities, not refinancing suburban sprawl. No leadership on the real problems: energy, global warming, sustainable economy.

Single Prayer: 59% of Americans want a single-payer health system, 49% feel it should cover all medical costs. Washington insiders - reading from insurance company lobbyists notes - say it can't happen. It could if those very same people weren't blocking the door.

Prophits: Exxon and Chevron are each keeping up their $20-plus billion annual spending on development projects. The suspicion is they think there's money to be made in the future, and not at a lowly $40 a barrel.

You Are There: Finally we commoners get to learn what Our Betters were told last September that got this whole panic started: US money markets lost $550 billion in an hour, the Treasury threw $105 billion at it to no effect, then closed the money accounts, and announced a $250,000 guarantee per account to stem the panic. Had they not acted, their estimate was that $5.5 trillion would have departed the US that day, leading to a complete collapse of the US markets, economy, and probably government. No wonder Paulson's knees were shaking.

Modernization: The rate of birth defects in China's coal-mining district has shot up 40% since 2001. Officials blame emissions from Shanxi's large coal and chemical industry for the problems there. Imagine.

Wait Watchers: The American economy is on a diet, the American consumer is cutting back on fattening SUVs and McMansions. Everything's shrinking: wages, portfolios, GDP, credit card payments, employment and, most seriously, expectations.

The Quote: "The major US money center banks will be nationalized. The only questions are when and how."

End of the Line: For the usual prize, explain what will be the next (and final) bubble - Treasuries or the US Dollar.

Friday the 13th. Part44: Another sequel, this time the dreaded Kleptocrats slither into costumes and pretend to be the New Team. Summers, Gates (and 150 underlings), Emanuel, Geithner, Judd Gregg, and on and on - a roll call of old politics and Wall Street mavens.

Red Nose, Big Feet: Starbucks, where 90% of the drinks cost under $4, is looking for a friendly mascot to push their new value meals and kids koffee kits. Elsewhere, McDonald's same-store sales are up 7.1% . Ronald's not looking for a new gig.

Repeat After Me: If cutting taxes worked to build the economy, we should not be in this mess. Republicans have been cutting taxes forever. Our not learning from their mistakes is their trademark.

Unintended Benefit: States that use debit cards to disburse unemployment benefits are not only helping the unemployed (but not as much as they thought), they are also enriching the issuing banks, which charge $1.50 for each withdrawal, 40 cents to check the balance, even a buck a month if the card isn't used frequently enough to run up the other fees.

Re-Write: Given the ongoing specter of acrimony and divisiveness in Washington, some feel is time to do away with the filibuster. Others point out that the filibuster is the only barrier preventing a democratic dictatorship in the US. Or a Democratic one.

The Lazarus Project: The 'new" bank bailout plan is the old plan, only bigger. The poorest managers of the shakiest banks get priority access to taxpayer pockets. The government makes a hollow threat to take over these banks in seven years, maybe, with cosmetic caps on salaries to fool the public. Government will pay way too much for assets that will soon be worthless.

There Will Be a Short Pause: Among the many problems with fuel cell salvation is this: the most promising type depends on platinum, they cost $10,000 and - zinger - there's not enough platinum. Write your Congressman.

Porn O'Graph: Why our debts will never be repaid.


Anonymous said...

"Repeat After Me: "

It's not cutting taxes that's bad. It's the NOT CUTTING SPENDING, EVER, EVER ,EVER!

eyedunno said...

Hi - generally I love your stuff! But today you posted one that is downright fishy. The bit about the congressman claiming $550bn pulled in an hour.

This makes no sense whatsoever. It must be a case of someone mixing up "millions" and "billions," being totally clueless and confused, or being senile.

Look at it: who or what could possibly have $550 billion parked in US money market accounts in the first place?

Microsoft's notoriously-gargantuan cash hoard is only $44 billion. That's 8% of the number allegedly pulled. Microsoft has the largest cash pile of any company in the world, so it couldn't have been a corporation (not even those evil oil companies...)

Saudi Arabia's total GDP is only $391 billion - - 40% short of the alleged withdraw. SA is rich, but they ain't $550-billion-gathering-dust-in-a-checking-account rich.

So who does that leave? Nobody, that's who.

This sounds like yet another case of a under-informed, over-exhausted legislator improvising a bunch of b^ll sh!t in front of the cameras.

People: retain your critical thinking skills! Validate basic data against known reality! Don't fall for garbage, 'k? :)

CKMichaelson said...

eyedunno - There's a lot of discussion on the net about this (Motley Fool, TPM, Seeking Alpha, Financial Armageddon and others). Some have good commentary explaining the actual mechanics (it was a flight to safety) and nature of the funds involved (corporate etc. not money market funds like I usual think of them). It apparently did happen - at least to some scale - but it was not a flight from the dollar but to the dollar and then Certain Parties used the occasion to advance their own ends... Imagine that.

Gannet said...

Porn O'Graph, if the debts can never be repaid then either you are bankrupt or you are in a position of debt slavery. If the debts are your own, then you can file for bankruptcy. If the debts are the governments for which you, as a taxpayer will be ultimately liable, then what?

CKMichaelson said...

Gannet - I believe the second answer is the same as the first: Debt slavery, except the repayment will be in terms of higher taxes, fewer services and higher inflation. It's the company store, either way.

Gannet said...

Uh, uh, I get it. We are all doomed. Armageddon Online says we have only got five years before we freeze, astronomers have flagged an asteroid due in 2171, but worse, the 2012 London Olympics occur at the same time as a planetary lineup. Now you cheer us all up.

CKMichaelson said...

Gannet - I'm not in charge, I'm just pointing out the sights along the way. If we can't find amusement in the current sideshow we're in for a long solemnity followed by disappointment. I think it a great joke we've played on ourselves; 'it' being "free markets", globalization, economics, bipartisanship, McEverything, the cheap energy economy, unlimited expansion on a limited planet &tc.
Gotta go work on my terrarium now.

Anonymous said...


much enjoy your blog. couple of comments.

#1, re $550B withdrawal from money markets. This IS the right order of magnitude. There are (or at least were, at that time) trillions in money market funds of all stripes held by individuals, corporations, pensions, governments, you name it. As to the severity of the withdrawal, it's eminently plausible. Recall that, last September, the markets for all of SIV paper, commercial paper, auction rate securities, short term municipal paper (TANs, RANs, BANs, VRDNs) and bank CDs were all broken. These are the securities held by money market funds. The light bulb went on in peoples' heads that these investments were worth less than face value, hence the rush to the exits.

#2, taxes: funny how spending never, ever, goes down whether revenues do or not. i'm not wild about tax cuts now...as our deficit grows like a mutant fungus... but neither do i see how we dig ourselves out of a rathole caused by too much spending and borrowing by more spending and borrowing.

cheers and thanks for the thought provoking entertainment.

CKMichaelson said...

anony - I'm a believer in the $550B story & would like to know who or what the responsible party or parties was/were.
Taxes - I'm so damned old I actually think we have to pay our debts; if not today, someday. I know that's not a fashionable idea & that spending is needed right now - okay, too. But let us have spending that builds something for the future, not Dem pork nor GOP pork, but actual infrastructure and energy improvements & not more roads, more cars and more more.
I certainly do not think we should borrow and lend our way to another bubble and pretend we are cured. The system is broken. It does not need repair, it needs replacement.