Thursday, March 26, 2009

SAR #9085

We have elevated scientific ignorance to an art form.

Ken Deffeyes

Nutshell: The biggest problem with the all of the official attempts at "solving" the economic collapse is the idea that perpetual growth is not only desirable, but that it is possible.

The Point: The Geithner-Summers plan is to transfer of nearly a trillion US taxpayer dollars to commercial banks, by buying toxic assets from the banks at far above their market value. It is in fact the original Paulson/Goldman Sachs plan. Taxpayers are the losers, banks the beneficiaries.

Sales are up, Up, UP! Before you get too excited, yes new home sales in February were "up" 15,000 units - annually. That's less than one more new house a day in each state. Back in '05 the annual rate was 1,400,000 - that makes February's numbers a 75% decline from the peak, so keep your shirt on.

Expanded Powers: Here's the appropriate response to the idea that even more power over the economy should be given to the executive branch: "Are you fucking kidding me! Have we not learned?" Amen.

The Very Best Part: Under Geithner's plan, even toxic assets held by hedge funds will be eligible for taxpayer funded rescue at wildly inflated prices. This ought to calm the electorate.

Faint Praise: February's Durable Goods report was (a) better than expected but (b) the second largest decline (-23%) in history.

401k's and Other Forms of Suicide: Buy-and-hold investing is seriously wounded, on life support. The "long term investor" now realizes that he or she is simply a mark to be conned by Wall Street. Told to "wait", "there wasn't really anything to worry about", they've seen their statements they understand that there is, in fact, nothing left to worry about.

My Questions, Precisely: Why does the treasury secretary have to bribe investors to take risks? And, will there be troops in the streets this summer? American streets?

Crocodile Tears: Reports suggest compensation for US hedge-fund employees may drop 25% this year - about $198,500. This will leave them making about 7.5 times that of the average union auto worker, while producing nothing and griping about the lousy bonuses.

Bunch of Numbers: Russia is currently the number 2 oil producer. But output this year is projected to fall 1.1% (by the Russian government), or up to 7% (Dow Jones experts) or as much as 15% (Moscow's Alfa Bank). So the world needs at least 1.5 million new barrels a day just to break even. The world's not going to get them.

Column A, Column B: Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, "The U.S. economy will certainly begin to grow by the end of this year." Harvard economist Martin Feldstein thinks the US will need another fiscal stimulus at least as large as the first one, as the recession lasts well into 2010.

Job Interview: Representative Ellen Tauscher says that the threat posed by Iran's missiles has been greatly exaggerated. So have her chances of being confirmed as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control.

Trees, Forest: Will Tiny Tim's Plan work? Maybe. Here's the real dilemma: Giving more tax money to the banks is unacceptable to an enraged public, while government ownership of recapitalized banks is unacceptable to bankers.

Rotten Socialists! With unemployment soaring to 2.7%, the Dutch government is pouring an $8 billion stimulus package into the economy to releive the suffering

Don't Tell the Realtors: While all the talking heads are proclaiming the end to the housing crash, California reports house prices dropped 41% last month from a year earlier. The US median price fell 16% for the same period.

Civics Lesson: Wall Streeters are upset that Congress is responding to the voter's anger. “We have no rule of law in this country. "We don’t know what Congress will do next. They’re ignoring all the old rules, and they’re making new rules whenever they want.” Worse, they're doing so without asking Wall Street to help with the wording.

Lack of Interest: The 30-year mortgage rate is down to 4.6%. The response is an increase in re-financing, which does nothing to lower the overhang of empty houses out there. House prices are still way above what the average worker can afford. Maybe some attention should be paid to the underpaid.

Porn O'Graph: Mighty, fallen; or fallen mightily.


Anonymous said...

RE: Don't Tell the Realtors

Speaking of realtors. The government could turn a lot of underwater mortgages or distress sales positive just by mandating that all realtors can only charge 2%. Right now they are adding 6% onto already overpriced houses.

Would be a good clawback provision to get back their ill-gotten gains of the past 4 years.


TulsaTime said...

Saw a nice little item on BBC news yesterday. The CEO of RBS had his house attacked in Scottland, with an email from an org called '',supporting the attack. The best part was at the end of the email where they said 'this is only the begining....'

Needless to say, NOT on the US news. The banker and family were not at home, so no injuries.

Bustednuckles said...

Ya have a wicked sense of Snark and I have to hold on to that like a life line when reading the never ending bad news.

Good on ya, a sense of humor is a precious thing.

fajensen said...

Lack of Interest: The 30-year mortgage rate is down to 4.6%. The response is an increase in re-financing,

That is indeed the rational response: Gather all the household debt into the mortgage is the same as shorting the long mortgage bonds - the value of which will be wiped out for certain during the next 5-10 years of "stimulate everything".

The margin for the short gives you roof over your head too ;-)

The only crimp in the plan is that the idiot taking the other side of the bet by buying 30 years, 4% bonds will be your own pension plan; but we were not really expecting much from there anyway so what the heck.