Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SAR #9132

Americans want cheap fuel, no matter what it costs.

One Third: A study in Science estimates that in the next nine months as many as one in three exposed to the swine flu virus will become infected. According to WHO, of the 5,251 known cases, 61 (1%) have died.

Translation: Obama's budget works out like this: Joe Sixpack is going to pay $19,000 in taxes and the government is going to pretend it was $35,000 and borrow the difference.

Hula Hoops: California is $20 billion in the hole so far this fiscal year. In April income from corporate taxes was down 35%, that from personal income tax was down 12%, and the state's sales-tax receipts were down 20%. Trends start in California, work east.

Same, Only Different: Here's a "Quantitative Easing for Idiots" article, with a good chart & all. It's about the Bank of England. To make it about the dollar and the Fed, draw the tail on the chart twice as high and add two or three zeros to the numbers.

Lies, Damned Lies, & Citigroup: Citi says it has lent out $99.5% of its $45 billion TARP money - which would be impressive if it was true. The TARP money was capital. On a very bad day Citi's fractional ratio is well north of 10:1, which means Citi has another $400 billion to go.

Asked & Answered: 'Should People Just Ignore Economists?' Yes.

Spring Shower: Couple of things: US housing busts typically last 42 months. We are 26 months into this one. Eurozone banks have only taken 20% of the losses they will eventually have to swallow, the US has gulped down about half of its medicine. In Germany, Europe's strongest pillar, banks have $1.1 trillion in toxic assets on the books. Book your trip now and you can be in Europe for the crisis this summer, then return to the US for the fall follow-up.

Reform: Back in the 90's the US didn't reform health care. The GOP hasn't reformed either, they've hired the Swifboaters to scare the health out of US again.

Potato Potahto: In 1Q reports, earnings beat expectations 66% of the time, even though 62% of the reporting companies had missed expectations for sales. They did it by cutting staff, cutting wages, cutting inventories, cutting futures.

Restraint: Krugman gave a talk in Bejing full of neat-o nuggets about the inadequacy of the Obama stimulus, but I quote him too often already...

Can Not: Received wisdom is that capitalist competition results in better products, lower prices and greater consumer choice. Yes, sometimes, but only as an accidental byproduct of the capitalist goal of market domination.

Analogy 101: From now on, every time the economy starts to get wound up, so will the oil supply and thus the price of oil. The more you wind the economy, the tighter the oil gets and the harder (more costly) it will be to continue winding.

Casting About: Some analysts argue that the problem with Option ARMs is not the recast payment amount. But think for a moment, the recast does a couple of things: it adds in all of the missed payments and missed interest during the 'option' period, it raises the interest rate a bit, and it then requires payments that will amortize the new amount in 25 years. It will generally be a 100% or more increase in the monthly payment. If that's not a shock, you've got bigger absorbers than I do.

Quiz: What do you call that 7 of 10 who are uninsured or underinsured, or have medical bills, medical debts, or problems accessing medical care? (a) Americans, (b) Women, (c) American women, or (d) Democratic voters.

Drip, Drip, Drip... More torture memos, pictures, announcements, and waffling are on the way; but it must be okay, Obama's folks are doing it too.

Fertilizer: Wall Street applauds companies for their aggressive cost-cutting, layoffs and deferring capital expenditures in the name of this quarter's profits. But these are not 'green shoots' - they are dry rot, the basis for a prolonged and deeper recession. They are the start of a self-fullfilling plan. Acts that increase unemployment and decrease the wages of the employed are harmful in the long run. Ah, but Wall Street never cared for the long run, as long as they could run away with the cash.

Another Chapter: Ethanol maker White Energy has filed for bankruptcy, citing the high cost of raw materials and the low price for the product in an oversupplied market.

Right's Rights: When those on the right start berating the government for limiting their legal right to be sociopathically greedy, they lose sight of the underlying premise - at least in the US - behind the formation of a government. It is 'of the people, by the people and for the people' and any rights that a firm or class of investor has flows from and can be limited by the government. The government, at the moment, permits capitalism. Permits.

Porn O'Graph: 25 years of instant gratification.


Steve said...

"Right's Rights: The government, at the moment, permits capitalism. Permits."

De facto perhaps, but not de jure, or at least it shouldn't be.

The only thing the GOP is good for is reminding the country of the importance of the mindset that 'government only exists at the margins, to the smallest extent possible given the situation'

(The rest is admittedly naively theoretical, even assuming an effective democracy: the real world does not operate like this - which you note every day.)

To say that the Government 'permits' capitalism is to say that government 'permits' human and political rights. I don't agree with either.

A basic difference among various political philosophies is whether you think that rights (political, human, property) flow top down or bottom up.

That is: (a) do rights exist because the government grants them (carving out frameworks within its omnipresence), or (b) do rights exist in the absence of any government, and the government is tasked only with enforcing those frameworks?

Mere semantics, and chicken-egg problems. But it helps me rebut your point: I believe that because capitalism is 'less' than socialism which is 'less' than pure communism, that capitalism is a more default state of affairs among naked apes - laissez-faire and all. Thus government doesn't 'allow' capitalism per se, but rather that capitalism IS, and government only has been given the power (so far) to regulate that pre-existing social/economic framework.

Sure, you need government to grant basic property rights to ensure anything more than anarchy, but it just goes to show that from a natural state of anarchy and maximum entropy, government only exists to the level required to enforce the economic system that people have agreed on, and no more. The government has no power to decide; it is itself a product of the decision. If government's role increases and regulates to point that the U.S. turns into a pure socialist economy, then it's because the PEOPLE have decided to become socialist, and asked that the government enforce that new structure. Not that GOVERNMENT turned the economy socialist against the will of the people.

Well, someone's always going to feel aggrieved, I guess.

CKMichaelson said...

Steve - I mostly agree with you, but the source of rights is far too long a debate to have in blog comments. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the People generally get the government they deserve (and even sometimes think they want).

Besides, sometimes you just have to poke at the balloon.