Saturday, October 3, 2009

SAR #9275/Weekender

If we are to save the planet, we need a new economic model.

Enumeration: Losing 263,000 jobs in September and driving the unemployment rate up to 9.8% is just the beginning. The BLS admits they have been underestimating the number of business failures and now admit that since the recession started the US has lost over 8 million jobs. The unemployment rate – corrected – is actually 10.4% and rising. Some say employment data doesn't matter because it is a backward-looking piece of information, not predictive. I say it pretty clearly shows that the cure hasn't taken and maybe we should switch doctors.

Candidates: Twenty-six banking firms are reporting more than 20% of their loans are at least 90 days delinquent. Three of them say that nearly half their loans are not being paid. FDIC to the rescue, as soon as someone rescues the FDIC.

Playing Doctor: There are nine 'thresholds' which, when crossed, will seriously disrupt the environment and ecology of the last 10,000 years, the period when civilization arose. They range from the familiar CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to the unfamiliar but serious decrease in ozone concentrations. There are the aerosols and particulates building up in the atmosphere, enormous chemical pollution of the environment, excess phosphorus (from over-fertilization) trending towards an anoxic ocean. And we're removing too much nitrogen from the atmosphere, driving too many species to extinction. If we do not mend our ways, the “most probable result will be a rather sudden decline in both population and industrial capacity.”

Observed: “The debasement of the reserve currency of the world is not healthy for global economic balance.” But it sure is one way to finance US debts.

Timing: Researchers have shown that mother's milk contains different components at different times of the day. They recommen that expressed breast milk be fed to the baby at the same time of day the milk was expressed. I suppose a time-date stamp on a grocery receipt wouldn't be the same.

Down In The Valley: The EPA has suspended action on 79 applications to tear the tops off mountains and dump them on the little people in the valleys because of the enormous environmental damage it causes.

Premature Burial? For a supposedly broke bunch of new-born savers, the US consumer's personal consumption relative to personal income has reached new record highs. If the recovery is an illusion, an about-face should show up soon.

Porn O'Graphs: Participants, partly participating.

Phoenix: Could the health care circus anger enough of the population to cause a significant political realignment leading to a 3 or 4 four party system, with the the Progressives splitting off from the cowardly Democrats, and the rational Republicans divorcing the Others? Nah, make too much sense, be too much fun.

Porn O'Graph: The expanding leisure class.


Anonymous said...

Re: Porn O'Graph

I *averaged* 52 hrs of work each week for the past several years. I am getting old enough that it's beginning to wear me down.

I would be more than happy to share that workload (and the time I lose with my family) with someone. Anyone.

But our company is just the "right" size, and so there will be no hiring. Thus, there is no end in sight to work weeks that are 30% longer than most people's.

If we get national health care, I will start my own business and then *I* can be the one to decide how much to pimp out my aging body for a buck.

Anonymous said...

We are broke, yet the progressives seem intent on doubling down rather than attempting to reign in our exploding deficits. I know that this is a cold-hearted position, but our Republic is teetering on the edge of an abyss while we argue over another entitlement program!

It's the economy, stupid. Why aren't we holding trials for the blood sucking banksters, starting with Paulson? Because the political class is bought and paid for, that's why.

From a September 3rd Financial Times article:

How many financiers do you think ended up in jail after America's Savings and Loans scandals? The answer can be found in a fascinating, old report from the US Department of Justice.

According to some of its records, between 1990 and 1995 no less than 1,852 S&L officials were prosecuted, and 1,072 placed behind bars. Another 2,558 bankers were also jailed, often for offenses which were S&L-linked too.

Those are thought-provoking numbers. These days the Western world is reeling from another massive financial crisis, that eclipses the S&L debacle in terms of wealth destruction.

Yet, thus far, very few prison terms have been handed out.

From a September 7th Federal Times article:

The U.S. Postal Service, struggling with a massive deficit caused by plummeting mail volume, spends more than a million dollars each week to pay thousands of employees to sit in empty rooms and do nothing.

It’s a practice called “standby time,” and it has existed for years — but postal employees say it was rarely used until this year. Now, postal officials say, the agency is averaging about 45,000 hours of standby time every week — the equivalent of having 1,125 full-time employees sitting idle, at a cost of more than $50 million per year.

Mail volume is down 12.6 percent compared with last year, and many postal supervisors simply don’t have enough work to keep all employees busy. But a thicket of union rules prevents managers from laying off excess employees; a recent agreement with the unions, in fact, temporarily prevents the Postal Service from even reassigning them to other facilities that could use them...

“It’s just a small, empty room...

It’s awful,” said one mail processing clerk who has spent four weeks on standby time this summer. “Most of us bring books, word puzzles. Sometimes we just sleep.”

Employees interviewed said they hate the practice, which relegates them to hours of boredom each day. Postal managers don’t like it, either — but they say declining mail volume makes it necessary...

Employees are often forbidden from doing almost anything while on standby time. In some facilities, the employees aren’t allowed to do anything they couldn’t normally do on the job. That means no books, no playing cards, no watching television.

And yet the progressives want to increase government control of our economy. How about having the courage to clean up our financial sector and fixing the waste, fraud and abuse in our existing entitlement programs.

Or is that only a priority when Republicans are in power?

Can you say hypocrites?

Anonymous said...

What is your proof for the post office employers? You realize, of course, that the "post office worker" you describe also describes the military in times of peace. I had a relative who entered the military during peace time and got caught up in a drug sting. His fault, but you understand he had too much time on his hands courtesy of the military.

False analogy: post office workers are not a matter of life and death. If health care is not reformed, all that will happen is that insurance CEOs and insurance industry lobbyists will become even richer and more entrenched. To me, insurance companies could vanish from the face of the earth and medicine would continue. That's my view of capitalism. In an operating room, who do I want with me, the surgeon or the insurance CEO?

Anonymous said...

The point is that, unlike the military, the post office is supposed to be run like a business, and if not for the fact that it's run by the government, it would be bankrupt.

CKMichaelson said...

Anony 805 / 154.
I believe if you check out the USPS's actual charter you will find that it is not "run by the government". It gets no tax money, and has not for years and years. It is a privately run enterprise with a government charter... The sort of thing the Republican's wanted to do with all government services under the privatization rubric.

Anonymous said...

CKM, I'm disappointed that you're playing fast and loose with the facts.

First, the Post Office doesn't have to pay state or local taxes. For but one example, does anyone think they it would be able to occupy a block of prime Manhattan land if they had to pay property taxes on it?

Second, it gets to borrow billions from the government at reduced rates ($10.2 billion, by the end of this year, according to the GAO: see And here's the kicker: if the post office isn't able to pay it back, the government guarantees it.

Last year, the FTC found that the Post Office received implicit subsidies of $39 to $117 million -- and that's not counting the monopoly, its biggest benefit (see

The FTC report also found that government restrictions cost the Post Office an extra $417 and $986 million per year.