There is a clear distinction between reading and understanding.
Competition: In the good old days, December 2007, there were but 1.7 unemployed workers for every available job. Now there are 6.3. According to the revised BLS data, the US has lost over 8 million jobs so far. Thus, including the addition of 125,000 new workers to the labor pool every month, the US must create a half-million jobs a month each month for the next two years, just to break even. Instead, we're still adding a half-million a month to the unemployment rolls.
Optimism: Americans still believe their houses are going to appreciate 11% a year. Soon. This depends on there being an awfully large supply of bigger fools out there.
Threats: Insurers say that the health care legislation would drive up costs by making the insurance industry actually insure sick people, and thus they would have to raise rates. They also complain that taxing their windfall profits would make them raise their rates to make up the loss. And if the government doesn't compel 25 million healthy young folks to take out far more insurance than they need, why, they'll have to raise rates even more. Get the drift?
Tour Guide: Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF, says that Wall Street has staged a silent coup d'etat and has taken over Washington on all fiscal and financial matters. They managed to block any meaningful reform and the moment has been lost. Johnson expects that the past has only been a preview of an even larger financial disaster in store for the US in the near future.
Easy Does It: Dow has developed solar thin-film shingles that can be installed just like regular shingles – by illegal immigrants with hammers – and then wired into the house system by an electrician. Sounds pretty good. Local building codes will probably permit their use within 10 years.
The Cauldron: Observers keep wondering where the next bubble will come from, never looking over their shoulders at the stock market. The 60% zoom of the Dow has been fed by the Fed's expansion of the monetary base, as the money intended to flow into the real economy has poured into speculative position in equities. The clue should be in the careful distinction made between what goes on on Wall Street, and “the real economy.”
Revisionist Russian: Official Russian figures show that Russia's GDP has shrunk 10.2% so far this year, but President Medvedev says it will end the year only 7.5% down. Maybe he expects a sudden rise in the price of oil.
Believe It or Don't: These United States are experiencing 'unbelievable' shortfalls in tax revenues, taking in far less than even their whittled down budgets had predicted. It's pretty easy to peer forward and predict cuts in garbage collection, less fuel for police cars, fewer teachers, and more convicts out on early release because the state can't afford to feed them. AIG will still be paying bonuses.
Family Feud: Many regional Fed presidents fear rapid inflation and want to start tightening monetary policy now. Other members of the Fed argue that the fear should be of deflation. Bernanke says there's nothing to fear. I suspect the rest of us should stock up on fear.
They're Back: Out of sight was out of mind for chemicals banned in the 1970's, but they're back. This time they are being released into the environment by melting glaciers. Another reminder that “away” doesn't exist – Mother Nature recycles.
Mary Had A Little Lamb: The US needs to borrow $1 trillion a year for each of the next ten years and beyond. US customers don't have it to lend. China pretty much doesn't want to. If the Fed 'monetizes' it by printing dollars, we'll have hyperinflation. Or else deflation could set in on a more or less permanent basis. But what Ben and Tim promise is that the economy is going to pick up, tax revenues will increase as government spending decreases, the Fed will stop printing more dollars just in time to avert inflation, and each of us will will the Irish Sweepstakes.