Panics start small and spread rapidly.
TRAP: Now that even the deathly ill big banks are paying back the TARP funds it's time to ask what just happened. We gave the failing banks literally trillions of dollars both directly and in guarantees. In return they played charades for a few months, bought back their freedom to loot and now everything is back where we started. They are still too big to fail and still unregulated and unreformed. Anybody know what we got out of this? (Screwed is right, but I was looking for a more elegant explanation.)
The Silenced Majority: In the US, where the majority has no political impact, 38% oppose and 55% of Americans would support a legally enforceable global treaty requiring the US to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These are the same folks who want universal single-payer healthcare, regulation of banks, and the lesser half of the country to learn to read and write.
Another Series: Where does the US rank on a list of countries likely to default in 2010?
Panic Predicted: The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform predicts that if the US does not get its ballooning debt under control there will be panic in the financial markets, driving down the dollar and forcing up interest rates. Guess we're in for higher interest rates.
More of a Bad Idea: Various of our betters are trying to figure out how to 'save' Fannie and Freddie. They are on government-sponsored life support and need more of it, but the pundits say we must set them free. But only a little free for there must be “enough government involvement to ensure that 30-year fixed mortgages remain available to most Americans.” When is it going to sink in that “most Americans” shouldn't get 30-year mortgages until they get jobs, that not everyone should own a home, or that a house is a place to live, neither a castle nor an investment? But most of the discussion acknowledges that the American housing market cannot stand on its own without massive overt and covert government subsidies.
Another Paradox: I'd just got the concept of the Paradox of Thrift down (individual saving is good, individuals saving is bad – never mind that saving is supposed to build capital....) when along comes the Paradox of Toil, where lowering taxes makes more people want to work and this increased competition lowers the wages and reduces the desire to work. Economists sit around and think these things up – when they have jobs. If they don't have jobs, they take the work and to hell with the taxes.
Happy Days: We have replaced over-leveraged banks with over-leveraged governments. Everyone fears the collapse of Greece because its deficit is a whopping 10.9% of GDP. The US is looking at a deficit that will be 11.2% of GDP, making some of the graybeards worry about “catastrophic budget failure".
Civics Lesson: In the US, corporations have pooled together to run two political parties. The Republican Party, which advocates turning our lives and fortunes directly over to Wall Street, and the Democrats, who advocate tuning our lives and fortunes over to them so they can turn them over to Wall Street.
Acid Indigestion: The world's oceans are 36% more acidic today than at the beginning of the industrial revolution, and are becoming more acidic at a faster rate than at any time in the last 55 million years. This threatens a collapse of marine life and the food supplies drawn from the oceans. And it is happening because the oceans are absorbing part of the ever more abundant CO2 from the atmosphere.
Lisbon Rules: Those few, those happy few who remember the Magna Carta have awoken to find that in the new Europe, the system is rules in favor of those who control the system, and whatever rights the citizen may have are on loan and not inherent to free men. Just like on this side of the Atlantic.
On a Dime: 1 2,800 years ago the northern hemisphere went from warm and sunny like today to an ice age – in six months. When climate scientists talk about 'tipping points', this is what they have in mind. It was caused by a sudden slowdown in the Gulf Stream. It is possible (just barely?) that the melting of the Greenland glaciers and Arctic Ice could do the same thing again. Be funny if global warming lead to global cooling.
Porn O'Graph: The slip between cup and lip.