Saturday, November 14, 2009

SAR #9319/Weekender


So far, regulatory reform is neither.

Tea Leaves: September's US trade deficit was $36.5 billion, up 18% from August. Some of that was the increased cost of petroleum, but it also shows an increase in customer demand. The patient's appetite is back, even though he's not back to work yet.

Grinch: Goldman Sachs, which has recently been bragging that it does the Lord's work, is taking the party out of Christmas. Mr. Marley said it was only fair they forego a big celebration this year, in a show of sympathy for those who are not getting $700,000 bonuses.

Oversupply and Underdemand: About one in seven housing units (houses, condos and apartments, ) was vacant in 3Q09. Part of the glut comes from foreclosures, the rest comes from apartments left empty as the kids move back in with Mom and Dad.

Reality Reporting: Walmart's sales were down 0.4% in 3Q09 even though customer traffic was up, as was market share. But a bigger piece of a smaller pie was still a smaller piece than they wanted.

Twins: Just as the health insurance companies will be the big winner from 'health care reform', the big energy companies will be the winners under the 'cap & trade' legislation. In both cases, the citizenry will pay more and be quite confused as to what, if any, benefit was gained. Rule of thumb: If Wall Street lets Congress pass a bill, it's not going to hurt them.

Sound Familiar? "Rather than deal with the problems directly they attempted to circumvent the problem by creating an environment where the government spent hordes of money to prop up failing institutions." Was that Japan, then, or the US, now?

A Clue: In the 1950's Bolivia's Chacaltaya glacier covered 1,600 square meters and hosted the worlds highest ski-run. Today it covers about 500 square feet (50 square meters), an area barely large enough to contain the rusting hulk of the abandoned ski lift.

Good Question: If stabilization in the housing market comes only through government subsidies and artificially propped up home prices, is it real, or stopgap?

Shell Game: $38 billion of Citi's capital doesn't exist – it's an accounting trick. They get to count as an asset the $38 billion in carry-forward tax credits they earned by losing billions and billions of dollars. If they don't have sufficient profits to use the tax credits, they go up in smoke and there goes a lot of their capital. Well, until Congress re-writes the law for them. Again.

Assigned Reading: Krugman asks why Germany isn't suffering as much as the US and suggests there might be a lesson there. Economics, of course.

Water is Wet: The FHA has belatedly learned that people who borrow their down payment money “are not equipped for home ownership.” They go into foreclosure 2.5 to 3 times as often as people who saved up their down payment. This lesson has cost the FHA about $10 billion so far, which may be why their reserves are only 25% of what they are required to be.

More Clues: Measurements confirm that Greenland is shedding its ice sheet at an ever accelerating rate.

Spade is Spade: The pro-coathanger Stupak amendment to the health reform bill should be removed and discarded. It is simply another attack by the people that genuinely hate women – especially poor women - coercing them to bear unwanted children they cannot support so the saintly can go to church and claim they've cleansed their dirty minds. It is an attack on the right of women to decide when and if they want to bear children – which the white male right sees as tantamount to their sinning without suffering, a practice that is reserved for them.

Relief: All you folks struggling to buy a $400,000 house can relax, the government is going to continue to coddle you for another year by pretending that ordinary folks need to spend $417,000 on a house and deserve help in doing so from Uncle Sam's taxpayers.

Porn O'Graph: Higher Highs, Higher Lows, Can't escape wherever you goes.


Anonymous said...

The House healthcare bill is coercion. It is simply another attack by the people that want to force the rest of us to do as they say. Camille Paglia frames the healthcare issue about right:

"That there are serious deficiencies and injustices in the U.S. healthcare system has been obvious for decades. To bring the poor and vulnerable into the fold has been a high ideal and an urgent goal for most Democrats. But this rigid, intrusive and grotesquely expensive bill is a nightmare. Holy Hygeia, why can't my fellow Democrats see that the creation of another huge, inefficient federal bureaucracy would slow and disrupt the delivery of basic healthcare and subject us all to a labyrinthine mass of incompetent, unaccountable petty dictators? Massively expanding the number of healthcare consumers without making due provision for the production of more healthcare providers means that we're hurtling toward a staggering logjam of de facto rationing. Steel yourself for the deafening screams from the careerist professional class of limousine liberals when they get stranded for hours in the jammed, jostling anterooms of doctors' offices. They'll probably try to hire Caribbean nannies as ringers to do the waiting for them.

A second issue souring me on this bill is its failure to include the most common-sense clause to increase competition and drive down prices: portability of health insurance across state lines. What covert business interests is the Democratic leadership protecting by stopping consumers from shopping for policies nationwide? Finally, no healthcare bill is worth the paper it's printed on when the authors ostentatiously exempt themselves from its rules. The solipsistic members of Congress want us peons to be ground up in the communal machine, while they themselves gambol on in the flowering meadow of their own lavish federal health plan. Hypocrites!"

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III said...

Anony 154. Same church, different pews. Perhaps our error is we view the HC bill as being about either reform, cost-containment or healthcare, when it was only always about more profits for the usual suspects. But if we have the big circus act, Washington can point with pride & tell us to shut up and pay our premiums. And those of our neighbors, too. For the same old indifferent health care.

Anonymous said...

A most excellent example of the difference between correlation and causation!


kwark said...

Tea Leaves: It is interesting that this fact is trumpeted as good news rather than a continuation the current sorry state of affairs. I guess the message is party-on, never mind the bodies accumulating in the street.

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III said...

kwark - check out Ilargi's intro to the current Automatic Earth. It's not 'party on'- it's short term memory loss.