Thursday, November 19, 2009

SAR #9324

The 'too big to fail' have become the 'too connected to care'.

Michael Panzner.

Good News: Builders built houses at an annual rate of 529,000 – 11% down from September. That's just as well, we've got enough empty houses sitting around (14 million) as it is, because people didn't buy new houses in 3Q - they were waiting to see if the Government was going to bribe them. Building permits, a sign of future construction, also decreased. Mortgage applications also fell – to a 12-year low.

Costly Living: Core inflation (CPI) rose 0.2% in October, mostly because of a 3.4% rise in the price of used cars – thanks to the cash-for-crushable-clunkers program.

Piggy Banking: The CBO assures us that deficits will add about $13 trillion to the current $12 trillion National Debt by 2019. If interest rates are about 5% then, the interest on the national debt will be $1.25 trillion a year. Hard to get out of debt when you can't pay the vig.

Playing the Odds: A large majority of the world's scientists are at least 95% certain that we are well on our way to irreversible climate change. That's like 9 out of 10 inspectors telling you your house is likely to burn down. You'd either move or take out fire insurance. We should act now to curtail climate change as much as possible as soon as possible simply because it's flat stupid not to.

Sisyphus: To put the task of rebuilding employment back to 'normal' levels (5.5% unemployment) in perspective, first note that 1999 was the last year we added 250,000 jobs a month for a whole year. Then note that we've lost 300,000 jobs since then, we have 15.7 million unemployed, and lost 8 million jobs in the current recession. And we add about 125,000 workers to the labor force each month. To regain “normal” in 5 years means that every month between now and then we have to create about 300,000 jobs.

The Price of Stupidity: Banks are quite happy to let you withdraw $5 from the ATM for a $2 fee. Their hope is that you are overdrawn – then they can tack on a $35 fee for the convenience. I'd get upset at their greed, but I'm equally upset that anyone would use an ATM when they don't have any money in the bank.

Non-cents: Essay Contest: Given that European investors in US Treasury Notes have lost 17.5% of their investment since March of this year, please explain why anyone outside the US is still buying them. For extra points, noting that US investors have lost nearly 3% on the same investment, explain why they're still holding on. Usual prizes.

Money Quote: “[The US] is utterly dependent upon unlimited supplies of relatively cheap gasoline. Our population is dispersed and the private automobile is essential to personal existence...”

You Promised Me! Most Americans think there was a housing crash, they just think it happened somewhere else, to someone else. More than half of us think our house has either retained its value or increased in price – even though 72% of all US houses have lost value over the last year.

Gradual is as Gradual Does: We seem to have our future pinned on a very gradual slip into something warmer. And we'll adopt to the warmer climate as it drifts in. Except climate change is not always so slow and gentle. 12,800 years ago it took just 6 months for Europe to go from balmy to Ice Age – thanks to a sudden slowdown in the Gulf Stream. It took 1300 years for things to go back to “normal”. Don't put all the eggs in the “we've got decades” basket.

Porn O'Graph: Don't pay attention to the curve behind the curtain.


Anonymous said...

"Dispersed" might be true, but I think a lot of people think of country size rather than daily use patterns.

An Oregonian doesn't drive to Texas for lunch.

We have increasing urban and slowing suburban development. Population flows aren't what they used to be ... except that the big empty states are still depopulating.

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III said...

s.r.c. Your observation is true. It's not "travel", but trips: the Oregonian will drive somewhere for lunch. And drive from home in the suburb to work and drive from here to there, all day. As long as there's oil.

Eric Hacker said...

Essay contest entry:

The invisible hand has merely average intelligence, but thinks itself a genius.

kwark said...

You Promised Me!: So the flip side of that coin might be this: In the Fall of '08 two of my co-workers purchased houses at "bargain" prices - they've lost money of course but still consider the homes a "great investment". Go figure.

fajensen said...

please explain why anyone outside the US is still buying them.

They are buying because:

a) They do not know what else to do.
b) Most of the buying is with "other peoples money".
c) Co-ordinated central bank intervention is "The Market".

d) A few lunatic-fringe speculators, who know what the odds are, betting on spikes they can sell into.