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July 12, 2010

Monday Financial Briefing

It's anybody's guess if the equities markets are going to be able to keep the rally going this week. I suspect not, unless companies report some truly exceptional numbers. And this seems...unlikely. The Dow and the S&P 500 are down slightly in futures trading, but promise to open fairly flat.

As Sophocles said: How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise.

Am I wrong for finding Wendy's letter unintentionally hilarious? The cries de coueur of the overeducated and underskilled often strike me this way. Methinks Wendy would have done better to learn an actual trade. Wendy, dear: the world does not owe you a living. If there are no jobs to be had in the field you trained for, the thing to do is re-train in a field where there is work, not to cry that Uncle Sugar isn't doing enough to keep you in the style to which you've become accustomed.

BP may sell off their fields in Prudhoe Bay to pay for costs stemming from the GoM spill. This tells me that a) they think that their liabilities may run to the tens of billions more than they've already spent, and b) that they may be preparing to exit the US marketplace entirely before their assets can be nationalized out from under them.

Well, you can't call the Obama Administration's efforts in the Gulf of Mexico a complete failure. Some of their initiaitves are bearing fruit already!

The economy is in a "pause" in the same way my cousin Floyd has been in a "pause" in employment. Which is to say: after a couple of years, you really can't call it a "pause" any more.

If the Obama Administration wants exports to increase, then we're going to have to manufacture more stuff. The problems are manifold, however. We've let many sectors of our industrial base wither on the vine -- the steel companies being the most obvious example. The adversarial posture of the various unions also form a barrier, because labor costs make our manufactured-goods exports uncompetitive. And the biggest potential markets for finished American goods -- China, predominately -- have significant barriers erected to stymie competition. The WTO, toothless as always, will not help us here. If we wish to drive exports, we are going to have to be as ruthless and as bottom-line oriented as the Chinese are -- and I don't think that American workers are going to like what that means in terms of wages or benefits.

Another piece about America's stubbornly-high rate of unemployment. The piece is deeply dumb, and I present it mainly so we can all point and laugh. Savor this little shit-burger:

I do think that my first commenter, Harrington, is right that it’s high time to start giving labor unions more recognition and power. That might seem a bit counterintuitive — unions have never been very good at improving employment numbers, as opposed to improving the plight of the employed. But if workers at places like Wal-Mart start being paid a decent living wage, that is surely a significant improvement on where we are now. And if we raise the minimum wage to a point where employees are less likely to quit and more likely to learn reasonably high-level skills, that will help get us to Richard Florida’s promised land. Without unions and minimum-wage laws, corporations compete on who can pay the least. With them, they compete on who has the best employees and they invest significantly in those employees. Which is exactly what we want, especially since raising the minimum wage is unlikely in and of itself to increase unemployment visibly.
He was born as a Person of Stupid, though, so maybe it's unkind to mock him.

I tend to think that the lack of competitiveness and skills at the lower end of the job market is a definite concern -- as I've said many times, not everyone is born to be a doctor or a lawyer or an Indian Chief. We're not making it easy for people to train in the trades or skilled-labor markets, and there is still a kind of onus on that kind of thing: as if someone who chooses to be a diesel mechanic or a roofer somehow couldn't hack it in a better job. There's nothing shameful about honest work, and I think that this above all is what America has lost in the IT revolution -- the sense that working with your hands is a good thing, not an admission of failure. Much of our present troubles are compounded by a business-hostile Administration, but the denigration of manual work has been going on for decades now.

It was Colonel Mustard, in the library, with a candlestick!

The WSJ finally notices all the folks rushing towards the exit as the casino burns down around them.

Deflation - Maybe Closer Than You Think. I said that to my ex-wife once during a tender moment. I think it's why she divorced me.

Given how badly they fucked up the KIN launch, I don't know if I want Microsoft handling my medical records. It just seems ill-advised, like giving a toddler a book of matches. Nothing good can come of it.

Today's briefing brought to you by Veronica Lake, who was to platinum blonde what Hershey's is to chocolate.

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posted by Monty at 07:17 AM

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