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October 08, 2010

Financial Briefing: No One Knows You When You're Down and Out

I love this story. Sometimes there's a fine line between standing up to jerks and being a jerk yourself, but there's also such a thing as being a doormat because you don't want to be rude. Consideration and respect is a two-way street, and it should not be used as a form of blackmail.

If at first you don't succeed, give up and cry about it. Pull quote:

"I can't blame those who don't take to the streets any more," 18-year-old protester Danae Burnu said. "They think: I shouted, I protested, so what? What happened? Sometimes you can't save yourself and the world at the same time, and they lose money when they strike."
Because shouting and protesting is all they know how to do; when it fails, all they can do is mill around and exude an air of snotty entitlement. The shade of General Epaminondas looks at you losers and shakes his ghostly fists in inchoate rage.

Your dad may fume and shout when you wreck his car and get arrested for driving drunk, but when it comes right down to it, you know he'll bail you out. Because as stupid and thoughtless as you are, he loves you. And you you grateful? No. You know that because your dad loves you, you can do all kinds of stupid shit without having to deal with the consequences. (Unless your dad has a spine, in which case he may cut your irresponsible ass off without warning.)

Via Insty: Why don't westerners save enough? Because they are not properly motivated to do so, and because the amazing wealth and abundance of the West in recent decades has bred in people a belief that the cornucopia is fueled by magic and not hard work. The rise of the welfare state in the US has convinced many that saving is not necessary because Uncle Sam will foot the bill for our retirements. Reality will force an attitude-change, but slowly and with much angst and social upheaval.

Perennial broke-dick dog has $88 Billion in unfunded liabilities. (Read: unionized employee pensions and healthcare.) It turns out that the "YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY WON!" notice from Ed McMahon and Publisher's Clearing House didn't pan out, and the Postal Service didn't really have a Plan B. Pull quote:

In short, warned a recent Government Accountability Office report: "USPS's business model is not viable."
This may have come as news in 1980. By 1990 it was received wisdom; by 2000 it was a cliche. Now it must count as the kind of joke Henny Youngman used to tell: so old and corny that it was funny because it was so lame.

Here's some terrifying chart-fu for you: the Chinese Renminbi (Yuan) vs the US Dollar. No one is backing down on this because no one can afford to back down. The goals of the US/Europe and China are mutually exclusive at this point.

Sovereigns pinky-swear to stop debasing their currencies, and the panic-buying of gold subsides. Temporary pullback on gold or do we hear the sound of a bubble popping? Time will tell.

...aw, shit! Following my usual "Cramer is a reverse barometer" investing strategy, I'm going to have to start dumping my gold, because it's definitely in a bubble. If Cramer likes it, it's doomed.

According to Gallup, unemployment is now over 10%. I suspect that at least some of this may be that backhanded "good news" whereby more of the chronically-unemployed are re-engaging the workforce and looking for jobs again. However, it also means that the employment picture remains bleak. It also means that while we are likely to have a weaksauce "recovery" over the next few quarters, it won't be strong enough to boost employment by much. (In order for us to get back to where we were in 2005 in employment numbers, our economy would need to grow by more than 5% per year; at present, the best we can hope for is an anemic 2-3%.) Mish Shedlock has some additional thoughts.

One thing that might impact the unemployment numbers is the fact that many municipal and state governments may have to lay off employees as their budget fiasco continues. The chances of a Federal bailout for states and cities was never good given the miserable failure of TARP/QE; with a GOP-dominated House (and maybe Senate), those odds will only get worse.

In the Chinese version of The Graduate, the famous phrase would be: "Are you listening, Xie? Mung Beans.".

Apparently, in New York the nuts who used to wander around Times Square screaming incoherent nonsense now get high-ranking jobs in the Mayor's office.

Debtor's prison making a conceptual comeback? Jimmy Two-Times and Tony the Hump would only beat your ass enough to teach you the twin lessons of prudence and promptness. Siccing a bunch of lawyers on you would have struck them as being unprofessional. Besides, these guys were fans of what modern business schools call "hands-on management".

Have a bank account? You may be putting your money into a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) without intending to. And REITs are pretty shitty investments right now.

It's something I've said about California, but it goes triple for poor bankrupt Greece: if your best plan for salvation involves the phrase "and then a miracle occurs", you're hosed. But it's not about Greece any more, really; it's about the rest of the teetering southern Euro countries (Portugal, Italy, and Spain). If Greece chooses to exit the Euro so they can go back to (and devalue) the Drachma, that will truly release the hounds. The ECB and various big German and French banks own tons of Euro-denominated bonds that would all of a sudden turn into toilet-paper should this come to pass. It's like the old parable of the boy who caught a tiger by the tail: he knew he couldn't hold on forever, but he didn't dare to let go.

If there's one thing I learned from watching the old television show Dallas, it's this: Don't mess with J.R.!

Annals of the Boned: Der Governator and SEIU agree to a mostly-meaningless pension compromise to get California's runaway public-sector pensions under control. I say "meaningless" because the new pension formula only applies to new hires, not to existing employees and retirees. So it amounts to some fractional quantum between "jack" and "squat". On the upside, Ahnuld did get the union to kick in a larger percentage of their pay into the funds. The SEIU must have felt that this was the best deal they were going to get -- if Meg Whitman takes the Governor's mansion, she probably won't be as spineless accomodating as Ahnuld is. Still, this is like trying to drink the ocean dry with a soda straw. (California's approximate pension tab, by the way? How about a cool $379 Billion, can you say Amen?)

------------------------

Well, once I lived the life of a millionaire,
Spent all my money, didn't have any cares.
Took my friends out for a mighty fine time
Boot leg whiskey, champagne and wine

Then I began to fall so low,
Lost all my good friends, had no place to go
If I get my hands on a dollar again
I'm gonna hold on to it until the old eagle grins

Nobody knows you when you're down and out
In your pocket not one penny
And as for friends, you ain't got any.

Soon as you get on your feet again,
Everybody wants to be your long-lost friend
I think it's strange, without any doubt
Nobody knows you when you're down and out

(Let's do the Bessie Smith version version instead of the Clapton one...)

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posted by Monty at 07:37 AM

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