If you hear that faint falling sound | Main | Top Headline Comments 10-13-2010
October 13, 2010

Financial Briefing: Hokey-Pokeying To the Poorhouse

If you laughed at the "pull my finger" jape I am so fond of, you probably went into a very risk-averse mood. Hilarity, as it turns out, does not promote risky behavior. Gloom, despondency, existential despair, and DOOM promote risky behavior.

That being said...let's move on to the doom-filled portion of our program and break out our gallon jugs of Val-U-Rite Breakfast Blend.

If This Were the Private Sector, Those Congressional Staffers Would End Up in Jail. But this is the public sector, where perfidy is not only tolerated; it is rewarded!

The MBS (mortgage-backed securities) fiasco, laid out for your perusal like a patient etherised upon a table.

Via Insty: College -- a bad consumption decision. A college education, like our currency, has been so debased over the past several decades that the [EDIT]costs benefits of acquiring it do not offset the debts you incur. Students (and their parents) are spending more and more and getting less and less. If you want your child to go on a four -- or five, or six -- year alcohol-fueled bacchanal, there are cheaper ways of going about it. (Insty has been riding this "Higher Education Bubble" story for a long time now, and I fully expect him to be vindicated when the university system crashes and burns in the next few years.)

$14,165.00. Pay up, sucker.

Mish roughs up a wizened little troll Paul Krugman, gives him an atomic wedgie, and sends him crying home to momma while crying hot snotty tears of shame. Or at least that's how I imagine it in my head. (Read the section entitled "Final End of Bretton Woods 2" for some pretty scary news if you're a fiat-money fan. I remain enamored of my barbaric gold hoard.)

Have you been enjoying the buoyant stock market of the past six or eight weeks? I hope so, because the party is about to come to a crashing halt. I will say with no shame whatever that the stock market makes no fucking sense at all to me, and hasn't for most of the summer. I'm gratified that my 401(k) and Roth IRAs are doing better, but I'll be damned if I can explain the uptick. And right now I'm just hoping that my gains will act as a buffer when the market nosedives again. I may even end the year in postiive territory! Yay! (Yeah: a "good year" now is when you don't actually lose money.)

Amity Schlaes takes on the Obama Administration's contempt for contract law. When you live by imperial fiat instead of the rule of law, it's hard to run an efficient business. On any given day, His Majesty's piles may be acting up and thus lose you the Imperial favor. You're out and your competitor is in: not because your competitor is better than you, but because His Majesty's ass hurts.

Do we really need a central bank? I don't mean to go all Ron Paul on you but...no. No, we don't. In fact, in my view having a central bank does more harm than good -- it deforms the market, and almost always in nonbeneficial ways. And the nearly maniacal insistence on stability often works against the creative destruction necessary for an economy to prosper over the long-term. In political terms, the Fed favors the incumbent over the upstart, regardless of the merits of either candidate. This is a recipe for long-term stagnation, and we are seeing the wages of that philosophy playing out right now. Pull quote:

So if we define inflation traditionally as a monetary probem-specifically as a decline in the market value of money - the Fed has failed impressively. When the Federal Reserve Act passed in 1913, a dollar purchased 1/20th of an ounce of gold, while today it purchases 1/1350th.

Can the Japanese escape their malaise? I'm doubtful. The Japanese are living an iron law of nature: demographics is destiny.

How can a cold metal make me feel so warm inside?

Wall Street to Congress: I don't think you thought your cunning plan all the way through. Unless you intended to finish the destruction of the private housing market. In which case -- well done!

I was going to make a snark-filled joke about this story. Then I read the piece. Pull quote:

Jack Dawson will buy cheap whiskey instead of his beloved Canadian Club.
You bring a tear to my eye, Jack. I take back every mean, hurtful thing I've ever said about you rocker-jockies. You, sir, are an inspiration to us all. I will think of you the next time I mug a hobo for his bottle of Night Train. And catch this:
"I'm kind of glad in a way," Stella Wehrly, an 86-year-old retired secretary, said of the freeze. "One thing depends on the other and when people aren't working there's not enough people feeding into the Social Security system."
Can it be? Can it be possible that even elderly retirees are beginning to understand the Ponzi scheme that is Social Security? For some reason this story fills me a wild hope that even the people most personally invested in the status quo of Social Security may be amenable to reforming it.

Small businesses come to a consensus on economy: it sucks. The forecast? Continued suckage, with a 20% chance of DOOM!

Retailers are ramping up for the holidays. Any uptick in employment is a good thing, but these are seasonal jobs that will disappear in January. I'm sure the Democrats will crow about the better job numbers, and then grow very quiet when the layoffs occur six to eight weeks later. And the deep discounting may make buyers happy, but it's going to murder the balance-sheets of low-margin places like Wal-Mart and Target.

This counts as financial news because someday we're going to be funding the retirements of these people (or not, as the case may be). The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) posts "teabagger" web video. This is what they think of us. Well, fine -- if they hate my politics, no doubt they hate my dollars as well. I'll just hang on to those dollars and laugh when the AFGE comes begging for a pension bailout. Later, during my stint as Humongous of the Wasteland, they will be slave-labor in the assless-chaps factory I will set up in the ruins of Washington D.C. to serve the wasteland mutant-biker market. Pour encourager les autres.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

A world where I can't bash the French is not a world I care to live in. I fart in your general direction!

When you're boned, there is value -- even if only spiritual -- in quantifying exactly how boned you are. (Meanwhile one political dead man consoles another.)

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posted by Monty at 07:23 AM

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