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May 18, 2011

DOOM is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're going to get


Meredith Whitney: Muni bond holders are in for a shock. Given the parlous condition of most states' finances combined with Clintonian accounting methods (don't ask, don't tell), it was inevitable that munis would lose their luster.

America: a nation of freeloaders? It's hard to escape that conclusion nowadays. From the article:

[T]he size and scope of American government is wildly excessive, regardless of whether it’s funded by taxes, borrowing or money-printing. An accumulating public debt is nothing but the routine, unavoidable effect of chronic deficit-spending, which itself reflects a deeper problem: Many Americans want more government than they’re willing to pay for – which means many want something for nothing – which means we’ve become a nation dominated by free-loaders.
Remember back when we could make fun of the French as being a bunch of Socialist, nanny-state whiners whose reach always exceeded their grasp? (Or was that just me?) I do not agree with the thesis of the article, though, that abolishing the debt-ceiling entirely is a good thing. I think it would send a horrible message to our government and only make our profiligacy worse.

Why the slow-motion collapse of Greece matters to the world economy and not just to the Eurozone. If nothing else, Greece stands as an example to the rest of us of what happens when nations live beyond their means.

And speaking of the Eurozone, remember how Jean-Claude Trichet wanted to reassure everyone that Spain wasn't in the same kind of trouble as, say, Portugal? (After assuring everyone that Portugal wasn't in the the same kind of trouble as Greece?) Well, the Spanish don't seem to be on the same page as Trichet. That's the essential problem with using the "austerity" route to reform a nation's debt: it only works if you can get the citizenry to buy into it.

I'll keep hammering this point as long as I'm able: The Chinese "economic miracle" is mostly a sham. The Chinese are awash in cheap Western money, essentially, and when that money dries up (which it is doing right now), the Chinese don't have much of a domestic market to fall back on. Plus, in case anyone forgot, they're still run by Communists who don't really believe in that whole "capitalism" thing.

Like most Democrats, public pension actuaries are in love with a girl named Rosy Scenario. But the sad truth is that most rate-of-return estimates are wildly overoptimistic. As I've said before: the basic problem is that we suck at predicting even the short-term future, much less the long-term future.

The Social Security deficit is now permanent. It will run in the red from now on, at an accelerating rate.

I gotta quit watching Cramer on CNBC, man.

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posted by Monty at 09:01 AM

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