So Obama fired Rick Wagoner at CEO of GM. No doubt he deserved it, but why do all the idiot bankers that Pres. Yeswecan met with on Friday get to keep their jobs? Oh yeah, I know. Only automakers get put through the wringer for a little federal spare change. Bankers get blank checks, no questions asked. And only autoworkers get their contracts ripped up. Ripping up bankers’ contracts would be governing by anger, and we don’t want to do that!
Stickers that have recently appeared around vacant storefronts in lower Manhattan urge us to take pleasure in our troubles. These two are blocks apart on Grand St. in Soho.
Housing market stabilizing? In the economic news, more signs of the stabilization I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, especially in the housing market, following last week’s pickup in housing starts (the term of art for when builders begin constructing new houses). Sales of existing houses, which are the lion’s share of the market, rose by 5% in February, the strongest monthly gain in almost six years. The rate of decline in prices also slowed. But the way that’s phrased is a reminder that the market remains very depressed. Prices… Read More
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner appeared this morning at the Council on Foreign Relations. The main meeting room, named after private equity kingpin and entitlement scourge Pete Peterson, was jam-packed with members, so we media hacks had to watch the proceedings on a video screen set up in the David Rockefeller Room. Geithner’s remarks (as prepared, here; as delivered, here) mostly achieved the anodyne level customary to the genre. He’s glib in a way, but doesn’t give the impression of having a powerful or capacious mind. Though he’s 47, he still gives the… Read More
And not just any band of leveraged speculators: handpicked members of the private equity elite operating with cheap government credit, and insured against losses! Others have criticized the Geithner bank rescue plan’s economic aspects in detail; no need to repeat all that here. I’ll just say that it strikes me as a very bad idea to set the thing up so that the government takes the lion’s share of any losses and the private investors, the lion’s share of any gains (if any). And it strikes me as fantastic that the dominant… Read More
Several new bits of economic news, most of them a little better than the recent run has been. First-time claims for unemployment insurance filed by people who’ve just lost their jobs fell by 12,000 last week. The four-week moving average, which smooths out this volatile series, rose slightly to make a new high for this recession. But it’s possible that the rate of deterioration is now slowing. In other words, the job market is terrible, but at least it’s not getting rapidly worse. At least over the last few weeks. The big surprise… Read More
This was originally posted as a comment, but I thought it was worth bringing up to the body of this esteemed blog: Santa Clara University law prof Steve Diamond on how the AIG bonuses could have been blocked, if the Obama admin had really wanted to: Thanks to Steve Diamond for pointing to this; glad he wasn’t inhibited by excessive modesty.
The Financial Times has a piece today about the Swedish bank bailout. Here’s a nice quote. You couldn’t imagine a sharper contrast with the American approach: Arne Berggren, the finance ministry official responsible for bank restructuring, is blunt about the approach he took. It was clear from the outset that the government would act as a commercial investor, demanding equity stakes in return for capital. “We were a no-bullshit investor – we were very brutal,” he says. The authorities also insisted on control. “You take command. If you put in equity, you have to… Read More
So Obama tells Geithner to do something, anything, to make sure the gov can get back the AIG bonuses. Who knows if this is real or a pose? I’m now leaning towards the latter, especially after getting this from a friend who works at a hedge fund: In the financial industry, reneging on contracts is, not quite SOP, but certainly not rare. From the company’s perspective, two things can happen. One, the employee eats the default. Free money. Two, he (more rarely, her) has a lawyer call you. At that point, you… Read More
More of the same, more or less. The economy continues to stink, and not just in the U.S. German industrial production is in a freefall. In fact, the European economy looks to be declining faster than ours. Yet most European governments are showing little interest in bigger stimulus programs, despite U.S. pressure to step up. U.S. imperial power We’ll see how long that resistance continues. Chrystia Freeland had an interesting piece (“Salvation, like the sin, will emerge from the US”) in the Financial Times on Thursday arguing that even though this economic… Read More
A few postscripts to yesterday’s post about the intellectual devolution on the right. I should have noted that several conservative intellectuals have expressed some anguish about the situation. For example, David Frum (is he an intellectual? for these purposes, I suppose so) filed a cri de coeur (“Why Rush is Wrong“) with Newsweek, of all places, expressing worry that the rise of Rush Limbaugh to the de facto leadership of the Republican party is bad news for conservatism at a time when conservatives need a thoughtful reinvention rather than just heating up… Read More
I’ve been reading the accounts of the 14-year-old conservative Wunderkind, Jonathan Krohn, who wowed them at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in DC. Krohn’s speech, which consisted of little more than asserting that conservatism was a principle-based ideology that’s all about protecting The People, would have been unremarkable had it been delivered by someone over the age of 20. It really wasn’t all that remarkable even coming from a precocious teenager. But so desperate is the right for rising stars these days that they’re starry-eyed over this home-schooled phenom. It all put me… Read More