by ilene - March 29th, 2011 12:56 pm
Courtesy of Henry Blodget at The Business Insider
GE had taken to Twitter to blast the New York Times for "misleading" everyone about this fact.
So, naturally, when we saw that GE was trying to set the record straight, we asked some specific questions of GE--because we wanted to determine whether the New York Times was wrong or whether GE was just trying to spin everyone.
Either was fine with us, by the way — especially after New York Times editor Bill Keller’s latest lecture this weekend about why the New York Times is great and everyone else sucks.
Bill Keller’s message in his latest lecture was "We believe in verification rather than assertion."
by ilene - January 27th, 2011 1:57 am
Courtesy of Jesse’s Americain Cafe
It amazes me that the discussion on change centers on ‘improving competitiveness’ when the crisis was caused by a massive financial fraud and political and regulatory failure that goes largely unresolved and unrepaired, sucking the life out of the real economy and spreading corruption of thought and action. Slogans and code words are the substance of the public policy discussion in the US and Europe, and I think with the intent to deceive, a propaganda campaign. The mainstream media in the States is owned by a handful of powerful corporations. But fewer and fewer turn to the mainstream media anymore.
"In addition, any economist will tell you that when the free market fails a black market emerges. The blogs are the black market of information."
David B. Collum, Cornell University
As for competitiveness, the current global trade regime is underpinned with and founded on a fraud, a set of managed currencies pinned to the US dollar and under the control of a banking cartel. There is no real free trade, only an illusion of such, promoted by the rapacity of multinational corporations and their partners in authoritarian governments.
The only real competition I can see is the race to destroy the middle class and reduce the public around the world to the least common denominator of slavery, serfdom, and servitude, with the dollar and the jackboot as their weapons.
From Mark Thoma:
"Eliminating regulation: The idea is that removing unnecessary regulation will improve our ability to innovate, and this will help the economy create new, good jobs. However, it wasn’t lack of innovation or lack of competitiveness that got us into this mess, it was an out of control financial sector.
The President talked about eliminating unnecessary regulation, but far too little was said about the need to implement new regulations where they are needed. In addition, by focusing so much on helping business, the president risks sending the message that what is good for business is necessarily good for the nation. (Risk? As the risk of sounding snarky, that is the reason for the season. It was the corporate FIRE sector that caused the financial crisis in the first place. – Jesse)
Businesses need the right environment to thrive, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it’s the skills of the people that work at businesses that matters most. Our ultimate goal is the best possible life for
Large Companies Hiring, Small Companies Not; Federal Hiring Strong, States Cutting Back; Proposed Solutions; Bright Side of Fed Policies
by ilene - November 22nd, 2010 5:45 pm
Unfortunately, after reading Mish’s article "Large Companies Hiring, Small Companies Not; Federal Hiring Strong, States Cutting Back; Proposed Solutions; Bright Side of Fed Policies," most of us are not going to be happy about what Mish calls the bright side. – Ilene
Courtesy of Mish
A recent Gallup survey suggests Larger U.S. Companies Are Hiring; Smallest Are Not
Gallup finds that larger companies are hiring more workers while the smallest businesses are shedding jobs. More than 4 in 10 employees (42%) at workplaces with at least 1,000 employees reported during the week ending Nov. 14 that their company was hiring, while 22% said their employer was letting people go. At the other extreme, 9% of workers in businesses with fewer than 10 employees said their employer was hiring, and 16% said their employer was letting people go.
This Gallup question about company size is new, so it is unclear whether this pattern is a continuation of, or a change from, the past.
Hiring Also Much Higher at the Federal Government
The federal government is hiring more employees than it is letting go, while the opposite is true for state and local governments. More than 4 in 10 federal employees (42%) say their organizations are adding people and 21% say they are letting workers go. In contrast, state and local government employees report a net loss of workers.
Pitfalls, Flaws, Observations
There are huge flaws in the survey as well as a potential for additional flaws in analyzing the survey results. Nonetheless there are some important observations that can be made.
For starters, it is nice to see large corporations hiring, but there is no indication of by how much. Is the total headcount hiring 1 or hiring 2,000? Is the number up or down from last month?
Compounding that lack of information, we have seasonal flaws. Many retailers are now ramping up hiring for the Christmas season. So… is the hiring temporary or permanent?
The survey does not say. Moreover it does not say why they are hiring. Is business expanding or is this a short-term need?
That aside, the survey is not useless by any means. If this expansion was getting stronger, the number of companies hiring would be going up. It is not. Worse yet, small businesses which are the lifeblood of job creation, have not participated in the hiring…
by ilene - November 9th, 2010 5:02 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
Next time you hear an economist or denizen of Wall Street talk about how the “American economy” is doing these days, watch your wallet.
There are two American economies. One is on the mend. The other is still coming apart.
The one that’s mending is America’s Big Money economy. It’s comprised of Wall Street traders, big investors, and top professionals and corporate executives.
The Big Money economy is doing well these days. That’s partly thanks to Ben Bernanke, whose Fed is keeping interest rates near zero by printing money as fast as it dare. It’s essentially free money to America’s Big Money economy.
Free money can almost always be put to uses that create more of it. Big corporations are buying back their shares of stock, thereby boosting corporate earnings. They’re merging and acquiring other companies.
And they’re going abroad in search of customers.
Thanks to fast-growing China, India, and Brazil, giant American corporations are racking up sales. They’re selling Asian and Latin American consumers everything from cars and cell phones to fancy Internet software and iPads. Forty percent of the S&P 500 biggest corporations are now doing more than 60 percent of their business abroad. And America’s biggest investors are also going abroad to get a nice return on their money.
So don’t worry about America’s Big Money economy. According to a Wall Street Journal survey released Thursday, overall compensation in financial services will rise 5 percent this year, and employees in some businesses like asset management will get increases of 15 percent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is back to where it was before the Lehman bankruptcy filing triggered the financial collapse. And profits at America’s largest corporations are heading upward.
But there’s another American economy, and it’s not on the mend. Call it the Average Worker economy.
Last Friday’s jobs report showed 159,000 new private-sector jobs in October. That’s better than previous months. But 125,000 net new jobs are needed just to keep up with the growth of the American labor force. So another way of expressing what happened to jobs in October is to say 24,000 were added over what we need just to stay even.
by ilene - October 30th, 2010 5:34 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
This, from the Washington Post’s conservative pundit George Will:
Total spending by parties, campaigns and issue-advocacy groups concerning every office from county clerks to U.S. senators may reach a record $4.2 billion in this two-year cycle. That is about what Americans spend in one year on yogurt, but less than they spend on candy in two Halloween seasons. Proctor & Gamble spent $8.6 billion on advertising in its last fiscal year.
Those who are determined to reduce the quantity of political speech to what they consider the proper amount are the sort of people who know exactly how much water should come through our shower heads — no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, as stipulated by a 1992 law. Is it, however, worrisome that Americans spend on political advocacy — determining who should make and administer the laws — much less than they spend on potato chips, $7.1 billion a year?
In a word, Mr. Will, yes.
The number of dollars spent isn’t the issue; it’s the lopsidedness of where the dollars come from. Even if the total were only $1000, democracy would be endangered if $980 came from large corporations and wealthy individuals. The trend is clear and worrisome: The great bulk of campaign money is coming from a narrower and narrower circle of moneyed interests.
Anyone who doubts the corrupting effect has not been paying attention. Our elected representatives have been acutely sensitive to the needs of Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund managers, and the executives of big pharma, big oil, and the largest health insurance companies. This is not because these individuals and interests are particularly worthy or specially deserving. It is because they are effectively bribing elected officials with their donations. Such donations are not made out of charitable impulse. They are calculated investments no less carefully considered than investments in particular shares of stock. They are shares in our democracy.
Why $4.2 billion and not ten times that amount? Because the high-rolling political investors don’t need to spend a dollar more in order to exert overwhelming influence.
This figure, by the way, leaves out the tens of billions of dollars dedicated to lobbying, lawyering, and public relations — all of which deliver specific legislative outcomes the campaign money fuels. The economy of Washington, D.C. depends on this gigantic flow of funds (supporting…
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 4:16 pm
Courtesy of Gordon T. Long of Tipping Points
The critical issues in America stem from minimally a blatantly ineffective public policy, but overridingly a failed and destructive Economic Policy. These policy errors are directly responsible for the opening salvos of the Currency War clouds now looming overhead.
Don’t be fooled for a minute. The issue of Yuan devaluation is a political distraction from the real issue – a failure of US policy leadership. In my opinion the US Fiscal and Monetary policies are misguided. They are wrong! I wrote a 66 page thesis paper entitled “Extend & Pretend” in the fall of 2009 detailing why the proposed Keynesian policy direction was flawed and why it would fail. I additionally authored a full series of articles from January through August in a broadly published series entitled “Extend & Pretend” detailing the predicted failures as they unfolded. Don’t let anyone tell you that what has happened was not fully predictable!
Now after the charade of Extend & Pretend has run out of momentum and more money printing is again required through Quantitative Easing (we predicted QE II was inevitable in March), the responsible US politicos have cleverly ignited the markets with QE II money printing euphoria in the run-up to the mid-term elections. Craftily they are taking political camouflage behind an “undervalued Yuan” as the culprit for US problems. Remember, patriotism is the last bastion of scoundrels
An unusual Wall Street Op-ed piece appeared Wednesday October 13th , written by Yiping Huang, a Professor of Economics – China Center for Economic Research at the prestigious Peking University. He called for common sense from Americans and the G20 regarding the potential for destructive currency wars:
“The upcoming Group of 20 summit in Seoul could become a battlefield of this new conflict. But it doesn’t have to be. Rather than focus on currency manipulation, all sides would be better served to zero in on structural reforms. The effects of that would be far more beneficial in the long run than unilateral U.S. currency action, and more sustainable. … it would be much better for the G-20 to focus on a comprehensive package centered on structural reforms in all countries. Exchange rates should be an important part of that package. For instance, to reduce the U.S. current-account deficits, Americans have to save more.
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 2:05 pm
Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds
Positive feedback loops soon reach the runaway/self-destruction stage. Concentrations of wealth and gaming-the-system are reaching just such levels.
Positive feedback loops lead to runaway scenarios. The classic example is global warming and the Arctic ice cap. As temperatures rise, the the ice melts, exposing more land or seawater. Ice reflects solar radiation, and so as it shrinks then more solar radiation is absorbed, raising temperatures more, which melts the ice faster, which then leads to more solar radiation being absorbed, and so on.
The runaway feedback loop leads to the disappearance of the Arctic ice and a much warmer planet.
Nature has multiple feedback loops, and so the solar radiation flux may be acting to reduce temperatures as the positive feedback of melting ice raises temperatures. But the point is that positive feedback is self-reinforcing and it speeds up processes as it gathers momentum.
We can see runaway feedback loops in the economy and society, not just in Nature. One of the key runaway feedbacks in the U.S. is the concentration of wealth and political power.
As wealth has become concentrated in the top 1/10th of 1%, then the political power that can be purchased with that wealth also rises, which then enables the wealthy to increase their wealth via "Federal entrepreneurship" and other means.
The political process--once potentially a force resisting or moderating wealth--has been completely captured by an ever-expanding army of lobbyists, the fast-spinning revolving door between the Central State and corporations and unprecedented levels of corporate/Elites campaign contributions.
The judiciary, theoretically a force which could have resisted this concentration of wealth and political power, has also been co-opted by a marriage of ideology and wealth/power. Thus the courts have gutted every attempt at limiting corporate/insider influence over the processes of governance; the courts have enabled corporations to have the "right to free (paid) speech" unburdened by the obligations that go with such rights.
The wealth/power feedback has reached runaway levels. "Reforms" are gutted in backroom deals, votes to benefit the banking/mortgage/foreclosure industry are done on voice calls to evade public scrutiny, and a thousand other games and tricks are played daily to subvert the common good for the benefit of the few and their armies of technocrat toadies.
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 2:02 pm
Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds
The moral rot at the center of American life results from a normalization of pathologies--sociopathic and psychopathic states and behaviors are now "normal" or incentivized. Moral behavior is institutionally punished.
My entry on the moral rot which has taken hold in all socio-economic levels of America drew a number of insightful responses: Runaway Feedback Loops, Wealth Concentration and Gaming-The-System (October 13, 2010).
While the American/Western worldview holds that we are autonomous individuals exercising free will at every moment, in reality we are all heavily programmed by our socio-economic class conditions. What is so striking about present-day America is the way in which the narcissistic, no-moral-compass social pathologies of entitlement, denial and fabrication of "truth"/reality has been "normalized" (accepted as normal behavior and thinking) in all social classes.
Before we analyze that further, let’s get some direct experiences from three observant readers.
First up in Freeacre, one of the proprietors of the excellent Trout Clan Campfire blog:
Here are my examples (of the feedback loops you described):
Thirty-one years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, a friend in San Francisco explained to me that I should go down and apply for welfare. He told me the the social workers basically tell you the right answers to give when applying. They ask the question and you just say agree with whatever it is. That’s the game. (I didn’t do it, choosing to marry the father of our child and live a life of penury instead…)
2) We finally were able to buy a house in Portland. Our next door neighbor lived in one exactly like ours. But, she was divorced and had two kids. Her kids went to church school for free, got free clothing and medical care, her mom collected her rent from the state, she got food stamps, and on and on. Her ex even got a penile implant due to an unfortunate motorcycle accident! We ended up losing our home and car and having to declare bankruptcy due to our son’s medical bills for cancer.
3) Years later, when my husband got cancer and I had to pay his COBRA payments up front, I had hardly any money for food or the house payment from my job at the Tahoe Daily Tribune. When I inquired what we could do to qualify for some assistance, the social
by ilene - September 28th, 2010 1:46 am
This is an excellent essay by Barry on the state of politics and the petty and even false distinctions between our republican and democrat rulers. – Ilene
For a long time, American politics has been defined by a Left/Right dynamic. It was Liberals versus Conservatives on a variety of issues. Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice, Tax Cuts vs. More Spending, Pro-War vs Peaceniks, Environmental Protections vs. Economic Growth, Pro-Union vs. Union-Free, Gay Marriage vs. Family Values, School Choice vs. Public Schools, Regulation vs. Free Markets.
The new dynamic, however, has moved past the old Left Right paradigm. We now live in an era defined by increasing Corporate influence and authority over the individual. These two “interest groups” – I can barely suppress snorting derisively over that phrase – have been on a headlong collision course for decades, which came to a head with the financial collapse and bailouts. Where there is massive concentrations of wealth and influence, there will be abuse of power. The Individual has been supplanted in the political process nearly entirely by corporate money, legislative influence, campaign contributions, even free speech rights.
This may not be a brilliant insight, but it is surely an overlooked one. It is now an Individual vs. Corporate debate – and the Humans are losing.
Full article here: www.ritholtz.com
by ilene - September 14th, 2010 8:31 pm
What Michael describes here is the framework for a real or imagined economic recovery. Add these seemingly insurmountable macro-economic problems to a backdrop of political corruption and no will to make changes, and it’s hard to see where the term recovery fits in "jobless recovery." – Ilene
Courtesy of Michael Snyder at Economic Collapse
Most Americans don’t really care about the economic minutiae that many of us who study the U.S. economy love to pour over. When it comes to the economy, the typical American citizen just wants to be able to get a good job, make a decent living and put bread on the table for the family. For generations, this arrangement has worked out quite well. The U.S. economy has provided large numbers of middle class jobs and the American people have worked hard and have helped this nation prosper like no other.
But now people are starting to notice that something has shifted. Millions of people are looking around and are realizing that the jobs that are supposed to be there are not there anymore. The American people are still working hard (and in many cases harder than ever) but all of that hard work is producing fewer and fewer rewards. Often politicians will placate voters by telling them that they are working harder and harder for less and less. That tends to ring true with voters because that is a very accurate description of what so many of them are actually experiencing, but what the politicians don’t tell us is that they are the ones to blame for the situation that we are in.
As millions of jobs become obsolete because of technology and millions of other jobs are shipped overseas, our politicians tell us over and over that we can "compete" with anyone and that if we will just go out and get some more education we can make it happen. But those of us who are extremely over-educated know what a fraud that line is. The truth is that there are not nearly enough jobs for all of us…