Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Category Archives: Economics

Mortgage Summit: No New Ideas

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When Kevin Hall, writing for McClatchy Newspapers, said “the Obama administration got what it was looking for at its summit on the future of housing finance,” he was very close to the truth: No matter who spoke at the summit or what “new” ideas might be proposed, nothing would change—the government would remain fully in charge of mortgage financing for the country.

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Fed’s Bernanke Running Out of Options

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When Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks on Friday at the Fed’s annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Fed-watchers from around the world will be hanging on his every word, phrase, and nuance for clues. They’ll be listening to hear that the chairman knows what’s happening in the economy, and that if things get worse, he has a plan.

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Fiscal Challenges: A Way Out

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(This article is a follow-up to Conjuring Magic To Cover States’ Debts.)

Economist Niall Ferguson of Harvard wrote an article entitled “Complexity and Collapse” for the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ferguson uses the visual image of a series of paintings by Thomas ColeThe Course of Empire, which currently hangs at the New York Historical Society, to illustrate his point that every society goes through five stages. He says that Cole “beautifully captured a theory of imperial rise and fall to which most people remain in thrall to this day.”

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Conjuring Magic To Cover States’ Debts

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The first warning about the possible bankruptcy of the town of Vallejo, California, was reported by the Associated Press on February 28, 2008, when Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes said, “Our financial situation is getting worse every single day. No city or private person wants to declare bankruptcy, but if you’re facing insolvency, you have no choice but to seek protection.”

Marci Fritz, vice president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, blamed the action on promises made earlier by the council to the city’s employees concerning salaries and retirement benefits that the city no longer can afford. According to Fritz, these were promises made during economically flush times, and were due to the city council’s unrealistic expectations that those times would continue indefinitely.

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Fed Confirms Recovery Stalled

People pushing a stalled car out of the street

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When the Federal Open Market Committee announced yesterday that “the pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated,” stocks in Europe lost three percent of their value, interest rates on the U.S. 10-year Treasury note dropped startlingly as investors ran to safety, and the dollar hit the lowest level against the Japanese Yen since 1995.

A Japanese bond dealer said, “Investors were unnerved by the Fed’s statement. It just confirmed that the U.S. economic recovery is slowing.”

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The Fed is Caught in its Own Trap

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The much-anticipated, long-awaited pronouncement from the Fed yesterday confirmed what nearly everyone else expected: Things are not going swimmingly, but they’re ready to help further if the patient continues to drown.

The Federal Open Market Committee said that “the pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated … [but] to help support the economic recovery in the context of price stability, the Committee will keep constant the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities at their current level.”

Translation: Nothing we have done yet has worked, so we’re developing some more plans just in case they are needed.

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Behind Friday’s Jobs Report: The Real Numbers

Confusing numbers

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Buried in Friday’s employment report from the Department of Labor Statistics were two key numbers that reflected the slowdown in the economy so long denied by the administration: “private sector employment edged up over the month (+71,000). Thus far this year, [such] employment has increased by 630,000, with about two-thirds of the gain occurring in March and April.” (Emphasis added.) The other appeared in the final paragraph of that report: “The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for May was revised from +433,000 to +432,000, and the change for June was revised [downward] from -125,000 to -221,000.” (Emphasis added.)

Taken together, these two numbers reflect the slowing of the economy that has occurred ever since Vice President Joe Biden predicted back in April that “some time in the next couple of months we’re going to be creating between 250,000 and 500,000 jobs a month.”

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Geithner: Welcome to Reality

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Claims that “we are on a path back to growth” by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Welcome to Recovery” appeared to be based on facts, proof, and hard evidence.

“A review of recent data on the American economy…show that large parts of the private sector continue to strengthen,” he said. “Business investment and consumption…are getting stronger, better than last year and better than last quarter.” According to Geithner, evidence of growth can be seen because

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Ryan’s Roadmap II

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The first time Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) offered his “Roadmap for America’s Future” to the House of Representatives, it failed by 137-293, with 38 Republicans voting against, including Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). With his own district safe in the fall elections, Ryan has been spending his time generating support for Roadmap II with presentations to conservative think tanks and coffee klatches.

And he seems to be gaining some traction along with a lot of fresh attention.

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Temporary Unemployment Benefits—Permanent Welfare?

Horse And Handler Statue,  Department Of Labor

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The White House on July 21 extolled the extension of unemployment insurance by the Senate, claiming it was “not only the decent thing to do but one of the most effective ways to boost our economy.” President Obama signed the extension into law immediately, saying that this was “desperately needed assistance to two and a half million Americans who lost their jobs in the recession…Americans who…will finally get the support they need to get back on their feet during these tough economic times.”

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TARP Criticism Misses the Point

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When TARP Inspector General Neil Barofsky criticized the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) as being ineffective, he blamed the Treasury Department for not setting clearer goals for that part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Only 390,000 homeowners “have seen their mortgage terms permanently modified since the $50 billion program was announced in March 2009. That is a small fraction of the three to four million borrowers who were supposed to receive assistance under the program.”

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Maine Eyes Social Security for Pension Bailout

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Instead of asking for a federal bailout, Maine is considering shifting part of its underfunded pension plan liabilities to Social Security. Without the proposed fix, the pension liability the state currently faces is “going to rip the guts out of our budget,” according to Peter Mills, the state Senator who initially suggested the plan.

Most states provide their workers with a state pension plan as well as support their participation in Social Security. But several states such as Maine opted out of Social Security based on projections that monies invested in the state-run plan would provide more generous benefits to its beneficiaries. As the economy turned down and revenues declined, states like Maine are finding it increasingly difficult to make the contributions necessary to keep their pension plans solvent.

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Great Depression II: Here We Go Again?

The Causes of The Great Depression / FDR Memor...

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The unremitting flow of negative news about the economy has finally caught the attention of the mainstream media, causing an increasing number of economists to make comparisons between today’s recession and the Great Depression.

David Rosenberg, Gluskin Sheff’s chief market economist, commented to his clients that the monster drop in new home sales in June compared to May was not exactly “a one-month wonder” but instead invited comparison of the current recession’s similarities with those of the Great Depression. He said they include:

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Still Waiting for the Recovery

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The economy has gained either 2.5 million jobs or 3.6 million jobs since the Recovery Act was signed into law in January, 2009, depending upon which statistical “model” is used, according to Christina Romer, Chair of the White House‘s Council of Economic Advisers. When compared to the report issued earlier this month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, neither number is even close.

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Social Security Benefits Only for Needy?

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One way to fix Social Security would be to limit payments only to those who need them, according to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he added that increasing the retirement age to 70 for those age 50 and younger would also be necessary.

“We need to look at the American people and explain to them that we’re broke,” Boehner said. “If you have substantial non-Social Security income while you’re retired, why are we paying you at a time when we’re broke? We just need to be honest with people.”

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Fixing State Budgets will be Painful

Carly Fiorina (MBA 1980), former CEO of Hewlet...

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Pew Research recently polled Americans about ways to bring state budgets into balance and found that respondents did not like any of the options. In its Congressional Connection poll released June 28, Pew Research asked if a federal bailout of financially troubled states should be considered. Barely one in four said yes. Nearly 60 percent said no, that the states should take care of their problems on their own.

Other options offered by Pew included cutting transportation funding, raising taxes, cutting health services, reducing spending for police and fire departments, and slashing the public school budget. Each of those options was also strongly opposed, often by majorities approaching 70 percent.

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From China, With Love

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Addison Wiggin asked his readers to imagine an older happily married couple, having their usual morning breakfast together:

They work well together, though maybe the lady of the house has been “the better half” lately…doing a larger burden of the work, paying more bills, keeping the house together and so on. But nevertheless, things are good, so it seems. Times are a little tough, but there’s no imminent reason to suspect the relationship won’t last.

Then one morning, [out of the blue!] she says, “Honey, I [just] want you to know that I’m not planning on divorcing you and taking [the] money with me.”

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The Millennial Generation, Jobs, and Reality

Generation Y

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In a microcosm, Scott Nicholson, at age 24, represents his Millennial Generation well: He graduated from college two years ago and is still looking for work.

But he’s optimistic nevertheless. He moved back into his parents’ home in an upper-middle-class neighborhood outside of Boston, and spends his mornings searching corporate websites for “suitable” job openings. His parents are feeding and clothing him, as well as paying his cell-phone charges and insurance premiums. But they are beginning to get concerned, especially when Scott was finally offered a position at a nearby casualty insurance firm, as a claims adjuster—and he turned it down.

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Fannie and Freddie De-​​listed From NYSE: Now What?

Fannie Mae headquarters

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When ABC News announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be de-listed by the New York Stock Exchange on July 8, writer Rich Blake said that “these once mighty enterprises will trade alongside stocks on the Over-The-Counter Bulletin Board, a place where many companies go to die.”

As a eulogy Blake expressed the usual statist paean: “It’s difficult to contemplate how the U.S. mortgage market could function without the nearly $6 trillion in funding they provide to this market and the institutions that comprise it…The housing sector would be in even worse shape if not for those twin…enterprises.”

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The Invisible Recovery

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On Friday Reuters reported that non-government payrolls rose only slightly in June and overall employment fell “for the first time this year…indicating the economic recovery is failing to pick up steam.” This report followed several others last week indicating weakness in consumer spending, housing, and manufacturing which “have heightened fears [that] the economy could slip back into a recession.”

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.