Monday, June 27, 2011

Hank Paulson takes on a new role...

Just what students of public policy need... lessons from Henry Paulson.

He's apparently joining the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy Studies for a five-year stint as a senior distinguished fellow.

Curious as to the lessons he'll pass on to his students - the need for extreme leverage ratios (as he preached when CEO of GS) or the urgent need to bailout those institutions whose leverage ratios gutted their businesses (as he preached when US Treasury Secretary).

Does paying out $250K over 4 yrs really bring "huge" returns?

David Leonhardt has a post on the NY  Times Economix blog, talking about the "huge" returns that come from earning a college degree. (You can link to his longer piece in the Sunday Review here.)

My children are small - we're focused on the elementary school education right now. But my beloved niece is in high school - she's just turned onto that road that will determine her future. And college most definitely is in that future of hers.

But what kind of college? Her parents (my sister and brother-in-law) just attended a presentation by Northwestern University, and learned that starting next fall, a year's worth of education at NU will set you back $60,000 a year. 60,000 bucks per annum.

Sixty thousand dollars a year.

Forgive the repetition, but that figure astonishes me.

Multiply that times four and you discover that you'll be paying out nearly a quarter of a million dollars for the highly desired NU education. (I have twins and shudder to think of our tuition bills a few years from now...)

And this is in a time when the median household income is about $50K.

So is it worth it?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How's this for a lede?! From Harvard Law School no less...

In an article called Too Big to Fail or Too Big to Change, Harvard Law School starts with a bang...
"Two and half years removed from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the investing public has grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of criminal prosecutions of, and absence of truly significant fines levied against, the senior executives and companies responsible for igniting the subprime meltdown."
Good point! Jail the crooks who dragged the economy off the cliff. But that would require a system backed  by ethics and law, not greed and corruption. And that would require BIG CHANGES in America....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The market has vanished.

An opportunity knocked. We're moving cross country to pursue it.

Which means we need to sell a house.

The first time we sold a house, many, many years ago, we sold without a broker to friends of friends. That house never went on the MLS at all. And both parties walked away very happy. Last time we sold a house, seven years ago, we sold it by owner for close to the asking price in less than three days. That was then. 

This is now. And what we've discovered - the market for homes has vanished completely. There are no buyers at all.

We are motivated sellers. We've priced our home competitively. Yet let me repeat: there are no buyers. And if you look at market metrics, for several years now, the supply of homes for sale far exceeds the number of buyers. Within any given month, there are several hundred homes for sale, and just a handful of sales.

That's grim news if you've signed the contracts and are moving cross-country in a couple of months. The one bit of green we see - the market for renters is apparently robust. And at least we're not under water with the mortgage.

But I remain absolutely stunned at the absolute absence of the housing market. 

What our financial sector did to the housing market is unconscionable. They maxed out the housing market with leverage - as is their habit - and then got bailed out when the market collapsed.

For people like me, however, those who got the 30 yr fixed mortgage we could afford - we're screwed. Totally and completely screwed by "the market." Which was totally and completely manipulated and destroyed by our financial sector. 

And there's no bailout for us.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stop the ego trip! Newt's team wants to get off...

Apparently Newt Gingrich's top campaign team members resigned en masse, frustrated to work with a man who'd rather vacation with his wife than hit the campaign trail.

He's alienated the House Republicans by trashing Paul Ryan's "Prosperity" plan. He's alienated those who believe the marriage contract is binding, and not something to be tossed aside (especially when the wife is in the hospital being treated for cancer.) He's alienated working class Republicans with his half million dollar loan from Tiffany's.

And now he's alienated the top tier of his campaign staff.

I myself will never understand the enormity of the Newtonian ego, nor what props it up, seeing as a reality-check would pop it faster than a pin. But what passes for reality on Main Street seems but a strange dream to those in DC. Thus Newt remains a candidate in name only, a man with no hope of winning at all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The parade of penises must stop!

So not only is Anthony Weiner lumbering under an unfortunate moniker, he chose to display his very own weiner for all to ponder on Twitter, of all places. He says he won't resign over this. However, he should be fired for being one of the stupidest people in Congress these days.

Just a few weeks ago, the Terminator's revelation that he fathered a "love child" some years ago with a household employee who just retired after two decades of service to the Schwarzanegger family terminated his marriage to Maria Shriver.

And then the sperm of the head of IMF has been found on the clothing of a cleaning woman at the hotel he was visiting. She's accusing him of sexual assault. He's apparently saying she wanted it. Because all women who clean hotel rooms for a living are eager to suck the dicks of powerful men they've met just prior to scrubbing out the bathtub. Or so the theory goes.

And before all this, we had the US government spending millions to bring us the Starr Report, which, in its quest to uncover the ills of Whitewater, discovered only a semen-stained blue dress. Concurrently, there was Newt Gingrich sneaking around on wife #2 as he loudly chastised his president for the sexual indiscretions with the blue-dress wearing intern. Then there was Senator Larry Craig, the anti-gay crusader who was found tap-tap-tapping his way in a bathroom stall to get him some (male) sexual satisfaction.

And the list goes on and on.

The 24/7 tabloid news media has no shortage of sex scandals of the rich and powerful to share with the world. And that is a huge problem in America. For when we are dealing with significant crises, the men in power are pondering not the problems, but where to stick their penis.

Can't they just keep it zipped up?!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Disturbing stats from NYT's Economix blog...

A recent Economix column has a chart comparing this recession against others we've experienced. And guess what? This one's pretty bad!

Unemployment has risen to 9.1%, thanks to the tepid movement on new jobs in May. Under-employment remains high. And the numbers of those who've "dropped out of the employment market" is large as well. Here's what Economix has to say about it:
"Since the downturn began in December 2007, the economy has shed, on net, about 5 percent of its nonfarm payroll jobs. And that does not even account for the fact that the working-age population has continued to grow, meaning that if the economy were healthy we should have more jobs today than we had before the recession.....
There are now 13.9 million workers who are looking for work and cannot find it; the figure nearly doubles if you include workers who are part-time but want to be employed full-time, and workers who want to work but have stopped looking."
If you add it up, it looks like 20% of our work force is without a decent job.

Clearly, it's a bit of a fiction to view the 9.1% figure as the national "unemployment rate," given how many people are not being properly utilized in the labor market, but that's how we do it here in America; we charge blindly into that dark night!