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The Economy, The Recession, Recovery and Roots
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 6:58 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

MASSIVE RIOTS HIT MADRID, SPAIN; banks, KFC, McDonalds set ablaze, molotov cocktails used against police. The center of Madrid is a war area right now!

(I )have been there an hour ago and explosions, smoke,people running and screaming, molotovs cocktails police and riots were occuring in Madrid center.

Some photos right here…



Over 140 people arrested, dozens injured in Spain as mass protests sweep across Europe

Over 140 people have been arrested and 74 injured, including 43 police officers, as Spanish police react swiftly to reports of property damage and disorderly behavior while mass protests that began in Spain continue to roll out across the EU.

A wave of anti-austerity anger is sweeping across Europe. Spain and Portugal are undergoing general strikes, whereas Greece and Italy are seeing many walkouts.

In Spain – the fourth-biggest eurozone economy, yet with one in four workers unemployed – activists and unions have staged an evening rally outside the parliament in the capital, Madrid.

Police have reportedly fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters in Barcelona and Madrid.

Read more at http://investmentwatchblog.com/br...ea-right-now/#KbU0jV5PqJ5qTaGT.99

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."
H. L. Mencken
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm just worried about my Hostess Ding Dongs!   Wink
wall street is just a symptom of the disease...washington dc is the petri dish that incubated this pandemic  ~ scrutney
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1930s medicine pushes Europe back into double-dip recession

The eurozone has relapsed into double-dip recession as the austerity shock in the Mediterranean region spreads to the core countries of the north.

The Dutch economy shrank by 1.1pc in the third quarter amid a deep housing slump, and even Austria has begun to succumb. Finland’s economy has shrunk by 1pc over the last year.
“Recession comes as no surprise and it is going to get worse next year,” said Desmond Supple from Nomura. “Europe has imposed dusted-off policies from the 1930s and they are driving peripheral countries towards depression,” he said.
“We are seeing a mix of pro-cyclical fiscal austerity, overly-tight monetary policy, and regulatory overkill under the Basel III bank rules that are forcing lenders to tighten credit. Europe is stuck in a bad equilibrium and it is not going to end until there is a change of course.”

Prof Paul de Grauwe from the London School of Economics (LSE) said austerity measures imposed on the Club Med with no offsetting stimulus by the creditors was creating a contractionary bias to the whole system and and leading to a “very dangerous situation”.
France managed to stave off recession by the skin of its teeth, but that is unlikely to last after a blizzard of grim data in recent weeks and an austerity shock of 2pc of GDP coming next year.

Howard Archer from IHS Global Insight said the entire core would soon be engulfed. “Germany looks to be in severe danger of contracting in the fourth quarter, as does France,” he said.

Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank’s president, warned Europe’s leaders not to sit on their hands thinking that the ECB has solved the crisis for them with its €1 trillion (£805bn) lending blitz to banks and its pledge to backstop Spain and Italy – once these countries request a rescue and give up fiscal sovereignty.
“We have been able to steady the course. We have gained precious time, but this is not infinite,” he said. The comments were seen as warning to Spain to stop dragging its feet over a bail-out. Belgium’s ECB governor, Luc Coene, was explicit, saying Spain must trigger the mechanism “urgently”.

Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy has said he will hold back unless borrowing costs surge to unbearable levels. The mere threat of ECB action has calmed markets enough so far to let Spain cover its funding needs into 2013, but this may be a fragile truce.
On Thursday, Mr Rajoy suspended the eviction of families with children and other vulnerable groups that default on mortgages as an “emergency response” following a suicide that stunned the country, disregarding EU demands for action to clear a backlog of arrears.

The Spanish daily El Confidencial said Mr Rajoy is exploring plans for a rescue from the International Monetary Fund, circumventing the EU altogether – a claim denied by Madrid.
The newspaper said Mr Rajoy and his advisers fear that the German, Dutch, and Finnish parliaments may block a rescue or impose intolerable terms. They also believe that France will be sucked into the maelstrom before long as its own dire problems come the surface, changing the political dynamic in Europe.

Prof Luis Garicano from the LSE said it would be an “outstanding idea” for Spain to break free of EU austerity diktats and seek a neutral umpire. “The IMF has been on the side of reason, whereas the EU has been behaving like a creditor trying to get its money back.”
Prof Garicano said Spain was “betrayed” over the EU bail-out for its banks in July. Mr Rajoy was told the eurozone rescue fund (ESM) would able to clean up Spanish lenders directly once a pan-EMU supervisor was in place, lifting the burden from the Spanish state. Madrid accepted stringent terms on this understanding, only to be told later that “legacy” costs would not in fact be covered.
“There is now a lack of trust. They don’t really believe the EU will deliver on promises. But it is a dangerous game to postpone a full rescue until Spain has already failed,” he said.

Mr Rajoy may have been emboldened after US President Barack Obama said “Spain cannot be allowed to fail”. But diplomats say the IMF would balk at a direct request, seen as a ploy to be playing off Washington against Berlin.
The US, Canada, China, Japan, Brazil and others on the IMF board say Europe has the wealth to sort out its own crisis, which is entirely self-created by the internal mechanisms of EMU.

The Centre for Economic Policy Research said the eurozone has been in continuous recession since the autumn of 2011 using a wide array of output and jobs data tracked by its Business Cycle Dating Committee. Unemployment has climbed to a euro-era high of 11.6pc for the whole currency bloc, reaching 25.8pc in Spain and 25pc in Greece.
There is no relief in sight. The broad M3 money supply for the eurozone contracted over the last two months and is signalling further trouble next year. The ECB’s latest loan survey showed a collapse in credit demand of almost 50pc in Italy and France.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nov. 15, 2012, 5:05 p.m. EST
Banks told by Fed to test for 12% unemployment

By Ronald D. Orol, MarketWatch
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The Federal Reserve is asking 30 big banks to make sure their capital can withstand a deep recession in which the unemployment rate rises to 12%.

The Fed, which first required big banks to conduct “stress tests” in 2009, laid out three scenarios lenders have to test against. The goal is to ensure that the firms have enough capital to continue operations during stressful economic times.

The Fed stressed they were not making economic forecasts “but rather hypothetical scenarios designed to assess the strength of financial institutions in stressful economic environments.”

In addition to considering an unemployment rate of roughly 12% — up from 7.9% in October — in the most severe recession scenario, banks must evaluate how their capital buffers would withstand real GDP declining by around 5%.

Banks will also have to test for equity prices that would fall by more than 50% over the course of the recession, with house prices declining more than 20% and with commercial real estate prices falling by a similar amount.

While harsh, the Fed stress test isn’t necessarily as bad as conditions actually were during the so-called Great Recession from late 2007 to 2009. The unemployment rate rose from 4.7% before the recession started in Nov. 2007 to as high as 10%, the economy shrank as much as 8.9% during one quarter, and home prices have tumbled by roughly a third from their peak.

The 30 largest U.S. financial institutions will be required to submit capital plans to the Federal Reserve by Jan. 7.

The Fed said that 19 of the largest banks under review have hiked their common capital to $803 billion in the second quarter of 2012 from $420 billion in the first quarter of 2009.

The Fed uses the stress tests to decide whether to allow banks to issue dividends and implement stock buybacks. Under the process banks tell the Fed what dividends and stock buybacks they want to issue. For the first time, the Fed will allow banks to modify these proposals while they discuss the ongoing stress tests with the central bank.

The new guidance comes after Ally Financial Inc., Citigroup Inc. C +0.54%   , MetLife Inc. MET +1.39%   and SunTrust Banks Inc. STI +1.49%   initially failed to have enough capital under a stress test conducted on 19 big banks by the Federal Reserve in March. It was one of the reasons cited by observers as to why Vikram Pandit was pushed out of his role as head of Citi. Read commentary on Pandit’s exit.

In addition, two other bank regulators, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, both also agreed to conduct stress tests on some large institutions under their oversight using the scenarios. Cumulatively, more than 100 large financial institutions that each have more than $10 billion in capital will conduct stress tests.

The regulators also clarified guidance that community banks with under $10 billion in assets are not required to conduct the types of stress testing required by big banks.

Ronald D. Orol is a MarketWatch reporter, based in Washington.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

U.S. Treasury to sell remaining AIG shares for $7.6 billion

By Rick Rothacker and Rachelle Younglai
December 11, 201

(Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury's sale of its remaining stake in American International Group Inc  will fetch $7.6 billion, bringing the government a total profit of $22.7 billion from its crisis-era bailout of the insurer.

The share offering will close the chapter on one of the most politically contentious rescues of 2008, which ultimately gave AIG up to $182 billion of government support.

At one point, the government estimated that it would never recover all of the bailout money, but as AIG restructured and returned to viability, it was able to repay the entire rescue fund plus generate a profit for U.S. taxpayers.

AIG said on Tuesday that the Treasury agreed to sell 234.2 million shares to investors for $32.50 apiece. The insurer said that Treasury has additional AIG warrants that it can sell to boost the government's $22.7 billion of total returns so far.

"No taxpayer should be pleased that the government had to rescue this company, but all taxpayers should be pleased with today's announcement, ending the largest of the government's financial industry bail-outs with a profit to the Treasury Department," Jim Millstein, the Treasury's former chief restructuring officer, said Monday in a statement.

AIG was rescued just before it would have been forced to file for bankruptcy protection in September 2008 as losses on risky derivatives mounted. It was bailed out as the world's financial system stood at the brink of disaster, shortly after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America Corp.

AIG was one of the Treasury Department's most hotly contested bailouts. U.S. lawmakers began calling for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's resignation after it was revealed that AIG paid $165 million in retention bonuses to employees of the derivatives unit that has been blamed for the company's financial distress at that time.

It prompted Republican lawmaker Charles Grassley to call for AIG executives to resign or commit suicide, though the Iowa senator eventually backtracked from those comments.

The company also funneled over $90 billion of taxpayer money - more than half the funds the government used to rescue AIG - to various European and Wall Street banks, including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Barclays Plc .

The sale price of $32.50 represents a 2.6 percent discount to AIG's Monday close of $33.36. The sale is due to close on Friday. AIG's shares rose 1.6 percent in pre-market trading on Tuesday to $33.90.


Robert Benmosche, the former CEO of MetLife , took over as CEO of AIG in August 2009, replacing Edward Liddy, who had been installed by the U.S. government. He will ultimately get the lion's share of the credit for turning the company around and preventing a fire sale of its assets.

Benmosche salvaged some of the company's businesses, defended the company's employees against their detractors and figured out a path forward that would let the company both repay the government and stay in business.

In September, he said the company may be in a position to consider a dividend by next summer.
"It was an ugly process," said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist with Potomac Research Group, but he added: "Bottom line is that the government made money."
Treasury and AIG said that the sale was jointly led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup , Deutsche Bank , Goldman Sachs  and JPMorgan Chase & Co .

The sale closes out AIG's bailout, but other companies still owe the government. The latest Treasury estimate has the Troubled Asset Relief Program ultimately costing the U.S. taxpayers $60 billion.

Among the companies still paying back the government are General Motors,  auto lender Ally Financial Inc and a series of small banks.
(Editing by Alden Bentley)

bieramar on August 12, 2012 on this thread wrote:
The "bailouts" and TARP are already the stuff of myth and legend, with isolated out of context examples selected for political propaganda at every turn.

ProRepublica.org maintains a running account.

                           --- excerpts ---
The Bailout Scorecard
Last update: Aug. 1, 2012

Our frequently updated database tracks every dollar and every bailout recipient for both the broader $700 billion TARP bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Below is a summary generated from the latest numbers.

Altogether, accounting for both bailouts, $602 billion has gone out the door - invested, loaned, or paid out - while $309 billion has been returned.

The Treasury has been earning a return on most of the money invested or loaned. So far, it has earned $82 billion.

When those revenues are taken into account, $211 billion is the net still outstanding as of Aug. 1, 2012.

Detailed Breakdown:

OUTFLOWS:        $601,586,466,567
Disbursed from U.S. Treasury:

- Banks and other Financial Institutions
- Fannie and Freddie    
- Auto Companies
- Toxic Asset Purchases
- Mortgage Mod Program
- State Housing Programs
- Small Business Loan Aid
- FHA Refinance Program

INFLOWS:                 $390,602,423,310  

- Refunds                      $308,861,008,663
(Money returned to Treasury by bailed-out companies.)

- Dividends                     $59,869,945,389
(Revenue Treasury has earned on its investments through dividend payments.)

- Interest                          $1,674,765,749
(Revenue Treasury has earned through its loans through interest payments.)

- Warrants                        $9,261,769,063
(Revenue Treasury has earned from selling stock warrants it held on companies that have paid back its investment.)

- Other Proceeds            $10,495,470,674
(Revenue from selling off equity or other assets.)

- Fees                                 $454,000,000
(Revenue Treasury has garnered from special fees.)

Net Outstanding:           $210,984,043,257

My points and positions:

1. The $601.5 billion dollars initially expended (a/k/a redistributed wealth) from the U.S. Treasury has been spent again and again in local economies across the nation, helping workers and their dependents at every level of society. Did that redistribution "fix" the economy and grow it back to the pre-recession levels? Nope.  But it sure has prevented a second recession.

2. Almost 2 of every 3 dollars which was redistributed throughout the economy - benefiting each person as the cash flowed - has been recouped to the U.S. Treasury, and more will be recouped in the future. The cash flows accomplished much, and the U.S. taxpayers initial debit is being credited back. Only $211 billion (almost) remains being redistributed.  

3. In the three years during which that current net debit of $210,984,043,257 accrued, the TOTAL expeditures authorized by Congress from the U.S. Treasury were $10,577,000,000,000. The net "bailout" redistribution of cash was thus 2% of the tax/borrowed money redistributed throughout the economy by the federal government. And that 2% figure will be lowered to approximately 1% as more money is recouped (some of the "bailouts" will never be recouped).

4. In summary to this point, 1% of government (taxpayers') expenditures will have been spent to keep our economy limping along, and simultaneously insure that the great, great majority of the unemployed due to the recession, and their families, are not starving homeless in the streets and alleys of America.

In my opinion the temporary redistribution of wealth nationwide - which enabled many to additionally profit with new wealth - is/was well worth it.

5. Look at another comparison, contrast and context. During the same period that a net 2% (which will decrease) of Treasury expenditures was redistributed domestically for the "general welfare" of all of us, 1.1% was being redistributed overseas and across our land borders. The great, great majority of those dollars WERE NOT spent in local economies across our nation.

I think the direct benefits of the temporary redistribution of wealth to U.S. residents domestically is at least as important as redistributing it overseas and across our northern and southern borders.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DAVOS 2013 has gathered.

"The World Economic Forum encourages businesses, governments and civil society to commit together to improving the state of the world. Our Strategic and Industry Partners are instrumental in helping stakeholders meet key challenges such as building sustained economic growth, mitigating global risks, promoting health for all, improving social welfare and fostering environmental sustainability.

"The world economy is navigating uncharted waters in the wake of the global financial crisis. With the goal of building and sustaining economic growth in mind, the Forum is spearheading efforts to rethink infrastructure development, reshape responsible capitalism and encourage the free movement of people and goods."

                                                                     ›››››››››››and this›››››››››››

Obama-Bashing Swapped for Pragmatism at Davos

By Max Abelson

Wall Street leaders descending on Davos this week will drink cocktails at Hotel Schatzalp, consort with Nobel laureates and try to "reshape"¯ capitalism, as the World Economic Forum's website puts it.

They won't be doing it with as much vitriol as in previous years, when financiers including Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman lashed out at government leaders, according to interviews with seven executives of firms with ties to the banking industry who are attending the annual Swiss Alpine meeting.

Following the second inauguration this week of President Barack Obama, whose re-election Wall Street spent a record amount to prevent, financial elites gathering in Davos say overt antagonism has fallen out of fashion.

"We have to move on in our society,"¯ Schwarzman said today in an interview in Davos with Bloomberg Television's Erik Schatzker. "I like President Obama as a person, and he's well- intentioned."¯

Schwarzman, 65, warned in Davos in 2010 that banks could restrict lending because "their entire world is being shaken and they're being attacked personally." Later that year, at a nonprofit group meeting, he likened Obama's tax proposals to Hitler's invasion of Poland.
Third Point LLC CEO Daniel Loeb, who in 2010 compared Wall Street's Obama supporters to "battered wives,"¯ will help lead a Jan. 25 Davos dinner discussion,

Romney's Millions

"The best way forward is to work with the people in Washington,'¯ said Archibald Cox Jr., 72, chairman of Barclays Plc's Americas business until June 2011 and a backer of Republican candidates last year. "You don't stand up and challenge openly the administration."¯

This year, more than two dozen executives from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will converge on Davos after Wall Street employees gave $21 million to Mitt Romney, more than any presidential candidate since the modern campaign system began with the 1976 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks campaign contributions.

The six biggest contributors to Romney were banks, while Obama was the only major nominee in 20 years whose top five funding sources didn't include the banking industry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

Executives know they have to live with four more years of Obama and will be making fewer "big, loud public statements,"¯ said Hans-Paul Buerkner, chairman and former CEO of Boston Consulting Group Inc., which advises global banks on strategy and costs.

Quite Pragmatic

"Business people are usually quite pragmatic,"¯ Buerkner said. "They are not politicians, they are not ideologists, they want to do as well as possible."¯

Romney's loss to a champion of financial regulation wasn't Wall Street's only disappointment. Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, co-chairman of last year's meeting, was ousted in October following setbacks with regulators. Barclays CEO Robert Diamond, who said at Davos in 2012 that politicians arguing against pay for failed bankers should also talk about rewarding success, left in July after the London-based firm was fined 290 million poundsĀ ($460 million) for rigging global interest rates.

"Wall Street is pragmatic, if nothing else," said Peter Weinberg, co-founder of Perella Weinberg Partners LP, a New York-based advisory and asset-management firm, and a former CEO of Goldman Sachs International.

Schwarzman Apology

Schwarzman apologized in 2010 for his comparison of Obama's effort to double taxes on private-equity income to the invasion of Poland. He said the analogy was inappropriate and that the administration's need to work with business "is still of very serious concern."¯

The Blackstone co-founder, who held a December 2011 fundraiser for Romney at his Park Avenue apartment, is worth about $6.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His firm, whose holdings include hotel chain Hilton Worldwide Inc. and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., is the largest U.S. private real-estate owner. Its shares have fallen 42 percent from their $31 initial-public-offering price in 2007.

Obama didn't shun Wall Street. His economic team has included Lawrence Summers, who was paid more than $5 million by hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., and former Citigroup managing director Jack Lew, nominated as Treasury secretary this month. Obama also appointed Mary L. Schapiro, former CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, and made former JPMorgan executive William Daley his chief of staff.

No Voice

While Attorney General Eric Holder vowed in 2009 to prosecute those responsible for the financial crisis, no senior Wall Street executives have faced criminal charges.

Still, Buerkner said bankers felt the White House's pursuit of Wall Street and public anger at bankers was unfair. "There was no voice of the business community in the first administration," said Colin Dyer, CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., a Chicago-based commercial-property broker, citing Daley's departure after one year. He said he expects the second term to be "more balanced."¯

Bankers see compromises as losses, according to Erwann Michel-Kerjan, managing director of the Wharton Risk Management & Decision Processes Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

"You cannot be angry all the time,"¯ said Michel-Kerjan, 37, who helps prepare an annual global-risk report issued by the World Economic Forum and has consulted for banks. "At some point you have to calm down and say, 'What do we do about it?'"

Greed issue

Bank profits are at stake. Early this year regulators will finish drafting the Volcker rule, the part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act limiting proprietary bank wagers, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has said. The draft proposal drew 18,000 comment letters, including complaints from banks that the rule is too complex and could hurt economic growth.

Personal wealth is at stake, too. Even after Congress's Jan. 1 budget deal raised the top rate that private-equity managers pay on some profits to 20 percent, that is about half of the top rate for ordinary income. Maintaining that preferential treatment for capital gains is "a greed issue,"¯ said Cox, chairman of private-equity firm Sextant Group Inc.

Wall Street will pursue its agenda more constructively in small meetings with the White House, according to Buerkner and two executives who have supported Obama.

"I think we have, on both sides, better understanding,"¯ said Glenn Hutchins, 57, co-founder of Silver Lake Management LLC, a Menlo Park, California-based private-equity firm. Joe Echevarria, CEO of accounting firm Deloitte LLP, agreed, saying that adjustments aren't instant. "These are humans,"¯ Echevarria said. It "takes time for those emotions to go from one extreme to the other."¯

In Davos today, Schwarzman said he does have one regret. "The team that I was involved with lost."
To contact the reporter on this story: Max Abelson in New York at mabelson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

US employment compensation up 0.3 percent in Q1; wages grow faster, but benefits slow

April 30, 2013
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Americans' wages increased at a faster rate from January through March than the previous quarter, a trend that helped boost consumer spending at the start of the year. But their benefits barely grew.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that an index that measures wages and benefits rose 0.3 percent during the first quarter. That's down from a 0.4 percent gain in the October-December quarter and the smallest gain in a year.

Wages and salaries rose 0.5 percent, up from the 0.3 percent gain in the previous quarter. But benefits, which include health insurance and pension contributions, rose just 0.1 percent after a 0.6 percent rise in the fourth quarter.

Higher pay has helped consumers shake off an increase in Social Security taxes.

Consumer spending rose in the first quarter at the fastest pace in more than two years.

But economists said wages must grow even faster to sustain the first-quarter gains in consumer spending.

For the 12 months ending in March, wages and salaries are up just 1.6 percent, slightly lower than the 1.7 percent rise in the 12 months ending in December. That means that wages have barely kept up with inflation.

"We are seeing very weak wage growth," said Gregory Daco, a senior U.S. economist at Global Insight.

Wages account for about 70 percent of compensation costs. Benefits account for the other 30 percent.

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PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2013 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

During immigration reform discussions the estimated total number of illegal undocumented immigrant residents is often cited, as well as the allegation that the illegals are "taking our jobs."  

Following are some BLS data (all industries including farming and "under-the-table-paid") about the employment of foreign born (FB) vs. native born (NB) workers from prior to the beginning of the Great Recession through March and April 2013.

Employed 1/07          3/13           4/13

FB   22,356,000   23,197,000   23,292,000

NB 121,919,000 119,501,000 120,432,000

All  144,275,000 142,698,000 143,724,000
 --- end data from BLS/Census Bureau ---

Some points:

1. Foreign born workers have increased their share in the economy from 15.5% to 16.2% during the slow post-recession recover. Of the 1 million+ newly documented legal residents each year, 375,000+ of them are invited to immigrate in order to fill jobs for which no qualified citizens or legal residents can be found, or afford to live, within commuting distance of the jobs.

2. Although GDP continues to increase, and the stock market is setting new high records - both expressions of increasing newly created wealth - the number of workers needed to created the wealth has never returned to pre-recession numbers.
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PostPosted: Sat May 11, 2013 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dangerous Times: Milton Friedman just won his euro bet

By James Lewis
Even as President Obama is following in Eurosocialist footsteps, the 14-year utopian experiment on a single currency is collapsing. The architect of the euro just ran up the white flag on the biggest policy mistakes in history. Former German Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine called his own brainchild a "catastrophe".

"The economic situation is worsening from month to month," he wrote on his Left party blog. "unemployment has reached a level that puts democratic structures ever more in doubt."

"Catastrophe" is the right word.

Today Greece is suffering more than 50% unemployment. That's worse than the Great Depression in the US.  This winter in Athens, people cut down the trees in the city parks for firewood.  They couldn't afford to buy heating fuel.  The resulting wood smoke created the worst smog in decades, obscuring even the Parthenon.  About half of the younger people are leaving the country.

Ireland, Spain, and even France are in distress.  The Netherlands economy is the worst in half a century. Only Germany is still going strong, and that fact is creating deep resentment. Germany can afford the euro. Other countries can't.  The industrious Germans make the euro expensive, while being shackled to the same currency makes Greek and Italian exports harder to sell. A single, one-size-fits-all currency can't adjust to market conditions in widely varying spocieties and economies

Milton Friedman predicted this outcome, based on his life's work in economics. Forbes wrote an article last year, called, Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman, The European Crisis is Your Latest Vindication.
"July 31st (2012) was Milton Friedman's 100th birthday, and his birthday present is to watch the 'European Project' come crashing to the ground, just as he predicted that it would. I doubt that it gives him any pleasure. In fact, Friedman told Robert Mundell (the 'Father of the Euro') that since the experiment had already been entered into, he hoped that he would turn out to be wrong. But he hasn't been."

For econophiliacs, the detailed debate between Friedman and Mundell can be found here.

The details are dizzying, but the basic question is whether free markets work for currencies as well as goods and services.  Before the rigid euro, Greece could lower its currency to sell olives and wine cheaply enough to compete on the world market. A cheaper Greek drachma could attract tourists by the millions.

But today the euro is fixed around $1.25 and Greece has lost its relative advantage. Olives from Argentina are now cheaper. Result: A shrinking economy that cannot support a growing population, a generous old-age pension plan that cannot be paid out, a welfare system designed to attract cheap immigrant votes for the left and damn the consequences, and a 24/7 propaganda campaign about the glories of the European Union that is suddenly out of touch with everyday reality.

When times were good, Greeks came to live in Athens. Many bought luxury BMW's, because the welfare state was subsidized by the EU. Then the Germans realized that the Greek budget was a pack of lies. The southern rim of Euorpe has a long, long history of tax evasion and corruption, in good part because there have been few honest governments. Everybody lies to the taxman because they know the system is rigged. Everybody has a way of fiddling the system. Many people hold double jobs to get double incomes. In two and half millennia, that's the only way ordinary people can deal with corrupt and self-serving rulers. The EU is hardly free of corruption itself.

When the wealthier half of Europe started to realize it was subsidizing a giant sinkhole,  the European Central Bank finally insisted on realistic accounting and deep spending cuts in Greece, Italy, Spain and the rest. The result was extremely painful to regular people, the kind of economic pain that Americans knew in the Great Depression.

Today the Germans blame the Italians and vice versa. France is still trying to dance on a tightrope, relying on Germany to rescue it, because the Franco-German political alliance is the core of the European Union.

For Americans the bottom line is that free market economics has won a major battle in a long debate. The European Union placed its bets on a single, top-down currency. Free market economists saw how dangerous that was.

Milton Friedman is out of fashion these days, with Keynesians like Paul Krugman sounding fanatically convinced that goverments can control markets. We are spending trillions of deficit dollars on the theory that massive injections of money will get us out of the Long Recession -- any day now. Krugman has been cheerleading that oompah band for five years, but it isn't working. We are still not growing.

Why not? Krugman argues we aren't spending enough. Friedmanites say we are spending way too much.

And you know where Obama stands. For Obama and his cronies there's no way the Feds can waste money. Green energy from bacteria?  Chicago Carbon Exchange? If you can tax carbon you can trade it. All you need is millions upon millions of suckers, and that's where the mendacious media come in.

Before scientific medicine, bleeding was a sure cure for any number of diseases. Doctors would carry little scalpels in their pockets to open their patients' veins to purge those toxic humors. If the patient died, too little blood had been drawn. Or it might be too much. Either side could explain their failures, after the fact.

Europe's economies are sick today, and German economists now recommend less spending. But next door France parades economists who support higher taxes and no budget cuts.

Sounds familiar? If the patient dies either side has an explanation. Maybe it was too much spending. Maybe it wasn't enough.

Ordinary people are now suffering because of arrogant EU decisions taken in 1999. This is the "catastrophe" Lafontaine was describing. But he is a Eurocrat, after all, and he will never admit that he personally made any mistakes in launching this giant Hindenburg balloon in the first place.

Nobody is ever wrong in Europe, as in the Obama Administration. Even after admitting failure Mr. Lafontaine will not take responsibility for his brainchild. No, he tells us that he was right all along. Instead, Lafontaine blames other countries for "not acting rationally."

This is a human-made disaster. It could have been avoided, but the European ruling class was seduced by the imperial glory of its "new" model of a welfare state with peace and love forever. That is what Europroganda has been telling the world for more than a decade. Kids who grew up believing in that are now falling for idiotic conspiracy theories to explain the impossible: That EUtopian welfare could be vulnerable to market forces. Nobody told them.

Europeans have been going along with the farce of pseudo-electoral governments. The European Union has no elected representatives with real power. Elected Members of European Parliament have no power. Unelected bureaucrats appointed by Germany and France have all the power. The EU has a nice building, but it's a pure front.

As a result, the fear and panic in Italy, Greece, Ireland, and the rest is not being heard by the ruling class in Brussels. Like bureaucrats throughout history, the EU is most interested in its own power and privileges. They are an unaccountable aristocracy.

Today we are seeing CYA all around. Britain, France and Germany are telling three different lies, which all leave them blameless. Millions of people are suffering and the elites only care about saving themselves.

Apres nous, la deluge.

Meanwhile everybody is out for themselves.

Will somebody tell Obama?

Would he care?


"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."
H. L. Mencken
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GDP Q4 Second Estimate At 2.4%, Down From The 3.2% Advance Estimate
The Second Estimate for Q4 GDP, to one decimal, came in at 2.4 percent, down from 3.2 percent in the Advance Estimate. The GDP deflator used to calculate real (inflation-adjusted) GDP rose to 1.5 percent from 1.3 percent in the Advance Estimate. Investing.com had forecast 2.5 percent for last week's GDP estimate and the deflator to remain unchanged

"The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money." -- Alexis de Tocqueville
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