Showing posts from August, 2011

Economic Policy Confusion

Isn't it obvious that the politicians have no idea why the economy is staggering? After the arrogance of January, 2009, when the exuberant victors of the 2008 election proceeded to toss away $ 800 billion in a foolish waste of money known as "the stimulus."

The Obama folks assumed that throwing taxpayer money in the direction of Obama political allies (mostly state employee union members) would magically get the economy back on track. Why the Obama folks thought that, no one knows?

Then the Obama team began the process of erecting roadblocks (think Dodd Frank, Obamacare, the Credit Card Reform act, stifling regulations from the EPA and the NLRB) that would virtually guarantee that the economy had no real chance of recovery.

Now, Obama promises to come up with a new package to deal with the "jobs problem." This would be comical were it not so tragic. Putting up more roadblocks does not remove the original roadblocks.

This economy will not get out of its own wa…

The Jobs Problem

If cell phones cost $ 10,000 apiece and required $ 1,000 monthly service bills, who would own them? Well, no doubt, Warren Buffett would own one and perhaps Bill Gates and Barrack Obama as well.

But, what about the average guy. Would he own a cell phone at those prices? What if the economy was very strong, would most folks get a cell phone, if these were the costs?

The answer is pretty obvious. At that price, very few people would be interested.

This is the fundamental jobs problem in the US. Because of government mandates, the anticipation of Obamacare, litigation fears, OSHA rules, threat of unionization, a blithering variety of employment taxes, family leave laws, American labor is priced out of the market for most businesses. There are some businesses for which price is not an issue: Wall Street, the movies, professional sports, working at the White House, etc. But, for most private businesses who do the bulk of hiring in the US, labor is just way too expensive thanks to the …

4 Components of Economic Growth (August 2011)

So far, equity markets are down anywhere between 10-20% and bond yields in a number of major markets are reaching historic lows. Although it is difficult and nerve racking, investors should understand some of the forces behind what's creating this volatility and how they're likely to play out in the near term.

When will market rebound? Again, we simply cannot answer that million-dollar question. If I know, I won't be writing this article here telling you all stories and facts. We should have a longer term view, especially during volatile times when fears dominating the marketplace.
So, what are some of the driving forces behind? If we go back to basics, the 4 components that really drive economic growth are Government, Consumer, Corporate, Import & Export. If we look at each individually, we can do better opinion, by analyzing them.

Government: Since 2008, governments have played an increasingly dominant role in the markets that we're familiar with. They are expanding mo…

What Do Markets Assume?

There are very scary stories out there: 1) a European debt crisis; 2) Incredibly slow economic growth in Western countries; 3) A potential for Asian economic growth to top out. Does this mean stocks cannot do well?

Surely "the market" knows what we know. How much worse news is yet to come?

Greece will default. Has the market fully factored that in? While the initial shock of a Greek default would likely cause stocks markets to skid, the reality is that a Greek default could be the harbinger of good news to come. The sooner that defaults and workouts become the order of the day in Europe, the sooner Europe can begin to heal its economic woes.

Why are defaults and workouts therapeutic for Europe? The reason is that politicians will never be able to reverse the spending and entitlement train. They just won't be able to do it. Instead, a default will let the market itself force the necessary reforms on Europe. It won't be possible for Europe to access debt market…

All Eyes on Bernanke...Why?

Whatever Ben Bernanke has to say on Friday is irrelevant to the grand picture. The American economy is stuck in a quagmire that Ben Bernanke cannot do anything about. He can make things worse, indeed he has already. But, can Bernanke do anything that can help? What can Bernanke can do that will convince a business to shoot itself in the foot by hiring someone in a world of massive regulation, litigation and mandates? Not much.

But, I guess the press has to talk about something. So, the Bernanke sideshow continues.

Europe and US Face Similar Problem

The "Greek Problem" is really no different than what might be called the "California Problem" in the US. The 50 states of the US are in a common currency, yet each state has its own "fiscal policy." This is essentially the same as the situation in Europe wherein European countries (excepting Switzerland) are banded together in a common currency -- the Euro. Each country has its own fiscal policy.

Greece (and California) are eventually going to be unable to continue financing their outstanding debt. There is no scenario possible that would permit either Greece or California to fund their outstanding debt over any significant future time period. The only way to postpone a default in either place is for someone to step in and bail them out and let them continue to expand their indebtedness.

That's why politicians will soon be clamoring for the US government to bail out California, just as many are pushing the concept of Eurobonds in Europe to bail o…

A Bad Idea Can Do Some Real Damage

What we are experiencing now are the fruits of the "too big to fail" mentality. In the US, the crisis of the Fall of 2008 began with the government orchestrating a purchase by JP Morgan of Bear Stearns with a $ 29 billion guarantee by the US government. That was the beginning. Before they were done the politicians had bailed out half the financial system, even those who did not wish to be bailed out.

Now the European politicians are doing the same thing. Greece was too big to fail. Now, Spain and Italy are too big to fail. Germany and France are, no doubt, to big to fail too, but there is no one left big enough to bail them out.

This is all ridiculous. No one is too big to fail. The world would not have come to an end if the various financial institutions that were liquidity starved had been permitted to fail in 2008 (or provided some orderly form of Chapter 11 bankruptcy). There was absolutely no reason to protect bondholders from the risks that they had assumed. They…

Reasons for Optimism

Reading this blog and following the markets can get one down after a while. So, what is there to feel good about. Several things.

First and most important, the world is now fully cognizant of the profligate ways of the Western economies. This is a plus.

Second, the Asian economies and some scattered others are motoring along quite nicely and they are not enacting the kind of poison pill social policies that destroyed the Western economies. At least not yet.

Third, government bureaucrats have not yet caught up with technology, though they are trying to. It is still possible to come up with a new technological idea and put it out there without drowning in red tape (which is what happens to you in the bricks and mortar economy).

Fourth, the global warming folks are losing their audience, though they still have President Obama dutifully in attention.

Fifth, left-leaning Americans are mad at Obama.

Sixth, Paul Ryan might run for President

So, rejoice, buy stocks.....all is not lost

Martha's Vineyard

There is no reason why the President should not have a vacation and enjoy it without the press (and Maxine Waters) villifying him for taking time off to be with his family. The focus on the President's trip to Martha's Vineyard shows the bankruptcy of the modern media.

The problem is not that the President is taking a vacation. He doesn't need to hurry back, call Congress back into session, and then inflict more damage on the US economy. Better that he enjoy himself at Martha's Vineyard and leave us alone. Would that his EPA and his NLRB would do the same.

Our problem is not too little attention from the President, but too much attention. The Credit Card "Reform" Act, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank as well as various direct administrative acts by government agencies have all but guaranteed that the US economy will remain mired in stagnation for a generation. This is what happens when Obama takes an interest in our welfare. Lets hope he forgets all about us. We w…

Oil & Gas: Why Malaysia is different? (21 Aug 2011)

With oil prices hovering around USD80-85 per barrel currently, what is the outlook for Malaysia oil & gas (O&G) industry? Dubbed as "Black Gold", crude oil is one of investors favorite asset classes, which is highly volatile. Here, we examined the implications of lower oil prices, current scenario of the industry, and sustainability of oil price going forward. Feel free to share this out via our Facebook page (

What drags down oil prices? As most of you already know, US and Europe is main culprit for the sliding oil prices. High debt issues still lingering the global economy since 2008 global financial crisis. As such, the potential slowdown in the global economy as per investors perception, droves oil prices lower to current level.

What is the implications? Actually, the correction of oil prices is driven by sentiment of traders, whom thinking that the demand is going ton be weak soon. What would you do if you're a CEO of Shell? Cut…

The Focus on Jackson Hole

Once again all eyes are pointed in the wrong direction. The Federal Reserve's annual conclave is this coming week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Nothing of any significance can possibly emerge from this gathering.

But for the media, this is the big event. The media can pretend that somehow, someway it matters what happens and what gets said in Jackson Hole. This is complete nonsense.

The American economy's problems cannot be fixed by applying any strategies from the Federal Reserve. The Fed has done enormous damage to the American economy in the last three years, in part because it was handmaiden to an Administration and a Congress intent upon destroying the private sector economy. Ben Bernanke has only one goal -- getting himself reappointed by Obama as Fed chairman. Nothing else really matters to Bernanke at this point. Greenspan behaved in a similar fashion when Clinton was President. There is nothing new about a Fed Chairman playing the politics of survival.

But fixing th…

A State of Denial

Both the US and Europe are loath to acknowledge the facts on the ground. Governments in the US and Europe have, for half a century, pushed entitlement programs, erected massive regulatory edifices, and sold bonds to finance what taxpayers will not and cannot pay for. Now what?

You still see calls for politicians to act. Haven't they done enough?

When will the press and the politicians admit the cold hard truth. The policies enacted in Europe and the US are not affordable and are pushing their economies into permanent economic stagnation. The Krugman view that all one needs is a new dose of massive government spending has been tried by every country in the Western world. That it failed miserably spurs Krugman on to demand more of the same. Krugman is comfortable. He has a job. This is all "academic" to him. And, he's having fun to boot.

But the economic malaise that the world is stuck in is a direct result of the policies of Western governments for the past hal…

The Cost of Dodd-Frank

Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank know little about economics and less about financial services. Nevertheless, their names adorn one of the worst pieces of legislation in American history -- the Dodd-Frank bill. This bill, one of the first of Obama Administration's body blows to the American eoonomy, is now bearing fruit in massive layoffs at the major banks in the US.

What Dodd-Frank does is shift the center of the financial service world from the US to Asia. What Dodd-Frank doesn't do is provide any reform whatever to the delivery of financial services in the US. Dodd-Frank enshrines "too big to fail" as the cornerstone of US bank regulatory policy. Dodd-Frank is an absurd, suicidal act imposed upon the financial services by ignoramuses who don't understand the purpose or operation of a financial service industry. It's a lawyer's dream and country's nightmare.

Check out the bank stocks. This year they are down from 35 percent to 6…

All The Bad News is Going to Get Worse

Don't expect the bad news to end any time soon. As long as politicians continue to try to sweep things under the rug, both in the US and in Europe, markets will swoon from time to time.

But, the markets have priced much of this in. The markets are not fooled by the politicians. The truth is that Europe and the US have both put their economies in straight jackets for the foreseeable future. The desire to do good has accomplished what sworn enemies could never achieve -- the decline of the Western economies. We are watching that unfold before our eyes. This means periodic slamming of markets.

But, the larger companies will survive this onslaught. They are in cahoots with the politicians in any event. It is the small companies and the middle and lower income groups who will bear the brunt of the unwinding of the European-US pipedreams.

All of this protection for minorities, for the disenfranchised, etc., simply entrenches the wealthy, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. None of…

No Inflation....Just 6 Percent

So Bernanke sees no inflation, nor do any of the major economists working with the Obama Administration. The CPI rose at an annualized rate of six percent in the month of July. How's that for no inflation.

The bankruptcy of Bernanke's and Obama's policies are unfolding in the only logical direction that such policies can take us: rising inflation and a weak and stagnant economy.

Politicians Busy Solving Europe's Problems

You knew when various European countries banned short selling that the politicians were beginning to panic. Fix it! Fix it!

What is unfortunate is that folks in the investment community are on the sidelines urging them on. They want the taxpayers, once again, to step up and bankroll the banks, governments and whoever else has made serious, gigantic, mistakes and need financial help. Why? Why not let them go under? Why not force Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, whoever to do workouts with their creditors. The creditors loaned them money (or bought the debt with eyes wide open). Why is this the taxpayers' (of other countries) problem?

The usual tactic to justify putting taxpayers on the hook is to argue that, absent a bailout, the world is coming to an end. Really? How do they know that? Are they objective in this assessment?

The ECB should quit meeting. Merkel and Sarcozy should take a 16 month vacation. Let the profligate borrowers go bust or do workouts with their lender…

New Fund: OSK-UOB Agriculture Fund

With the world population slated to increase, particularly from the emerging markets like India and China, coupled with the increase in per capita income in the developing nations and an improvement in lifestyle, the demand for food, and in turn agricultural commodities, will see an upward rise. Moreover, with rising income, meat consumption is also expected to increase and therefore more grains, wheat and other soft commodities are needed to feed the poultry demand, thus also creating demand for agricultural commodities. 

However, despite the expected increase in demand, supply factors remain constrained due to land and water scarcity caused by urbanisation. Climate has also proven to be very unpredictable in the recent past, with increasing frequencyof extreme weather events. This makes the planning and production of crops harder, especially when the supply of agricultural commodities is concentrated in a few countries.
This mismatch in demand and supply factors is expecte…

CLSA Top 5 Picks during volatile times (16 Aug 2011)

After an unexpected AAA rating downgrades and an expected correction, KLCI is coming down from its peak of 1,597 points in early July. CLSA come out with a timely report highlighting 5 stocks which investors should focus on even during volatile times. These stocks have resilient earnings, clear earnings visibility and are supported with dividend yields.

Which are the counters?
Axiata - Turning into a cash cow Axiata's earnings will remain resilient during downturn as EBITDA is dominated by cellcos in Malaysia and Indonesia where price competition is muted these days.
From a highly geared company in 2008, Axiata is now turning into a cash cow with forecast yield rising to 10% in FY13. CLSA is expecting dividend yield of 3.6% for FY11, translating into total shareholders return of 10%.

Gamuda - Risk discounted The 22% share price fall from 52-week high has discounted its Vietnam investment risk. US$600m market cap loss is more than its US$350-400m investment to date.
FY12 earnings are unde…

Now Germany

You knew that, sooner or later, the German economy would slow under the onslaught of the bailouts demanded for the rest of Europe. The economies of both Germany and France are beginning to get crushed under the weight of the profligacy of the rest of Europe. In actuality, neither Germany nor France were in good shape to begin with. Only by comparison with the rest of Europe, did Germany and France look like winners. Both economies are long-run losers.

Unless the bailout game plan is reversed soon, there isn't much hope for economic growth in Europe. Unfortunately, the European culture has long ago adapted to the idea that everyone is entitled to everything. That worked as long as population increases and gullible bond buyers could fuel the pipe-dream. That's over now. Nothing short of a complete dismantling of the welfare state offers any hope of economic growth for Europe. This spells political upheaval, the beginnings of which we are already observing.

It will be inte…

Watch The Money Supply

The money supply (M2) is growing again and at a very fast clip. This means three things: 1) The economy will not fall back into recession; 2) Asset markets are headed up, not down; 3) Inflation is going to pick up.

What growth in M2 does not necessarily imply: 1) a major increase in GDP growth; 2) any substantial improvement in employment levels.

So, watch for stagflation and watch for asset prices to move up.

It Takes a Year to a Year and a Half

On CNBC this week, one businessman commented during an interview that "if you want to build a new house in California, the permitting process takes a year to a year and half." The situation is much worse if you want to construct a commercial building.

Given the half life of products these days (think how recently Iphone, Ipad, etc. have come to dominate our lives), any business wishing to move product in a hurry will do what Apple did -- have it manufactured in China.

It isn't realistic to expect a company like Boeing to get into a protracted multi-year argument with the National Labor Relations Board over whether or not they can locate a plant in South Carolina. Isn't it simpler to avoid that discussion entirely and to build the plant in China or Brazil or somewhere where government rules are not totally unreasonable?

The answer is obvious and points the way to the future.

What Next?

Can the stock market do well if the real economy is likely to stagnate? That is the question.

The European debt crisis will ultimately lead to sovereign defaults that may leave no country unscathed. The US will probably use inflation as its default method of choice. So might Europe. But, Europe will witness a rolling pattern of workouts, country by country. The Euro itself should survive. The survival of the Euro, to me, was never in question. After all, if California defaults which is very likely, such a default would not threaten the US dollar.

There will be sovereign defaults within the US among cities and states.

Eventually, all the bad sovereign debt will be written off. It is just a matter of time and place.

What will equity markets do during that time? Some debt default is already priced-in; priced-in both in the debt market itself and presumably in equity markets as well.

The Asian crisis of 1997, which was largely a (private) debt crisis was overcome within three to…

The Fed Can't Do It

The Fed has promised an extremely low interest rate environment until June 2013. It won't happen. First of all, the Fed does not have the power that must economists and pundits ascribe to it. If treasury yields want to go up, there isn't much the Fed can do about it. Even if they buy a ton of treasuries, eventually the markets will overwhelm the Fed's pocket book.

Inflation is coming. The money supply is growing rapidly and will continue to grow rapidly unless the Fed unwinds QE2, which it is not likely to do.

So, take advantage of the low rate environment while it lasts. It won't last two years.

The Group of Eight

Last night eight Republicans participated in a debate monitored by Fox News. The debate was held in Ames, Iowa as a lead into the Iowa "straw poll," that takes place on Saturday. Who won?

With Obama collapsing in the polls, you would think the field would be full of outstanding candidates, but if you watched this group of eight it was difficult to pick a winner. None of these folks seem up to the task for differing reasons.

The overriding issue of curbing big government was addressed only by Ron Paul. The other seven seemed to favor some limits on government, but, in other ways, seemed to favor expanding government's reach in ways that they like. Ron Paul is delightfully honest, but it is hard to see him as a serious candidate, even though his idea content is higher than any candidate in recent memory.

Rick Perry is riding to the rescue on Saturday, but he has so many enemies in Republican circles that it is hard to see how, even if nominated, he could pull the party t…

New Fund: OSK-UOB Taiwan Opportunity Fund

Taiwan has recovered strongly from the global economic downturn with a growth of 10.8% in 2010. According to Global Economic Prospects, January 2011 by World Bank, Taiwan’s gross domestic product is tipped to grow 5% in 2011. Taiwan is a beneficiary of Asia’s growth, in particular that of China’s. Following the liberalization policies of Taiwan’s new administration towards China, Taiwan’s economy has become increasingly linked with China’s.

Foreseeing a significant growth prospects for Taiwan in the next few years, OSK-UOB has therefore established a Fund that is structured to benefit from these potential opportunities through a swap agreement which will provide exposure to Taiwan’s capital markets as represented by the Taiwan Taiex Index (“TWSE”). This Fund will provide investors with an opportunity to participate in the potential benefits from this outlook on the Taiwan economy in the next three years.
About the Fund

This is a 3 year close-ended growth fund which aims to achieve…

Life in the Dependency Economy

The vast majority of Americans now are "dependent" upon others for the most significant parts of their economic life. The entitlements are just the beginning. Most Americans feel "entitled" and don't ask who pays. Somehow, "the government" is an adequate answer to this question. Young folks emerge from American universities with the idea that "the rich" and the "big corporations" can somehow provide funding for all manner of projects that they find worthy. All of this is economic absurdity.

As long as most folks believe they don't have to pull on the oars, they won't pull on the oars. That's why the Greek riots (and now London riots) are so instructive. These folks do not believe that they need to work themselves to provide the elaborate lifestyle that they plan to live.

Compare the attitude of Asians. No one in an Asian culture believes that they are "entitled" to anything. The modern Asian attitude is…

Leave The Markets Alone

Today's stock market loss of over 500 points, reversing Tuesday's 500+ point gain, has led to calls for action by various agencies of the government. Enough!

Let the markets sort themselves out. That's what they do best, when left alone. There is too much "what will the Fed do now?" This attitude forces politicians into action, just when they should remain silent.

Politicians don't know, any more than anyone else, why markets go up or down. There isn't any real news in the stock market since the slide began to accelerate last Thursday. We already knew (before last Thursday): 1) Europe was a basket case; 2) The US has a debt implosion; 3) GDP growth in the US was virtually non-existent 4)the President hasn't got a clue. This we all knew well before the market drifted below the 12,000 mark. The only new piece of news was the S&P downgrade. But, who did that surprise? (Other than Geithner, of course, who is surprised by everything).

The politic…

A Bankrupt Fed Policy

All eyes were on Bernanke yesterday. The usual coterie of hysterical media folks -- Jim Cramer comes to mind -- were screaming loudly that the Fed needs to do something. Yes, the Fed needs to do something....go on vacation. The idea that the central bank can offset the sledghammering that the Obama Administration has done to this economy is ludicrous. All Bernanke is doing is angling for reappointment, nothing else.

The Fed is bankrupt (literally) and the US treasury is bankrupt. Bernanke and Geithner should be retired. They are the architects of the worst economic recovery since the 1930s. No policy at all is better than foolish policy.

The government needs to get out of the way, not come up with some new dumb idea that the media can focus on as a panacea for our economic troubles. Only free markets can get us out of our troubles, not more big government.

The Stock Market

The stock market should be bought here. No one has made any serious money by holding stocks since March of 2000. That is more than eleven years of nothing, except occasional dividends. Stocks will do better over the next eleven years. Long term investors should own this market here.

That doesn't mean that stocks won't go lower. They probably will. But, picking a bottom is a fool's game. The economic environment always looks terrible when it is a good time to buy stocks. Otherwise, it would not be a good time to buy stocks.

Agreed that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress of 2009-10 have done everything they possibly can to destroy the American economic engine and have, in part, succeeded. But, help may be on the way. It isn't clear that the American worker will survive the Obama debacle, but American business might. American business can outsource, can expand plant and equipment and can sell its products to the rest of the world. The US is prob…

US rating cut: Should we buy now? (9 Aug 2011)

To answer that million dollar question, please let us examine the whole situation. First, what actually caused the market to slump? Second, the correction is short or long-term? In the end, it depends on how gut are you as an investor in this sentiment driven market.

What actually caused the market to slump? Panic selling is my answer. Simple and straight to the point. Investors are so scared that they can't figure out what is going to happen after S&P downgraded US long-time AAA rating. This was the first time US was being downgraded. No previous record for investors to forecasts, so dump first la. Herd mentality is playing a very crucial role now (again).
Short or Long-term correction?
As mentioned, panic selling also means short-term correction. People are throwing their assets at a discounted price for the sake of getting their sleepless night away. After awhile, then only they realized that the actual situation is not as bad as they think. Then, investors will come back to th…

Some Positives; Time to Buy

The S&P downgrade is a salutary event. It spotlights the problems with US government finances. This is all to the good. In the midst of the downdraft today, President Obama gave a brief statement that exhibited a total lack of understanding of US debt problems. The stock market followed the Obama comments with an almost immediate drop of another 200 points. Overall the markets lost nearly seven percent by the time the smoke had cleared.

But most folks get it, even if the President doesn't.

No longer can politicians pretend that the debt issue can be swept under the rug or buried in a sea of class warfare.

It must be time to buy stocks again.

Disaster after US rating downgrade? (8 Aug 2011)

The news that S&P downgrading US credit rating shows that rating agencies are doing their job fairly. Previously, rating agencies were blamed by Greece and Europe countries for downgrading their ratings when Greece facing rising debt issue. Though, US did not spare this round when S&P downgrade US AAA rating to AA+ (one notch lower).

What would be the implications? Normally, the downgraded currency will slump, sovereign bonds will become less attractive by carrying higher degree of risk, hence pushing up the yields. Does US follow these theory? NO.

Why US is different? USD will not fall much like Euro. First, USD is one of the safest asset, along with gold, during economic uncertainties. That's why USD was chosen as the world's most widely traded currency. During uncertainties (like now), investors are scare and they pull-out from equities around the world. But, where did they put the cash? USD is the answer mainly because it is widely used globally and of high liquidity.

Do The Numbers

The present value of our social security and medicare liabilities can be conservatively estimated at $ 66 trillion. How do we deal with that?

Lets tax the rich! If we raise taxes, ala the Obama plan to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the rich, we will gain $ 770 billion in revenues over the next ten years. That assumes, of course, that business folks don't alter their plans after getting socked with this tax increase. So, let's assume we tax the rich. That gets us $ .7 trillion. That leaves $ 65.3 trillion to go.

What next?

Well, perhaps bondholders will step up and buy $ 65.3 trillion more in our debt to fund our retirement and health care. You think the Chinese will do that?

Here are some more numbers. A twenty two year old college graduate might work 40 years and then retire at 62 and collect social security (that's right, three-quarters of Americans take the early retirement option at 62 (now 63), so 62 (now 63) is relevant age, not 65). So, they don't work fr…

CNBC Hysterics

This morning's CNBC features Jim Cramer, of all people, calling for "bold" action by the ECB (European Central Bank). This is so absurb, it makes you wonder if Cramer is paying attention.

The world is drowning in sovereign debt and Cramer wants the ECB to step up and buy debt, effectively print money, and permit the current absurdity to continue unabated.

It's time for these countries to take their medicine. Yes, it will be painful, but not nearly as painful as it will become if nothing is done. Ditto for the US.

Forget about the immediate impact upon the stock market. That is totally irrelevant.

It is time to face the facts. The government spending in the western economies cannot be sustained. Period. Blame Standard and Poor. Blame the ECB. Blame the Tea Party. Blame whoever you want.

But, facts are facts. The western economies will ultimately default one way or another. The sooner they begin to do workouts and reduce their government spending, the sooner …

More Nonsense from Politicians

Geithner is complaining about Standard and Poor. The G-7 says that they will take "concerted" action, whatever that means. The ECB says they will buy Spanish and Italian bonds. These folks still don't get it.

Politicians believe that all they need to do is "calm the waters." If that worked, it would have already worked. The world is drowning in sovereign debt. The US national debt is spiraling out of control. "Calming the waters" might get you through a day or two, but that is about it. Sooner or later the cold hard facts of the numbers intrudes.

The size of government needs to be reduced in the western economies and the entitlement programs need to be phased out. The western countries cannot afford these things anymore and bondholders won't fund them. All the discussion by Geithner, the G-7, and the ECB is irrelevant and distracting.

Quadruple A

Warren Buffett is at it again. He has now declared that Standard and Poor was "wrong" to lower America's debt rating from AAA to AA+ and that it should be AAAA. This bizzare statement was offered to Bloomberg in an interview yesterday.

Buffett has famously urged Congress to raise tax rates, knowing full well that he will never pay them. Buffett, like other rich folks, can shift his assets around to avoid the tax man, so he could care less what the tax rates are.

Buffett wants everyone to see him as a modest, unassuming man who did well. That, of course, is nonsense. The son of a well-to-do Nebraska Senator (Republican, at that), Buffett has always had it pretty easy. He is definitely a smart guy, but he lives like a potentate, flying around is his private jet, hobnobbing with the wealthy and the far left as he issues absurd statements like his "AAAA" statement today.

No amount of obfuscation by Buffett hides the cold hard facts. The rating agencies are rig…

Shoot the Messenger

Listen to the outcry! The politicians have now decided that Standard and Poor is to blame for the near term financial chaos. Those evil folks at S&P should not have downgraded US debt (or not used the "process" that they used to downgrade US debt).

These are the same politicians who complained when the rating agencies were late to the party in the 2007-2008 crisis. Many of of these politicians blamed the rating agencies as contributors to that crisis, when they failed to downgrade weak debt.

So....damned if you do, damned if you don't. What does this tell you? It tells you that politicians (and central bankers) are looking for someone to blame for their own mistakes.

In both cases, the same facts prevail. Government created the current crisis just as surely as government created the 2007-2008 crisis. Politicians, who are mainly to blame, look for others to blame.

This "shoot the messenger" strategy is followed by both US and European politicians and ce…

Only Geithner is Surprised

The S&P downgrade of US debt from AAA to AA+ comes as no surprise to anyone but Treasury Secretary Geithner who, as recently as a week ago, declared that there was "no chance" of a downgrade. Has he been living in a cave? Did he listen to the rating agency executives' testimony to Congress two weeks ago? Geithner has no credibility if he is surprised by the downgrade. He is either an idiot or he is uninformed (perhaps both).

The markets were certainly aware that this outcome was on the way. S&P had said, weeks ago, that unless $ 4 Trillion of credible debt reduction was accomplished and soon, the downgrade was highly likely. So, you have to wonder what the deal is with Geithner? Is this the guy advising the President and setting Administration policy.

It's one thing to have crackpot views, which seems rampant in this Administration. It is quite another thing to be uninformed and incompetent.

Geithner should step down and let someone who, at the very least…

A Better Employment Number

Today's employment report is marginally better than the market anticipated, showing 150,000 plus additional private sector jobs for the month of July. That number would be anemic, historically, for an economic recovery number. You need nearly 250,000 a month to put a dent into unemployment. The fall in the rate from 9.2 to 9.1 occurred only because so many folks gave up looking for a job and thus are no longer counted among the unemployed. But, that said, this morning's number was not disastrous, just merely discouraging.

Unfortunately, this is as good as it gets. That's the sad state of affairs for the US economy. We now face stagnation for a generation (or possibly generations) until economic policy does an about face (which it might not do).

Governments Not Helpful

We are now reduced to bemoaning the obvious fact that governments are powerless to do anything about the current economic trauma. Why do we think this way? Governments have never had any real power to spur economic growth. Mostly, governments just get in the way.

But, over the years, a largely ignorant media has trumpeted the idea that governments are the solution to economic problems and much of the public now looks to government to solve their economic problems. Gradually, it is sinking in that government may be the problem, not the solution.

It is appealing to look to government to solve all problems -- provisions for old age, health care, education, whatever. But, government solutions to these problems sap the vitality of the economic system and the energy of its citizenry. Folks stop saving; students quit taking education seriously, citizens overeat...why not? We are all victims. It's not our fault, says the media. Let the government rescue us from ourselves!

Only indiv…