"Marley was dead. There is no doubt whatever about that … dead as a doornail. Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did.
"Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster."
–"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens
There’s very little real news this week, with markets lurching to no account, and trading so thin that the landing of a snowflake avalanched 300 points of Dow. Uphill.
The issue at hand: the debt and austerity trap. We must stop borrowing, but to stop we must cut spending or raise revenue, or both. If we do that, and our economy — or the ones overseas — slow down, then we will have less tax revenue and more need, or wishes, for spending.
How to escape: Devalue currency, stimulate exports. However, not everyone can be a net-exporter. There is no future in devaluing the dollar because we’ve been beaten to it by the Brits and the Europeans (they’re just getting started), and China will soon switch from phony appreciation to very real devaluation, as Japan would do if it could figure out how.
On the Brit plan: Devalue, cut spending, raise taxes, central bank prints money, tolerate 5 percent inflation, force banks to lend and reform themselves at the same time … and pray.
On the Euro plan: Pretend.
Japan’s plan: (blank).
China’s Plan A: Sell until customers can no longer buy, their wages undercut and debt too high, but by then China’s domestic economy will be self-sustaining. Too bad: Its customer-victims are tapped out a decade or two or three too early. There is no Plan B.
Caught in the ever-tighter mathematics of austerity and debt, what can we do to escape (that doesn’t cost any money)?
Simple as that. Start anywhere.
In boardrooms … if your CEO does not begin every day by considering the health of the markets and society in which the venture makes its money, and the contribution or damage the venture makes to the outer world, get another CEO.
If commerce degenerates to cops and robbers, as it has, ultimately there will be too many cops and laws to conduct commerce.
The National Association of Realtors announced this week that it had overcounted sales of homes by 650,000-800,000 in each of the last four years. NAR, the voice of a million mostly hard-working agents and brokers, which claims to also speak for homeowners, apparently did not care enough to get it right, or to say that it was guessing. Shame on NAR. Boooo.
Under new rules, the Fed will require an independent committee of directors of large banks to be responsible for risk management. Wow. Directors to know what management is doing? Small banks, too, maybe? Firms other than banks?
To those, like me, who feel disenfranchised, wondering if my silent congressman and senators are still alive …
If you inhabit a wing of either political party, acknowledge daily to yourself and say so to friends: "I know that my wishes will never prevail. A working majority will never agree with my wishes. Further, to demand my ideal will not increase my chances of getting part of what I want, instead lessen my chances and hurt my country."
Democracy and citizenship are easy: Majorities may not oppress minorities, nor minorities paralyze majorities. Nothin’ to it.
Do not engage with fairy tales: 99.9 percent of the Web does not have the benefit of an editor. Do not believe as fact anything that you see, forward it, or say it until crosschecked and verified. Goes triple for anything in the economic realm.
If you have not discovered that your mobile phone disturbs others nearby, or makes you drive as though stoned and lobotomized, work on it.
Ethics enhance civil society and productivity. Ethics are a no-cash way out.
Aside from incompetent and embarrassing, NAR’s revision calls into new question the ability of the market and economy to absorb the 5 million homes now in terminal distress, but held since last year in mothballs by the "robo-foreclosure" scandal.