Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

No Bailout Plan

Via The Nation:

A number of house progressives who voted against yesterday’s bailout bill, including Pete DeFazio, Donna Edwards and Marcy Kaptur, have just held a press conference unveiling their own proposal. Text below. Commentary to follow:
Bringing Accounting, Increased Liquidity, Oversight and Upholding Taxpayer Security
1. Require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require an economic value standard to measure the capital of financial institutions.
This bill will require SEC to implement a rule to suspend the application of fair value accounting standards to financial institutions, which marks assets to the market value, no matter the conditions of the market. When no meaningful market exists, as is the current market for mortgage backed securities, this standard requires institutions to value assets at fire-sale prices. This creates a capital shortfall on paper. Using the economic value standard as bank examines have traditionally done will immediately correct the capital shortfalls experienced by many institutions.
2. Require the Securities and Exchange Commission to restricting naked short sells permanently
This bill will require SEC to implement a rule that blocks naked selling, selling a stock short without first borrowing the shares or ensuring the shares can be borrowed. Such practices many times harm the companies represented in the sales and hurt their efforts to raise capital. There is no economic value produced by naked short sales, but significant negative effects.
3. Require the Securities and Exchange Commission to restore the up-tick rule permanently.
This bill will require SEC to implement a rule that blocks short sales without an up-tick in the market. On September 19, 2008, the SEC approved a temporary pause of short selling in financial companies “to protect the integrity and quality of the securities market and strengthen investor confidence.” This rule prevents market crashes brought on by irrational short term market behavior.
4. “Net Worth Certificate Program”
This bill will require FDIC to implement a net worth certificate program. The FDIC would determine banks with short-term capital needs and the ability to financially recover in the foreseeable future. For those entities that qualify, the FDIC should purchase net worth certificates in these institutions. In exchange, these institutions issue promissory notes to repay the FDIC, counting the amount “borrowed” as capital on their balance sheets. This exchange provides short term capital, with not cash outlay. Interest rates on the certificates and the FDIC notes should be identical so no subsidy is necessary.
Participating banks must be subject to strict oversight by the FDIC including oversight of top executive compensation and if necessary the removal of poor management. Financial records and business plans should be subject to scrutiny while participating in the program.
In 1982, Congress approved a program, known as the Net Worth Certificate Program, that allowed banks and thrifts to apply for immediate capital assistance. From 1982 to 1993, banks with total assets of $40 billion participated in the program. The majority of these banks, 75%, required no further assistance beyond the certificate program.
5. Increase the FDIC Insurance limit from $100,000 to $250,000.
The bill will require the FDIC raise its limit to provide depositors confidence that their money is safe and help eliminate runs on banks which are destabilizing to the industry.

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Vacancy rates in the US

by Afferent Input

I was checking out a recent economic working paper from BIS entitled “The housing meltdown: Why did it happen in the United States?” written by Luci Ellis (h/t Alea). She argues that the recent housing boom and bust was especially bad in the US compared to other countries. It’s an interesting read.

One of the major points that she argues is that much of the boom (and subsequent bust) is being fueled by an unprecedented housing glut. This is one of the figures from the Ellis paper illustrating this fact:

The data illustrated here go all the way back to 1956, and for most of the timeline does not crest 1.75%. Once the recent bubble burst in 2006, the vacancy rate essentially doubled from the historical average to nearly 3% in a mere two years.

Another measure of inventory is months of supply (MOS), which is how long it would take for current inventory of homes for sale to be sold at the current rate for which people are buying homes. Calculated Risk has been keeping track of MOS for some time, and he wrote a post all the way back in May looking at historical changes in MOS. This figure illustrates MOS since 1982, the last major housing crisis in the US:
Compare the two figures that I’ve posted here. Notice anything different between the two? In 1982, MOS was even higher than it is now. Yet, there was no major spike in vacancy rates at that time. Real estate did very poorly in the years following that crisis. Given the fact that much of the housing inventory today is no doubt being driven by an unprecedented glut of empty homes, there will be that much more added pressure driving down housing prices. Supply and demand and all that…

And, of course, with declining home prices comes declining home equity

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A Brief Interlude/PSA

by Ken Houghton

My article for Institutional Investor on the investment opportunities available in Emerging Markets Infrastructure, most especially in water and sanitation, is available on their website (subscribers only, it appears).

UPDATE: For those looking for discussions of water and sanitation that are not gated, angrybear frequently discusses the subjects.

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Class War; Appropriateness of the Wealthy’s strategy

A research review by: Divorced one like Bush

Introduction: This review was initiated after reading the report linked at the 25 indicators post. A review of the data regarding accepted economic performance indicators for business cycle peaks of year 2000 and 2008 is presented along with a discussion of the relevance to the strategy of the Wealthy in winning the War of Class. In short, the Wealthy are irrational in their strategy in fighting the War of Class and are in fact losing the war for everyone.

The data:

The growth rate in median family income, however, was slower between the business-cycle peaks of 2000 and 2007 (0.1 percent per year) than it had been between the two earlier peaks in 1989 and 2000 (0.9 percent per year).
Labor productivity, meanwhile, grew more rapidly in the 2000s business cycle (2.5 percent) than it did in the preceding cycle (2.0 percent).
Economic growth was faster over the 1990s business-cycle (3.1 percent per year) than it was over the 2000s cycle (2.3 percent).
…but the 1990s cycle still produced a higher personal savings rate (5.6 percent of disposable personal income) than the 2000s cycle (1.8 percent of disposable personal income).

Another way to view the data is to align each point with the year of origin.
Early years: 2% productivity growth with 0.9% income growth, 5.6 savings, 3.5%economic growth
Versus Bush years: 2.5% productivity growth, .01% income growth, 1.8% savings, 2.3% economic growth.

Analysis: Going forward I will refer to two groups fighting in the Class War. The subject of this study will be called the Wealthy. The Wealthy survive by making money from money. That is the accepted opinion. Though this report suggests that even the top 1% were earning more from wages each year until it reverses in 2000. Quote:

The lower end of this group is not seeing an increase of income from wages. But look at the change in the top 1% and the top 0.1%. They have the greatest increase of their income coming from wages. The entire top 5% sees this, but it is the very top that is seeing a doubling (32 to 63% for the top 1%) and tripling (18.1 to 58.2 for the top 0.1%) of the percentage from wages. (see chart)

The group the Wealthy are fighting will be called the Enemy. The Enemy survive by making money from selling their labor which is tied to productivity.

For all the people who are fighting a class war, looking at the means by which both sides make money and thinking that both want to win it for the long haul, it appears that each side has been losing under the Wealthy’s strategy and tactics used for winning the war. For the Wealthy who make money from money, I assume a higher annual average economic growth would be more beneficial as it means more wealth being created over time, but they have produced lower growth. They appear to have won when the Enemy was able to sell their labor for a higher share of productivity. In fact, it appears that the important factor to the Wealthy winning the war is how much of the productivity gains go to the Enemy instead of how much more work the Wealthy can get out of the Enemy. There appears to be an inverse relationship of income and productivity to the success of the Wealthy in the war. As the share of productivity going to income of the Enemy goes down, economic activity declines. That is, as the Wealthy take more of the productivity gains as a means to win the war, they are in actuality hurting their war efforts. A decline of the economic activity is a war losing results for the Wealthy.

Conclusion: The Wealthy are closer to winning what they want when they let the Enemy win. That they have continued the same strategy during declining indicators and have seen similar battle results in the past (the battle known as the Roaring 20’s comes to mind) suggests that they are not being rational. For the Enemy of the Wealthy, well I guess there is some solace in the thought that the Wealthy are ultimately beating themselves in that they are driving down economic growth. I am reminded of the great wisdom of the infamous class warrior Billy Ray Valentine:

“You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”

Of course unexpected events can change the momentum and ultimately the strength of either side. For example, a banking crisis. (An event for which I can find no research that supports one has ever been caused by the tactics of the armies of the Immigrant or Indigent. ) Such an event changes the emphasis of the theater of the war from the broader, larger operation of the market place which requires an understanding of the rules of economic theory and historical economic data to the limited and smaller theater of the halls of government with the need to understand the rules of political theory and historical political data. For either side, the most successful campaign would take into consideration the results of the market place war front when fighting in the halls of government war front.

There is a paradox to the Wealthy winning any battle in the halls of government theater. That they do not heed the historical record of battles within both theaters leads to poor tactics. The Wealthy institute tactics based on non-rational analysis moving them further from their desired goal. Thus, a possible strategy for the Wealthy’s Enemy could be to focus on the Wealthy’s lack of rational analysis. It might be possible for the Enemy to make the Wealthy aware of their self defeating results. Showing the Wealthy that they were more successful when the Enemy received approximately 50% of the productivity gains could be a basis for a treaty. There is data available to the Enemy that suggests when they received gains equal to the rise of productivity, the growth of economic activity was even greater than the period of this study.

To summarize: The Wealthy are poor Class War strategists. They are self defeating in such a way that they remove all ability for either side to win the Class War. The Wealthy must let the Enemy win the war in order for the Wealthy to win. I would caution that any approach toward a treaty by the Enemy to the Wealthy must be taken with care. It is not certain as to whether the Wealthy have the strength of character to accept that they are failures. By evidence of their tactics in the face of the data, forming a treaty with the Wealthy who act irrationally will be met with great frustration by the Enemy.

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L’Shana Tovah, and let’s talk about something near and dear to Fox News’s heart: the evil Canadian press.

CBC has apologized for an opinion piece:

In the article, Mallick said Palin appeals to “the white trash vote” with her “toned-down version of the porn actress look.”

To make matters worse, the apology includes a glorious sentence:

[T]here is no factual basis for a broad-scale conclusion about the sexual adequacy of Republican men.

Glad we got that straight. UPDATE: Noni, in comments, notes that the Ombudsman didn’t do his research, the family-safe conclusion of which is:

Perhaps Heather Mallick simply chose the wrong terminology, inadequate seems to indicate they can’t perform the sexual act. When it comes to our dear conservative friends, that clearly isn’t the case. They sure can perform the sexual act, [not family-friendly but clean list omitted]…

To be more accurate, Mallick might have opted for a term like, corrupt sexual hypocrites. Surely the CBC Ombudsman in investigating the claims against Heather Mallick and her ever so naughty article actually did the 0.31 seconds of research it took me and Google to come up with a few “facts”.

Maybe Bob Dole’s job is safe after all.

Video links welcome in comments; please mark those NSFW.

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Loans from China

Reader Andrew notes:

From Marketwatch:

Wen, who is known for his openness and economic mastery, told Zakaria that despite the impressive growth his country has experienced over the past 30 years, things have changed because of the United States’ subprime problems. “We have seen a decline in external demand, and China’s domestic demand cannot be significantly increased in a short period of time. [So] we do risk a slowdown. We must re-adjust macroeconomic policy,” Wen says. “A U.S. recession would certainly have an impact on China’s economy. Ten years ago, China-U.S. trade stood at only $102.6 billion. Today the figure has soared to $302 billion-a 1.5-fold increase. A shrinking of U.S. demand would certainly have an impact on China’s exports. And U.S. finance is closely connected with Chinese finance. If anything goes wrong in the U.S. financial sector, we would be anxious about the security of Chinese capital.”

It is worth noting that China has already cut off lending to U.S. banks.

reader Andrew

Update: reader Jon H. reports this is not official policy:

The China Banking Regulatory Commission’s statement: h…FAD2688373C5F00

The CBRC has never, by any means, ordered or told the Chinese commercial banks to stop lending to U.S. financial institutions. We strongly condemn the South China Morning Post for its irresponsible and groundless report, and we reserve the rights to take further actions including pursuing its legal responsibility if necessary.

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Sarah Palin

By Spencer

John McCain showed up without running mate Sarah Palin, which is a shame because she actually has a lot of experience with financial matters. You know, she lives right next to a bank.

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