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"All states may have been created equal, but they were equal no longer. The states that had enjoyed the biggest boom were now facing the biggest busts. “How does the United States emerge from the credit crisis?” Whitney asked herself. “I was convinced—because the credit crisis had been so different from region to region—that it would emerge with new regional strengths and weaknesses. Companies are more likely to flourish in the stronger states; the individuals will go to where the jobs are. Ultimately, the people will follow the companies.” The country, she thought, might organize itself increasingly into zones of financial security and zones of financial crisis. And the more clearly people understood which zones were which, the more friction there would be between the two. (“Indiana is going to be like, ‘N.F.W. I’m bailing out New Jersey.’ ”) As more and more people grasped which places had serious financial problems and which did not, the problems would only increase. “Those who have money and can move do so,” Whitney wrote in her report to her Wall Street clients, “those without money and who cannot move do not, and ultimately rely more on state and local assistance. It becomes effectively a ‘tragedy of the commons.’ ”
The point of Meredith Whitney’s investigation, in her mind, was not to predict defaults in the municipal-bond market. It was to compare the states with one another so that they might be ranked. She wanted to get a sense of who in America was likely to play the role of the Greeks, and who the Germans. Of who was strong, and who weak. In the process she had, in effect, unearthed America’s scariest financial places.
“So what’s the scariest state?” I asked her.
She had to think for only about two seconds.
I notice on his shelf a copy of Fortune magazine, with Meredith Whitney on the cover. And as he talked about the bankrupting of Vallejo, I realized that I had heard this story before, or a private-sector version of it. The people who had power in the society, and were charged with saving it from itself, had instead bled the society to death. The problem with police officers and firefighters isn’t a public-sector problem; it isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society. It’s what happened on Wall Street in the run-up to the subprime crisis. It’s a problem of people taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences. It’s not just a coincidence that the debts of cities and states spun out of control at the same time as the debts of individual Americans. Alone in a dark room with a pile of money, Americans knew exactly what they wanted to do, from the top of the society to the bottom. They’d been conditioned to grab as much as they could, without thinking about the long-term consequences. Afterward, the people on Wall Street would privately bemoan the low morals of the American people who walked away from their subprime loans, and the American people would express outrage at the Wall Street people who paid themselves a fortune to design the bad loans."California and Bust - Vanity Fair
"Two Americans a bit down the bar from me drained their glasses and wanted a refill. I know this because one of them started banging his empty glass hard on his pub mat to get attention and the other raised his voice at the barman’s back and said “Hey c’mon, give us another beer!”
In the name of the Queen, St. Michael and St. George: No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
If simply waiting with an empty glass doesn’t generate a refill, here is what to do if you want to be Michael Caine cool (literally, Sir Michael shows this technique very subtly in the early part of the film Harry Brown from which the photo above comes). Pick up your empty glass, tilt it slightly and then turn it very slowly in your hand. Some people turn the glass itself, others hold it firmly and turn their hand at the wrist. The slower the turn the better. The message of your movement should be that you know how to drink beer and the barman knows how to serve it; you both exist in an atmosphere of professional trust. Everyone knows what they are doing, everyone is calm, everyone is an adult; no hysterics, panic, haste or words are needed.
As you turn your empty glass, don’t stare at the barman but keep a rough sense where he is. When he looks over, briefly meet his eyes.
If you have a good set of eyebrows, a slight raise of the eyebrows will do it. You can widen your eyes a bit for good measure. These gestures should be subtle, like you would use if you were bidding for a portrait at Christie’s and a rival bidder was seated just behind you.
If your eyebrows aren’t easily noticeable from across a crowded room, it is acceptable to nod. Do it but once and slightly. I have never had this not work.
Master these skills and you will never be an ugly American."
"Just as small breaks improve concentration, long breaks replenish job performance. Vacation deprivation increases mistakes and resentment at co-workers, Businessweek reported in 2007. "The impact that taking a vacation has on one's mental health is profound," said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles specializing told ABC News. "Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out."
"Even taking into account the many financial pressures they face, households seem exceptionally cautious." - Ben Bernanke, 9/8/2011
Allow me to explain, Ben:
1. 10% unemployment
2. 20% underemployment
3. Depreciating home values
4. High credit card/student loan debt
5. Stagnating retirement portfolios
6. Tight lending atmosphere
7. High energy, raw material and food costs
8. Nothing worth buying once you have an iPhone
9. Free everything thanks to cheap broadband
10. Lack of confidence in President, Fed Reserve, Financial System, Congress, State & Local municipal governments, PTA
How many of these items did the $600 billion you just spent on QE2 alleviate? How many did QE2 actually exacerbate? Go to Princeton this weekend and scratch your beard puzzling over that, let us know what you come up with."QOTD: Bernanke on Consumers - The Reformed Broker
"It does not take a genius to understand why consumer spending is weak.
- Unemployment rate is 9%
- Real wages are falling
- Income advances go to the wealthy
- Middle class is shrinking
- Jobs hard to find
- Approval ratings of Congress and Obama at record lows
- Consumers have high debt ratios
- Home prices are still falling
- Homeowners are trapped in their homes, unable to refinance
- Boomers need to save for retirement
However, those simple facts are far too complicated for a PhD like Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to figure out. Note that Bernanke even cited some of the 10 factors I mentioned, yet he is still surprised. What a dunce. Is it any wonder his policies are so counterproductive when he cannot figure out simple things the average person can see clearly?"
"To the ordinary person in the street, the idea that we can rescue ourselves from a crisis caused by excessive borrowing by borrowing even more must seem mad. In this respect they are possessed of far more common sense than those who are currently advocating just such a course of action and purport to be our leaders.
It is time for those who wish to lead us out of this crisis to tell people how bad the current situation really is and the painful remedies which will be needed to remedy it."
|This chart comes from a Michael Cembalest’s research note today.|
"While everybody's eating burgers today, or cleaning the mud out of their kitchen, or playing Resident Evil 5, Europe is on the brink of its own decisive moment. Nobody there can decide what to do about the debt-bomb and the fuse is sparking away. There are no solutions to the problem of the Euro Club, but the idea of no Euro Club is making a lot of Euro people kick and scream. Whatever happens there will affect us hugely, you may be sure." Perestroika - Clusterfuck NationHow this man stays resolutely on message is fabulous.
"The chairman of Deutsche Bank, Josef Ackermann, today highlighted another obstacle to resolving the debt crisis that crosses the euro zone.
"It is obvious that many organizations will not survive in the event of having to reassess their portfolios of sovereign debt at market prices," Ackerman said in his speech at a banking conference held in Frankfurt.
These comments came after the controversy arose Christine Lagarde, managing director of IMF, which has called for an urgent recapitalization of European banking. According to the institution, the shortage could reach 200,000 million euros, resulting from exposure to sovereign debt.
Ackerman believes that the turmoil facing the financial sector is reminiscent of the crisis suffered in 2008 after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, but also believes that European banks are now much better capitalized and less dependent on short-term financing term. However, the president of Germany's biggest bank predicted a long period of difficulties for entities to still "have not provided convincing answers to the crisis," while the prospects for revenue growth are "limited to some extent ".