Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Sunday Afternoon Open Thread

by Jerome a Paris Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 10:21:40 AM EST

As many ET members are still enjoying various parts of Paris under a perfect September sun, the site is still moving along slower than usual. But hey, here's the place to have your say for those of you that are on the net!


Display:
Wish I could be in Paris.

Still, having some fun stateside.  Watching McCain's southern firewall be breached, and now seeing that even he is admitting it, is great stuff.  It was at least something approaching possible for McCain to survive losing Virginia.  Highly unlikely, but possible.  It's not possible for McCain to survive losing North Carolina.

And, if Obama and Biden are concentrating their efforts on the South right now, that suggests to me that the internal polling later in the week showed the key defense states (Michigan and New Hampshire) swinging back our way, in which case McCain can't lose Virginia.

Once again, Obama -- and, by extension, Dean -- is vindicated for pushing in more states.  And I'm more hopeful, since they're also still pushing Missouri, Georgia and now West Virginia (West Virginia?!?!).

Christian Dem in NC over at dKos deserves mad props.  He/she saw it coming before anybody else.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 10:35:28 AM EST
An email to Matt Stoller from a Democratic lawmaker responding to Bush's proposal and giving us a hint at what's being said up on the Hill:

Paulsen and congressional Republicans, or the few that will actually vote for this (most will be unwilling to take responsibility for the consequences of their policies), have said that there can't be any "add ons," or addition provisions. Fuck that. I don't really want to trigger a world wide depression (that's not hyperbole, that's a distinct possibility), but I'm not voting for a blank check for $700 billion for those mother fuckers.

Nancy said she wanted to include the second "stimulus" package that the Bush Administration and congressional Republicans have blocked. I don't want to trade a $700 billion dollar giveaway to the most unsympathetic human beings on the planet for a few fucking bridges. I want reforms of the industry, and I want it to be as punitive as possible.

Henry Waxman has suggested corporate government reforms, including CEO compensation, as the price for this.  Some members have publicly suggested allowing modification of mortgages in bankruptcy, and the House Judiciary Committee staff is also very interested in that.  That's a real possibility.  

We may strip out all the gives to industry in the predatory mortgage lending bill that the House passed last November, which hasn't budged in the Senate, and include that in the bill.  There are other ideas on the table but they are going to be tough to work out before next week.  

I also find myself drawn to provisions that would serve no useful purpose except to insult the industry, like requiring the CEOs, CFOs and the chair of the board of any entity that sells mortgage related securities to the Treasury Department to certify that they have completed an approved course in credit counseling. That is now required of consumers filing bankruptcy to make sure they feel properly humiliated for being head over heels in debt, although most lost control of their finances because of a serious illness in the family. That would just be petty and childish, and completely in character for me.

I'm open to other ideas, and I am looking for volunteers who want to hold the sons of bitches so I can beat the crap out of them.

More like that, please.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 11:06:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fuck that.
those mother fuckers.
the sons of bitches

I find it hard to believe that a Democratic lawmaker wrote that, at least in any form that might ever be made public.  Not that I disagree with any of the sentiments expressed, mind you.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 11:33:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Based on the few experiences I've had with lawmakers, it's perfectly believable.

And I'm sure he/she asked to remain anonymous because of the language.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:21:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed.

Having worked in a state legislative chamber this is what's said when things stop being nice, and start being real.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:41:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm going to crosspost what I wrote over at Open Left here.

Limited Liability Levy

Abolish the corporate income tax......

Keep on following.  

See the great issue with corporate taxation has been that they can shifts their profits overseas and declare bankruptcy (like Delphi)......

They can engage in creative accounting with tax credits so that they get money from the government........

And at the end of the day when the only liability that they have is limited to the assets that they own, even though they pay little or no taxes, and basically behave as anti-social little sobs.

So my suggestion?

Ditch the corporate income tax, it's shot through with loophole that allow companies to dodge their social obligations while sticking the public with the bill when they screw up.

Let's face it the chief benefit that the US government offers corporations is the limitation of liability, so let's recognize that the US government is in the insurance business.

And instead of taxing them, let's create a "limited liability levy" on corporate revenue, and let's be clear, this isn't earnings, this is money in hand they've gotten from their dealings.  No more of this turning a profit into loss through accounting tricks.

Charge a levy at 15% of gross revenue (again not profit) and use the spike in government funds to pay off debts, and look long term to creating universal healthcare and free higher education.

And if the corporations don't like that they've got to pay money for the privilege of having the government offer them insurance limiting their liability to funds invested, then let them try to find coverage in the private sector.

No private insurer can make that promise, and they would have to charge sky high rates if they tried.

Kill the illusion that the companies can get what they get from government in the market by letting them try.




And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 11:48:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, you're proposing what is, in effect, a back-door sales tax.  Yes?  Or do I misunderstand?

What I'd like to see is a Congress that would just cut the bullshit and let companies fail instead of having handouts for every asshole with a dumb idea and dumber backers.  This was the investment-banking version of the Dot-Com fever.

And that email has it right.  The response to this proposal should be simply, "Fuck you, Hank."

My proposal is simple: Put Glass-Steagall back up.  Let Wall Street drown.  I really and truly have no sympathy but for the poorest of the poor here -- that is the people who were victims of fraud on the part of the mortgage-peddlers.  But most of this was created by idiots -- in the mortgage industry, on Wall Street, and (yes) among homebuyers.

It's one thing to propose ensuring the biggest of the big in the commercial banking system don't fail, so that regular people can function, and because the Bushies would only fuck it up royally if they had to take over the commercial banks.  It's quite another to go parading around Wall Street with taxpayer money.

Let them die.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:13:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not really a sale tax, a revenue tax.

The problem is now, that say I'm a large manufacturer that assembles foreign sourced components (from my factories abroad) in the US.

It's a question of where the value is added.

There's free market value, and then there's internal pricing policy.

So let's say that I send components from a Mexican plant to US to make a transmission.  Now the transmission sells for $2400 when assembled, and purchased as aftermarket parts the components are only valued at $600, so there's $1800 in value added through assembly.  

But there's a catch, the corporate tax rate in Mexico is 10% (I'm making this example up) while the US rate is 20%.  

So 10% of $1800 is $180, while 20% is $360.  I save $180 per transmission adding the value in the US.  And worse internal trasnsfers of this sort are rarely taxed, so by adding the value in Mexico instead of the US, I can escape from taxes altogether.

On the books, the company is losing money because they parts are being overvalued in internal transfers so that the Mexican subsidiary bills the American assembly plant for $2400 for the components, so that by the time the product is sold the books say that the company is taking a loss.

It's massive tax fraud, but by impsosing a limited liability levy of 20% the governemnt is able to take in $480 in revenue from our hypothetical case instead of getting screwed over.

Coropate income tax as a percentage of tax revenue has been falling preciptiously for the the past two decades, and that is a large part of the government debt crisis that we face.

So again, I'm saying restate the argument for the government getting revenue from corporate gains by telling the companies that if they think they can get the insurance that they US government is offering them at a lower price in the market, they are welcome to try.

So that way it's their choice to be taxed, and the morality of the argument is changed to the favor of progressives.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:30:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I should say that by converting what is nominally a tax into a charge for services rendered, it makes it much harder for companies to argue that they should be able to dine and dash.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:34:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It certainly makes it cleaner, and cleaner is generally better.  I'm with you 110% on corporate taxes being bullshit because of all the accounting gimmicks companies have access to to fuck with the numbers.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:45:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I follow you up to this point:

So again, I'm saying restate the argument for the government getting revenue from corporate gains by telling the companies that if they think they can get the insurance that they US government is offering them at a lower price in the market, they are welcome to try.

So that way it's their choice to be taxed, and the morality of the argument is changed to the favor of progressives.

You're suggesting this as a balancing-out of hypothetical bailouts -- a voluntary form of government insurance?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:40:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(I should add: I haven't had my coffee yet, so bear with me.)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:42:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.

It's the same concept as the Edwards healthcare plan.

If they want to insist that the private sector can do it better, let them try.  And when it falls flat on its ass,  people make the voluntary choice to go with the government plan.  And then the argument that the state is coercive and evil, while the market is voluntary goes poof.

If the little bastards want to stick their fingers in the socket let them them get the shock of their life.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:44:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why not just do it this way, making it mandatory, without the bailouts?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:49:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because by making it voluntary we take away the argument that they their hand was forced.  They made the decision, so they loose the right to bitch about it.

We have to attack the argument that government intervention is somehow inherently akin to dictatorship.

Force the bastards to cry uncle of their own accord.  Then it was their decision, not something forced on them.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:54:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair point.  I think there's something to be said, however, for jamming policies down people's throats -- being openly hostile and creating an expectation from the public.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:01:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's the issue I have with it: They fall on their faces in the private markets, then come to us looking for bailouts.  At that point we can say to them, "Okay, 20% of your revenue goes to us from now on."  But, by then, it's too late, and we haven't stripped the money from them prior to the need for a bailout.  They've already failed.

You have to let companies fall on their faces, or they'll wind up as they next airline or automaker going through a vicious cycle of Good Times and Teh Stoopid.  And then everybody but management -- taxpayers (debt), workers (pay and benefit cuts), etc - gets fucked.

By giving them insurance in return, it creates -- and here, for the record, I'm thinking more along the lines of the practical implementation rather than the philosophical underpinnings -- potentially some kinds of moral hazard down the road.

Your idea is a perfectly good way to collect corporate taxes.  I like it.  But I don't see any great need to give them anything in exchange.  When they say, "Hey, we gave you a whole buncha money, so lend us a hand," the government should be responding, "Fuck you, you gave us the money because we said you had too, so piss off."

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:58:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By giving them insurance in return, it creates -- and here, for the record, I'm thinking more along the lines of the practical implementation rather than the philosophical underpinnings -- potentially some kinds of moral hazard down the road.

But the point is that currently limited liability is insurance for free.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:06:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:08:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...adding...That's why I said that I think MfM's idea is a good one.  But I don't think we should promise bailouts.  If Congress winds up providing them, then we've at least planned ahead, but I don't think there should be an explicit agreement there.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:09:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rescue implies takeover, whether it's done by a public or a privately owned institutions.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:11:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that we should use this particular clusterfuck as not only an opportunity to make the point that corporation's limited liability is currently free but also as an opportunity to take an ownership stake in the companies that are bailed out.

Force Lehman, AIG, et al to cough up stock shares, same thing for the Big Three automakers (full disclosure, I've recently bought a small number of shares in General Motors, and I've made a tidy little profit off of it.)

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:37:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Off-Topic: What do you think of the timeline on cars like the Volt?  By that I mean, how long before we get something with a price tag in the teens/low-twenties that can travel (say) 70 miles per day?

(And come on, man, this isn't the NYT.  You don't have to disclose your financial holdings.)

If we're going to do the bailout -- and I think all would agree there's no doubt we will -- then, yes, I completely agree.  Make them cough up stock to the taxpayers so that we can recoup at least some of the cost.

And making the costs clear for taxpayers will be beneficial.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:47:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well.

The Volt's scheduled for release for the beginning of the 2010 run that starts in 2009.  Early estimate is something close to $40,000 for the Volt.  It has a significant advantage on the Prius, because it can go electric only for 43 miles.  

That's the trip to work and back for most people.  So for maybe 40-45% of miles traveled no gas used. Consider:

The way the Volt is designed, the wheels are powered by the electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. When the batteries run low, the gasoline engine kicks in to extend the range. There is no direct connection between the internal combustion engine and the wheels. If the driver's commute is longer, driving is more aggressive, or if no plug-in option is available, the Volt will have to use its gasoline engine to keep the batteries charged, behaving more like a hybrid in this scenario. If the driver has a short commute, takes it easy on the accelerator, and plugs in to recharge the battery during the day, the Volt will operate primarily as an EV, and the gasoline engine's role will be greatly diminished.

In this configuration, the Volt can slip through about 85 percent of the EPA's test cycle without even firing up the gasoline engine. Using the EPA's standard formulas to calculate fuel economy, the Volt averages over 100 mpg. The EPA doesn't think that astronomical number is fair and has revised its tests with the requirement that the Volt finish the test with its batteries close to full charge, which means the internal combustion engine must run for the entirety of the test, dropping fuel economy to about 48 mpg.

I bought into GM on Thursday for two reasons: 1) Good new on the loan package and a general pickup after the central bank intervention. 2)GM is prepping not only the Volt for the 2010 model year, but also is going to import the Chevy Cruze which is rated at 40+MPG and may be able to get over 60 MPG on a gas engine alone.  It's set to replace the Cobalt at the Lordstown, OH assembly, and is likely going to be targeted at the same price point, around $15,000.

Detroit's got it's mojo back, and I a plan to go for the ride.  If I hadn't spooked Thursday afternoon I'd be up about $500 instead of the $50 I am now.  That's not a bad return for a guy living on grad assistant's stipend.  GM's at ~$13 now, I expect it to pop back to around the $40 it started the year at when it becomes clear that the loan package is going to go through.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:48:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why are cars so expensive in Europe (or ar least in Sweden) compared to the US?

A Prius sells for $25,000 in the US but for over $40,000 over here. That would put the Volt at $67,000 in Sweden which means few could afford it.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:19:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I've been talking about taxes on privilege for some time, including just this proposal of a Limited Liability Levy.

But if MfM came up with it independently that's fine with me.

Just shows that great minds think alike.... ;-)

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 09:36:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
too much of 'structured finance' is about exploiting differences between corporate tax regimes in different places, or between the tax and accounting rules. This is not productive work by any meaningful definition, even though it can be very profitable.

Universal progressive income taxes together with VAT (a form of sales tax) is a lot more effective, and VAT can be made progressive enough by having different rates for specific product categories, like food.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:49:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Finland has used VAT (or Alv, as it is in Finland) in just this progressive way. ALV in Finland is 17% on food and drink, 8% on transport and books, 22% on others. Artistic performance fees are zero rated.

There is currently discussion on lowering the alv on food.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:56:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm surprised to find it so high on food.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:58:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect that it was a hidden marketing subsidy to Finnish producers. But high prices are now longer tolerated, and Lidl (a German warehouse type food operation that works out 20% cheaper, but with few Finnish branded goods) is getting more customers. Lidl goes for lower value industrial sites just outside of towns, but easily accessible.

The other side of expensive food is, of course, greater consumption of cheap crap food that brings its own problems at the healthcare end. I am sure it is a very elastic equation.

One key factor to remember in deciding progressive use of taxes of any kind is that while they are designed for one frame of mass mind, the change itself will cause another frame of mass mind. This always reminds me of Mr Hulot in Mon Oncle, struggling to right a perfectly manicured bush that has lost a branch to the activities of his nephew :-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:45:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If only one country replaces the corporate tax with a tax on revenue, or if different countries put different tax rates on revenue, you still have opportunities for tax arbitrage.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:01:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So we propose a global government to implement the revenue tax.

I dunno if it'd work, but watching the Paulites lose their shit after hearing of it would be hilarious.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:12:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU has tried and failed to standarise the corporate tax base (not even the rate!) because too many of its member states are married to the race to the bottom. In fact, the fear of losing the "corporate tax advantage" is one of the alleged reasons for the Irish to vote no to Lisbon.

So, good luck globally.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:20:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's never going to happen.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:23:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Drew J Jones:
global government

Bingo.

Pie in the sky at the moment, but consider the advantages:

Equalisation of opportunity - people could move as freely as capital, subject to common sense limits
The instant removal of a $1 trillion annual military tax
Closing of all so-called off-shore tax loopholes, which would put yet more wealth into play for productive social investment

The current system of competing nation states is ruinously expensive.

Of course you'd need the strongest democracy in history to prevent a slide towards feudalism and oligarchy. You could create that with absolute limits on personal wealth and influence and semi-random sortition of public representatives.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:36:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like Utopia to me, and I am a fan of utopian projects.  But the problem, as always, is getting from here to there.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:22:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that the opportunity is minimal if you base they levy on revenue rather than profit.

Most retail transactions are going to occur on the soil of one company, and there's no way that's going to change to something that's going to occur offshore.  

People buy cars and computers from distributors.  So long as we operate on a principle of point of purchase, there's less opportunity for arbitrage.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:33:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if you bring down the corporate tax rate to 0 in your country, nobody can arbitrage against you (unless they actually provide subsidies to get to a negative tax rate).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:07:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They can arbitrage by having a lower rate of limited liability levy.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:08:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But.

Liability limitation insurance is something that can be handled on a national basis.  So that Swiss RE can only issues policies on liability in the US through its US subsidiarity.  So if you can create walls for liability limitation at the national border, then in order to enter a market, a company must agree to the levy as the price of admission.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:41:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the ironies of the US tax code is that in terms of absolute numbers large numbers of corporations don't pay corporate income taxes because they claim profits as personal income.  The US S Corporation is the most common here.

By separating out the charge for limited liability insurance from the idea of taxation, the double taxation argument collapses, and you can defeat the neo-libs in the market.  Because no private insurer is going to offer policies that limit liability to market capitalization at the rate that the government can.

Make the neo-libs eat their own shit.  They want the market to provide these things, let them try to show that it can be done.  Then laugh when they are forced to come crawling back to the government to ask that they be allowed the privilege of what they now feel entitled to.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a lot. and I like the discourse you use to justify it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:08:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay - but can we get one thing clear here?

The neolibs don't give a crap about markets, or about small government, or about any of the other talking points they vomit up regularly. There's a cadre of useful idiot apparatchiks who have been through the MBA mill who will repeat - and believe - this nonsense on cue because it makes them feel grown up. But the real players know the talking points are a show for the gullible and have no more substance than a McCain stump speech. (You think it's a coincidence that Bush, Palin and McCain lie about everything?)

The real aim of this kind of 'conservatism' has always been to loot national economies using whatever ideological or military excuses come to hand. This isn't conservatism, it's old-fashioned imperialism, with the empire as the entire planet.

The 'crisis' was manufactured by Greenspan, Gramm, Paulson and others. Greenspan may be a toad but he's not stupid, and the regret and woe which he's wailing out now, have to be contrasted with the palid and oily reassurances about the bubbleicious state of all things financial he spewed out during his term.

He was lying then, and he's still lying now. He knew damn well what was happening, and he didn't just ignore it, he helped engineer it.

So this is not a financial crisis, it's a constitutional crisis. It doesn't need a financial remedy, it needs a restoration of the constitution, and jail terms for the thugs who deliberately ran the car into a wall so that they could make an insurance claim on a shinier one.

No amount of financial re-engineering is going to fix this problem unless law and order are restored, and most of the population decides that Wall St's 'serious people' are thugs and criminals in sharp suits. Once that reality has sunk into public consciousness and cleaned out some of the festering corruption from the Anglo political systems, it may be possible to start legislating fixes. But the real need now is for pressure on Washington and London to start moving back towards genuine populist democracy.

Obama may make some tiny baby steps in that direction. But it needs a much wider cultural change, and even with the current sense of outrage among some of the left in the US, I'm not sure that we're done with the disasters yet.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:23:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I'm not sure that we're done with the disasters yet.

I make no claim to clairvoyance, I don't read tarot cards, but I've got this grand gut feeling that the bigger disasters are just waiting offstage, regardless of what transpires this week.


... start moving back towards genuine populist democracy.

Do we do this before or after we find and slaughter all of the ultra-rich Republican types, because while they're  still alive, they will use ALL of their substantial resources to keep things going just the way they are now.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:52:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
TBG
There's a cadre of useful idiot apparatchiks who have been through the MBA mill who will repeat - and believe - this nonsense on cue because it makes them feel grown up.
They also believe it because it makes them feel employed.  One would have to have a gag reflex set at infinity to work for these folks and not believe the official line.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 12:00:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're underestimating the degree to which many at the top believe their own propaganda. For example, I am close to certain that Greenspan does. Cheney a bit less, but to a large degree probably does as well. The fact that they consciously lie and steal is not evidence against belief. In general I tend to believe that people overestimate the cynicism of the elites, in any system, of any persuasion. Very few people are happy thinking of themselves as bad guys. Tough guys, people who are willing and able to cut corners to do what needs to be done - yes. And also feeling they deserve a bit extra for the wonderful and important job they're doing, that too. But pure mercenary opportunism isn't that common on the big stuff. When there are contradictions between actions and internal ideology, they rationalize things to themselves as necessary exceptions.
by MarekNYC on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 01:20:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ummm... just checked.

The first reference to a Limited Liability Levy I can find was thanks to Colman's provocation which gave rise to this debate back in January 2007

Iraqi oil etc

complete with the obligatory fisticuffs with HiD.

More recently in the

Risk Risk

thread on 5th April this year I posted this


Well what happened is that partners did (and still do, in the large number of professional partnerships still left unconverted to LLP's)insure themselves against these risks using Professional Indemnity Insurance.

These premiums started to rise rapidly, and led to the demand for limitation of liability. The government refused until they were essentially blackmailed into doing so when PriceWaterhouse and Ernst & Young paid City lawyers Simmons & Simmons around £1m in respect of the legislation that went through in Jersey in 1997 for a Jersey LLP.

Prem Sikka tells the story.

Essentially the UK government is handing out free insurance - as they do to every shareholder in a limited company.

ie the LLP does not quite "do way with that" it socialises what were private risks.

In my view, there should be a "Limited Liability Levy" or tax applied to gross revenues of any entity which has limited liability.

Jersey actually got one thing right in the end. They insisted on a bloody great bond being lodged by LLP's (either £5m or £10m) and this somewhat limits their appeal as a vehicle.....

Plus a good few more references by me in the last couple of weeks....

So, more power to MfM's elbow in developing the argument so much better than I could, but I think I can claim precedence on the concept...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 09:58:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just assumed MfM was building on what you had written on this site over (apparently from your search) the last 20 months...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 06:44:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically the Robert Reich proposal, as written for a political speech.  In fact, it actually looks like it's ripped straight from Reich:

First, there must be no blank check when American taxpayers are on the hook for this much money.

Second, taxpayers shouldn't be spending a dime to reward CEOs on Wall Street.

Third, taxpayers should be protected and should be able to recoup this investment.

Fourth, this plan has to help homeowners stay in their homes.

Fifth, this is a global crisis, and the United States must insist that other nations join us in helping secure the financial markets.

Sixth, we need to start putting in place the rules of the road I've been calling for for years to prevent this from ever happening again.

And finally, this plan can't just be a plan for Wall Street, it has to be a plan for Main Street.

So, basically, (1) and (3) taxpayers get a share in the equity, (2) compensation reform, (4) courts can modify home loans, (5) (blah)allies(blah)foreign policy debate on Friday(blah), (6) regulation.

Now we'll see if he and the congressional leadership hold up when the Blue Dogs come to kneecap them tomorrow.  I think there's likely to be a fair number of Republicans who won't support this, at least in the House, so perhaps it balances out the Blue Dogs.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:43:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wrote e-mails to my senators and representative making many of these demands.  Our elected representatives need to be flooded with protests against bailing out billionaires and putting Paulson in total charge of a $700 billion fund backed by taxpayers.  Do that and forget the constitution.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 12:05:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you thought Housegate was fun, wait 'til you getta load of Cargate.  Per Newsweek, McCain owns:

  1.  A 2004 Cadillac CTS

   2. 2005 VW convertible

   3. 2001 Honda

   4. 2007 half ton Ford pickup

   5. 1960 Willy's Jeep

   6. 2008 Jeep Wrangler

   7. 2000 Lincoln

   8. 2001 GMC SUV

   9. - 11. 3 NEV Gem electric cars often used in retirement communities (that says it all)

  12. Cindy's Lexus

Obama owns a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 11:25:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two things:

  1. The politicians are looking for a new catch-phrase.  We had "Don't play the blame-game" for Iraq; you can see them searching for a new "Don't cut off my balls" phrase.  Any suggestions?

  2.  I just came from a REAL market - the Sacramento Farmer's Market.  White potatoes sell for 50 cents a pound in the grocery store.  I see a farmer's stall with bagged potatoes; I ask the vendor, "How much?  She says she has 2 and 5 pound bags.  I ask (quite tersely), "Price per pound?"  See replies "One dollar." and I walk away with my money.  There's a MARKET!


They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 11:38:04 AM EST
Mbeki is gone as president of SA.

The culmination of the Jacob Zuma trail has brought a premature and shameful end to his unbalanced presidency. It's a story that goes to the very heart of SA's political workings and deserves expanding... But no promises from me yet - there are at least 10 things queueing for my work...

ANC dumps Mbeki, moves to 'heal rift' - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

South African President Thabo Mbeki has agreed to resign after the ANC announced that it would remove him from office before the end of his term.

"Following the decision of the national executive committee of the African National Congress to recall President Thabo Mbeki, the president has obliged and will step down after all constitutional requirements have been met," the presidency said.

The move could collapse the government and prompt early elections.

Mbeki has been mired in accusations that he conspired to undermine ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

"Our movement has been through a trying period and we are determined to heal the rift that might exist. In light of this and after a long and difficult discussion, the ANC has decided to recall the president of the republic before his term of office expires," ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Kempton Park on the East Rand.

"Our decision has been communicated to him," said Mantashe.

Mantashe said that Mbeki's reaction to the news was "normal".
by Nomad on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 12:18:26 PM EST
Hey Nomad! Well, as you say, your desk is full with waiting line - but sure would enjoy reading anything else you may have to say about this. I have ony heard rumblings, and have zero understanding of what is going on - except (on another tangent) how Mbeki seemed to always be coddling Mugabe, which is awful, and Mbeli's weird ideas about HIV/AIDS (whil ehis country is ravsihed by the Pandemic). So not a real god impression, I guess...is SA going to get something better? or...what is next, any idea??

(And good to hear from, as always!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:07:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Central America Finance & Investment 2008, in case anyone is interested.
 

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 01:34:52 PM EST
There's a serious problem with the United States being a CAFTA member as Mr. Granados observes:

Mr Granados argues that, to take full advantage of the agreement, countries need to "improve institutions, the rule of law, physical infrastructure, promote education and technological innovation, [and have] sound finances, macroeconomic stability and adequate social-safety nets".

I submit that the other members of CAFTA should refuse to sign until the US fulfills these requirements.  Otherwise the it will merely drag-down the development of all the other countries due to its mis-government and archaic social and economic infrastructures and systems.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:18:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid I may have to forward your comment to all of my colleagues.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 08:14:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you.

If you think you can use it, by all means do so.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 08:53:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Definitely worth a good read


 start with my old crusade against "quants" (people like me who do mathematical work in finance), economists, and bank risk managers, my prime perpetrators of iatrogenic risks (the healer killing the patient). Why iatrogenic risks? Because, not only have economists been unable to prove that their models work, but no one managed to prove that  the use of a model that does not work is neutral, that it does not increase blind risk taking, hence the accumulation of hidden risks.


Figure 1 -  My classical metaphor: A Turkey is fed for a 1000 days--every days confirms to its statistical department that the human race cares about its welfare "with increased statistical significance". On the 1001st day, the turkey has a surprise.

(...)

By the "narrative fallacy" the turkey economics department will always manage to state, before thanksgivings that "we are in a new era of safety", and back-it up with thorough and "rigorous" analysis. And Professor Bernanke indeed found plenty of economic explanations--what I call the narrative fallacy--with graphs, jargon, curves, the kind of facade-of-knowledge that you find in economics textbooks. (This is the find of glib, snake-oil facade of knowledge--even more dangerous because of the mathematics--that made me, before accepting the new position in NYU's engineering department, verify that there was not a single economist in the building. I have nothing against economists: you should let them entertain each others with their theories and elegant mathematics, and help keep college students inside buildings. But beware: they can be plain wrong, yet frame things in a way to make you feel stupid arguing with them. So make sure you do not give any of them risk-management responsibilities.)



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:05:55 PM EST
but not particularly convincing. The turkey metaphor is a rhetorical trick, the mathematical appendix is incoherent, and there's no mention of Extreme Value Theory, which is surprising in an article discussing the supposed impossibility of modelling extremes.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
by martingale on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:03:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Um, given that estimates based on extreme value theory have to be done on very few data points, the reliability of the estimates must be a huge issue.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:41:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be highly inefficient to perform estimates merely on a few extreme values. If one estimates parameters using all threshold exceedances however, then there's a lot more data available to use. That's the idea anyway, together with the fact that the possible asymptotics belong to on of three families of EV distributions: Gumbel, Frechet or Negative Weibull.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
by martingale on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:00:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The basic argument against the practicality of extreme value theory is this:
A Simple Proof Of Unpredictability In The Fourth Quadrant

I show elsewhere that if you don't know what a "typical" event is, fractal power laws are the most effective way to discuss the extremes mathematically. It does not mean that the real world generator is actually a power law--it means you don't understand the structure of the external events it delivers and need a tool of analysis so you do not become a turkey. Also, fractals simplify the mathematical discussions because all you need is play with one parameter (I call it "alpha") and it increases or decreases the role of the rare event in the total properties.

Um, forget about "fractal" - Taleb is in thrall to Mandelbrot. He's simply talking about power-law (and hence scale free and so "fractal") fat tails - e.g., Pareto. "Alpha" is the exponent of the power law
For instance, if you move alpha from 2.3 to 2 in the publishing business, the sales of books in excess of 1 million copies triple!  Before meeting Benoit Mandelbrot, I used to play with combinations of scenarios with series of probabilities and series of payoffs filling spreadsheets with clumsy simulations; learning to use fractals made such analyses immediate. Now all I do is change the alpha and see what's going on.
Fair enough, writing for laymen. Here's the rub:
Now the problem: Parametrizing a power law lends itself to monstrous estimation errors (I said that heavy tails have horrible inverse problems). Small changes in the "alpha" main parameter used by power laws leads to monstrously large effects in the tails. Monstrous.
This is a more jargon-laden restamement of if you move alpha from 2.3 to 2 in the publishing business, the sales of books in excess of 1 million copies triple!
And we don't observe the "alpha. Figure 5 shows more than 40 thousand computations of the tail exponent "alpha" from different samples of different economic variables (data for which it is impossible to refute fractal power laws). We clearly have problems figuring out what the "alpha" is: our results are marred with errors. Clearly the mean absolute error is in excess of 1 (i.e. between alpha=2 and alpha=3). Numerous papers in econophysics found an "average" alpha between 2 and 3--but if you process the >20 million pieces of data analyzed in the literature, you find that the variations between single variables are extremely significant.
The fact is that, assuming independent, identically distributed observations, the probability that the next observation will be larger than the past N observations is 1/(N+1) - with no upper limit for the confidence interval. That's the non-parametric view. The problem with the parametric view is that with power-law fat tails, as taleb correctly points out, small estimation errors on the parameter lead to huge variations in the confidence interval for the next observation conditional on it exceeding all previous observations.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 05:54:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia: Pareto distribution and Zipf's law.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 06:01:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would you consider a diary debating Taleb's claims in some detail?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:00:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I could, it would take a bit of time to do right, though (=> not right now :)

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
by martingale on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:04:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See the diary

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
by martingale on Wed Sep 24th, 2008 at 01:46:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 24th, 2008 at 02:17:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One would think that the same item offered by online booksellers would have similar prices. One would be wrong. I was looking up Georg Simmel's Philosophy of Money. Finding the english edition stuff outrageously priced (20% off - only $144, a steal!), I looked it up the German one. I can buy the Suhrkamp edition new, list price 18 Euros from Amazon.de, or  I can buy the exact same edition used in the US for $102. Wtf?
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:44:25 PM EST
Are these the publisher's prices? Publishers sometimes made different choices on prices for different markets, at least for books that they don't expect to be very popular. I presume that it's a tradeoff between selling a few books for a high price, and selling a few more for a lower price. I had assumed that this had come to an end with internet shopping, but it looks like I was wrong.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 02:53:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
18 Euros is the publisher's list price for the German paperback edition. $180 is the publisher's list price for the hardcover US edition, Amazon will sell it for twenty percent off, i.e. $144. $102 is what a used bookseller in the US on Abe Books is charging for a used version of the 18 euro German edition.

I definitely prefer reading stuff in English than in German, but there's a limit. Maybe I'll check to see if there are any reasonably priced French editions.

by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:00:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, it's paperback vs. hardcover which makes sense, though maybe not to such an extent. But I definitely remember in the past seeing big differences (up to a factor of 2) between the same book in the U.K. and in the U.S. (usually, but not always, cheaper in the U.S.), at least when a different publisher was involved in each country.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:07:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the list price for the book is 18 euros. The price for the same exact book, same edition, used, is $102 in the US. I understand why the US translation is more expensive, though $180 seems a bit steep - who the hell other than a handful of research libraries buys at that price?
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:11:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The publisher probably decided that they will sell only a few copies outside research libraries anyway, and decided to maximize their profits this way. I've no idea if they are right, but they could be. I agree it's silly. Now, if research libraries would only start ordering from Amazon, maybe they could put an end to this nonsense...
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:18:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The second hand market in the US is insane. I don't know if it's Abe or profiteering, but it's completely normal now for small-run books which were in print for $10-$20 to go on sale on the used market for $100-$200 as soon as the print run ends.

There are at least four books I'd quite like to own which have been out of print for a while now, and the lowest asking price is $135. I had one in my wishlist and when it was still in print it was priced at a more usual £9.

You can see this on Amazon marketplace in the UK, which includes US sellers - they'll typically charge four times or upwards of the UK marketplace prices for items which are easy to find.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:34:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've  often kicked myself for not buying one book, the second part of a 2 part histoy of castles.  1st volue I got for £8 second hand, whilst reassembling part of my book collection. 2nd part , lowest price i've seen is £180 in the states.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:40:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember being at a drunken party run by a US publisher, when in discussion with some retailers it turned out his distributor was charging the retailers as if the exchange rate was $1=£1, this was back during the 80's when it was closer to twice that. the publisher retaliated by printing UK prices on all of his product to stop them making an excessive profit.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:38:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, there have been cases of e-books priced higher than books...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 07:30:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Academic books are routinely marketed at insane prices in the US because they don't expect anybody will actually buy them.  $100 plus is far from uncommon for particularly obscure books.

They only get cheaper if it's expected they will have a life in the specialty consumer market (History Book Club, etc,), or be sold as textbooks for universities.

by Zwackus on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 07:39:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, I am hoping some our resident econ wizards can talk with us and explain to us what might happen here in Europe, in response to this almost total financial meltdown in the US. And if you haven't been over to Kos, well there are some excellent articles up now - including a statement from Obama about "no blank check", with 6 points. So the battle lines are forming there. What happens here??

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:42:08 PM EST
Here? Nothing. We declare that our bank-based (as opposed to market-based) financial system works well and we press on with deregulation and market liberalisation.


A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:44:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bank based finance is a huge part of the reason that Europe isn't having the problems that the US is right now, excepting of course the contagion that's spreading from Wall Street.

Bank capital has more incentive to think long term, rather than engage in speculative investing.  Maybe there should be a small securities transaction tax to slow down volume on mercantile exchanges and create an incentive for long(er) term investing.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:39:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But Bank-based finance is subject to Basel II which is a bloody mess.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:20:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
We declare that our bank-based (as opposed to market-based) financial system works well and we press on with deregulation and market liberalisation.

Hedge funds plan to sue FSA over short-selling ban - Telegraph

¨The FSA's remit is to maintain orderly markets - the markets were working fine, only the banks were going bust.¨
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:28:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They have a point, you know? Short-selling is being blamed for insolvency which makes no sense. And, as I pointed out before, short-selling can be simulated with futures and options so the ban is just for show.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:38:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, just how bloody will my asshole be?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:44:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What am I being WARNED for?  Foul language?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:46:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mother of all bailouts and what it means for Europe

But the AIG case shows the importance of another link across financial markets, namely massive circumvention of regulatory requirements.  The K-10 annex of AIG's last annual report reveals that AIG had written coverage for over US$ 300 billion of credit insurance for European banks. The comment by AIG itself on these positions is:

".... for the purpose of providing them {European Banks} with regulatory capital relief rather than risk mitigation in exchange for a minimum guaranteed fee".

[...]

The key problem on this side of the Atlantic is that the largest European banks have become not only too big to fail but also too big to be saved. For example, the total liabilities of Deutsche Bank (leverage ratio over 50!) amount to around 2,000 billion euro, (more than Fannie Mai) or over 80 % of the GDP of Germany. This is simply too much for the Bundesbank or even the German state to contemplate, given that the German budget is bound by the rules of the Stability pact and the German government cannot order (unlike the US Treasury) its central bank to issue more currency. The total liabilities of Barclays of around 1,300 billion pounds (leverage ratio over 60!) surpasses Britain's GDP. Fortis bank, which has been in the news recently, has a leverage ratio of "only" 33, but its liabilities are several times larger than the GDP of its home country (Belgium).

[...]

No idea whether this stuff is valid or not, just putting it out there.

by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:58:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, another question is, if it really matters. UBS has written down more than 10% of Swiss GDP. Switzerland is still well.
If Deutsche Bank goes bankrupt, the German gov't certainly is able to finance the debt of German corporations, who depend on funding by Deutsche Bank. If every foreign creditor of the bank gets bailed out, is not an issue for Germany. The loss in jobs and tax collection by losing much of the German financial sector is as well not too big.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:06:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't matter what UBS has written down. What would matter if the Swiss government needed to bailout UBS. On DB - it may well be, but the German government doesn't have the of bureaucratic expertise to do that. Plus a collapse of DB would create an ungodly mess in the entire German financial system which would likely shut down other banks. Credit, both consumer and business, would simply freeze up while the details of what to do were being worked out.
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 10:52:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you think the Landesbanken, the KfW, and the Sparkassen don't have the expertise to give credit to corporations? State owned banks count for ~1/3 of all banking activity in Germany. These banks can simply get new equity by the gov't to expand there operations.
And on some political items, e.g. EADS stocks, the gov't has the expertise it needs.
On other, very big items, probably foreign banks have the expertise. Sound credits may simply be sold to other banks.

I don't say there wouldn't be temporary problems, but I'm pretty convinced, that one can let DB fail, without getting too much sustained trouble - although probably if DB is just some dozen billion short of money, one would first try to rescue them.
I would definitivly disagree with any plan to back the DB debt fully by the gov't.


Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:24:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
KfW has just last week been dubbed "the dumbest bank in Germany"...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 05:55:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and they are. In the meantime it has become clear, that they transfered 350 million Euro to Lehman, because they were not willing to finish a discussion on friday afternoon about the credit worthyness of Lehman, because nobody wants to be late at home on weekend.

But an insolvency administrator for a bank is potentially easier than investmentbanker in a bank. They just have to look on the conditions, DB has given an enterprise and take the credit line over.

Most credits in Germany are credits to enterprises. If those credits would be similar distressed as the housing credits in the US, we wouldn't simply have a financial crisis, the whole economy would just have been gone bust. If Deutsche Bank would get bankrupt, it would be due to adventurism on foreign markets, not because of the debt lying on the German economy.

The problem in the US currently is as well not, that there is one big bank, that is bankrupt, but that all banks are under pressure.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 11:59:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem in the US currently is as well not, that there is one big bank, that is bankrupt, but that all banks are under pressure.

The LB's are already suffering losses  courtesy of the financial crisis in the US due to their buying of toxic paper and exposure to US banks. If DB were to fail, so would they due to exposure to DB.

by MarekNYC on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 12:43:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The LB's are already suffering losses  courtesy of the financial crisis in the US

Negligible for the scenario. Their losses are big, compared with their earnings(in the hundreds of millions range), the numbers are very small compared with the German GDP. I argue, that the state in case of a banking crisis could recapitalise the LBs massivly, let's say with overall 300 bn Euro. A couple of billions lost by the LBs on the toxic waste is really peanuts compared with that.
As the LBs are state owned, there is no stock holder moral hazard. The biggest problem wouldn't be the underlying economic facts, but the EU commision. In case of a severe crisis, I doubt, that the EU commision would stop a rescue of the banking system, even if it requires measures, which are competition distorting.

Even without knowing details of micro economy, it is difficult for me to believe, that a nation, in which banking is not a major branch, which has a savings rate above 10% and low private debt to income levels, should get into severe trouble, because of a single bank failure, while the US with its consumers in debt above their head should be able to manage a bankrupcy of a thousand of their banks(which would happen without any help plans), just because every single of these banks has a balance sheet smaller wrt the GDP than DB to the German GDP.

The fears for DB were because of the 60 times leverage. So a break down of DB wouldn't mean they have losses of 2 trillion, but maybe 40 bn (as USB so far). That's peanuts for rescuing the banking system anyhow. If taking over the 2 trillion balance sheet would count as 2 trillion bail out, then taking over F&F in the US was a more than 5 trillion bail out, but it is counted as 200 bn bail out so far, as this are the funds, which are likely needed to keep the GSEs up.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 01:37:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I, honestly, don't think Paulson's going to get this.  The battle lines are being drawn, and the more I read, the less convinced I am that he's even going to be able to rally the Republicans behind it.  The noises coming from people like Shelby have to be disturbing to the Bushies.

I don't see the Bushies getting a lot of help from the financial "experts".  The econ blogs, many of which have inroads with the traditional finance press, have all universally denounced this.  The economists on the left and center have all, or will all, denounce it and do the talk shows (Krugman, Ritholtz, etc).

I think you're going to see consensus around a couple of the points in Obama's proposal (equity share, home-loan modifications, etc), along with a few other things tossed in (perhaps Pelosi's stimulus package, etc).

Compensation reform is probably not going anywhere for now, but I wouldn't rule it out, and if nothing else it serves as a weapon for our side in order to get more of other things.

Hopefully McCain will do us all a favor and come out supporting Paulson.  The Obama campaign also needs to hit hard on Gramm, UBS and McCain when Paulson's official plan is finally released.  That should be easy enough to see coming.

For now, I'm cautiously optimistic and basically satisfied with the response.  But, again (as always), we'll see what happens if the Blue Dogs try to kneecap us.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:19:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok so the markets rallied on the back of rumours that this was going to happen. if various politicians decide this just isn't going to happen will we see further failure on Monday?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:50:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends.  What I outlined above on what I think is likely to happen, give or take a bit here and there, will probably leave the markets a disappointed, since they'd love for us to give away the store, but it shouldn't have any giant negative effect.

If, however, nothing happens, then we're back to where we were on Tuesday, and I think the downward trend will continue.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:03:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe not on monday, but the longer the legislation is delayed the more likely a crash is.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:19:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unless a fairly serious taxation and re-regulation is imposed anything that is done will only stave off, and probably acerbate, the problems.

Right now, I don't see any Serious People© gunning for either.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:58:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Compensation reform should be an excuse to introduce high marginal rates of income and wealth taxes - they work better than a cap on compensation.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:17:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marek, what happened?  Y'all lose Tawmmy Brady, and suddenly the Patsies are the worst team in football.  Times must be really tough for Beantowners when ya can't even take the Dolphins. ;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:28:32 PM EST
How would I know, I don't follow the NFL. I know enough to be aware if the the Pats are in the superbowl and whether they win or lose, but that's it. I couldn't even tell you who they lost to last year.
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:38:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On stuff I do care about - Celtics won, Red Sox won last year. Red Sox have pretty much clinched the wild card. Yankees are celebrating the end of the Stadium with their first stint out out the playoffs in over a dozen years. Life is good.
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:40:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are the Sox in the playoffs this year?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:44:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're leading by seven games with seven games left. I think they'll make it.
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:48:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(I'm getting to understand the Blue Jays aren't going to get into the playoffs for wuite some time... oh well...)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 07:33:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just got polled.  Never been polled before, which I always found annoying, having lived in Florida almost all my life.  I feel so special.

Whatever firm was doing it seemed to be doing so either on behalf of Tim Kaine or for a candidate getting ready to run to replace him.

Actually, now thinking about it a bit more, it may have been an Obama internal based on the questions, since later in the questions they seemed to be trying to establish whether it was a good thing or a bad thing for Kaine to be out campaigning for him.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:08:56 PM EST
gave me a bad touch and all I got was this $80 billion loan.

Yesterday I took the NRA's "basic pistol course" class over at a gun range with some friends. Half the class was on safety, the other half was on technique. 45 caliber handguns are pretty fun to fire. I can now purchase handguns in California, which I will do when I get back from my trip.

Also, turns out my medical insurance covered all of my travel immunizations. That wasn't completely unexpected even after they told me over the phone that they didn't cover such things, but still a nice surprise, and a $600 check I don't need to write.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:25:41 PM EST
I like the .44 and .45 calibers for pistols.  With proper technique even the SO, with her small hands, can hit what she's aiming at.  

Which pistol were you using?

P.S.  The whole gun thing is something our Euro-counterparts don't 'get.'  Stand-by for some questioning.  :-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 05:57:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We regularily bash the things we don't like about the US, but the US is much better at certain things than we are in Europe, like your much healthier view on handguns.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:12:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I for one don't see how it's entirely a healthier view

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:19:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Me neither.  I've fired rifles, and I'm actually a decent shot, or at least I was back when I did it.  But I'm generally uncomfortable with guns and especially handguns.  Don't want anything to do with them.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:23:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm speaking as a European who has fired a whole range of weapons, in the past before I get the you're a European and dont know what you're talking about.

I'm generally uncomfortable around people who aren't

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:31:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Could you explain a wee bit here ceebs?

I'm not sure what you're saying.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:39:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh It's the people who are too enthusiastic about handguns that disturb me, people who hunt for food, Target shooters, no problem. In my youth I had several friends who were members of gunclubs, firing anything from target pistols to light machine guns. being a teenger, I used to get an Invite regularly. the target people were ok, but the automatic pistol shooters tended to make my skin crawl. (The most fun were the Black powder cannon people)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:56:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most members of my family outside the Florida ones are either hunters or ranchers.  All their guns are either for shooting deer or protecting livestock.  Which is fine with me, especially in the latter case.

It's guns that are built to kill people that bother me.  And there's often a very different mentality that goes along with them.  I'm sure that doesn't apply to AT or Starvid, and most are like them, but many are not.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:43:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're a tool.  And like any tool they can be used for "good" or "bad" depending on the person using them and the situation in which they are used.

For me, the problem is the fantasy that has been made around pistols - John Wayne, Dirty Harry, & all that rot.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:36:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're also very dangerous. As someone who has had problems with serious depression I would absolutely never have a gun at home.  

If I had the misfortune of living in the country I could imagine hunting, in the same way I could imagine gardening. But only if I could store the thing someplace well away from home.

by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 11:12:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't remember what make/model it was. We were primarily using 22 cal pistols for their cheap ammo and complete lack of kick. I'll get a 9mm of some sort when I do buy one.

I mostly want it for societal breakdown scenarios and for fun at the range.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 10:09:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My grandmother's in the hospital and dying.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:20:04 PM EST
Sorry to hear that Drew.  My condolences.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:28:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh no, Drew, I'm so sorry to hear that. Let me know if there's anything I can do.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:28:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks all.

Meh, she's 83 years old, and it's been a long time coming.  So it's sad, but it was by no means unexpected.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:52:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry to hear, any help that can be provided from this distance,dont be afraid to ask.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i hope she passes peacefully, and that you have all the love and support you need.

best wishes

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:39:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry to hear that.
Hang in there.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:58:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really sorry. I hope it's not too difficult for her and that she had a good long life. My grandfather died two years ago. He was ninety six, he'd been in good shape until right before his death, and it was quick. I figured that was the way and time to go.
by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 11:14:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Condolences.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:00:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This could be a good sign.  Pelosi:

Congress will respond to the financial markets crisis by taking action this week in a bipartisan manner that will protect the taxpayers' interests. The Administration's $700 billion proposal does not include the necessary safeguards. Democrats believe a responsible solution should include independent oversight, protections for homeowners and constraints on excessive executive compensation.

We will not simply hand over a $700 billion blank check to Wall Street and hope for a better outcome. Democrats will act responsibly to insulate Main Street from Wall Street.

The Speaker didn't throw a chopblock on the nominee.  One hurdle cleared, I guess.  Hope they'll keep hitting the "No Blank Check" bit.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:59:57 PM EST
I'll report on what I hear on Washington Journal (7 AM EST, call-in) and Democracy Now (8 AM) tomorrow.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 07:06:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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