Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, is worried about many things. In March he worried about the future of the economy. “The important lesson,” he wrote, “is that bank regulators cannot fully or accurately forecast whether, for example, subprime mortgages will turn toxic…. A large fraction of such difficult forecasts will invariably be proved wrong…. Anticipating the onset of crisis … appears out of our forecasting reach.”
When Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says the country is in trouble, many aren’t listening, partly because the media wasn’t there reporting on it, and partly because those listening can’t understand what he’s saying. Speaking at the Annual Meeting of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council on Monday, the best he could do was “There is no way around it — meeting these challenges will require … the public to make some very difficult decisions and to accept some sacrifices.”
The high-profile international-business editor of the U.K. Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, shocked and pleased readers with an apology for his past support of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, its chairman, and its policies.
It was appropriate for Meredith Whitney to title her latest 600-page report for her investment clients The Tragedy of the Commons. That title was borrowed from an article written in 1968 by Garrett Hardin and published in Science magazine, illustrating the ultimate failure of people hoping to live off the incomes of others eternally.
When Zacks Equity Research announced on Monday the failure of two more banks in the current recession, the silence was deafening. The report blamed the usual suspects: “tumbling home prices, soaring loan defaults, and a high unemployment rate continue to take their toll on such institutions.”
Remember all those jobs the stimulus law supposedly created? Well, “tens of thousands” of them, reports the New York Times, are going to vanish “within weeks unless Congress extends one of the more effective job-creating programs in the $787 billion stimulus act: a $1 billion New Deal-style program that directly paid the salaries of unemployed people so they could get jobs in government, at nonprofit organizations and at many small businesses.”
Organized labor, like the octopus of government, ignores the realities of ordinary life. America is in the midst of a depression and unemployment is a profound problem in much of our nation, particularly in those older industrialized regions which have come to be called the “Rust Belt.” Big unions, so present in American elections with money and foot soldiers, extracts its own irregular benefits and protections as the price of political support.
Despite the wave of popular anger over the ongoing recession (no, it hasn’t ended, as just about everybody outside the Beltway has figured out by now) and the enormous expansion of government debt that is sucking the private sector dry, President Obama is refusing to contemplate extension of the Bush tax cuts for America’s high earners.
When the 82,566 fans of the New York Giants cheer their team at the home opener of the season this Sunday at the New Meadowlands Stadium, they will likely enjoy the game more than the taxpayers of New Jersey who still owe $266 million on the old Giants Stadium which was demolished to make way for the new one. Those taxpayers may also be dismayed to learn that the revenue stream from the old stadium has now all but disappeared, putting them on the hook for $35 million in principal and interest payments each year to service the bonds that built the old stadium as part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex back in 1976.
When Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in Bloomberg.com that “the biggest problem with the labor market right now is that wages are too high,” it was the first positive sign of intelligent life in the mainstream media in some time.
If it is true, as Albert Einstein is alleged to have said, that insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then President Obama and his advisors may well be channeling the great 20th Century physicist. After all, the President is neither chastened nor enlightened following the monumental failure of his multi-trillion dollar efforts to stimulate the economy by spending taxpayer money. As his September 6 speech at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Laborfest attested, he’s going to try it yet again.