It is strangely apt that the stock market this week has been experiencing turbulence, in the wake of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S credit and fears of a double-dip recession. After all, this week marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s removal of the United States from the last vestiges of the gold standard, an action that ushered in 40 years of fiat monetary instability. For four decades we’ve been in a state of almost constant financial crisis, from the stagflationary ‘70s through the savings and loan debacle and stock market crash of the ‘80s to the more recent dot-com and real estate bubbles and their messy aftermaths.
Seattle, Washington, is one of 25 communities that received $20 million from the Stimulus program as part of “Retrofit Ramp-Up” — an initiative of the Department of Energy in which stimulus dollars are used to make homes more energy efficient. The program was touted as one that would create 2,000 “green” jobs in the city of Seattle and retrofit at least 2.000 homes. There is just one problem: The program is a massive failure.
The latest ranking of contractors providing services to the federal government reveals that at least nine of the top 10 are tied to the Department of Defense and took in nearly $70 billion of the government’s money in 2010. Leading the pack as it has for the past 17 years is Lockheed Martin, with $17 billion, followed by Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.
The recent attempt to terminate both the ethanol subsidies of $.45 a gallon and the $.54-per-gallon import tariff on Brazilian sugar-based ethanol by the Senate failed because it was an amendment attached to a bill that was doomed to failure anyway. Both will cease on December 31 automatically, ending 33 years of subsidizing the ethanol industry; however, food prices are likely to stay high anyway.
While the private-sector is drowning under a perpetual recessionary storm, U.S. regulatory agencies are flourishing. "If the federal government’s regulatory operation were a business, it would be one of the 50 biggest in the country in terms of revenues, and the third largest in terms of employees, with more people working for it than McDonald’s, Ford, Disney and Boeing combined," writes John Merline of Investors.com.
Warren Buffett (left), better known as the Oracle of Omaha, earned $40 million last year and paid $7 million of it in taxes. But in his editorial in the New York Times on Sunday, he claimed that he doesn’t think he’s paying enough, and neither are his friends. So he’s asking the SuperCommittee to stop “coddling” him and his friends, and raise their taxes as part of the deficit reduction scheme they are hatching.
Finally, some good news about the economy, from an unlikely place: North Dakota. CNNMoney reported that while the United States' economy grew at less than 3 percent last year, North Dakota’s grew by more than 7 percent. And with national unemployment over 9 percent, in North Dakota it is just over 3 percent (and hasn’t touched 5 percent there in more than 20 years).
An analysis just released by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco concludes that most of what Americans spend on consumer goods, electronics, clothing, sneakers and the like, stays in America. Surprisingly little comes from China after all. Say the authors:
The latest report from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System confirms what every sentient being already knows: The economy is in the dumper, with little improvement expected. The report used words like “considerably slower,” “deterioration,” “flattened out,” “weak,” and “depressed” to describe current conditions, and it even noted that excuses such as bad weather and the earthquake in Japan “appear[ed] to account for only some of the current weakness in economic activity.” (Emphasis added.)
The stock market is in freefall once again, evoking specters of 2008. As one fund manager told the Wall Street Journal on Monday, “the sense of déjà vu is almost sickening.” The storied Dow lost more than 600 points Monday following huge declines late last week, appeared to get its footing yesterday, then plunged more than 500 points today. All over the world, markets are taking stock, so to speak, of the burgeoning debt crisis in the United States and Europe, and fearing the worst.
With gold bouncing up from $1,668 an ounce on Friday, August 5 to $1,778 on Tuesday, August 9, it was the biggest three-day rally since the start of the great recession in 2008. At the same time, the equities markets were falling precipitously, losing over 600 points on the Dow on Monday alone. What is the connection?