Why We’re Not at the Beginning of the End, and Probably Not Even at the End of the Beginning

populist-rage

Are we at the beginning of the end? Mortgage interests are now so low (the average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages was 4.87% Thursday, slightly higher than the 4.78% last week, but still the lowest level since 1971) that President Obama has begun urging Americans to refinance their homes so they can save money and [...]

Why You Should Work for a Hedge Fund

jacuzzi

Just because I lost a big chunk of my total retirement savings over the last year doesn’t mean I should be upset that 25 hedge-fund managers reaped a total of $11.6 billion during the same interval, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha Magazine — including $2.5 billion for James Simons of Renaissance Technologies and $2 billion [...]

It’s a Depression

good-old-days

The March employment numbers, out this morning, are bleak: 8.5 percent of Americans officially unemployed, 663,000 more jobs lost. But if you include people who are out of work and have given up trying to find a job, the real unemployment rate is 9 percent. And if you include people working part time who’d rather [...]

The Administration’s Proposed Responsible Wall Streeter Tax Credit

recession-copy

The Administration is about to launch a new plan designed both to stimulate the economy and clean up Wall Street at the same time, the “Responsible Wall Streeter Tax Credit”.

Congress’s Potemkin Populism

bushido

It’s nice to see that when the public gets sufficiently angry about something, Congress responds. In a rare show of bipartisanship, members are eagerly registering shock and outrage at AIG’s bonus payments by coming up with an assortment of ways to reclaim the bonanza, including taxing them away retroactively. Who says democracy is dead? But [...]

In the Wake of AIG: Obama’s First Priority

aig1

AIG is rapidly becoming a nightmarish metaphor for the Obama Administration’s problems administering the bailout of Wall Street. One central problem is the lack of transparency. According to some news reports, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner knew weeks ago that AIG was planning to issue the bonuses to executives in its notorious credit default swap unit, [...]

The Real Scandal of AIG

rich-cigar

The real scandal of AIG isn’t just that American taxpayers have so far committed $170 billion to the giant insurer because it is thought to be too big to fail — the most money ever funneled to a single company by a government since the dawn of capitalism — nor even that AIG’s notoriously failing [...]

Is Obamanomics Conservative or Revolutionary?

obama_hat

There are two ways to see Obamanomics. The first, much preferred by the White House, is as a set of initiatives so modest as to hardly merit a raised eyebrow. Yes, steps must be taken to deal with the current economic crisis. But assuming the economy recovers next year, Obama’s budget projects that government spending [...]

Is Obama Responsible for Wall Street’s Meltdown? Where Populist Rage Is Heading

wall-street-distress

Is Obama responsible for the meltdown of the Dow? The consistently wrong-headed Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page says so, as does Republican Fox News, CNN’s reliably demagogic Lou Dobbs, and now CNBC (where, full disclosure, I frequently appear as a token liberal). CNBC’s Jim Cramer, who bloviates nightly about stock picks, says Obama is pushing [...]

Worse Than Expected on the Economy

Keep your eyes on the gap between what the economy could produce at full employment and the paltry level of aggregate demand (consumers plus businesses plus exports). That’s why the stimulus is too small — and why my bet is the President will be back for more stimulus. The Commerce Department reported Friday that the [...]

Finally, A Progressive Budget

obama-saves

President Obama’s new budget is, well, audacious — not just because it includes several big, audacious initiatives (universally affordable health care, and a cap-and-trade system for coping with global warming, for starters) but also because it represents the biggest redistribution of income from the wealthy to the middle class and poor this nation has seen [...]

Obama’s Goal: Halving the Budget Deficit by 2012. Really?

economy-under-water

The President’s message on fiscal responsibility — that he’ll cut the current one by half by the end of his first term — is smart politics right now, but it may be dumb politics by November of 2012, and doesn’t make much economic sense regardless. We’re in a deepening recession, in case you hadn’t noticed. [...]

The New Deal and the New New Deal: Countering Conservative Claptrap

gop-on-automatic

The stock market reached a six-year low today. Why? Some blame loose talk (including that of former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan) about nationalizing the nation’s banks. Others blame Obama’s new plan for helping homeowners who may not be able to pay their mortgages. But the real culprit is the accelerating decline in aggregate demand — [...]

And Now Homeowners

homeowners

The two most important features of the administration’s plan to help homeowners are, first, its support for amending bankruptcy laws to allow judges to modify mortgages. This will give homeowners bargaining leverage with mortgage servicers (and give the servicers more leverage with securitized creditors on up the line) to get better terms; and, second, a [...]

Geithner’s “Stress Test” for Banks, and a Stress Test for America

modern-times

The only way to make sense of Tim Geithner’s “stress test” for banks is to assume a kind of triage. Banks that are reasonably healthy right now — whose assets are fully adequate to fund their liabilities, and can make new loans — don’t need a bailout. And banks that are too far gone to [...]

Why Republicans Won’t Support the Stimulus

sinkorswim

Why are Senate Republicans (all, that is, except the lonely moderates Collins, Snowe, and Specter) nixing the stimulus package, as House Republicans did? Not because Obama failed to compromise — he gave them the tax breaks they wanted, included a whopper for business. Not because Senate Democrats failed to bend — they agreed to trim [...]

Senate Republicans and the Stimulus: Playing Politics When the Economy Burns

reichtable

Friday’s job report is likely to be awful. January’s job losses could easily top half a million. We’re deep into the most vicious of economic cycles: Consumers are slashing their spending because they’re perilously in debt and worried about keeping their jobs. But as a result, businesses are facing shrinking sales of goods and services, [...]

Tom Daschle and the Populist Revolt

daschle1

Tom Daschle’s surprise withdrawal today shocked most Washington insiders — after all, Daschle had been a key figure in the Senate, was Obama’s pick for a major role in the new administration, would very likely have done a superb job getting a new health-insurance system enacted, and, probably could have mustered enough votes to be [...]

The Real Fight Starts After the Stimulus is Enacted

ark_on_the_peakcolor

he real stimulus debate hasn’t even started yet. Congress will pass President Obama’s stimulus package in the next two weeks, more or less as he wants it. The House has already done its part, and the Senate appears likely to follow suit. But when the economy starts to turn up again, perhaps as early as [...]

Why We Need Stronger Unions, and How to Get Them

union workers

Why is this recession so deep, and what can be done to reverse it? Hint: Go back about 50 years, when America’s middle class was expanding and the economy was soaring. Paychecks were big enough to allow us to buy all the goods and services we produced. It was a virtuous circle. Good pay meant [...]

How America Embraced Lemon Socialism

obama_black_hole

America has embraced Lemon Socialism. The federal government — that is, you and I and every other taxpayer — has taken ownership of giant home mortgagors Fannie and Freddie, which are by now basket cases. We’ve also put hundreds of millions into Wall Street banks, which are still flowing red ink and seem everyday to [...]

Why Citi Turned Around on Mortgage “Cramdowns”

class-struggle

The latest data show one out of ten homeowners in the United States is either late in making a mortgage payment or in such serious arrears as to risk foreclosure. Last week, congressional Dems breathed a sigh of relief when Citigroup dropped its opposition to a proposed change in the bankruptcy laws allowing distressed homeowners [...]

What Should Be Done With The Next $350 Billion of Taxpayer Bailout Money: Criteria for TARP II

obama_tightrope

It’s difficult to make the case that the first $350 billion bailout of Wall Street — so-called “TARP I” — fulfilled its goals, unless one argues that the Street would have imploded without it, which is pretty much what Hank Paulson is saying these days. And since it’s impossible to prove a counter-factual, especially when [...]

The Stimulus: How to Create Jobs Without Them All Going to Skilled Professionals and White Male Construction Workers

construction_workers

The stimulus plan will create jobs repairing and upgrading the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, levees, water and sewage system, public-transit systems, electricity grid, and schools. And it will kick-start alternative, non-fossil based sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and so on); new health-care information systems; and universal broadband Internet access. It’s a two-fer: lots of [...]

Stimulus Plan: The Need and the Size

sinkingeconomy

The core problem we face is not access to capital. The Treasury has already flooded Wall Street and the banking system with money, committing nearly $350 billion; the Federal Reserve Board has exchanged Treasury bills for some $2.2 trillion of troubled assets; other agencies, such as the FDIC, have guaranteed trillions more. But there has [...]

Stimulate the Economy by Mending Our Safety Nets

piggybank

Lots of talk this week about the proposed stimulus. One high priority ought to be the most vulnerable members of our society. The safety net created in the 1930s to protect Americans from extreme poverty is in tatters. Now that we’re in the worst downturn since the Depression, that safety net needs mending. This should [...]

Thoughts on the End of a Hell of a Year

2009

The biggest thing to happen to me this year was the birth of my first grandchild, a little girl named Ella. I know this kind of thing happens all the time and frankly I get bored with people who go all gushy about the birth of kids or grandkids.

The Debate to Come over Wall Street, Autos, and Everything Else: Cyclical or Structural?

problem

by Robert Reich – First prediction for 2009: A widening gap between the public’s view of the bailouts of Wall Street and Detroit, and the views of the direct beneficiaries. The public believes the bailouts will permanently change these industries, but industry insiders don’t really want to change.

The Housing Bubble Continues to Burst

waiting_for_santa

by Robert Reich – The National Association of Realtors said today that home prices have now dropped to the point where they’ve wiped out all the gains in housing prices since 2004. 2004, not incidentally, was when interest rates last hit bottom, and the Feds looked the other way while mortgage bankers began shoving money [...]

The Logic of Keynes in Today’s World

jobs

by Robert Reich – Not long ago I was talking to someone who once had been a deficit hawk but the current recession had turned into a full-blooded Keynesian. He wanted a stimulus package in the range of $500 to $700 billion. “Consumers are dead in the water,” he said, fervently, “so government has to [...]

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