Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Economy

Before getting to the economics, more from the stupid season files:

Atheists vs. Christians: Score-keeping taken to the absurd.
Nina Totenburg apologizes for speaking the word "Christmas".
Rescue a deer that breaks through the ice, get a fine.

Here in the United States, jobs are still in the toilet with the worst states being the usual suspects: Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, California, Nevada, etc. None of this is news to anyone looking for a job. Any openings here have 100's if not 1000's of applicants. The last time the library I volunteer at had an opening for someone to shelve books (the very bottom entry-level job that I do for free), they had over 100 applicants, most with Masters degrees. One factoid from the article that I found interesting: The employment hotspot of America is North Dakota with 3.8% unemployment. Maybe we should move.... I also got a giggle:

Another report showed the economy is poised to pick up in 2011. The index of leading economic indicators increased 1.1 percent in November, the biggest gain in eight months, the New York-based Conference said today.

Would that be the same index that showed the economy picking up in 2010? I think we need to go back to chicken entrails.

More banks closed on Friday including one in Florida. I don't know about other states, but the problem here has moved beyond residential real estate (which isn't doing well, just less bad) to commercial real estate. Plenty of empty strip malls and abandoned projects everywhere you look. If the recession is over, you can't tell it from driving around Seminole county.

Cities and states are in trouble. Tax receipts from sales, property and income taxes are all in free-fall. A logical person might think that all the extra money raked in during the boom decade would be enough to carry through a couple bad years, but like a bunch of ignorant children, not only was all the extra money spent, record amounts were borrowed besides. Perfect.

Our clueless overlords at the Federal Reserve keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. What they have managed to do is shove food and energy prices up, both of which are excluded from the inflation figures used to calculate such trivial bits like the COLA for Social Security benefits. Ya know; because food and energy are such a small share of household budgets and not nearly as important as flat screen TV's and iPhones (which are included).

An article about Michigan and how the decline in auto manufacturing has decimated the economy there. No big surprises to anyone who has lived there other than the over-educated who continue to believe in the fantasy of re-training:

Gluskin Sheff's Rosenberg says that if he were in charge "I'd have a shovel in the hands of the long-term unemployed from 8am to noon and from 1pm to 5pm I'd have them studying algebra, physics and geometry."

Yea, right. Because those on the left side of the bell curve are so good at algebra, physics and geometry. Even assuming we live in Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average, just what are these newly-minted geniuses going to do? Instead of trying to turn everyone into Stephen Hawking, how about just teaching them how to add? To read? To tie their shoes? To show up on time? To shut up, sit down and listen? I'll make it real easy: How about teaching them the alphabet so I don't have to spend half my time at the library cleaning up behind the illiterate high school volunteer who thinks M comes after D? Oh right; that's "drill-and-kill" learning and we can't have that interfering with Self-Esteem Training.

Meanwhile, the Europeans continue their death spiral with the Euro looking like a worser idea by the minute, France looking to lose its AAA bond rating and riots in Greece, the UK and Italy. Kunstler may be right; the idea of Europe being the world's tourist destination may itself be going on holiday.

Merry Christma... Oops! Sorry about that! Happy Saturnalia!!

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