Thursday, February 25, 2010

Worker's Strikes Paralyze Greece; Preview of Things to Come in America?

This is a good article from Wall Street Journal (free, no less) on how there are now major strikes in Greece due to the government's austerity measures. "Austerity" (I didn't know what this meant, to be honest with you) means "strict economy", in which entitlements and other items in a state budget are slashed. In Greece, this is due to their budget deficit being 13% of GDP.

While I don't know the extent of what actually needs to be cut, as I'm not a Greek and all of that, I have to ask: How come when something like this happens, the average working stiff is the first person who is expected to give up his modest lifestyle, while the politicians and the banksters continue to live high off the hog? Especially since, in most of these cases, it's the latter whose policies lead to messes such as this.

There might not be so many riots if "austerity" applied to everyone.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Bank Warning Sign: Citi Warns Customers It May Limit Withdrawals

Another reason to consider keeping your savings (assuming you have any) in a personal safe or under your mattress, is this note that Citigroup (of course, known to you and me as Citibank) has sent to its customers nationwide:

"Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change"

As it turns out, the warning was intended only for Texas customers (why limited to Texas, I don't know) but was sent out nationwide to all customers due to an error. In any case, this is crazy. Why would a bank restrict you from your own money? Also, why would they warn their customers that the value they're storing in the bank is gone? I am fearing a bank holiday in the next few years, at most.

List of "Problem" Banks Soars; Is Your Money Safe?

This is an article from Bloomberg that shows that the FDIC's list of "problem" banks has risen to the highest level since 1993. When you scroll down towards the end, you see something a lot more concerning, and one thing that has concerned me for awhile. The FDIC, the government institution that insures your money (that which is deposited in a bank) for up to $250,000, is currently running a deficit of $20.9 billion.

How much of the $402 billion that these at-risk banks are holding, is insured if the agency in charge of insuring it is running a 20-plus billion dollar deficit? Well, the FDIC has a $500 billion line of credit with the Treasury Department (in other words, the American taxpayer, or more likely, we have to hope that China is willing to buy $500 billion in U.S. treasuries to cover the tab).

In brighter news, my bank isn't listed on the unofficial list of the "problem" banks, yet. Is yours? No matter, I am getting more and more leery of keeping my assets in an FDIC-insured bank.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wall Street's Bailout Hustle (Taibbi's latest)

Perhaps more than any one writer, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi has written the most in-depth, concise, and clear pieces dealing with our financial crisis, and the rampant fraud, conniving and outright thievery that has taken place in the wake of it. This is his latest. This really isn't anything new (at least for me), but his examples, allusions, and colorful language (plenty of "fuck's" and other swear words, remarkably rare for business and economic reporting) make this topic remarkably simple for all but the most dense of us to understand. He refers to classic "cons" and shows how Goldman Sachs and the other investment banks are implementing them in a modern, white-collar way. He even refers to a scene in the classic mob movie "Goodfellas" to prove one of his points.

This article points out that our entire global economy is basically being controlled by a handful of psychopaths on Wall Street. It is almost beyond belief that all of our futures are in the hands of this small cartel of swine, and no one is stepping up to stop them.

Friday, February 19, 2010

U.S. Bank Lending Falls at Fastest Rate in History

This article is from a journalist named Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the UK Telegraph, whose articles, I am seeing, are well worth reading. His stories contradict the "economic recovery" BS that is coming out of American mainstream media. This article covers how bank lending is contracting at the fastest rate in recorded history. I am continously fascinated at the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis that is continuing to makes its ramficiations felt for all, despite freely admitting that I am far from an economist and at times can't totally follow what I am reading.

The comments are well worth reading, too. While the common perception among many people is that the banks do not want to lend, and that is at least partly true, I also think that it's due to people lacking the desire and the will to take out more loans (also known as "debt"). As our current and future generations see what happened to those who took on too much debt and later losing the means to pay that debt back, we are becoming more prudent and careful on where we make our long-term investments. The Federal Reserve probably withdrew the stimulus because no one wanted to borrow it. What's left of the middle class is resigned to the fact that the credit bubble can't re-inflate itself in a stable, constructive way.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The First American Suicide Bomber

This just happened today. It's bad enough when taken on its own, but read the letter that this guy left. This is a coherent letter, in which his frustrations were comprehensive and specifically targeted. This letter shares a lot of similarities with stuff that I read on doomer sites every day. What the letter comes down to is, that the guy isn't crazy. His manifesto actually makes sense, and I think that's what makes it so dangerous.

Sorry to be alarmist, although this looks like it had a very low body count, this could have a significant impact considering that this guy came off as an average Joe who was pissed off at his country in the manifesto.

China Selling Off Record Amounts of Our Debt

Japan has re-taken its place as the top foreign holder of U.S. debt, as China sold off a record amount of their U.S. Treasury holdings in December. This could have a lot of implications (without a creditor continously buying our debt and lending us new capital, that brings on hyperinflation), but it could also be China just talking smack (as the latter part of the article explains, pushing too hard and bringing us down will just bring China down too).

In any event, I thought this would be a much bigger story, at least in the business papers. But I guess they're concerned with other things, like the Winter Olympics or how Ellen is doing on American Idol.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

This is a good, but very long, article from The Atlantic Weekly on what is probably the issue of these times: the scarcity of jobs and where future employment is coming from, or whether it's coming at all. The entire article is worth reading, but the 2nd page of the article is what caught my eye most of all, as it dealt with America's youth and the job market. I have been unemployed a few times in my working life, but it was usually of my choosing and I always had enough to get by. I also had the help of family.

I am working at the moment, in a job that I usually enjoy, and that is relatively stable compared to most other jobs out there, but it is one that I cannot look to as a career. Since I have a college degree and a certification in another field, I am hoping to get something a bit more fulfilling and with a much larger income. But those jobs are not within reach at the moment, nor do I think they will be. My feelings on this has largely to do with our economic future and our scarcity of resources that are required to ensure continued economic growth (as I have discussed previously on the blog). I am very skeptical when the issue of job growth is discussed by anyone, whether by our president or people on the television news shows. The one question they can't seem to give any sort of an answer to is, "where are these jobs coming from?" Imagine that you're a multinational corporation, with the ability to assign tasks to any group of workers in the world. Why would you choose to lay down a base of operations here, when you can get the work done for much cheaper anywhere in the world? And, when those people demand better wages and protections, why, you can just stop operations and set up shop at another place on the map where people are willing to do the work for next to nothing. I think the simple reality, and the one not being discussed by those who matter, is that the American worker has priced himself out of work.

Most Americans still look at a job as a comfortable position in a cubicle where the starting salary is $50,000 a year. Those kinds of jobs simply don't exist for most people anymore, no matter our credientials or how many pieces of paper we have framed on our walls. According to one portion in the article, "networking happy hours" that are being held to match employers with jobseekers for unpaid internships are being swamped, and people with professional degrees and lengthy job experience are taking them. I sent an application for one of these internships to the county district attorney last summer, and got a letter back, stating that "due to the unusually large number of resumes sent", mine couldn't be looked at.

Ensuring that my resume isn't dominated by white space, I am trying things. I am going to put my very modest current job on future resumes, as that is better than "unemployed". I also will volunteer for Red Cross courses in disaster relief, if this horrible weather stops forcing me to postpone going to them. Any unpaid internship position I would take, would be on the position that a profit isn't being made from my work, and that seems difficult, especially in the legal industry. I am planning to contact my local Legal Aid office; do any readers have any other ideas?