Sunday, April 26, 2009

Here's some interesting articles about the economy and the banking system

The first one is by an automotive columnist in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram named Ed Wallace. He provides some of the clearest descriptions of the banking system I have read, and what he writes is confirmed by the other, more technical things I have been reading. This one is entitled False Prophets vs. Real Profits: What Wall Street Is Not on Main Street. It gives an interesting picture of (in part) how we got to the current economic mess. Ed has clearly ranged a bit far from reviewing the new cars that are coming out. And he gets it right.

A sample from his article:
Nobody is saying or even acknowledging it, but there’s only one set of economic numbers that will prove that this downturn has reached its bottom, that the long climb back to financial health has started in earnest. Those numbers will not be found in the nightly news concerning where the Dow Jones or the S&P 500 ended the day. Nor will we find them in the closing price of West Texas Intermediate Crude, accompanied by commentary explaining why oil should be that high – or that a high price is the looked-for indication that things will pick up in the last half of the year.

No, what those three indicators actually show is that far too much cash in our financial system is still chasing paper profits. Money is sitting on the sidelines waiting to be plowed back into the markets, where other investors and groups then pour their money back in and the rising tide of equities and commodities makes even more money – for a relatively small group of Americans.
The second is a description of how the current Secretary of Treasury, Timothy Geithner, thinks. He is probably the most critical man in the economy today, and he is willing to try extreme measures. This current situation is way out there in unknown land, so he is exactly what Obama and the nation needs. It's entitled Member and Overseer of the Finance Club .

Here is a sample from the article:
In a pair of recent interviews and an exchange of e-mail messages, Mr. Geithner defended his record, saying that from very early on, he was “a consistently dark voice about the potential risks ahead, and a principal source of initiatives designed to make the system stronger” before the markets started to collapse.

Mr. Geithner said his actions in the bailout were motivated solely by a desire to help businesses and consumers. But in a financial crisis, he added, “the government has to take risk, and we are going to be doing things which ultimately — in order to get the credit flowing again — are going to benefit the institutions that are at the core of the problem.”
Then we get the story of what is happening politically in Iceland because the banks collapsed there. Not really very different from what happened here, but on a much smaller scale.
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — It is a tale of light and dark — of a small but rugged country far from anywhere that has suffered as severely as any in the developed world at the hands of buccaneering free-marketeers, but which is now slowly digging itself out from the financial wreckage.

An important milestone was reached on Saturday, when the country’s voters went to the polls to elect a new government, three months after riotous street protests over the country’s banking collapse forced the country’s conservative-led administration from office.

With about a third of the final vote counted late Saturday, it seemed that the country’s leftist caretaking government would be formally voted into power, with the Social Democrats projected to gain 22 seats and their partners, the Left-Greens, appearing to gain 13 seats in the 63-seat Parliament. The conservative Independent Party, ousted after a wave of demonstrations in January, was projected to gain just 14 seats with less than 23 percent of the vote, down considerably from its total in 2007. Final results are to be announced on Sunday.

The conservatives were one of the first governments anywhere to lose office because of the global financial crisis, and it seemed clear Saturday that voters in this country of 320,000 were imposing a further reckoning.

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