jump to navigation

Strange Ideas of Fiscal Responsibility July 5, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Economics, Employment, Government.
1 comment so far

The good folks at Calculated Risk provide some information concerning why it’s really a bad idea to play games with unemployment benefits.


Banks, risk and lobbying March 7, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics, Government.
add a comment

In a working paper for the IMF, which is prefaced by a bit disclaiming that it actually represents the views of the IMF, we find this gem of a summary.

Using detailed information on lobbying and mortgage lending activities, we find that lenders lobbying
more on issues related to mortgage lending (i) had higher loan-to-income ratios, (ii) securitized more
intensively, and (iii) had faster growing portfolios. Ex-post, delinquency rates are higher in areas
where lobbyist’ lending grew faster and they experienced negative abnormal stock returns during key
crisis events. The findings are robust to (i) falsification tests using lobbying on issues unrelated to
mortgage lending, (ii) a difference-in-difference approach based on state-level laws, and (iii)
instrumental variables strategies. These results show that lobbying lenders engage in riskier lending.

Aren’t we all just absolutely shocked?

Did He Look in Madoff’s Eyes? December 17, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Corruption, Economics, Government, The Big Crash of 2008, The Bush Administration.
add a comment

In an editorial the Kansas City Star’s resident ultra-conservative, E. Thomas McClanahan actually says that an inept SEC led to the Madoff scandal. I’m sorry, Mr. McClanahan, but in fact the SEC was basically doing what your hero Dubya wanted them to do, which is largely nothing. Was there any regulatory agency that wasn’t having their budgets cut under the Bush administration? Any agency that wasn’t full of political appointees whose main goal was to forward a particular political agenda? Look at Cox’s background. What else would anyone expect of an SEC he’s in charge of? Let’s face it, everything went according to plan and if you think Madoff is the only one out there…

If they can do it for carpenters… November 27, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Employment.
add a comment

I was just watching a bit of This Old House on the digital tier of my local public TV station. They did a little featurette about a carpenter’s apprentice that works with the show. Don’t you think that paid apprenticeships would work for lots of fields that don’t have it now like accountants, programmers and network engineers among others?

Quants, Assumptions and Unexamined Actions November 23, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Economics, The Big Crash of 2008, What is Justice?.
add a comment

If you combine these articles with my previous post about the article from Scientific American don’t you have to wonder about every analysis concerning finance and credit?

Steve Lohr in the New York Times

Lee Gomes in Forbes

Citigroup Saw No Red Flags Even as It Made Bolder Bet

Aren’t these largely the same processes that credit bureaus use in determining how to create “credit scores” for the rest of us? Don’t you wonder about their ability to figure out a darn thing? Don’t you think that just maybe they ignore the human factor entirely in their analyses of people’s ability and willingness to pay back their debt? Should people be cut some slack in times like these as the companies that extend them credit prove that they in fact don’t have a clue when it comes to risk analysis? Questions, questions.

Wall Street GIGO November 21, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics, Government, Technology, The Big Crash of 2008.
add a comment

Scientific American points out a couple of things that helped lead to our current disastrous situation. What, you might ask, would SciAm have to say about something that comes down to economics and politics? Simple. The financial industry pled for a lifting of rules for how much they needed to hold in reserve. Complex modelling was used with a basic set of assumptions in order to forecast what these institutions could do under the new rules. Those assumptions were based on old fashioned basic assumptions from classical economics. They were completely wrong. The models based on them failed miserably. The big question is whether or not the people in charge of these institutions will draw the correct conclusions in the aftermath and with their egos I just don’t know if I’d bet on it.

McCain Was Right About Something September 26, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Business & Society, Economics, Politics.
add a comment

Before the debate ever started McCain looked like he was going to duck out of it, claiming that he had to rush to Washington to help with the negotiations to help solve the financial system meltdown. The Washington Post reports on how much he helped. Well, he managed to help create another meltdown. While complaining about the proposals from Bernanke and Paulson might make sense, backing a plan from the House Republicans that is even worse somehow just doesn’t seem all that helpful. And it is worse, make no mistake. If the problem with a group of companies is lack of cash causing them to not be able to do their part in the economy by providing credit, demanding that they come up with more cash to pay for a whole new insurance system that won’t really help with the basic problem just doesn’t make sense.

What was McCain right about, though? He did make a difference to the negotiations. The House Republicans probably couldn’t have broken them so thoroughly without his help.

The Problem with Economists and Oil September 1, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics.

Seems to be that they just don’t learn from the past. A few years back we were told over and over again that the market was what was driving the gyrations of the California electricity market. Stuff happened. Plants shut down all the time. It’s just market forces doing what they do, which is always the best thing. We learned that was all BS and that in fact companies like Enron and others in the “energy trading” game had been rigging false shortages and playing other games with the market all along. The economists were wrong. The people who said that the markets were in fact easily manipulated by the big players were right.

Now the economists tell us the same thing about oil. This may not seem like as big a deal with prices currently falling but once you read this from the Washington Post I think you’ll agree that it is very important to keep their indadequacies because of their beliefs in the markets in mind. It tells the story of one company that the regulators thought of as a basic trader that helped companies that needed to acquire oil for their own use. In fact regulators just learned in July that this company, Vitol, in fact was holding huge stakes in oil as a commodity for the sake of investment. In fact at one point they controlled 11% of the oil contracts on NYMEX.

What was discovered when more digging happened because of this discovery?

The CFTC, which learned about the nature of Vitol’s activities only after making an unusual request for data from the firm, now reports that financial firms speculating for their clients or for themselves account for about 81 percent of the oil contracts on NYMEX, a far bigger share than had previously been stated by the agency. That figure may rise in coming weeks as the CFTC checks the status of other big traders.

Will any of the economists who have been pushing the classic economics meme of supply and demand actually read about this? Will they learn anything this time that previous examples of even huge markets being rigged for the traders didn’t teach them? Don’t hold your breath.

Signs August 9, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics.

A great deal has been made by some people of the fact that according to the classic definition of a recession as two quarters or more of negative GDP growth we just aren’t in one now. But the nature of our economy is in flux and old definitions just might not hold up.

So let me propose the Signs Rules.

If for two consecutive quarters you drive for a few thousand miles on multiple highways and you see more billboards advertising the services of the billboard company than someone else’s product or service you might be in a recession.

If for two consecutive quarters as you travel in the city and suburbs and the number of signs for houses for rent or sale (extra points for the “Price Reduced” addition), SUVs for sale, trucks for sale and boats for sale increase steadily you just might be in a recession.

The Complete Picture is the Only Useful One August 1, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Business & Society, Economics, Politics.
1 comment so far

Every time you turn around there is someone using the unemployment rate to make a point, good or bad, about the economy. 5.5% isn’t that bad. 5.7% isn’t good enough. The simple sound bite versions of that message go on and on. But notice that when pgl at Angry Bear is writing about the unemployment rate he includes some very important data that simple numbers almost never includes, the labor force participation rate. No one discussing jobs is doing a decent job of it if they only use the basic unemployment rate. But there are other things to factor in as well.

There is also underemployment, a growing problem as this NY Times article shows. Whenever a politician says that they want to do this or that to help create jobs call them on whether the jobs are any good or not. How much do these jobs they are promising pay? Not in terms of a per hour wage, but how much when you take into account the number of hours. Are there benefits? Vacation? Sick pay? A 401(K) or some other retirement arrangement? How many hours will the employee be able to work? All jobs are not created equal and unless you know the details it’s far too easy to think that things are better (or worse sometimes) than they really are. Keep that in mind through the campaign season.