Author Archives: Yves Smith

Ukraine Open Thread (and Links)

In theory, I should post about Ukraine, but in practice, the news is thick on speculation and thin on evidence. And the rush to assign blame before all the facts are in*, particularly now that the black boxes from the downed Malaysian Airlines are in the hands of the Malaysian government, is particularly troubling. It’s well documented in research on cognitive biases that once most people have formed a point of view about something, they remain committed to it even in the face of new information. This is why people who recall all too well the full-bore propagandizing before the war in Iraq are so suspicious of the aggressive effort by US officials to pin the destruction of the passenger jet on Putin. This episode feels way too familiar, in a very bad way.

Read more...

The Argentina Debt Case

Almost everyone now knows that the world of international finance is not a particularly robust one, nor is it particularly just or fair. But it has just got even weirder and more fragile, if this can be imagined. A recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, refusing to hear an appeal by the government of Argentine against a decision of a lower court on a case relating to its debt restructuring agreement with creditors over a decade ago, is not just a blow against the state and people of Argentina. It has the potential to undermine the entire system of cross-border debt that underlies global capitalism today.

Read more...

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Review of Economic Blogs

Yves here. This post from VoxEU gives a partial answer to a question many US readers have been asking: what are the prospects for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? As we’ve written, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’s evil twin, the TransPacific Partnership, looks to be in trouble. Both the Senate and the House are opposed, and Obama wants them to give him “fast track” approval to facilitate completing the accord. Our resident Japan commentator Clive says the Japanese press is treating the deal as dead, absent major changes in US posture that no one expects to happen. The Wikileaks publication of two draft chapters showed that all of the proposed parties to the agreement have significant objections to many of the provisions.

But much less is known about the state of play of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Read more...

CBO – Still Pushing Deficit Scaremongering Propaganda

Yves here. We’ve written from time to time about the shameless partisan role that the Congressional Budget Office plays in stoking misguided and destructive concern about budget deficits. It’s important to recognize the CBO’s openly partisan stance on this issue, because it is supposed to make independent, apolitical budget forecasts and is widely and mistakenly seen as “objective”. In fact, the CBO’s regularly takes stances that put them in the same camp as billionaires like Pete Peterson and Stan Druckenmiller, who want to slash Social Security and other social safety nets.

Read more...

Senate Report: Hedge Funds Used Basket Options to Save Billions in Taxes

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report today that found that hedge funds have been using basket options to save billion in taxes. And when we say “billions,” the report indicates it’s more like tens of billions, since the paper estimates that the tax reduction achieved at one hedge fund, Renaissance Technology, operated by the famed James Simons, was $6.8 billion.

Read more...

Tom Engelhardt: Requiem for the American Century – Paragraph by Paragraph

* Seventy-three years ago, on February 17, 1941, as a second devastating global war approached, Henry Luce, the publisher of Time and Life magazines, called on his countrymen to “create the first great American Century.”  Luce died in 1967 at age 69.  Life, the pictorial magazine no home would have been without in my 1950s childhood, ceased to exist as a weekly in 1972 and as a monthly in 2000; Time, which launched his career as a media mogul, is still wobbling on, a shadow of its former self.  No one today could claim that this is Time’s century, or the American Century, or perhaps anyone else’s.  Even the greatest empires now seem to have shortened lifespans.  The Soviet Century, after all, barely lasted seven decades.  Of course, only the rarest among us live to be 100, which means that at 70, like Time, I’m undoubtedly beginning to wobble, too.

Read more...

More Challenges to “More ‘Free Trade’ is Always Better” Orthodoxy

One way to induce a Pavlovian reflex in mainstream economists is to invoke the expression “free trade”. Conventional wisdom holds that more trade is always better; only Luddites and protectionists are against it. That’s one big reason why the toxic TransPacific Partnership and its evil twin, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, have gotten virtually no critical scrutiny, save from more free-thinking economists like Dean Baker. They have been sold as “free trade” deals and no Serious Economist wants to besmirch his reputation by appearing to be opposed to more liberalized trade.

Read more...

Michael Hudson and Leo Panitch on BRICS Development Bank Salvo v. the Dollar

Yves here. I’ve refrained from saying much about the announcement of the plan to establish a $100 billion development bank by the BRICs nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) because the hype is ahead of the reality. Yes, it is true that the US has been abusing its role as steward of the reserve currency. QE has been a huge bone of contention in all emerging markets, since hot money has flooded in, while the Fed has, in an insult to the collective intelligence of the leaders of these countries, tried claiming that it has nothing to do with the influx. And they are bracing themselves for the tidal retreat when the Fed starts tightening. The US’ efforts to use sanctions to punish Russia have also focused the minds of these countries.

However, the formation of a development banks falls vastly short of the infrastructure needed for any country’s currency (or a basket of currencies) to displace the dollar.

Read more...

Bill Black: AG Holder – “The U.S. Announces the Indictment of Citigroup’s Senior Officers for Fraud”

Yves here. I’m serving an extra heaping of contempt on the latest giveaway bank settlement, this one with Citigroup for a headline figure of $7 billion which is really $4.5 billion in cash and the rest in various chits. We’re turning the mike over to Bill Black, who excoriates Attorney General Eric Holder.

Read more...