Links 1/4/11

Ancestor faced sabretooth threat BBC

Floods completely cut off Rockhampton Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip reader Skippy)

Where Do Bad Ideas Come From? Foreign Policy (hat tip reader May S)

Holly Petraeus To Be Elizabeth Warren’s Pick For Top Post In New Consumer Protection Agency Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post

Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions New York Times. Notice the effort to use the push against public unions to break the remaining private sector ones.

On Reading “The Financial Crisis Primer” Menzie Chinn, Econbrowser

Battles loom between creditors and borrowers Financial Times (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

The Credit Card Regulation That Could Hurt Stay-at-Home Parents Helaine Olen, Slate

Overheating East to falter before the bankrupt West recovers Telegraph (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

US house prices – Roll out the welcome mat for a double-dip Alexander Gloy, Lighthouse Investment Management

For B. of A., mortgage ‘put backs’ aren’t over MarketWatch. I’m a bit puzzled by the reaction to this story. First, GSEs have much stronger putback rights than either the monolines or private label investors (like Pimco, BlackRock and the Fed). Second, as reader j points out, the Freddie payment is a $1.27 billion payment on loans with a $127 billion unpaid principal balance amount. Given the level of principal paydowns and refis, the original balance of these deals was probably double that. So everyone is excited about putbacks equal to roughly 0.5% of the original deal value? Admittedly the stock traded up on the news.

Hat tip reader Myles B:


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  1. attempter

    Re denying credit to workers in the informal economy:

    So what gives? Is the Federal Reserve really intent on rolling back women’s rights? Apparently not. Instead, stay-at-home parents (and other unemployed spouses) are potential victims of well-intentioned language contained in the 2009 Credit Card Act.

    That’s very funny: “well-intentioned”.

    While we definitely do need to break free of the debt economy (and so perhaps something like this may turn out to be cold turkey treatment which is ultimately salutary), the intent of this thing is another blow against relocalization and rebuilding the structural integrity of the informal economy.

    Rational economies are built on the foundation of domestic and community work. Except for the way it’s usually gender-segregated in an anti-woman way, this is clearly the best basis for local economies, and a necessary change we’ll now have to make from the bottom up. We non-rich, more and more of whom are going to be permanently jobless (as a deliberate policy result), need to respond by taking care of one another in a reinvigorated informal economy based mostly on barter of services and goods. Economic necessity forces it upon us: But we can turn it into economic and political liberation, if we choose.

    But as we see here, and with looming measures like the health insurance Stamp mandate (really a poll tax) and the Corporate Food mandate, the government’s goal is to keep us roped into slavery to the money/debt economy even as it drives us out of employment within that economy. The criminals really do want to drive us into an existentially impossible position. They expect us to then submit to debt slavery once and for all.

    Re Warren and Petraeus:

    Are you sure that’s not an Onion headline? Until not long ago that would’ve been considered too heavy-handed for satire.

    I hate to have to say “I told you so” about Warren, but maybe it’s Tough Love.

    Now we see exactly who this Elizabeth Warren is – a criminal astroturfer meant to drum up false elitist hope and get people to waste time. She plays the same role as Krugman. She’s just more insidious. (But not any more. The brazenness of this example of cronyism and wingnut welfare couldn’t be more stark.)

    1. Skippy

      Re Warren and Petraeus:

      Indeed there is present, the ingredients of an opera. Only problem is, is it German or Italian…ummm. Warren in particular is a classic example of goose chases and the problems associated with entering the machine, trying to fix it from with in, ye maybe, just might become a cog_your_self.

      Skippy…how many well intentioned people have entered the D.C. circle with bright eyes and bushy tails only to have them singed off by the recognition that Dante never left terra firma and that hell is what we make it…eh.

    2. ScottS

      As they say, an honest politician is one who stays bought.

      I think it’s best to have reformers on the outside, holding politicians’ feet to the fire. Once you’re inside the beltway, you are captured.

      I don’t know if I agree with Attempter that Elizabeth Warren is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But seeing how she has been marginalized and damned with faint praise at best, I see reformers as being most useful on the outside pissing into the tent.

      1. attempter

        It was obvious from Day One what they wanted her to do. They wanted the benefit of her name whenever convenient to them, and they wanted her otherwise out of sight, out of mind. She knew exactly what was up, and she accepted the position anyway.

        I think that’s dispositive regarding her loyalties and intentions.

        (What’s the alternative? Yet another round of “But she was sure she could succeed where everyone else had failed”? Another version of the infinitely disproven “I joined the Party because I was hoping to be a moderating influence from within”? Does anybody really think she’s that dumb? Or Krugman, another prime example in whom people are desperate to have faith?)

        No, you have it right – anyone among the elites who truly decided to become a rogue on the side of the people would know to do it openly, as a complete critic.

        1. ScottS

          Attempter, you could be entirely right. We can only judge her by her results. Second-guessing or giving any credit to what she says is a waste of time, just as with our man Tom “put people in jail” Miller.

          And we can’t take a “let’s see how she does” attitude. We have to keep up constant pressure. Like I said, the only honest politician is one who stays bought. Or, in absence of cash, poked enough with a stick by an angry mob. They’ll only do the least we will let them get away with.

          Who watches the watchers? The public does.

    3. Jon H

      “the intent of this thing is another blow against relocalization and rebuilding the structural integrity of the informal economy.”

      What’s local about a national chain like Dress Barn? What is there about shitty retailer credit cards with extra-high interest rates that helps rebuild structural integrity of anything?

      1. attempter

        One can use credit at local businesses (or to run local businesses) as well.

        Dress Barn is an incidental, irrelevant example.

        And I explicitly said we need to get out of the debt economy completely.

        But given that things usually have to be done in stages, denying credit to workers in the recohering informal economy is meant to try to help make that alternative untenable. It’s an aspect of system control.

        1. Jon H

          “One can use credit at local businesses (or to run local businesses) as well.”

          Then get credit from a bank or credit union. One of the businesses in the stories, beside Dress Barn, is Home Depot. But I’d be surprised if Home Depot offers contractors (ie, local business customers) the same terms they offer on their store credit card.

          I seem to recall that store credit cards are pretty much universally a poor source of credit. Which makes sense: the store is going to want a profit margin on the credit extended, and so will the financial institution who actually manages it. That being the case, if you cut out the middle man (the retailer) and go straight to a financial institution for credit, you’re better off.

          The stores offer 15% discount (or whatever) on your purchase if you sign up at the checkout counter, but no doubt that’s because they more than make up for that discount through interest and fees. So the consumer sees very little real benefit, just the up-front discount that is meaningless.

    4. Peter T

      Why would Holly Petraeus be so bad? There was an article recently in the USAA magazine (yes, I know now, to sing her praises before she was installed) where she described the debt trap she and her husband fell into at the beginning of his career (like many other soldiers) and how she wanted to help younger soldiers and their spouses to avoid that mistake. Sometimes the perspective of the military is helpful, for example, when they warn of obesity in recruits and of debt during active duty. Don’t forget that Elizabeth Waren has herself well pulbicized conservative roots in Oklahoma and in Sunday school and that it is mainly the amazing right-wing extremism of today’s Rebulicans that make her look like a leftie.

  2. dearieme

    Golly, the “Metric of the Year Award, 2011” has already been won, by the Blessed Ambrose’s “…either they agree to pay subsidies – not loans – on a scale equal to Versailles reparations, for year after year…”

  3. AR

    Re: Holly Petraeus’ appointment: “Member of the GOP have portrayed the new institution as an enemy of free enterprise, warning that it could restrict credit by impeding the financial industry.”

    Re: Requiring spousal proof of income before getting a credit card: “The possible change is expected to have a particularly large impact on those non-working spouses—who are, of course, mostly female…”

    I assume the latter includes dependent military spouses, who may be unemployed? Who’s restricting credit?

    1. Jon H

      “Requiring spousal proof of income before getting a credit card”

      No proof of income = a liar loan. Those didn’t work out very well in real estate. Why should it be any different in (generally extra-shitty) merchant cards?

  4. sherpa

    Besides the push against unions, both public and private, another area that I expect to see push in the States under complete Republican control is “privatization” of significant Government functions such as prisions and child welare. This will divert huge amounts of tax dollars to corporations (and their CEOs) with questionable public benefit. It will create a permanent lobby for the mass incarceration of huge numbers of Americans.

    1. ScottS

      Privatization of public schools has already begun.
      “None of this is going down well with the bureaucracy or the California Federation of Teachers, whose president has called parent trigger a “lynch mob provision.” The law says that the district must comply with a petition unless it “makes a finding in writing stating the reason it cannot,” but McKinley’s parents expect to have to sue to get their way. Since Celerity is ready and waiting to take over McKinley, the district has no legitimate reason not to facilitate the switch.”

  5. rps

    Re/The Credit Card Regulation That Could Hurt Stay-at-Home Parents.

    Do the shortsighted one-eye Fedsters ever think though their plans of disaster? The stay-at-homers do the family shopping and purchase planning as their spousal slaveworkers are chained to desks. The Fed pulls the linchpin of the economy and pisses off the caretakers who’ll perhaps embrace the Money Diet of cash only. Adios to impulse buying and hello to penny pinching and economy tanking. CC companies profits squeezed like blood from a turnip and retailers disappearing like the dinosaur.

    1. Sufferin' Succotash

      That’s where all the hot air about “belt-tightening” and “living within our means”(always applied to someone else less “deserving” than Just Us)runs head-on into an economy which is 70% consumption.
      Which is what the richies and their political pimps thought they wanted for the past 35 years, a politically ineffectual and marginalized population locked into debt servitude. But the “steering problems” (a useful term borrowed from Habermas) accumulate. What happens to the dividends when the masses have absolutely no choice but to deleverage (it’s either that or abject penury)? What happens to the political class when angry insurgent movements threaten to get out of control(the Baggers won’t be the last of these)?
      I’m gonna enjoy this…

      1. ScottS

        Exactly right. Anyone who proposes austerity needs to lead by example.

        And I don’t mean Bill Gates & Warren Buffet’s goofy pledge to privatize public schools.

        I think anyone serious about balancing the budget would be remiss without increasing the estate tax and closing the loophole in hedge fund manager’s “carried interest” BS.

    2. Jon H

      “CC companies profits squeezed like blood from a turnip and retailers disappearing like the dinosaur.”

      Who are you, some loathsome debt-collection troll from Capital One?

  6. lambert strether

    So, Petraeus in 2012, on the “Democratic/Republican” ticket, after the “government of national unity” is formed in September 2011, to deal with the crisis of “The Second 9/11”?

    The script writes itself…

  7. PQS

    Not linked here, but WRT GS putting $50B into Facebook…..does anyone else here think this reminds them of the ridiculous AOL/Time Warner deal from the height of the dotcom bubble? I seem to recall it took only a few short years before AOL was worth .02 a share or something like that after the bubble burst….

    Am I wrong in thinking this is just the beginning of yet another worthless dotcom bubble, no doubt cheered on by the rest of WS and DC, too, since neither of them have the first clue how to create any jobs at all for people in the Real World?

    Just wondering. But I cannot help wondering how in the world “Facebook” is worth more than Time Warner (as I saw on the television the other morning….) TW makes things and employs people making television shows and movies. What does “FB” make? Who do they employ? How do they make money?

    1. Ron

      This is all about an IPO for Facebook and the beginning of a media push by investment banks to fatten up the market. The 50B is similar to chumming in the fishing world.

      1. ScottS

        RE bubble -> tech bubble -> RE bubble -> tech bubble.

        I’m detecting a pattern.

        Throw in a few commodity bubbles in to keep things interesting.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          There is a bubble in bubble-making…too many bubblists blowing bubbles.

          You can call it bubble-bubble.

          If we are lucky, it will be Peak Bubble.

          1. PQS

            I thought we have always been at war with Peak Bubble….

            Or was that Eastbubble?

            I swear, I cannot keep them straight.

  8. Ron

    US house prices – Roll out the welcome mat for a double-dip

    The government has been able to push auto sales with zero down financing or leasing for various high end luxury models but its a big jump from a Ford 150 to a Bay area 700K house and government nor the FED have been able to push demand for these mid to high end tier houses even with a Fannie credit limit of 729K using only 31/2 percent down!!!!!

    The credit bubble is still leaking and while the FED with Q1 and Q2 along with TARP have filled a few credit pot holes the higher tier housing market containing millions of White homeowners continue to face an endless downward push on prices. We have never had a housing problem only a credit bubble that blew up housing prices beyond economic reality.

  9. curlydan

    the Petraeus article’s headline is very misleading, so HuffPo would do us a great service to change it. It should read “a Top Post” or “Top Military Post” as she will only head a post serving military families. My heart skipped a beat when I thought she was being recommended to be top Dawg of the entire agency. No, she’s only working for military families.

    Might be nice if she’d tell the Military’s ad agencies to stop touting military service as a great way to build skills, but that would cause her husband’s heart to skip a beat.

  10. Jon H

    “That Could Hurt Stay-at-Home Parents”

    Since Dress Barn is pushing this story, somebody needs to look into the credit terms that Dress Barn was offering.

    I bet the terms were positively vile, which is why they’re bitching. They’ve lost their way of putting families in the credit card sweat box. I’m guessing Dress Barn clientele aren’t the most affluent families, so are more likely to carry balances long-term.

    Also, the story’s been pushed by the WSJ, Fox News, and now somebody at Slate I’ve never heard of before, and nobody seems to be questioning the premises.

    1. jimmy james

      Thank you! The whole thing stinks of a PR plant, using just the right words to encourage the left (women’s rights!) and right (families!) to come out against it.

      I would be VERY suspicous.

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