Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hello, again.  We start off today cool but with anticipation of a 'warming' trend for the week.  It is amazing how a cool snap changes your perception of temps in the 70s.  But we should have nice sunny days which will help because I have a good bit of cleaning up to do in the gardens.

One of the lead stories on WSBT (the South Bend station on cable) concerned Bank of America's new fee for debit card users.  A customer interviewed by one of the bank's ATMs said she planned to switch banks and an official with 1st Source Bank remarked that his company hopes to gain a bunch of new customers thanks to the fees.  Good.  I would love to see a large movement of customers away from BoA and the other too-big-to-fail banks (who took our bailouts) toward to local banks.  I wonder if the big banks are relying on 'bank inertia' (as this MSNBC article calls it )  to keep their customers.

This Vanity Fair article is a bit long but is well worth the read.  It took me a while but then I don't read as fast as I once did and I took my time over it.  Every now and then I find authors trying to wrestle with how we came to be where we are now with our broken economy.  This author makes several interesting points, all well illustrated and argued.  First up--the controversy over Meridith Whitney's supposed prognostication that the municipal bond market was due for a catastrophic decline actually distorted what she had really said and obscured important points she really had said.  And it covered up the long process whereby state and local governments had seriously underfunded its employee pension funds while racking up massive debts.  And that the states were in a less precarious position than the cities and counties because it would push the costs of covering their own debts by shorting the local governments.  (Which has happened as anyone following the problems of contractors, cities, and school districts trying to get promised money out of the state of Illinois.)  Second--the political situation in California which to my mind very closely resembles the conditions for national politics (though the author did not point out).  Combining safe gerrymandered districts where polarized voters elect intractable representatives who have no incentive to compromise and are strapped by term limits and the requirement that any tax or spending bill be passed by a two-thirds majority is a recipe for stalemate.  Third--human nature.  We seem to have an inherent tendency to grab short term gratification without any real thought to the long term consequences.

I have been wondering for the last several years how much 'investors' (read 'speculators') have influenced the markets.  This article seems to parallel my own answer to the question--they have a greater influence than traditional supply and demand mechanics.  I rather resent the SOB at the end--I don't like the notion that speculators can run up the cost of food but, since 'Most Americans eat too much anyway,'  it is okay to gouge them (and other less affluent consumers).

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