Financial Crisis

Death of the California Dream

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For decades, California has epitomized America's economic strengths: technological excellence, artistic creativity, agricultural fecundity and an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. Yet lately California has projected a grimmer vision of a politically divided, economically stagnant state. Last week its legislature cut a deal to close its $42 billion budget deficit, but its larger problems remain.  read more »

Responsible Home Buyers, Why Be Frugal?

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I was laying in bed this morning, listening to discussions of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, the 2009 version of a Homeowner Bailout. (The 2008 version was spent on the banks.) I listened closely because I had to decide if it was worth getting out of bed to earn the money to pay my mortgage or not. Like all those bankers that got a bailout, I was wondering if it might be worth more to me to default on my mortgage than to pay it.  read more »

Housing Downturn Moves Into Phase II

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The great housing turndown, which started as early as 2007, has entered a second and more difficult phase. We can trace this to Monday, September 15, 2008 just as October 29, 1929 – “Black Tuesday” – marked the start of the Great Depression. September 15 does not yet have a name and the name “Black Monday” has already been taken by the 1987 stock market crash. The 1987 crash looks in historical perspective like a slight downturn compared to what the world faces today.

On September 15 – let’s call it “Meltdown Monday” – the housing downturn ended its Phase I and burst into financial markets leading to the most serious global recession since the Great Depression. Indeed, International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn now classifies it a depression.  read more »

Oregon Fail: With Hard Times Ahead for Business and Real Estate, It's Time to Look Small

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There is something about Oregon that ignites something close to poetic inspiration, even among the most level-headed types. When I asked Hank Hoell recently about the state, he waxed on about hiking the spectacular Cascades, the dreamy coastal towns and the rich farmlands of the green Willamette Valley.

"Oregon," enthused Hoell, president of LibertyBank, the state's largest privately owned bank, from his office in Eugene, "is America's best-kept secret. If quality of life matters at all, Oregon has it in spades. It is as good as it gets. It's just superb."  read more »

The Recession: Fuzzy Thinking Delays A Recovery

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I keep hearing how the current recession will end in 2010 because the average United States recession from 1854 to 2001 has been 17 months. This is silly for a variety of reasons.

One reason is that there is no average recession. Post-World War II recessions have lasted from a minimum of six months to a maximum of only 16 months. If we were to apply the “average recession” logic to post World War II recessions, the current recession, which the NBER — the National Bureau of Economic Research — says started December 2007, would have ended 10 months later, last October.  read more »

Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai : Destiny or Hype?

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The assonant phrase “Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai or Goodbye” was credited to Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times in late 2007 at the beginning of the financial crisis on Wall Street. For years, New York, London and Tokyo held sway as the world’s financial capitals. Then the tectonic plates of the financial world began to move and these new cities were going to be the prime beneficiaries.  read more »

Fool Me Once, Geithner, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice...

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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner revealed the new “Financial Stability Plan” on February 10, 2009. It’s thick with “why we need it” and thin on “exactly what it is.” He told Congress that he would open a website to disclose where all the bailout money was going. When asked if he would reveal where the first $350 billion went, he was a little vague on the details.  read more »

Housing Price Bubble: Learning from California

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In a letter to The Wall Street Journal (February 6) defending California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions policies, Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger’s Senior Economic Advisor David Crane noted that California’s high unemployment is the result of “a bust of the housing bubble fueled by easy money.” He is, at best, half right.

The “bust of the housing bubble” occurred not only because of “easy money,” but also because of the very policies California has implemented for decades and is extending in its battle against GHG emissions.  read more »

The Pleasure of Their Company

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Executives from banks including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America (who bought Merrill Lynch) have been called to Capitol Hill to explain what they did with their shares of the $750 billion bailout. (You can watch it live or read transcripts here.)

Here’s a good question to put to those executives: how much did you spend on whores?  read more »

Stimulus Plan Caters to the Privileged Public Sector

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Call it the Paulson Principle, Part Deux.

Under the now thankfully-departed Treasury secretary, we got the first bailout for the undeserving – essentially, members of his own Wall Street class.

Now comes the Democratic codicil to the P. Principle. It's a massive bailout and expansion of the public-sector workforce as well as quasi-government workers in fields like health and education.  read more »