Friday, April 22, 2011

Life In An Alternative Universe

I am becoming more and more convinced that there are multiple parallel universes occupying life on this one planet we call Earth. It is seemingly the only even remotely rational explanation for the disconnect between the views of most people in the United States (and the World) versus the views of the Beltway Villagers, Media Courtiers, and the excessively affluent.

Today's (Friday, Arpil 22) NY Times presented the results of a poll of the "Nation's Mood":

Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Amid rising gas prices, stubborn unemployment and a cacophonous debate in Washington over the federal government’s ability to meet its future obligations, the poll presents stark evidence that the slow, if unsteady, gains in public confidence earlier this year that a recovery was under way are now all but gone.

Capturing what appears to be an abrupt change in attitude, the survey shows that the number of Americans who think the economy is getting worse has jumped 13 percentage points in just one month. Though there have been encouraging signs of renewed growth since last fall, many economists are having second thoughts, warning that the pace of expansion might not be fast enough to create significant numbers of new jobs.

So what are the Media Courtiers reporting on? The Washington Post had this report on the "Biden deficit task force":
A congressional task force launched by President Obama last week to help cut the federal deficit is off to a rocky start, with some members complaining that the agenda is destined to provide political theater, not a sweeping rewrite of spending and tax policy.

Set to begin discussions May 5, members already hit a dispute this week, disagreeing over how many people should have seats at the table. Some are asking what’s the point of meeting at all.

“I’m at a loss to understand what the purpose is,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday in an interview. He said Obama had not set a timeline for any decisions, although lawmakers from both parties are calling for some agreement on deficit reduction before the government reaches a limit in the coming months on how much money it can borrow.
We have 14M to 15M unemployed, roughly 25M to 30M un and underemployed combined, millions more who are now "self-employed/independent contractors" or who have just given up and when they become eligible, are taking early Social Security and politicians are arguing over how many people will be "at the table?" This shit reminds me of nothing so much as the stories of the early negotiations on the Korean War where supposedly they had to vote on the size of the fucking table used for the negotiations before they could actually negotiate an end to the fighting.

Meanwhile the WaPo0 had another story about investors betting against the US dollar and looking for investments with returns in other currencies:
Last month, Warren Buffett went shopping — abroad.

He flew to South Korea for a factory opening and called the country a “hunting ground” for investments. He also pronounced post-earthquake Japan “a buying opportunity,” and then traveled on to India, where he said he was eyeing more acquisitions.

This is Buffett’s way of betting against the U.S. dollar. Armed with about $38 billion of cash at Berkshire Hathaway, he can use dollars now to buy companies that will generate profits in other currencies for years to come. (Buffett is a director on the Washington Post Co. board.)


Buffett isn’t alone. Some of the most successful investors in the United States and the biggest money management funds are worried that trade deficits, big budget deficits and the possibility of renewed inflation will make the U.S. dollar a weak currency compared with others around the world. On Thursday, the dollar fell to an 181 / 2-month low against the euro.

Mr Buffett, with your money, are you sure you can't find some good investment opportunities within the US? Seriously? Maybe if the (lack of) jobs situation were to improve, there could be a bit of growth in US exports as well as more revenues in the government coffers to off set those vile "big budget deficits" everyone is so very worried about.

Reuters is reporting on how businesses are having to show how they will grow overseas:
(Reuters) - Large blue chips, including some consumer-oriented companies, will have to show they can counter sluggish developed economies by leveraging growth in emerging markets and technology -- if Wall Street is to maintain earnings momentum next week.

Companies like Microsoft, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola, unloved on Wall Street, could turn out to be good buys if they can show they justify higher valuations than investors are now willing to give them.


Growth is now concentrated in industrial, materials and energy stocks that benefit from strong demand in emerging markets, as well as a technology sector boosted by robust demand from businesses.
Fareed Zakaria at Time Magazine seems to think things are looking good for at least the short term though he is concerned about the long term:
In fact, the real problem is that this short-term good news means Washington isn't really acting as if it faces a crisis, no matter the rhetoric. Democrats are still clinging to entitlement programs with no talk of real cost cutting, though the current system is clearly unaffordable. Republicans pretend the U.S. is on the brink of losing the world's trust, but they don't really believe that. If they did, they would not play politics with the vote to raise the country's debt ceiling; they would also agree to raise taxes or just repeal the Bush-era tax cuts. That one step would stabilize America's finances for a decade (though the entitlement system would still need fundamental reform for the long run). Other than the Gang of Six in the Senate, people are still pushing their ideologies rather than fixing the problem. The great danger is that once again, the American economy will outperform expectations and relieve politicians from having to make hard choices about entitlements and taxes. But it will only postpone the day of reckoning and make the crash more painful.
Earth to Fareed - a lot of the problems you are seeing could be helped quite a bit by fixing the (lack of) jobs problem in the US. And we wouldn't have to treat the "Gang of Six" as if they were doing anything more than trying to destroy the Social Safety net for older Americans.

US News& World Report (via Yahoo) isn't even pretending anymore with this article headlined:
How to Tell if You Are Wealthy
Of course, we don't need to see articles headlined "How to Tell if You Are Poor." Most of us just look at our bank accounts and it is quite obvious. I've joked for years that I'm "Rich in everything but money" (and yes, the pun is intended). It would just be nice to be able to know that I will be able to survive these next five or ten or twenty years.

There are millions of people in the same reality that I am in and we look in wonder upon the (lack of) reality voiced by the people who purport to represent us. I know which side of the realities I'm betting on as being more realistic but I'm also betting that reality has no ability to penetrate the Beltway cocoons.

And because I can:

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