Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl or Fukushima, are very rare, we’re told incessantly. But when they occur, they’re costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with estimates, kept them secret. But the report was leaked: an accident at a single reactor in a thinly populated part of France could cost over three times France’s GDP.
Anti-euro movements have been squashed by political establishments across the Eurozone. Then Italy happened. Two anti-austerity parties captured over half the vote and threw the status quo into chaos. It stoked a fire in Germany where Chancellor Merkel’s bailout policies have hit resistance. Now the heat is on to dissolve the “coercive euro association.”
Contributed by Chriss Street. The SEC determined that Illinois violated Federal Securities Laws by misstating the financial condition of its depleted pension funds when it sold $2.2 billion in bonds from 2005-2009. After a historical failure to fund the pension systems, it exposed the State to an $83 billion unfunded liability. Former Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich was unable to comment. He was in prison.
CEOs of the largest US corporations, without aiming at it, shot barn-door-size holes through the rosy jobs picture. Rosy on the surface: unemployment down to 7.7% with 236,000 new jobs created last month. A picture the White House held up as proof of its success. But these CEOs didn’t see it. Not in the US. Though prospects were rosy in cheap countries.
There have been waves of threats by Eurozone politicians to bully people into accepting “whatever it takes” to keep the shaky construct of the monetary union glued together. These threats peaked last year with disorderly default, and when that wasn’t enough, with the collapse of the Eurozone. But now, the ultimate threat has been pronounced: war.
The ECB and the national central banks of the Eurozone set out to collect “micro-level information” on household wealth. A massive bureaucratic undertaking. Surveys went out in 2010. Results are now ready. No one in Europe had ever done a survey on that scale before. And no one might ever do it again. Because, in the era of bailouts, the results are so explosive that the Bundesbank is keeping its report secret—and word has leaked out why.
Senator Warren set him up brutally. HSBC had admitted “to laundering $881 billion that we know of from Mexican and Colombian drug cartels,” she said. David Cohen, the Treasury’s point man, twitched on her skewer. Why were megabanks and their bankers able to dodge serious punishment for crimes they’d been committing for years? They’re officially too-big-too-jail. And a deeper problem: regulators have been taken over by the banks.
Euros entered circulation on January 1, 2002. For six years, they grew on trees in southern Europe. But the bubble got pricked. Since then, the monetary union has been in crisis. Almost half of its existence! Until suddenly, its problems were solved. But now confidence in the monetary union is weaker than ever. With a hue of resignation in Germany.
Contributed by Chriss Street. The UK has been committed to green economics. Powered by subsidies, environmental and low-carbon businesses employ one million people and make up 8% of GDP. But with the nation heading into its third recession in four years, the public seems ready to pull the plug on green economics and join the “Dash for Gas.”
By the irony of timing, the Dow hit an all-time high as markets opened. Exuberance wafted through the air. Hype was flowing thickly. Happy days were back. New highs beget new highs. And everyone knew why: the Fed’s money-printing and asset-purchase operations. By the irony of timing... because 30 minutes later, kitchen-table reality polluted the scene.
Former Italian senator Sergio De Gregorio confirmed: “The Cavaliere paid me,” he said about the €3 million he’d received in 2006 from Silvio Berlusconi. “Of course I took the money.” Frustrated with this daily display of corruption, 8.7 million angry Italians voted for Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star movement. While it wasn’t enough to govern, it was enough to give the political establishment conniptions—and show that anger and frustration finally count.
Now that the “sequester” is in effect, horrid budget cuts would hit the US. 750,000 people would lose their jobs, planes would stop flying, children would go hungry, the Navy would no longer be able to operate its ships, according to the media. Fear-mongering that the White House drove to shameless heights. But suddenly, furious backpedalling has commenced.
Spain is on edge. Unemployment is nearly 26%, youth unemployment over 55%. The government is mired in a corruption scandal. The economy is grinding to a halt. On January 23, the Catalan assembly declared that the region constituted a “sovereign political and legal entity.” A step closer to secession. And then a general gave a speech.
Contributed by Chriss Street. Michigan took control of Detroit on March 1st by appointing the equivalent of a bankruptcy trustee. Detroit committed municipal suicide through crony capitalism and union feather-bedding; it refused to cut spending and balance its budget. Perhaps Detroit’s downfall prods Congress to get serious about cutting federal spending.
That state and local government pension funds are going broke isn’t a new problem. That it’s much worse than reported by those pension funds isn’t a new problem either. Last June, Moody’s determined that the already dizzying unfunded pension liabilities were actually three times higher than reported. To top it off, trustees are blowing a bunch of retiree money on an exotic boondoggle.
“I’m appalled that two clowns have won,” said the man who'd try to knock German Chancellor Merkel off her perch this year. He was referring to former comedian Beppe Grillo and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. One of them is “a professional clown who doesn’t mind being called that,” he explained; the other is “a clown with special testosterone boost.”
Bank bailouts have made owners of otherwise worthless bank debt whole through a circuitous process by which taxpayers transferred their money to investors. Even in Greece. Even a bank that had siphoned off $1 billion through fraud and embezzlement. It wasn’t fair. But fairness had nothing to do with it. That’s how bailouts were done. Until now.
Investors are fuming. But traders, the lucky ones who got the timing right, love it. So do Wall Street firms that shuffle companies around. For decades, Hewlett-Packard did what they wanted it to do: swallow other companies, whole or in pieces, spit out some mangled limbs, and dump tens of thousands of employees. But someone ended up holding the bag.
Contributed by John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com. Hanford, Washington, was, along with Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the two Manhattan Project nuclear plants that provided fissile material for the bombs dropped on Japan. Now the past is coming back to haunt the site. Washington governor Jay Inslee called it a “perfect radioactive storm.”
Deutsche Bank, long coddled by the German government, is mired in “matters” from Libor rate-rigging to carbon-trading tax-fraud. Now a new “matter” seeped out: the bank had known for years about the impact of commodities speculation on food prices and the havoc it wreaked on people in poor countries. And it lied about it to the German Parliament.