What if China Stopped Buying Our Debt? No Worries-Explained

Writing about economics isn’t easy, but Gordon Chang has a highly understandable piece in the Weekly Standard here on what would happen if – as some chicken littles are screaming – China stopped buying all our debt.

The theory goes that Pres. Obama is sending us into the land of huge debt (he is) and China at some point will stop buying that debt thus bringing us to our economic knees.  Chang explains how it will actually bring China to it’s knees.

It’s a good example of the fact that you can’t control markets (for long) and you especially can’t control currency markets.  Also, why is the dollar the foundation of world markets?  It isn’t that our economy is huge.  It isn’t that we exercise hegemony over the globe.  It’s because we have a stable politic system (compared to the rest of the world).  There’s no worries that we’ll become a Italy or Argentina with chronically wobbly governments that play around (too much) with our currency.  We’re responsbile…which just goes to show how bad the rest of the world is.

Hot? Try Torquemada’s Shower

There’s a shower at the Cincinnati Athletic Club that scares hell out of me.

It looks like it was built in the 1920s based on a 15th century Tomas De Torquemada design.  It obviously doesn’t get along with the other showers because it’s segregated away from them.  It has it’s own little piece of the basement facing the pool.  It’s like a small closet enclosed in tile with a simple clear curtain forcing the bather to be exposed to anyone wishing to view the torment.

It’s water feds through at 2″ pipe rising from the floor.  The only faucet is a valve about 3 feet above the floor that looks like it may require a boilermaker’s arm to turn on.  The pipe continues upward and over the head of the bather.  It splits into two.  One split goes to a shower head that’s the size of a dinner dish at a Myrtle Beach all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.  The other split leads to a network of pipes that wrap around the bather from about knee to shoulder height.  Hinges would make it a passable iron maiden.  The pipe feeds 6 smaller – and more forceful shower heads that I sure the Cincinnati Zoo used to bath the elephants before they decided it was too cruel.  Each pipe has small holes – about 50 in total – that spray out like a water saw.

As the single valve indicates, there’s only one water temperature choice.  That choice is cold.  Throwing the valve down leads to 9 seconds of creaking while the water gurgles its way through the apparatus.  When it finally does come, the force is stunning, but you brave against it.  “It’s not too cold,” you think to yourself, but about 30 seconds in the truly cold water kicks in.  Your manhood is shamed.  Not only your life – but your grandfather’s life flashes before your eyes.  The force and volume of the water is so immense that the four inch drain can’t handle it so after 45 seconds your up past your ankles in arctic H2O.

Finally, you can’t take anymore.  You grasp for the valve.  It doesn’t give at first but with the force of both hands and your knees it gives.

On days approaching 100 degrees, the cool stays with you for hours.  Very Nice.

Journalism Ethics/WaPo’s Dana Milbank

On of the things I learned when I started writing for various publication is “journalistic ethics”.  I committed a couple of faux paus (not that anyone held it against me).  But I realized they had some of the same silly (and over-thought rules) that other industries have (including my day job).

A couple of stories reminded me that the small fish play by the rules while the bigger fish play by their own rules.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has a write up of Pres. Obama and the planted question.  I didn’t see the presser, but by Milbank’s description, it seemed pretty obvious the questioner was a plant.  Is obvious plant less harmful?  I think so, but then again “the whole world is watching” including much of the world without a free press.

A story that really angers me yet didn’t get so much attention is the rescue of NY Times Reporter David Rohde from the Taliban.  The New York Times (and other media sources) hushed it up to protect Rohde.  Good for them.  I just wished they used the same restraint when they endangered are American military personnel such as their disclosure of NSA wiretaps and Treasury Department money tracking.  Good posts on this here and here.

The Fed Threads the Neddle & A Lesson

I sometimes question whether some business writers ever took an economics class, that’s why I’m always willing to speak on background to anyone with questions.

The recent talk of Fed actions is a case in point.  This BusinessWeek piece about today’s Fed is almost incomprehensible to the average readers.  This WSJ journal piece is better written and offers a good history lesson.

For a more in-depth lesson on the debate among policy makers regarding monetary policy, I’ve not found anything better than this old piece from NRO.  The events are dated but the lessons timeless.

My Take on Leading economic indicators up more than expected

A simple metaphor for “stimulus” spending is that it’s like steering an enormous cruise ship.  It doesn’t turn the economy on a dime.  You have to steer it (spend) well before you want to turn (before a recession).  Gov’t spending takes 9-12 months to get through the system to generate economic activity (not that it’s good activity).

That’s what makes this Forbes.com headline good: “Leading economic indicators up more than expected”.  The public, politicians and policy makers don’t realize we’re in a recession until we’re well into it.  Usually by the time they act, the economy corrects itself.   It’s happening again: none of the recent “stimulus” has hit yet, but we’re already in the turn away from recession.

Now when the stimulus does hit, it will be like we’re oversteering…which will require an equal oversteer in the opposite direction….which may require another jerk of the wheel.

That’s why it’s best to leave things alone.  It’s hard because the public is yelling for “experts” to “do something” but the first priority for policymakers is to get Hippocratic and “do no harm”.

Obama Remodels The Financial System

From the Washington Post:

The plan seeks to overhaul the nation’s outdated system of financial regulations. Senior officials debated using a bulldozer to clear the way for fundamental reforms but decided instead to build within the shell of the existing system, offering what amounts to an architect’s blueprint for modernizing a creaky old building.

If Obama’s remodel goes like mine does, he’ll be making at least 6 trips to Lowe’s.  I’m doubtful this will do anything besides answer the “Do something” demand of voters.  I hold the basic premise that government action usually causes more problems…and unintended consequences.

For several decades campaign finance laws have been passed and re-written to “get money out of politics”.  Are we better off than in 1950?  Not sure.  Probably not.  The government’s been pushing automakers to build safer cars, but also more fuel efficient cars.  These are usually contraditory – (i.e. lighter, more fuel efficient cards are inherently less safe).  The extra costs have managed to help bankrupt an industry.

Finally, I notice this:  The article says the reforms are “…a sweeping effort to curb the kinds of reckless risk-taking that sparked the economic crisis”

Wasn’t the spark for the current crisis caused by Congress (Rep. Frank and others) putting the legislative gun to the head of banks to loan to people who couldn’t afford the payments and those payments finally coming due and not being paid?  How’d this end up – again – Wall Street’s fault?

Help Mom Kelly Palmer/Delta SkyMiles Donation

40-year old Kelly Palmer has a beautiful home in Loveland, Ohio, three young children, a loving husband, and pancreatic cancer.

Today, her friend Sharon Burton told Kelly’s story here on the Bill Cunningham Show.  Kelly is now 80 lbs, unable to get from bed, and no longer seeing doctors.

She’s begun her final journey.

Her husband’s parents live in England and have exhausted their resources on previous flights to help the family.  They could use any unneed, unwanted Skymiles to get them to the US to help their son Ian and three grandchildren – an 8-year old son and 6-year old twin girls – through this time.

If you have any, please contact Sonya Hytree at shytree@cinci.rr.com and visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kellypalmer1