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Ch. 2: Finance: The New Real Economy? 
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Post Ch. 2: Finance: The New Real Economy?
Ch. 2: Finance: The New Real Economy?

Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 2: Finance: The New Real Economy?.



Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:37 am
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DWill from Introduction.
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(Do I recall that realiz is a bookkeeper/accountant type?--great.)


Sorry, this is way above my head and I deal with Canadian tax laws on a small scale...the greater world of finance and the market is way above me. I've spent a few days on the internet reading up on terms I don't really understand. I had thought that 'subprime' ment a mortgage starting at a rate below the prime rate, but have learned that this is a pre-eighties meaning and that a subprime mortgage is one given to high-risk clients who do not qualify for regular rates.

I did read this on Wikipedia:

Quote:
Contrary to other nations, the US Tax Code allows 100% tax deductibility of all interest payments and part of principal payments on loans for housing. This means a tax break of 30% to 50%, not only of the real interest but also of the inflation part of nominal interest rates. This tax break is what fuelled second and third mortgages, used to buy cars and other consumer goods. Interest rates on car purchases are not deductible, but second mortgages are. This tax give away is what makes America become the most personally indebted nation in the world. Countries like Brazil that do not use nominal interest rates in housing loans, and do not give such tax breaks do not have a prime nor a sub-prime housing problem.



Which confirms my thoughts on this matter that I posted on the introduction thread. It is also sad that complicated 'subprime' mortgages are offered to a group that has the least likelihood of understanding what they are getting into, and little chance that they will be able to live up to the financial commitment. They are basically being preyed on by lending institutes.
I do think that Phillips is saying that the US general public has been misled in this influence to go into debt, to spend, and to invest in the stock market that has been greatly inflated by the spending and the private debt load. The worst thing about this whole scenario is that the savy investor, the top few percent, who make the most while the bubble grows, also can weather the storm and then be in a position to buy again when things bottom out.
Deregulation is another big issue. I have never really understood the American banking system as it differs quite radically from Canada.

The stock market itself has become so much more available to the
average person that it was in the past. I think that many do not realize that there is always a risk and money invested should always be money that can be lost. I have been surprised the past few years when so called 'investment specialist' have encouraged so many people to invest retirement savings in mutual funds.



Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:00 pm
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realiz wrote:
Sorry, this is way above my head and I deal with Canadian tax laws on a small scale...the greater world of finance and the market is way above me.

OK, but I still think you protest too much! I want to try to understand a BIT of this stuff, too.
Quote:
I do think that Phillips is saying that the US general public has been misled in this influence to go into debt, to spend, and to invest in the stock market that has been greatly inflated by the spending and the private debt load. The worst thing about this whole scenario is that the savy investor, the top few percent, who make the most while the bubble grows, also can weather the storm and then be in a position to buy again when things bottom out.

And remember G. Bush's first term, when he wanted us to invest our social security contributions in the stock market (privatizing)? We all were told to accept on faith that mutual fund investing for retirement was the only way to go, and very few of us knew what we were doing.
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Deregulation is another big issue. I have never really understood the American banking system as it differs quite radically from Canada.

It's too bad, then, that Canada and most of the world is sucked into the vortex of our financial flushing.

[/i]



Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:22 pm
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Yes I found it quite interesting when Phillips says that,

"Bubbles aside, other financial terms used by the media - credit derivatives, securitization, and even current account deficit - do not lend themselves to conversations in neighborhood bars or beauty parlors. Americans are excusing themselves accordingly. Still," Phillips continues," if the farmers of more than a century ago could study and understand Sherman Silver Purchase Act provisions and details of the nationwide currency shrinkage - and many somehow managed - can't we expect as much today?" Phillips questions. "Alas, probably not." His chagrin is apparent.

This is the best explanation in his book thus far to explain public ineptitude when it comes to America's most important sector. They don't understand because they simply don't want to not because they lack the resources. I can relate, and the sector encourages it. It is one thing to read about derivatives or fiat currency it is another to read about it in a way that you could comment on it. What better way to keep the meddling masses out of your institution than to tell them they do not understand what they are talking about?

You think that derivatives are poorly designed? You do not work for a large bank what could you possibly know?

It's like trying to defend yourself in the court, the judge really just wants you to get a lawyer. The lawyer has received some type of formal training and certification and is undoubtedly useful, unless you were trying to change the system of law he has come to accept and understand. You would be matching understandings and without insider information individually you are most likely to lose without an expert majority.

And of course Phillips is soon to reverberate, echoing again that "disinterested experts, of course, could pull back the curtain."

:book:



Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:41 pm
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I was intending to comment on the same passage that you did. What he said about the complacence or laziness of Americans regarding finance hit home, because I had whined a bit myself that we poor citizens can't understand what's going on. But part of it is inattention and not wanting to be bothered. The other part, which you point out, is probably very true as well: that these wizards do want to be seen as such (or as high priests), and their names for various vehicles are meant to be imposing and indicative of special knowledge needed to understand them.

I'd say the main points I got from this chapter are: 1) for many years public indebtedness has recieved all the attention, but it is private debt that has soaked into our whole economy and done much more damage. I never even thought of that, figuring that if somebody couldn't make mortgage payments and got foreclosed, that was simply a problem for him. 2) Deregulation of the banking industry (including what is called the finance industry, too, I guess) created all of thse new possibilities. It was total faith in the "invisible hand" of the market that led to the reins being let go. Now, it looks as though an opposite reaction may set in, with government replacing the untrustworthy market.


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Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:48 am
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What he said about the complacence or laziness of Americans regarding finance hit home,


This probably stems from a 'if ain't broke, don't fix it', the majority could not see that there was a problem, even some experts could not see how dire this situation was. The American dream is about getting ahead, earning money and living a good life. There is an inner greed in all of us and that greed can take hold of large groups of people and make them blind to reality or at least future consequences. To be fair, there are good idealistic reasons for encouraging debt and spending and deregulation to a certain degree, but taken too far, way too far, the whole thing blows up.

In our world, we all have dozens of areas that we really should understand more, rather than leaving it to the 'experts'. Finance is just one of these, others are our own health (which covers a whole range of things), the environment, government, law, the list could go on and on. We realistically could not spend all our time learning about all these areas, and many times we do have to put our trust into experts. But we do have to learn enough to figure out who those experts we should be listening to are. I think many times we listen to the experts who are saying what we want to hear rather than those saying things that will make our life more difficult.

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I never even thought of that, figuring that if somebody couldn't make mortgage payments and got foreclosed, that was simply a problem for him.


I think that in isolation, this would be true. The greater problem here was the fact that these subprime mortgages were quickly unloaded on unsuspecting investors leaving the lending institute to repeat this procedure over and over again. This is really fraud, but it sounds like somehow it was being done legally, but obviously not morally. I would have thought with what happened with Enron that more regulation would have been put in place, rather than less.



Thu Jan 15, 2009 2:20 pm
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Listening to an excerpt of George Bush's farewell speech this morning, I thought about free markets and how free market political ideology has risen to power in many places around the world, including here in Canada. Many of us seem to like the free market when it (apparently) works well for us, the ideology seems to make sense and things go like gangbusters. There is evidence of that here in Canada. We re-elected a government recently that is ideologically bound to free market thinking.

If things go wrong we cast about for answers, prescriptions, like more or better regulation. But is it good enough to just call for tighter regulations or does that leave us on the merry-go-round, destined to return to the same spot over and over? Do we seriously question the underlying ideology and related public policy? Are we willing to consider systemic change or just tinker on the surface? I'm curious to see what position Phillips might take on this and what arguments he brings to the table.



Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:23 pm
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I suppose it would depend on who's ideologies you wanted to compare.

"Adam Smith would have been amazed at the new financial services sector and its close interconnection with government, politics, and power; Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French architect of seventeenth-century mercantilism, would simply have smiled."

There is no question of an on-going debate as to the role of government in a free-market, as acts and laws are enacted which do their best to skirt around a multitude of sensitive issues. There is no index section on "ideology" or even "free-market" so I must scan for appropriate quotations. I think that Phillips would agree with the principals of the free market across all sectors; however, he has undoubtedly shown the folly of governmental deregulation and a myopic focus on the financial sector.

"For Washington to have made such a tentative choice in 1988 was momentous. Finance become the chosen sector of the U.S. economy - the one that would be protected and promoted because it was too important to fail. Manufacturing would receive no such help, however excited members of Congress might get from time to time."

The largely unchosen ideology of America: financial mercantilism, "to describe a nation's favoritism to its own exports through subsidies or easy financing." I don't expect Phillips to go much deeper than this. He has yet to make any recommendations in fact, and I think to begin talking in a much deeper sense would essentially become a legal debate for limitation on freedom (i.e. it is not your right to speculate etc). Needed as discussion about inherent restrictions/intentional directionality may be, the brick wall rises quickly to divide imagination and reality. Both imagination and reality have their natural places; however, Phillips is firmly on the reality side in this book, he has given no indication thus far that he even has an imagination!!

Chapter 3 Bullnomics seems be more where this discussion is heading.

I have my own thought's and opinion's. What specifically do you have in mind for fundamental revisions, ideologically speaking?

:book:



Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:46 pm
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giselle wrote:
There is evidence of that here in Canada. We re-elected a government recently that is ideologically bound to free market thinking.


More worrisome we see a Canadian government dedictated to ill-conceived neoliberalism and subsidization of fossil fuel production. Essentially tying the dollar to the price of oil and a great cost to the potency of diversification. Phillips would see this one-sidedness as a grave fallibility.

"Either officialdom didn't really understand what was happening or there wasn't much interest in measuring it."

To reverberate I don't expect Phillips to get political in any partisan sense. I expect a fair round will be taken out of Thatcherism and Reaganomics as well as the effects and implication of the Bush legacy. Clinton will not escape un-sullied. The political commentary has been and I expect will continue steadly to be of the stripe seen in these quotations:

"As a further pledge of allegiance to the eighteenth-century British free-market apostle, many Reaganites took to wearing Adam Smith ties."

"Northeastern finance was realigning toward the Democrats, but in contrast to the 'Arrogant Capital' dominating the Republican Party, the Democratic financial element represented 'Humble Capital.'"

"Humble proved to be humbug."

About GWB2, "many pundits assailed him for urging consumption, not the shared sacrifice usually propounded in wartime."

Again, nothing too futuristic....yet.

:book:



Last edited by Grim on Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:30 pm
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CDO's are tranches. So whenever Phillips is talking about either, he's most likely talking about the same idea.

The selling of bum goods to consumers is nothing new. The markets have a way of finding out quickly which products are bum goods and which aren't. The companies that produce bum goods don't get our money. Consumers rely on word of mouth, consumer reporting agencies, and other outlets of information to help us make an accurate decision when buying something.

The reason I gave Realiz a thank-you was because there is no possible way to get the information necessary to make an informed decision when accurate information is withheld or when that information is above the comprehension of the average individual.

Who was the common American to know the inner workings of the financial sector? Those who claim to know it get it wrong themselves on occasion. It feels like our leaders have hung us out to dry. The only consolation I have is that it has provided fertile soil for change.

The packaging and selling of risky debt should have been seen as an obvious no-no. I'm still not convinced where it went wrong. It seems like someone should have recognized all the risk and put an end to it... and if they didn't then they should have been allowed to fail or succeed like any gambler.

Taking down the entire economy? That sounds like the duty of the government to make sure that never happened. Why is it that government handed over the reigns so easily? More than that, they colluded and fostered the financial sectors massive growth and power. It's the government's job to set up ground rules FOR the market so that costs are lowered and there are clearly defined boundaries to promote fair competition - not to hand the fate of the country to greedy individuals.

Possibly the worst thing is that the debt could have been used for creative purposes that added value to everyone's lives - rather than the lives of the top 1 or 2 percent. The money could have been used to make the country more productive and richer as a whole. What a waste.

Phillips brings this point to light when he says that the debt the United States has been piling on in the last few years has provided only 30%-40% as much stimulus per dollar to the national economy as did the debt added 25 or 40 years ago.

The money that could have been used to produce stuff was "borrowed by 10,000 hedge funds to double the leverage of their various self-serving speculations."

I had no idea that the FED did covert market buying and selling. I think that's some funny stuff. WOW. Go PPT - you shady bastards!

All this stuff, to me anyway, destroys free competition. It's a total perversion. It's disgusting. So so two faced. To promote free competition and then make sure it doesn't really happen isn't what Milton Friedman wanted. I feel Phillips sometimes uses him as a scapegoat for freewheeling berserko markets - but from what I can remember from his lectures - he wanted government to intervene only in order to set ground rules for fair competition.... not to make sure markets or companies had a helping hand no matter what.

Friedman WANTED rules - just not unnecessary ones. There seems to be some necessary rules needed here. SOMEONE sold this country out and now those same someones want us to dig it the f*ck out. Sh*t on them.



Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:57 pm
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And we all welcome Camacho to the real world at least the past 20 years of it maybe more - don't worry it's all on YouTube now.

:clap:

:book:



Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:12 pm
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This is a related question, and maybe somebody can answer it for me. I think there is a good chance of it. Like many, many Americans, I followed the received wisdom and put some of my salary into a 401(K)-like arrangement. Assurances were given that this strategy has proved to be the best for retirement saving. Of course, this investment is now worth less than the simple sum of my contributions to it. My question is whether even this activity of investing in mutual funds is part of the same craziness that Phillips details in the book. Was this way of increasing wealth oversold to us, and is it part and parcel of the CDO, SIV,etc. debacle, even if not recognized as an abuse like those are?


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Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:31 am
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On assumption:

It seems to me that when a person puts money away for retirement in stocks, there should be a momentary raise in the price of the stocks and not necessarily its value. Then, those on the inside would see the stock as over-valued and sell. Those with enough information would seek to put their money in non-over priced stocks - thereby lowering the price back down to market value.

There is more money out there because now there are more investors. The costs of securing an investment in an enterprise goes down because there are more people looking to get rich than there are 'get rich' stocks. It leaves a lot of room to maneuver for those in the know to create gimmicks to suck up all the money people are eager to invest.

Who would want to put money into an over-priced stock that would only get about 5% a year when inflation is actually 5-7%. It's no way to make your money work for you.

I think, right now, with the aging population, declining standards of living, declining stock market value, and the prospect of rapid inflation in 2010, it might be wise to invest in something like old people businesses that don't cost a lot of money. I'm wary of investing in drug companies because of Obama, in the long run at least. If there is a company that is supposed to come out with some kind of medical breakthrough within the next two years that will definitely enhance the quality of life for aging seniors and cost very little (i.e. hospitals don't have to pay millions for equipment) it might really be worth it.

I also think oil is under priced right now. I don't know why, though. I'd invest in oil companies that pay dividends, I think.

Credit card companies should see a huge increase in sales, I would think. Aren't people more likely to use their cards now that it's getting difficult? I want to think that a company like VISA that does not take on debt from consumers - merely provides the card service - would do well. The price for their stock has fallen a lot.

There has to be a way of making money out of all this cr*p.

If inflation is set to rise in 2010 - where to invest? In other currencies? I don't really know - and unfortunately like most people I don't have the money to invest (gamble) anyway. Looks like my mattress is going to get a little bit more cushion. ;)



Thu Jan 22, 2009 12:45 pm
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Dwill wrote:

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It's too bad, then, that Canada and most of the world is sucked into the vortex of our financial flushing.


Thanks Dwill, I was wondering if somebody would mention this in the discussion.
The people who wanted to make these bad deals in the US and get rich quickly purposefully sold those products all over the planet so as to spread the risks, and , er... we're not too happy. Of course, if our own bankers had been more careful and less greedy they might have found out.
From what I hear it was very cleverly done, the bad products systematically spread among good ones, so that some European banks still haven't found out how many of those products they bought from the US and in how big a mess they are.

And I'm sorry about what happened to your retirement saving plan! :(
I'm like Camacho, I don't have enough money to invest so I'm not concerned personally.


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Thu Jan 22, 2009 1:33 pm
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grim

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I suppose it would depend on who's ideologies you wanted to compare.


This is true to a point but I think the larger question is whether or not ideologically bound thinking serves us well when we are facing rot in our economic system of the nature that Phillips is describing.

Ideology has self-generating capactiy, it creates itself, inculcates us from an early age through the institutions that we created (ideologically of course) and then makes us its emissaries. Witness our efforts for example to 'export' free market capitalism, democracy and Christianity (I know that last one is controversial but I think it is true) .. these are some of the hallmarks of our western ideology and we want everyone and every country to adopt these ways. If we get worldwide buy-in, we win, or so our ideology teaches us.

But when we see adverse consequences of certain ideological beliefs, how do we react? Do we stand back and really examine the ideology itself or do we merely play about with superficial change? Is it even possible to stand outside of one's own ideology?



Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:34 pm
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MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

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