April 17, 2010

The Dumbest Economic Collapse In History

If nothing was ever going to be the same again, how come GS is back to where it started?

Anyone who sucks at poker knows: if you lose 50% on a bet, you have to go up 100% just to break even.  Jamie Dimon is therefore the greatest poker player ever.  

Of course I know Bear Stearns went under, I was watching TV when it happened.  But we were all repeatedly told that it was never again going to be so easy for financial companies to make such huge money.  The CEOs didn't deserve their big payoffs because they had lost so much of "the public's" money.   That was the point, right?   "We want clawbacks!"  Claw what back?

Everywhere I look, I see that unless you lost your job, nothing has changed.  Look closely at your life.  Other than body fat, what's changed?


Let's go corporate.  Astra Zeneca is a good case study.  What has been the longer term impact of the Crash?


Pretty much nothing.  Except for the 15% cut in its workforce.  A skeptical person might suggest that it was only able to improve its earnings not by selling more products but by cutting expenses.  A finite and unsustainable maneuver.  So sell AZ?

A more cynical person, though, might think that AZ simply used the "recession" as an excuse to lay people off, and get fewer workers to do more.

And a paranoid would think this: there's a popular idea that in a recession, the government should create jobs programs/public works projects.  But what if it's the other way?  What if the government had some projects it needed done? 

And the business sector that it serves needs a reason to reduce their labor costs without people going 12 Monkeys on them. 

There's a word for this, but I always get it wrong.


There's an analogy for the credit crisis that I am convinced is awesome: chemotherapy.  Spread the poison liberally around the world.  When you're done, you're weaker, but anything that had a high growth rate is dead.  You've solved your Putin problem.  Remember "we want a new reserve currency!" at $140 oil? U.S. to Putin: bite me.

"A rising tide lifts all boats." said JFK.  But we're the only one with a boat, rickety as it may be.  So let's Noah's Ark this bitch, and drown the lot of them.  If they want aid later, we can pay them in Euros like they wanted.

That's how you solve a labor problem. 



Back to reality. 

Remember how the crash was going to make people spend less, especially on frivolous things?  Remember how the one single positive effect of the Great Crash was that the culture of the next generation would be less materialistic than their elders, the Dumbest Generation of Narcissists In The History Of The World?

If there was any company that under that hypothesis should have gone bankrupt, it is Duke University coed fraternity Aeropostale:

aeropostale ad.JPG

Explain to me how Aeropostale not only survives the crash, but actually grows?  Don't say "pent up demand," I'll gut you.  Look at the chart.  Pent up for what, 3 months?  Everyone suddenly needs last year's winter tops?

Is this pent up caffeine withdrawal?  "$4.50 for a grande battery acid with skim?  Let me have a blueberry dessicant as well.  (I don't know why, but I'm like, so hungry today!)"


"Listen you insensitive jerk, people have lost their jobs, their homes, they can't feed their families--"

unemployment rate.JPG

I'm insensitive, I don't have retinal cancer.  I see what's happened to them, do you see what's happened to everyone else?

"Is the era of easy credit over?" recommended the AP two years ago.

"I think we're undergoing a fundamental shift from living on borrowed money to one where living within your means, saving and investing for the future, comes back into vogue," said Greg McBride, senior analyst at Bankrate.com. "This entire credit crunch is a wakeup call to anybody who was attempting to borrow their way to prosperity."

"We're going to see some fundamental changes in consumer behavior," said Frank Badillo of TNS Retail Forward, a consulting and market research firm

This is what "fundamental" looks like:

retail sales.JPG
I'm pretty sure incomes aren't up since 2007.  So either we have the same amount of money we had in 2007 and are spending the same, or we have less than 2007 and are spending more.  Either way: really?

Get it?  Double the unemployment, same sales.  While some people aren't "participating in society" the rest of you have made up for it, and then some.

sp earnings.JPG
m=1?  "Sorry about the delay, next stop 80"?

hoousing prices.JPGHousing prices have fallen, but they have also stopped falling. Maybe they're not going up, but if you still have your house... you're home free?

cpi.JPGIf you took two Ambiens in 2007 and just climbed out of your bathtub now, here's what you'd feel required a remark: "oh, they're ending Lost."


You'll say I'm selective in my charts.  "Put up Citigroup!"  Fair enough; but my point here is that we were supposedly in for a systemic, historic, and permanently altered economic landscape, and we're right back where we were started.

That's Moral Hazard, and I capitalize it because you should, too.  What have we learned?  Nothing.  What's changed?  Nothing.  What are we going to do now?  Buy a car.  "With what money?"  Zark off, man, you're harshing my buzz.

(Economist:) The recession came at the end of a period marked by record levels of inequality. Many Americans, lacking true upward mobility, bought its trappings, such as a bigger house or better car. Disaster duly followed.


Is there any reason to think this scenario isn't worse now, more likely to be repeated?  While some people worry about inflation, and others about a double dip recession, what's actually happened is that we're back in the same boom/bust cycle.

Of course I understand that the various government actions have helped.  That's the point.    There is nothing that will prevent this from happening again.  I don't want the Crash to have been worse, but I don't want it to have happened in the first place.  It did.  Now it's going to happen again.  It is inevitable.  Maybe not in my lifetime, but definitely in my kids'.  Isn't that  worse?

Of course I understand that CEOs are corrupt and Bush lied and [random Huffington Post link here].  Enough, I get it. 

But have you changed?  Doing anything differently?   Instead of buying yet another identity signal, have you saved the money for the kid you don't even have yet?  Blame the CEOs if you want, they don't shop at Aeropostale and if they do they can afford it.  So? 

The problem and solution is you.  It has to start with you.  It is always you.