Thursday, May 7, 2009

GM plans to wipe out current shareholders

One last kick in the teeth for retirees.

From Reuters

"DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors on Tuesday detailed plans to all but wipe out the holdings of remaining shareholders by issuing up to 60 billion new shares in a bid to pay off debt to the U.S. government, bondholders and the United Auto Workers union.

The unusual plan, which was detailed in a filing with U.S. securities regulators, would only need the approval of the U.S. Treasury to proceed since the U.S. government would be the majority shareholder of a new GM, the company said.

The flood of new stock issuance that could be unleashed has been widely expected by analysts who have long warned that GM's shares could be worthless whether the company restructures out of court or in bankruptcy.

The debt-for-equity exchanges detailed in the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission would leave GM's stock investors with just 1 percent of the equity in a restructured carmaker, ending a long run when the Dow component was seen as a bellwether for the strength of the broader U.S. economy.

GM shares closed on Tuesday at $1.85 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock would be worth just over 1 cent if the first phase of GM's restructuring moves forward as described."

Monday, March 2, 2009

A great day for a Second Life

The global economy continues its slide this morning as all oversees markets decline on Monday.

HSBC, with profits drooping by 70 percent, will likely announce a pullout from U.S. consumer lending. Can you blame them?

I'm going to spend this snow day scoping out the virtual economy in Second Life. Could it be any worse than the real virtual economy?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

A mild depression?

I'd rather be a little bit pregnant. The nation's fourth quarter GDP shrank at a rate nearly double what economists expected -- 6.2 percent negative growth -- prompting Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's, to set odds for "a mild depression" at 25 percent.

In a single stroke, The New York Times attempts and fails to reassure: "Current conditions are not even as poor as during the twin recessions of the 1980s, when unemployment exceeded 10 percent, though many experts assert this downturn is on track to be significantly worse." Because the frightening truth is that no one can predict just how significantly worse things will become.

The growing consensus on things worsening significantly doesn't require a leap of logic or a Ph.D. in economics, merely an observation of what is. Yesterday, we learned from the Commerce Department that durable goods orders fell for the sixth consecutive month and from the Department of Labor that initial unemployment claims for last week reached "667,000, an increase of 36,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 631,000."

Q: Why are train wrecks so hypnotically fascinating?
A: If you are still watching the train, you haven't yet been slammed by the locomotive; you are still alive, limbs intact.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Let them eat cake

Here's a fun video to lighten spirits in tough times.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration day, take two -- a remarkable day unlike any other

How many of you sobbed yesterday? We desperately needed a catharsis after the last eight years. And especially after the last four maimed by bunker mentality, fear, despair and a governance vacuum.

Millions of Americans trekked to D.C. to witness President Obama's inauguration. Millions more breathed a collective sigh of relief (some openly taunted) as Bush flew away. The problems we face are immense. Our international reputation has been trashed. Our economy left in ruins. The lives of millions of us more tenuous than ever, as unemployment soars and foreclosures mount.

But, as of yesterday, we actually have a President willing to take on the role of leader and call us to conscience and responsibility as We the People. He recognizes we are a pluralistic society and seeks rational responses to national problems. He is willing to step into the position of a national symbol. He says he is humbled and I believe him.

I want to believe that our country is not permanently broken by the excesses and sins of the last eight years. I hope that we can redeem our reputation among nations. I pray that we can help each other, especially the least among us, find lives of dignity and purpose in this historically dismal economy.

I for one am ready to get up and try again. To do my best on behalf of all the people I love and people I don't even know. There's plenty of work to be done and, after yesterday, plenty of willing hands to pitch in.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration day -- a historic day like any other

It's party time in D.C. for the Dems who have waited eight years for these inaugural balls, dinners and concerts. People are primping and prepping, acquiring last-minute formal wear, begging for tickets, hoping to network, witness history and have fun. After all they worked hard to get their man into the White House and it's time to kick back and whoop, dance until sunup, drink a little too much and kiss a dozen strangers. The moment is historic; the President elect is African American. It may not be morning in America, but the clouds seem to be parting a little.

I would love to be able to celebrate, but I am terrible at compartmentalizing and cognitive dissonance gives me a scorching headache. If I did have a ticket to the inauguration, I'd probably give it away, because I'd be unable to enjoy myself knowing that for a lot of people who are suffering, nothing will change after the three-day-long party in D.C. Nothing.

It isn't party time for the 2.6 million Americans who lost their jobs last year. And not for the 120,000 who lost their jobs in the first half of January. Nor is it party time for the increasing numbers of children living in poverty with parents destitute and homeless, unable to provide adequate nutrition, shelter and medicine for their young.

Obama may inspire people who have lost everything to continue hoping that things will improve. What else do they have at this juncture? He will certainly motivate young, idealistic people to give of themselves to better their communities. But can he ensure that sensible and ethical financial regulation will be implemented over the entire financial services sector immediately? Can he motivate Congress to conduct oversight of the FDA and EPA, two agencies whose work has been severely compromised and politicized in the last eight years? Can he raise morale in the Justice Department? Can he bring effective leadership to FEMA? Can he close Guantanamo and save face? Can he seek bipartisan collaboration and get pragmatic compromise? Can he herd cats?

Congratulations, President-elect Obama and good luck.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tough times for Michigan's children

I dare you to read this report and not cry. As you read it, realize that 2009 will likely be worse.

Michigan Kids Count Data Book 2008

From the Executive Summary:
"Poverty afflicts one of every four young children ages
0–4. Minority children have much higher rates—44
percent for African Americans and 29 percent for
Hispanics compared with 15 percent for whites."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Consumer confidence still lagging -- so what?

Consumers are losing confidence, holding on to what money they have and increasing savings. And economists tell us this is bad, bad, bad. Increased personal thrift leads to less spending. And our beloved system is predicated on consumption and production. Producers are a separate species from consumers, we are told, and producers are freaking out because consumers don't want to spend money.

I would propose that the whole damned frame is wrong. We are persons, not consumers and producers, and debt has never been money. Most of us persons are workers, the labor used by producers. And workers also happen to be consumers -- an inconvenient truth that pundits don't like to allow. Vulnerable workers are spending less money and what money they are spending is in real time -- not debt. They are starting to live on a cash basis. This is a rational response to economic conditions, as rational as corporations laying off tens of thousands of workers. Yet, when corporations inflict mass layoffs pundits do not chide them for losing confidence. And when banks hoard cash -- oodles they just received from We the People-- and refuse to stimulate economic activity with new lending, pundits allow that this is unfortunate, but rational.

You can practice personal thrift, protect your assets and feel guilt free. People living within their means did not cause this recession. Read that again. This recession was caused by greed, unrealistic investment expectations, funny money, deregulation of securities and financial illiteracy among regular people.

So, if you are a thrifty consumer/person/worker who chooses to opt out of consumer culture by spending as little as possible, that's okay. It was never your responsibility to sustain a hideous economic lie with your future potential and happiness.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Three global annoyances

1. Reuters stringers in Bangalore "reporting" on financial news in the United States.

2. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson whining to the Financial Times about what a hard job he has. According to Paulson, the United States government lacked the necessary tools to fix the current financial crisis. He also has found it burdensome to comprehend the horrifying magnitude of the problem more deeply than the public or Congress. Oh the pain of inside information and having a job to do.

3. Sudoku mania

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Insulting ad for desperate writers

This is the most insulting employment ad I have ever seen. You can find it on Craigslist Western Mass:

"Business Man Looking for All Writers"

"I need help with meeting the demand of technological and shopping reviews for a company that I work for. All of my works and "assisted" works all go under a ghost writer name. Therefore, your name will not be associated with the work.

For every 400 word article that you write for me, I will personally send to your check account $3. Yep, it is that easy. I also assist in giving you the topics that need to be "reviewed".

I am looking for about 20 people right now.
Please only serious replies."

Please, only serious ads. Be real.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sponsor an executive video -- humor we need

This is why I love Canada. Their number one export to the U.S. is fabulous comedy.
From "This Hour Has 22 Minutes," some of Canada's finest humor. Enjoy.

Illinois politics -- cesspool, not swamp

This week Illinois Gov. Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges. Yawn.

Chicago was a swamp before it was a city. Underneath its spectacular architecture it is still a swamp.

Slimy politics are an Illinois thing. Consider it a kind of identity politics in which some take pride.

Vote early and often. If you're dead, even better. Pay-to-play is nothing new. Machine politics require lubrication, so don't be surprised if the Illinois slime-o-meter needle has smacked the end of the dial at a time campaigns have become obscenely pricey. Governor Blago is worse than we ever imagined! Lincoln is rolling in his grave! Nah. Blago had something lots of people wanted: a fresh Senate seat open to the highest bidder. How different is that from multi-million dollar campaigns selling candidates on television? If anything it's a more thrifty method of getting the seat filled. Skip the voters; it costs less. Aren't we in an economic crisis?

And speaking of record breaking campaign finance, there's a reason Obama won. There's a reason Obama appears so cool in the face of global crises and the next Great Depression. He made it through the proving ground of Illinois muck. He has seen things that fine, idealistic, morally pure voters cannot stomach and he has risen to the top. He has waded through the cesspool of Illinois politics and can still utter words like 'hope' and 'fairness' with a straight face.

He can see the world as it is, not as he might like it to be, and still function, perhaps more effectively than someone with more delicate sensibilities.

Some have speculated that Illinois is the most corrupt state in the country. Not a chance. The dance partner of machine politics is a passionate political activism that seeks transparency and justice, which opened a way for the FBI to gather information and make a case.

Relax. This is politics.