Sunday, November 22, 2009

Postscript To California Dreaming

How about this from the Times:

Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages.

With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year, even if annual budget deficits shrink drastically. Other forecasters say the figure could be much higher.

In concrete terms, an additional $500 billion a year in interest expense would total more than the combined federal budgets this year for education, energy, homeland security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The potential for rapidly escalating interest payouts is just one of the wrenching challenges facing the United States after decades of living beyond its means.

Let's say the forecasters get it right for once. Think about $700 billion just in INTEREST expense. It's almost unfathomable. I know the political pundits will heap a lot of blame on the current Administration and while I have my problems with the direction this Administration has gone so far--this financial catastrophe didn't just happen. It's been years in the making.

Friday, November 20, 2009

California Dreaming

There is a simple reality that we as a society are having a tough time grasping. It doesn't matter, Federal, State, County or Municipal: our collective governments are all spending far more money than they have available and even if they don't want to acknowledge it, are all essentially bankrupt.

It's with that background that the following stories out of California this week have me incredulous. We have students at UCLA protesting upcoming tuition hikes ( I wonder how a 32% increase gets figured in the CPI) but at the same time the state of California is trying to get a handle on a $21 billion budget deficit. It doesn't get any better on a municipal level as San Francisco is staring square at a budgetary disaster or so says Steve Kawa, Mayor Gavin Newsom's chief of staff.

" I don't even know if I have words to describe how bad this is,".......

Next year's budget deficit is likely to top $400 million, Kawa said. That forecast could get even worse with federal stimulus money coming to an end next year and the state likely to help balance its own budget woes by cutting money sent to cities and counties.
"It may be the perfect financial storm," Kawa said. "It's going to be incredibly difficult to find a way to balance next year's budget without some severe impacts."

It gets even better. Check out this story in today's NYTIMES, With F.H.A. Help, Easy Loans in Expensive Areas :

SAN FRANCISCO — In January, Mike Rowland was so broke that he had to raid his retirement savings to move here from Boston.
A week ago, he and a couple of buddies bought a two-unit apartment building for nearly a million dollars. They had only a little cash to bring to the table but, with the federal government insuring the transaction, a large down payment was not necessary.

Great. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how this will end. Speculators praying for a real-state uptick on the back of the taxpayer. I think more pain in on the way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trade Shows in the Second City

When I started this blog one of my intents was to focus on the B2B world. As time has gone by my posts have tended towards economics/politics. Here's a brief return to original intent.

As an amateur student of business and markets a daily read of Mike Shedlock’s blog (Mish) has not only helped keep me out of investment problems in this tough environment but his writing has also generated money making ideas for me as well. In one of his posts over the weekend he addressed a situation that is dear to all of our hearts---some of the outrageous costs associated with Trade Shows. Worth a read by everyone who has to deal with this kind of stuff.

It was a painful decision for the Chicago-based trade association, whose first trip here for its annual convention impressed its members, until they got the electricians' bills."Our costs were about $200,000 more," said Lieber. "So it went from $40,000 to $240,000 for the electrical work alone…….

The city got the word Wednesday that the huge medical convention wouldn't return. They're also sweating out a decision by an even bigger show.The International Plastics Showcase has been in Chicago since 1971, but now a spokesman says: "We are looking at other options."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Seventh Inning Stretch

This past World Series battle between the Yankees and Phillies was an entertaining match up as far as baseball goes. Because I just don't have the patience to sit and watch a complete baseball game I'm a couple years removed from the pomp that accompanies a Major League baseball game.

What is the deal with the 7th inning stretch? I remember going to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore back in the '80's and being serenaded to "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" by John Denver as the game moved into the bottom of the seventh inning. It was fun and light-hearted.

What a different scenario now. As the Yankees left the field at the end of the top of the seventh inning the PA announcer asked all"to rise, take off your hat, and join in the singing of God Bless America." It was presented as a spiritual event. I guess there is nothing inherently wrong, but it reminds me of an experience I had while visiting the Soviet Union during the summer of '81. One evening our group attended a performance by the Moscow Circus and smack in the middle of the program was a PA announcement followed by a group of soldiers goose-stepping into the circus ring carrying various flags and banners to commemorate the heroes of the Great War ( which had been fought 35 years before). We as a group of Americans were struck with how out of place and strange the demonstration seemed. I got the same feeling last week as I watched this quasi-religious ceremony between innings. God Bless America was a song the Flyers used to dust off before must win playoff games as a good luck charm. If they really needed the game they would bring Kate Smith in to sing the song live. We've gone from that to an almost Leni Riefenstahl moment.

Very strange.