Although the fast-moving legislative campaign was born of frustration with the bonuses paid to workers at ailing American International Group Inc., employees at comparatively healthy investment banks fretted about the steep tax hikes they could face if the legislation became law.
Archive for the ‘investment’ Category
It’s hard not to see the continued sell-off on Wall Street and the growing fear on Main Street as a product, at least in part, of the realization that our new president’s policies are designed to radically re-engineer the market-based U.S. economy, not just mitigate the recession and financial crisis.
By Michael Boskin
The Wall Street Journal
The illusion that Barack Obama will lead from the economic center has quickly come to an end. Instead of combining the best policies of past Democratic presidents — John Kennedy on taxes, Bill Clinton on welfare reform and a balanced budget, for instance — President Obama is returning to Jimmy Carter’s higher taxes and Mr. Clinton’s draconian defense drawdown.
Mr. Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget blueprint, by his own admission, redefines the role of government in our economy and society. The budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, adding more to the debt than all previous presidents — from George Washington to George W. Bush — combined. It reduces defense spending to a level not sustained since the dangerous days before World War II, while increasing nondefense spending (relative to GDP) to the highest level in U.S. history. And it would raise taxes to historically high levels (again, relative to GDP). And all of this before addressing the impending explosion in Social Security and Medicare costs.
To be fair, specific parts of the president’s budget are admirable and deserve support: increased means-testing in agriculture and medical payments; permanent indexing of the alternative minimum tax and other tax reductions; recognizing the need for further financial rescue and likely losses thereon; and bringing spending into the budget that was previously in supplemental appropriations, such as funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The specific problems, however, far outweigh the positives. First are the quite optimistic forecasts, despite the higher taxes and government micromanagement that will harm the economy. The budget projects a much shallower recession and stronger recovery than private forecasters or the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office are projecting. It implies a vast amount of additional spending and higher taxes, above and beyond even these record levels. For example, it calls for a down payment on universal health care, with the additional “resources” needed “TBD” (to be determined).
Mr. Obama has bravely said he will deal with the projected deficits in Medicare and Social Security. While reform of these programs is vital, the president has shown little interest in reining in the growth of real spending per beneficiary, and he has rejected increasing the retirement age. Instead, he’s proposed additional taxes on earnings above the current payroll tax cap of $106,800 — a bad policy that would raise marginal tax rates still further and barely dent the long-run deficit.
Increasing the top tax rates on earnings to 39.6% and on capital gains and dividends to 20% will reduce incentives for our most productive citizens and small businesses to work, save and invest — with effective rates higher still because of restrictions on itemized deductions and raising the Social Security cap. As every economics student learns, high marginal rates distort economic decisions, the damage from which rises with the square of the rates (doubling the rates quadruples the harm). The president claims he is only hitting 2% of the population, but many more will at some point be in these brackets.
As for energy policy, the president’s cap-and-trade plan for CO2 would ensnare a vast network of covered sources, opening up countless opportunities for political manipulation, bureaucracy, or worse. It would likely exacerbate volatility in energy prices, as permit prices soar in booms and collapse in busts. The European emissions trading system has been a dismal failure. A direct, transparent carbon tax would be far better.
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Another 651,000 jobs disappeared from the American economy in February, the government reported Friday, as the unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent — its highest level since 1983.
By Peter Goodman and Jack Healy
The New York Times
The latest grim scorecard of contraction in the American workplace largely destroyed what hopes remained for an economic recovery in the first half of this year, and added to a growing sense that 2009 is probably a lost cause.
Most economists now assume that the American fortunes will not improve before near the end of the year, as the Obama administration’s $787 billion emergency spending program begins to wash through the economy.
“The current pace of decline is breathtaking,” said Robert Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG. “We are now falling at a near record rate in the postwar period and there’s been no change in the violent downward trajectory.”
Indeed, the monthly snapshot of the national employment picture worsened an already abysmal picture….
Between 1990 and 2007, the total mortgage debt held by Americans rose from $2.5 trillion to $10.5 trillion. This rise was part of a societal credit bubble that burst in 2008. To cushion the pain of that collapse, federal authorities decided to replace private debt with public debt.
By David Brooks
The New York Times
In 2008, the Bush administration increased spending by about $1.7 trillion, and guaranteed loans, investments and deposits worth about $8 trillion. In 2009, the Obama administration spent $800 billion on a stimulus package, $1 trillion on a second round of bank bailouts and committed another trillion on health care reform and other bailout plans.
Americans generally welcomed the burst of public activism. In “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about what happens to a people beset by anxiety: “The taste for public tranquility then becomes a blind passion, and the citizens are liable to conceive a most inordinate devotion to order.”
In normal times, Americans would have been skeptical of proposals to double or triple the size of federal programs, but amid the economic fear, that skepticism fell away. Wall Street traders hungered for a huge federal bailout replete with strings. Economists produced models that assumed that government could efficiently spend huge amounts of money, and these models were accepted.
The Obama administration was staffed with moderates who found that there was no reward for moderation. Liberals attacked them for being tepid. Republicans attacked them because it was enjoyable to see Democrats attacked. Over time, the administration drifted left and created what you might call Split Level Technocratic Liberalism.
President Obama defended spending initiatives in broad terms. He had enormous faith in the power of highly trained experts and based his arguments on models and projections. The actual legislation was cobbled together by Democratic committee chairmen, often acting beyond the administration’s control.
During 2010, the economic decline abated, but the recovery did not arrive…..
U.S. financial losses from the credit crisis may reach $3.6 trillion, suggesting the banking system is “effectively insolvent,” said New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini, who predicted last year’s economic crisis.
By Henry Meyer and Ayesha Daya
“I’ve found that credit losses could peak at a level of $3.6 trillion for U.S. institutions, half of them by banks and broker dealers,” Roubini said at a conference in Dubai today. “If that’s true, it means the U.S. banking system is effectively insolvent because it starts with a capital of $1.4 trillion. This is a systemic banking crisis.”
Losses and writedowns at financial companies worldwide have risen to more than $1 trillion since the U.S. subprime mortgage market collapsed in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
President Barack Obama will have to use as much as $1 trillion of public funds to shore up the capitalization of the banking sector, following the $350 billion injection by the Bush administration, Roubini told Bloomberg News. Congress last year approved a $700 billion rescue fund, of which half remains to be disbursed.
Bank of America Corp., the largest U.S. bank by assets, posted a quarterly loss of $1.79 billion last week, its first since 1991, and received $138 billion in emergency government funds. Citigroup Inc. posted an $8.29 billion fourth-quarter loss, completing its worst year, and plans to split in two under Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit’s plan to rebuild a capital base eroded by the credit crisis.
“The problems of Citi, Bank of America and others suggest the system is bankrupt,” Roubini said. “In Europe, it’s the same thing.”
Stocks in Europe, Canada and Brazil dropped yesterday on speculation government efforts to shore up the financial industry will fail to stem the deepening global recession. The U.K.’s Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc said it expects to post a loss of as much as 28 billion pounds ($41 billion) for 2008 and the government got ready to raise its stake in the lender.
Oil prices will trade between $30 and $40 a barrel all year, Roubini predicted.
“I see commodities falling overall another 15-20 percent,” Roubini said. “This outlook for commodity prices is beneficial for oil importers, it’s going to imply that economic recovery might occur faster, but from the point of view of oil exporters, this will be very negative.”
Oil has tumbled 77 percent from its July high of $147.27 as the global economy sinks into recession, straining the budgets of crude exporters. Saudi Arabia, Oman and Dubai, the second- largest sheikdom in the United Arab Emirates, have said they will post budget deficits this year.
Crude oil for February delivery fell to $32.70, down 10.4 percent from last week’s close and the lowest since Dec. 19, on the New York Mercantile Exchange today. The contract traded at $33.37 a barrel at 10:45 a.m. London time.
Foreign direct investment in China rose 23.6 percent in 2008 to $92.4 billion but growth declined in the final months of the year, a state news agency reported Friday, citing a Commerce Ministry spokesman.
The end of year slowdown reflected the impact of global economic turmoil as exports and Chinese domestic demand weakened last year, access to credit tightened and foreign investors grew more cautious.
Total foreign investment in the mainland in 2008 was $92.4 billion, said ministry spokesman Yao Jian, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The full-year growth rate was well below the 35 percent growth rate for the first 10 months of the year, Xinhua said.
Brazil‘s state oil company $10 billion to help develop massive new oil fields in deep water off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s top energy official said in comments published Monday.wants to loan
Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao also told the United Arab Emirates has offered to finance field development, but he did not specify a price tag.that the
Lobao said Chinese officials contacted his ministry to propose a loan and Petrobras then negotiated directly with the Chinese. He gave no details on the status of talks, and any deal would have to be approved by his ministry.
Petrobras, in an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press, didn’t confirm a China deal, but said the company has historically searched for “varied sources of financing” and that recent deals will be included in its new investment plan, expected in the coming weeks.
By MARCO SIBAJA, Associated Press Writer
Lobao told the privately run Agencia Estado news agency other countries also wanted to participate: “It’s not just China. It’s a range of opportunities that Petrobras has.”
Lobao said the ministry has talked with a Japanese consortium, Canadian banks and various foreign oil service companies who want to invest in or work on offshore finds. He offered no other details.
Brazil also is ready to tap its foreign reserves to offer a credit line for exploration byif needed, he added. Lobao’s ministry confirmed the comments, but a spokesman did so only on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.
Lobao spoke as many Brazilian companies are being cut off from international credit, which has tightened in the global financial crisis. The minister and other top government officials have repeatedly said the crisis will not effect the exploration of the offshore oil reserves, which could hold up to 80 billion barrels of oil.
The chairman of China’s sovereign wealth fund said on Wednesday that China had no plans for further investments in Western financial institutions, nor did it have any plans to “save” the world through economic policies.
The comments by Lou Jiwei, the chairman and chief executive of the China Investment Corporation, are the clearest signal yet that after taking heavy losses on initial investments in the Blackstone Group, Morgan Stanley and Barclays, state-run Chinese institutions have no appetite for further purchases in this sector.
By Keith Bradsher
The New York Times
“Right now we do not have the courage to invest in financial institutions because we do not know what problems they may have,” Mr. Lou said as part of a panel discussion on the second and final day of the Clinton Global Initiative conference here.
Asked whether China might pursue economic policies aimed at saving the world, Mr. Lou said that the country’s leaders had a narrower focus. “China can only save herself because the scale of China is still rather small,” he said, adding that while China has more people than any other country, economic output is still low enough that the Chinese economy is not yet big enough to have a big effect on the global economy.