Saturday :: Apr 2, 2005

Listen To the Rich Man's Father!

by pessimist

One of the lowest taunts on Earth is: "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" as if intelligence equates to the acquisition of wealth. Certainly, intelligence CAN be a factor, but generally what determines the acquisition of affluence is a ruthlessness and lack of emotion concerning the welfare of others.

For instance, take WinDOH!s - Please! Bill Gate$ isn't the world's richest man - er, make that the world's SECOND richest man - by being a nice guy. Back before he married Melinda (who has since civilized him somewhat), he was about as ruthless as they come, running competitors out of business if he couldn't buy them out cheap. He has even bought himself federal government protection from anti-trust action, something which he can't seem to get by hook or by crook in other lands. He's the epitome of an economic neocon (though I doubt that his politics overtly support things like Iraq, however).

They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but in Gate$' case, he must have been on a slope, because look what his father is promoting - again:

Reinstate 'the grateful heirs' tax

I think of the taxation of the wealth of our most financially successful citizens as society collecting on a chit. It is a modest repayment for the government providing the conditions and the stimulation to economic life that has made wealth possible.

Poor Billy Jr.! First topped in the Topper Tournament by a FOREIGNER from that socialist Sweden, and then stabbed in the back with Occam's Razor by his own father!

Oh! the humanity!

But I digress.

A major condition for gathering wealth is living in a country that makes it possible to become wealthy. Think of any one of our financially successful citizens having been born in a poor country in Africa -- how much wealth would they have accumulated?

Wealth is a consequence of a robust economy. Ours is robust in large part as a result of major expenditures by governments on basic research -- the kind of research that produces technology that makes our economy grow. Again, economists tell us that 50 percent of growth in our annual GNP comes from new technology. Here are some of the products that have resulted from government investment in research: microprocessors, the Internet, the human genome, and those are just a few.

Think about the enormous economic activity created by this public investment. That is the source of American personal wealth.

Horrors! It isn't the 'free' markets that create wealth? What would muckdog say?

It wouldn't be this!

Let's talk policy. We cannot get along without taxes, so we should be working on figuring out the most reasonable way to impose them.

In a desperate economic climate, the idea is to devote this revived estate tax revenue to support public education. We can all agree that the one important factor in generating a robust economy is an educated work force. Using this tax for educating our young people makes a perfect circle.

I would even be willing to allow a disproportionate amount of these funds to go to the reality education of Red Staters! I hope just that there is still time, for the economic times, they are a-changin'!

Dollar headed for collapse: Mahathir

The US dollar is facing an imminent collapse and the global economy will suffer a "catastrophe" when it is rejected as the currency for trade, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said.

The dollar was retaining some value because of fears of a global economic catastrophe if it was rejected, he told a conference of some 650 chief executives from 30 countries at a conference in Kota Kinabalu on Borneo island on Tuesday, The Star newspaper reported.

"But the catastrophe will come one day because even the most powerful country in the world cannot repay loans amounting to US$7 trillion," Mahathir said.
Mahathir, who famously ignored [neocon-dominated] International Monetary Fund (IMF) advice and instead chose to peg his country's ringgit to the US dollar during the Asian financial crisis, said a standard gold currency was now the best alternative for world trade.

[For more on what this rejected economic policy means to a nation such as Malaysia, read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!]

The former premier said he believed central banks worldwide were reducing their US dollar reserves and he suspected that Malaysia was also switching to other currencies. Thus, if companies did not want to be "short-changed" they should insist on payments in alternative currencies such as the euro or be paid in US dollars but at euro-equivalent value, he said.

Mahathir told the CEOs it was doubtful that the sliding dollar could regain its old strength as the administration of US President George W. Bush did not consider deficits worth reducing. The huge deficit meant that the dollar had no backing but it continued to be used internationally because some people still accepted payments in dollars. "But there will come a time when we will switch away from the dollar and we have suggested the use of gold for international trade," he said.

Telling reporters that he was giving his personal views, he warned that "unless [the Americans] change their president and have a more responsible president who will try to reduce the deficit, they will have serious trouble with the US currency."

Ol' buddy muckdog must be having fits - especially since that Lib'rul rag The New York Times agrees with Mahathir!

Before the Fall

he recent rally of the United States dollar notwithstanding, the greenback has nowhere to go but down. But the Bush administration is betting that foreign investors will continue to invest huge sums in this depreciating currency.

How huge?

Last month, the government reported that the United States' deficit in international transactions, mainly trade, reached an unprecedented $666 billion in 2004, a 24 percent increase from the 2003 level and, at 5.7 percent of the economy, about two to three times what most economists consider sustainable.

$666 billion? Is that the Mark of the Bank of the Beast?

But I digress again.

The administration expects foreigners, mainly Asian central bankers, to keep plugging the trade gap because buying American securities increases their exports. It is also assuming that foreign central banks won't risk the losses in their dollar reserves that would occur if they started shunning dollar-based investments. In brief, the United States is betting that it's too big - in other countries' eyes - to fail.

You've already read Mahathir's opinion on this attitude - and he's reknowned for beating the economic hit men at their own game!

The dollar's current uptick is just a breather in its overall downward trajectory. It's due largely to the United States' higher interest rates, which lure foreign investors away from euros and into dollar-based investments. But what will happen when the Federal Reserve stops raising rates?

Here's a hint: When one Federal Reserve governor suggested recently that rates might peak at a lower level than analysts expected, the dollar promptly slid.

The dollar also drew some of its recent momentum from a government report last month that showed the United States attracted $91.5 billion in net foreign capital in January, easily covering that month's near-record trade deficit, $58.3 billion. That allayed concerns, at least temporarily, about the United States' continued ability to finance its debt on favorable terms.

But hedge funds were responsible for much of January's investment, and that clouds the picture.

In general, private investment - as opposed to investment by foreign governments - is an encouraging sign because private investors seek out the best opportunities, while foreign governments often pour money in simply to prop up the dollar.

But hedge funds are different; they are often short-term investors that can move out of dollars as quickly as they move in. Given the unreliability of those inflows, and the enormous borrowing needs of the United States, the country will be dependent on foreign government lenders for a long time.

We can control them! We'll send Condi to glare at them!

That's a precarious position. To close its trade gap, which must be financed by foreigners, and its budget gap, most of which is covered by foreign investors, the United States will need to attract a projected $1 trillion in 2005 alone - an unprecedented sum.

The Best Laid Plans ...

At the same time, however, the Bush administration is relying on a cheap dollar to correct the nation's trade imbalance. So far, the trade deficit has only grown, even as the dollar has fallen. A further decline this year of about 20 percent would probably be needed to begin to have a real impact.
There is gathering evidence that foreign central bankers are seeking to avoid the losses that future dollar investments seem to threaten.
Recently, financial markets have been unsettled by comments from Japan, South Korea, India and Russia about diversifying away from dollars. And this week, a tough-talking China vowed not to allow its economic decisions to be dictated by any other country, a statement that was a rebuff to the United States.
If the world's central bankers accumulate fewer dollars, the result would be an unrelenting American need to borrow in the face of an ever weaker dollar - a recipe for higher interest rates and higher prices.

And fewer jobs and less 'prosperity' - even (especially?) in the Red States! But Bu$hCo hopes to slide out from under this advancing ooze:

The economic repercussions could unfold gradually, resulting in a long, slow decline in living standards.

But they might not make it:

Or there could be a quick unraveling, with the hallmarks of an uncontrolled fiscal crisis.

Like this one about to erupt?

If foreign reluctance to buy Treasury bonds pushed up long-term interest rates, mortgage rates would follow. If the economy is in a housing bubble, as many analysts believe, higher mortgage rates would pop it, with dire results for homeowners' balance sheets and the overall health of the economy.

Hey, Red Staters! Aren't you glad you bet the family farm on that Lo$er from Tex-A$$?

The dollar is heading down, no matter what.
To mitigate the potential harm, the administration and Congress should deliver on budget discipline - far beyond the lip service that's been offered so far - to limit the amounts the United States needs to attract in loans and pay in interest. The administration should also try to forge cooperation among America's trading partners to manage the dollar's decline.
Unfortunately, government leaders aren't poised to do either of those things, though action, not attitude, is what the country needs.

I wonder if we can ask William Gates, Sr. to run for president? Just make sure that he's promised to rid the national governments computers of that scammy spam bait software his son sells.

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pessimist :: 9:00 AM :: Comments (11) :: Digg It!