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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bread and Circus

Items of Interest:

The WilliamBanzai7 Blog:
MUNI-MAYHEM -- plus more songs in the key of low finance...

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Financial Armageddon:
Odd One Out  --  OK, class, time for another Financial Armageddon brain teaser. Can you tell which of the following recent reports is the odd one out? ...
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Mark Fisher / Bloomberg:
U.S. Decline, Sloth Look a Lot Like End of Rome -- The U.S. today is a mirror image of the Roman Empire as it tipped into chaos. Whether we blame our bloated government, a greedy elite or a lethargic population, the similarities between the two foreshadow a gruesome future...

Americans have become less productive while relying more on social safety-net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- and now expanded health-care insurance. Worse, like the ancient Romans, a sense of entitlement has replaced the drive and motivation we once championed. With easy access to abundant government handouts, it’s no wonder so many jobless people have stopped looking for work.

Bread and Circuses...
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Larry Kudlow / Real Clear Markets:
Lower Prices, More Foreclosures Will Solve Housing -- With everybody focused on Obamacare, and its new entitlement spending and taxing, the administration has tried to sneak in yet another bailout for housing. Yet again, Team Obama is rewarding reckless behavior, punishing the 90 percent of responsible homeowners who are making good on their mortgages, and setting up a greater moral hazard that will surely lead to an expansion of bailout nation.

I'm talking about an add-on to HAMP, the $75 billion Home Affordable Modification Program, which has been a dismal failure. In fact, the entire foreclosure-prevention effort -- including forgiveness of mortgage-loan principal -- has been a failure.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reports that nearly 60 percent of modified mortgages re-default within a year. And now comes a new brilliant idea that if you live in your main residence, have a mortgage balance of less than $729,750, owe monthly mortgage payments that are not affordable (meaning greater than 31 percent of income), and you demonstrate a financial hardship, the government will subsidize you by offering TARP money to banks and other lenders to reduce your outstanding mortgage balance...
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Investors Business Daily:
Social Security Is Running Out of Money -- Entitlements: Social Security's chief actuary reports that the social safety net will run a deficit for 2010, nine years earlier than predicted. Put down that big gavel, Madam Speaker, we're about to hit the iceberg.

No sooner had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, carrying the gavel used when Medicare was enacted, taken a victory lap around the Capitol Building after passage of the health care bill than did the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration report that his part of the social safety net had a big hole in it and would run a deficit for all of 2010.

Stephen C. Goss said that payments rose "unexpectedly" during the economic downturn as jobs disappeared and people feeling no hope and seeing little change opted to apply for benefits sooner than planned. Revenues also shrank due to fewer paychecks to tax...
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NY Post:
Fannie & Freddie: The biggest bailout -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recently announced fresh losses, bringing their total since the fall of 2008 to $126 billion.

It barely registered as news -- although taxpayers are completely on the line for the bad debt of these government-sponsored enterprises...

But the chances are slim to none that Fannie or Freddie will be able to pay back the funds. It is highly likely that taxpayers will lose well over $200 billion -- and it may well pass $300 billion...
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Bill Fleckenstein / MSN Money:
And now, the great health care bailout -- We protect the big banks and Wall Street, so why not protect everyone with health care reform? Because, like the other bailouts, this will be a financial disaster.

To probably no one's surprise but against the hopes of many, the House has passed one of the costliest pieces of legislation, potentially, of the past 40 years.
Bing

What's really in the health care bill? To be clear: I am for reforming the health care system and trying to help those truly in need. But I'm against this political fiasco that's being called reform.

Over time, this bill is going to be an epic financial disaster. And the accounting by which the Obama administration claims to pay for it sets a new low in financial honesty (or, said differently, a new high in government financial chicanery)...
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Global Guerillas:
JOURNAL: Militia Fantasies -- The arrest of a heavily armed Christian militia in Michigan, beyond what it tells us about where the US is headed, provides a great example of how NOT to conduct insurgency. Lots of small unit training (weapons and camouflage), a Web site (including YouTube videos) that states intent/shows preparations, and the planning of fantasy attacks on police with IEDs will result in one thing: rapid arrest/death. It's just pathetic.
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Salon:
The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters -- A newly leaked CIA report prepared earlier this month (.pdf) analyzes how the U.S. Government can best manipulate public opinion in Germany and France -- in order to ensure that those countries continue to fight in Afghanistan...

"Public Apathy Enables Leaders to Ignore Voters," proclaims the title of one section...
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USDebtClock.org:

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Prank goes bad. Real bad.

Calculated Risk

MishTalk - Mike Shedlock

Paul Krugman - NY Times

The Big Picture - Barry Ritholtz

naked capitalism - Yves Smith

Pragmatic Capitalism

Washington's Blog

Safe Haven

Paper Economy

The Daily Reckoning - Australia