In his report to a Senate subcommittee Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe spelled out clearly why the U.S. Postal Service can’t make any money: too many cooks in the kitchen. Hamstrung and limited by rules and “stakeholders” with differing and often competing agendas, what’s remarkable is that the postal service isn’t deeper in the hole.
Heaven knows, he’s trying. Through agreements finally reached with the letter carrier unions, he has been able, over the past two years, to eliminate 12,000 carrier routes and to consolidate others, saving 20 million man hours in labor costs. He has been able to whittle away at the massive employee base, cutting about 200,000 from his payrolls over the past 10 years. He has set up thousands of Automated Postal Centers (APCs), each of which generates more revenue than 19,000 of the 31,000 current fully staffed post offices. He has come up with incentive programs for high volume users, and wants to offer shipping of lightweight parcels through regular mail. He continues with massive customer surveys to determine customer preferences on Saturday deliveries, Priority Mail deliveries, potential rate increases, and satisfaction ratings.
His challenges, however, are daunting.
When Henry Blodgett explained that the reason for the decline in the price of Bank of America’s stock was because Wall Street thinks that Bank of America is worth less — much less — than what the bank itself thinks, bank spokesman Larry DiRita responded, “Mr. Blodgett is making exaggerated and unwarranted claims … [and that] as of June 30th, our tangible book value per share was $12.65.” At the time, B of A stock was selling for $6.42 a share.
The bank’s sharp retort caught Blodgett by surprise:
I was eating a tuna sandwich when I saw the news clip across Bloomberg TV. I almost choked.
But actually I’m not claiming anything. I’m just pointing out what seems to me to be self-evident, which is that the market doesn’t believe that Bank of America’s assets are worth what they say they are worth….
Lest some folks at Bank of America actually believe that the bank’s collapsing stock price has something to do with me, I should point out that the stock [has suffered a] 50+% collapse so far this year. And an 85+% collapse in the past 5 years.
Roger Jinkinson is a British writer, and he lives in a remote Greek village on the island of Karpathos. Although the village is not immune to the meltdown of the Greek economy caused by a huge problem with sovereign debt creditworthiness, simmering most furiously in the ancient capital of Athens, 400 kilometers away, the small village has found its own way to survive the crisis.
The fundamentals of the Karpathos economy are straightforward: frugality and thrift that would perplex more cosmopolitan Europeans, hard work in labor that is practical and productive, and the replacement of a government fiat-money economy with a barter economy. Another factor has helped this rural economy work. Young Greeks, depressed by the collapsing system based upon an irresponsible government, are drifting back to places such as Karpathos, where life is not easy, but it is firmly grounded in the fundamentals of life.
Some of the older Greeks in this village either remember the mass starvation in the Second World War and the following years of the Greek Civil War, or they have been reminded of these very hard times by older family members.
Former Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan made headlines this week when he said gold is indeed a currency and noted that the euro was falling apart, contradicting top officials on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Gold, unlike all other commodities, is a currency,” he told attendees at a conference in Washington D.C. on August 23, saying he did not think the precious metal was in a bubble despite recently reaching a new record above $1900. And a flight to safety amid inflation fears is what’s causing soaring gold prices.
“The major thrust in the demand for gold is not for jewelry,” Greenspan explained. “It’s not for anything other than an escape from what is perceived to be a fiat money system, paper money, that seems to be deteriorating.”
Steve Jobs, the CEO for Apple Inc., announced on Wednesday that he could no longer maintain his position at the company. Jobs garnered a reputation for being the man behind the iPhone, iPad, and other devices that virtually put Apple on the map, making it one of the most well-known companies in the world. Unfortunately, his health issues have rendered him unable to continue as CEO.
The Blaze explains, “The move appears to be the result of an unspecified medical condition for which he took an indefinite leave from his post in January… Jobs’ health has long been a concern for Apple investors who see him as an industry oracle who seems to know what consumers want long before they do.”
Jobs has required a number of medical leaves throughout the last few years as a result of pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant.
While U.S. lawmakers wrestle with high unemployment and a mounting federal deficit, 80 percent of them have no academic background in business or economics, according to a new study by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI). The study found that only 8.4 percent of U.S. lawmakers majored in economics, while 13.7 percent studied subjects related to business or accounting. The majority of Congress — 55.7 percent — studied law, government, or humanities.
"How many members of Congress have an academic background that provided them with a basic understanding how the economy works? The answer, it turns out, is not many," the study concluded.
On the Senate budget committee, five out of 23 members — about 20 percent — have a business/accounting or econ background, EPI research fellow Michael Saltsman told POLITICO. And on the House side, eight out of 37 members, or just over 20 percent, hold academic degrees in business or economics fields.
With the raising of the debt ceiling, the “official” federal debt immediately surged past a new and unwelcome benchmark: The national debt now exceeds 100 percent of the gross domestic product for the first time since the Second World War era. With the debt now at $14.58 trillion and climbing vertiginously every day even as the economy continues to stagnate, it will not be very long before the national debt reaches 200 percent and higher. In fact, with over $45 trillion owed to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients both present and future, the actual size of the national debt is already more than four times the GDP.
As for the so-called “cuts” enacted by this Congress, the long and rancorous debate produced essentially nothing. In exchange for statutory authority to raise the debt ceiling by another $2.4 trillion, the bill provides for cuts of only $900 billion, and for a special congressional committee to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings — over the next decade in projected future spending. In other words, the bill makes no meaningful cuts in the government while providing for another $1.5 trillion in debt over the next year or so — this in exchange for vague promises of a comparable amount in cuts spaced out over 10 years, while the debt ceiling is raised again and again. Such is the nature of “compromise” in official Washington.
President Obama’s pledge to recover the economy has taken a long and winding detour, but his 2008 campaign pledge to regulate corporate America is right on course — despite the fact that In January, the White House issued an executive order to review regulations for all federal agencies, with the intent to root out oppressive regulations on American businesses.
The initiative ordered agencies to review regulatory procedures and ensure that all rules "promote predictability and reduce uncertainty" and "identify and use the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends."
But the Washington Times observed that during the past several months, the President’s edict has gone nowhere:
The state of Nevada was the fortunate recipient of a $490,000 federal grant to grow trees and plants — and of course, to "stimulate" the state’s economy. The only problem is the stimulus spawned a whopping 1.72 permanent jobs. In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service awarded the federal money to Nevada’s Clark County Urban Forestry Revitalization Project with the intent of enlivening urban areas of the county with trees and plants, and of providing green-industry training.
However, the project yielded not even two permanent jobs, and created only 11 short-term jobs, according to the Nevada State Division of Forestry. "Looking at the failure of the stimulus to live up to its promises, not just in Nevada, but throughout America, I think the question becomes, ‘Is there any good use of stimulus money?'" asked Douglas Kellogg, communications manager for the National Taxpayers Union.
"If the question is ‘was this a job-creating project?’ the answer is 'no, it wasn't,'" contended Bob Conrad, an officer for the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Since its inception almost a century ago, the Federal Reserve has enjoyed a cloak of secrecy that has grown more opaque over the years. When the economy imploded in 2008, Bernanke’s Fed swung into action behind the scenes, handing out immense sums in bailouts to a host of ailing financials, through direct loans to the very biggest banks — what Robert Litan, a former Justice Department official, called “the aristocracy of American finance.” The exact figures, however, have been a closely guarded secret, until now.
It took a Freedom of Information Act request, months of litigation, and even an act of Congress, but dogged investigators at Bloomberg News finally gained access to the figures, and, after crunching the numbers, concluded that the Fed — unilaterally and with zero congressional oversight — had doled out as much as $1.2 trillion in taxpayer monies. That's about $500 billion more than the separate, hotly contested, and widely publicized $700 billion bailout pushed through Congress at the same time.