Imagine this scenario: Your neighbor comes to you asking for money. He confesses to having gone on a lottery-winner spending spree year after year, to buying his kids everything without making them work for anything, and to knowingly and profligately living well above his means for so long he can’t remember. 


 

Mainstream economist Robert Samuelson admitted last week that the case for the ending of the economic boom in China has some substance. Keynesian economist Paul Krugman also confirmed that China is in trouble and questioned its ability to avoid a hard landing.


 

As an industrialist, I’ve taken an interest in President Barack Obama’s insourcing kick which has occurred over the past few weeks, highlighted by his weekly radio and Internet address on January 14 and a speech delivered in the East Room of the White House a few days earlier (I’m certain that he’ll talk about it during this week’s State of the Union Address, too). By "insourcing," the President refers to a reversal of the outsourcing trend by American manufacturers. Some of them, though few in number, are bringing jobs back to the United States.

 

JBS CEO Art Thompson's weekly video news update for January 23-29, 2012.

The European Commission (EC) on Tuesday threatened to take legal action against Hungary unless it revised its brand new constitution to allow the country’s central bank to operate without interference from the Hungarian government. The EC’s threat requires a response within 30 days.

 

U.S. credit ratings giant Standard & Poor's (S&P) lowered its rating on the credit-worthiness of nine European nations January 13. "It's not the cut in the rating that is historic," BNP Paribas economist Dominique Barbet told the Wall Street Journal. "It's the depth of the euro crisis that is historic."

 

Central banks are often justified on the basis that a complex, modern economy requires top-down management by experts. These people, it is said, can study the markets and then “fine-tune” the economy to keep it humming along.

 As if the last few years haven’t provided evidence enough that such notions are pure folly, newly released transcripts of 2006 Federal Reserve meetings offer further proof. The transcripts show that the “experts” — members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) — were so clueless that even as late as December, when the housing market was displaying serious signs of decline, most showed little concern that the bursting bubble could take down the entire economy.

One of the unintended consequences of the ongoing and accelerating crisis in the eurozone is that ordinary citizens are taking their money out of the banks and burying it. Lack of both confidence in the stability of the European economy and credible solutions to the crisis have led to the exit of currency from banks in Greece, Italy, and other European countries.

 

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary January 10 with 38 percent of the vote, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul placed a strong second with 23 percent (with 78 percent of the precincts reporting).

"The president has run out of ideas," Romney said in his victory speech. "Now he's running out of excuses. And tonight, we're asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year he runs out of time."

"He had a victory," Ron Paul said of Romney. Regarding his own second-place showing, Paul said, "We had a victory for the cause of liberty tonight."

Paul's speech had a different substance than Romney's partisan speech. Paul focused upon ideas in his talk. "I sort of have to chuckle when they describe you and me as being dangerous," Paul told his supporters. "We are dangerous to the status quo in this country. And we will remain a danger to the Federal Reserve system as well." The mostly young audience broke out in loud chants of "End the Fed! End the Fed!" Paul had predicted the housing and financial crisis as early as 2001, and warned that the United States was currently in the midst of a currency crisis.

In the clearest indication yet, a high French government official confirmed last week that an FTT — Financial Transaction Tax — will be implemented by the European Union by the end of 2012, a year earlier than planned. Jean Leonetti, France’s minister for European affairs, said on television that “This is on the program for the next European summit [on January 30th]. Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel have decided on this and it will be put in place before the end of 2012.”

The tax would be levied, initially at least, on every financial transaction taking place by any entity with a connection to the Eurozone, and would be levied at the rate of 0.1 percent on shares of stock and bonds, and 0.01 percent on all derivatives transactions. It is estimated that the FTT would cover about 85 percent of all transactions between financial institutions such as banks, investment firms, insurance companies, pension funds and hedge funds. It is expected to raise, in the beginning, about $70 billion annually to help fund the EU.

It’s being touted as punishment for the banks that were allegedly instrumental in causing the economic meltdown, but would have no impact on ordinary citizens or small businesses. According to the European Commission, the FTT “would help to reduce competitive distortions in the single market, discourage risky trading activities [such as high frequency trading and highly leveraged derivatives contracts] and complement regulatory measures aimed at avoiding future crises.”

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