Everyone has heard of the Big Mac Index, the Misery Index, even the Shoe Thrower Index. But the Book Cooking Index? This latest addition to the compendium of oddly named yet extremely fascinating "indices" is based around the statistical irregularity known as Benford's law, according to which within sets of numbers that span orders of magnitude, the distribution of first digits is strikingly regular: numbers beginning in 1 occur about 30% of the time, those beginning in 2 about 18% of the time, falling to roughly 5% of the time for the number 9. Specifically, as noted by the keenly observant Jialan Wang of Washington University in St. Louis, "there are more numbers in the universe that begin with the digit 1 than 2, or 3, or 4, or 5, or 6, or 7, or 8, or 9. And more numbers that begin with 2 than 3, or 4, and so on. This relationship holds for the lengths of rivers, the populations of cities, molecular weights of chemicals, and any number of other categories." The most curious application of this law resides in the field of corporate fraud, "because deviations from the law can indicate that a company's books have been manipulated." Here is where things get interesting for fraudulent corporate America: the inquisitive Wang "downloaded quarterly accounting data for all firms in Compustat, the most widely-used dataset in corporate finance that contains data on over 20,000 firms from SEC filings" and "used a standard set of 43 variables that comprise the basic components of corporate balance sheets and income statements." Her results were, in a word, startling.
No ... Only True Public Servants
When all else fails, scapegoat, which in corporate America means fire your CEO. According to a headline from Bloomberg right now, HPQ (and soon many other companies) will follow Yahoo in dumping its CEO, Leo Apotheker. The result: a surge in the stock. Our question: will Leo draft his "WTF" letter from an iPad as well? Expect the Netflix board to "spin off" its CEO next.
Ben said nothing. He has nothing up his sleeve. The question is, does Obama dish up a plan on mortgages?
Doug Casey writes in: "I’m not sure that many people really ever believed there was a recovery under way. Wall Street acted like there was – but only somewhat, since banks never started lending again. But unemployment has remained high; it’d actually be about twice the official 9% level, if it was calculated the same way it was 30 years ago. And outside of the price collapse of certain asset classes – like real estate – the cost of living has increased greatly for most people; the calculation of the government’s CPI is as corrupt as its unemployment numbers. I think it’s a mistake to talk about a double dip in the economy; we entered the Greater depression in 2007 and are still in it. A “jobless recovery” is not a recovery. The only thing that’s recovered is the stock market, to some degree. Aside from government hocus-pocus, the mirage of corporate earnings, and foolish investors wanting to believe it was safe to get back in the water, things have not gotten better. And they are about to get much worse."
In plain terms, we’re entering a period in history that will rival the Revolutionary war. This country will be very very different by the time it has ended. Many people will lose everything in this mess. Yes, everything.
A growing number of individuals believe our economic and societal status quo is defined by unsustainable addiction to cheap oil and ever increasing debt. With that viewpoint, it's hard not to see a hard takedown of our national standard of living in the future. Even harder to answer is: what do you do about it? Charles Hugh Smith, proprietor of the esteemed weblog OfTwoMinds.com, sees the path to future prosperity in removing capital from the Wall Street machine and investing it into local enterprise within the community in which you live. "Enterprise is completely possible in an era of declining resource consumption. In other words, just because we have to use less, doesn’t mean that there is no opportunity for investing in enterprise. I think enterprise and investing in fact, are the solution. And if we withdraw our money from Wall Street and put it to use in our own communities, to the benefit of our own income streams, then I think that things happen."... "Being dependent on corporate America and a job a hundred miles away - that’s a really fragile, vulnerable lifestyle. So if you can relocalize your income streams and your enterprises and live close to work and school, you’re already tremendously more resilient and have a much more sustainable household regardless of what happens."
The entire "story" of the Bull market is stocks rests on one reed: permanently rising corporate profits. Too bad those profits are set to fall. Like everything else about the "recovery," the "rising corporate profits" story is founded on financial flim-flam, starting with the boost provided by a sinking dollar. To truly grasp the monumental scope of this smoke-and-mirrors game of "profits" rising from currency arbitrage, we have to recall that most of the big U.S. global corporations earn between 50% and 65% of their profits overseas. Since the dollar has weakened about 30% in the Fed's free-money campaign (quantitative easing), then we can guesstimate that fully 15% of all profits from global corporations is phantom: if half their profits are earned overseas, and the dollar declined 30%, then their overseas profits rose by 30%. Since that is half of all profit, then that 30% rise boosts total profits by 15%...The easy money's been made from slashing costs and dollar arbitrage; all four supports of corporate profits are at risk. With these props gone, how are corporate profits going to keep rising? If the "rising corporate profits" story dissipates, so does the Bull market.
If the nation is serious about encouraging new businesses, then government has to strip away the inefficiency and bloat which inhibit growth for essentially zero payoff. Permits are important, and oversight is important; but it is merely common-sense that these functions be centralized and speeded up to foster "best practices" without stultifying new businesses. Government employees who want to do their jobs efficiently and productively would be delighted to work for a stripped down, centralized agency which was designed to approve or disapprove projects quickly, and regulate the economy like vitamins--enough for safety, but not too much, i.e. a self-serving fiefdom. It's that simple: lower the cost structure of the economy, and remove the impediments to starting new businesses and hiring workers.
Alas, this is just what the powers-that-be want. Not zonked out so much that you can’t work, but zonked out just enough that you really don’t (want to) care.
At stake is 1/4 trillion. The lawyers and lobbyists will get $100 million of that.
As noted by Richard Heinberg on June 22nd, 2011, the media has lacked the ability to connect the economic situations in the Middle East and their uprisings to what is happening in Europe. I would avoid the word “Revolution” in the case of the Middle Eastern uprisings, seeing as no dramatic systemic changes have taken place, only the ousting of dictators. Same as I would avoid the words of social upheaval in the case of European protests, which have been quite calm and only demanding to maintain the social safety nets produced through years of labor struggle. Rather, the odd occurrence is the ostensibly quiet population of the United States who are in many cases having the same economic problems and austerity based government solutions. This is a place where the media does want to ask the public the question, “Why aren’t you protesting?”