4/9/13 – Margaret Thatcher and Europe

April 9, 2013

“Margaret Thatcher RIP,” I tweeted yesterday, but in retrospect, that’s probably the least likely outcome. Wherever she ends up, peace is the last thing I would expect. If heaven, she’ll be offering God suggestions for how to run the world better; if hell, she’ll be planning a revolt. Love her or hate her, there’s no doubt that Margaret Thatcher changed Britain and, to a much lesser extent, the world.

I say “to a much lesser extent” because, as the current European situation plays out, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we’re reaching a Thatcherite breakpoint. To paraphrase one of my favorite quotes of hers, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. Europe, especially the periphery, is now at that point.

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4/4/13 – How We Are Solving the Problems

April 4, 2013

In my response to David Stockman’s op-ed piece in the New York Times, I stated that our problems are, in fact, solvable, and that we are—however slowly and painfully—in the process of solving them.

Not everyone is convinced, to put it mildly, and to state it is not to demonstrate it. Looking through today’s papers, though, I found a couple examples of exactly what I was talking about.

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4/2/13 – State-Wrecked? David Stockman’s New York Times Piece Considered

April 2, 2013

Several people have forwarded me “State-Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America”—a recent New York Times op-ed by David Stockman, former budget director for President Reagan—and asked for my thoughts. Having read through the piece, it’s actually not that easy to respond, as Mr. Stockman seems to be all over the place. In fact, I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying other than that we’re all doomed.

Trying to pick out the different parts of his argument, I come up with following. First, abandoning the gold standard was a huge mistake and has led to fiscal and moral debasement. Second, the Fed has been the agent of said debasement, printing money to enable the federal government’s wanton spending. Third, Wall Street has captured both the Fed and Washington, D.C., and is using them to enrich itself. Fourth, the 2008 financial crisis would have burned itself out and we would have been fine had the government not intervened. Fifth, our fiscal situation is not only worse than admitted but beyond hope. We cannot solve our present problems and face a future of poverty. In short, under the present system, we’re doomed, and we largely deserve it for past sins. Thus endeth the lesson.

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3/27/13 – A Smaller Piece of a Bigger Pie—And Getting Smaller

March 27, 2013

Looking at the effects of Cyprus echoing around the financial markets, one thing that’s become apparent is that it really isn’t all about the U.S. any more. Even as the U.S. economy continues to recover, the international press doesn’t care that much. We are a much smaller piece of a much bigger pie. Still the largest piece, still important, but not what we were.

Some of the perennial questions I get from clients arise from our diminished place in the scheme of things. What happens, for example, if the dollar collapses? Given the central role the U.S. occupies in the world financial system, the standing answer has been that it won’t happen any time soon. World trade is denominated in dollars, the world’s low-risk reserve currency. Under current conditions, there is no alternative.

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3/22/13 − Good News, Bad News

March 22, 2013

In the absence of a single overarching theme today, I thought I’d hit a bunch of smaller points that are important but don’t warrant individual posts.

Cyprus

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3/20/13 – The Price for Europe Becomes Too High

March 20, 2013

Based on some of the commentary about Cyprus, particularly in the New York Times, it would seem that the country is so small that the crisis there essentially doesn’t matter. I understand what’s behind this view, but I think it misses the point. Let’s take a closer look at why Cyprus does matter and how it could create some very unpleasant consequences in ways that perhaps aren’t immediately obvious.

Here’s the short explanation: Germany and the other major economies have decided they’re done paying any price to keep the eurozone together. A failed Cyprus bailout probably means that the country leaves the eurozone. For Greece, the rest of Europe was willing to pay almost any price to keep that from happening. Now they’re not. This is a big change, and it has implications for every country in Europe.

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3/14/13 – Today Will Not Be a Good Day

March 14, 2013

I’m meeting with my accountant this evening to go over my finances and prepare my tax return. Although I like my accountant and enjoy catching up, I’m not looking forward to it because I always end up owing money. I set aside as little as I can throughout the year, so the question at tax time isn’t whether I owe, but how much. I know I could easily avoid this by having more withheld, but I dislike giving the government an interest-free loan more than I dislike writing the check.

What I try to remember is that my life is much, much easier on the tax front than it used to be. Once upon a time, I owned and managed a couple of different companies. Accounting and tax issues took up more of my time than I could initially believe. Now that I’m a W-2 employee, albeit one with various investments that create their own complications, life is easy. Sort of.

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