Explaining Southern California's economy

LA Auto Show: The great Buick comeback

Not long ago, Buick had been basically left for dead. Bob Lutz, the legendary product czar at General Motors, infamously called Buick and its now-deceased stablemate, Pontiac, "damaged brands." Everyone though that Buick was, no offense intended, a car for the AARP set. And the demographics didn't lie: the average age of a Buick owner in the mid-2000s was 65.

A lot of carmakers would have sent Buick — which had always been a mid-luxury brand, a stepping stone on the way to lordly Cadillac in the GM hierarchy — to that big junkyard in the sky, to join Oldsmobile, a brand that GM had already taken off life support.

Problem was, Buick was big — very big — in China.

In fact, it was the cornerstone of GM's whole China strategy, both before and after the 2009 bailout and bankruptcy of the company. GM's U.S. business may have been in decline from the Golden Age 1950s, when it held half the market. But in China, business was booming.

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Eurozone Crisis: China doesn't want to be Germany

World Leaders Gather In Cannes For The G20 Summit

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

CANNES, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 03: US President Barack Obama is welcomed by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the G20 Summit on November 3, 2011 in Cannes, France. World's top economic leaders are attending the G20 summit in Cannes on November 3rd and 4th, and are expected to debate current issues surrounding the global financial system in the hope of fending off a global recession and finding an answer to the Eurozone crisis. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Aren't you glad we don't have Greece to worry about anymore? After two years of crisis, the Greek economy is in full meltdown mode and the country's political system is falling apart. It has no hope of paying back its debt. The only question now is whether it will remain the Euro currency union, or whether default and bankruptcy will mean a return to drachma. 

We now turn our attention to Italy, number three in economic size, behind German and France. There's enough money sloshing around the euro currency union to deal with Greece and similar small economies, but if Italy can't refinance its 1.9 trillion euros of debt, a bailout isn't currently a realistic option. 

Unless maybe the Chinese pitch in. China has more than $3 trillion in foreign currency reserves, which it could pump into Europe. The question is what this would ultimately cost Europe, in terms of various trade-offs (pun intended), not to mention what it would cost China itself. This is Yu Yongding, former member of China’s central bank monetary policy committee, writing recently in the Financial Times:

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Reportings: Full Tilt Poker scam; R.E.M is breaking up; CODA secures funding

Full Tilt Poker wasn't a Ponzi scheme. It was just a troubled bank! "The issues at Full Tilt should be likened to that of a problematic bank, rather than an illegal investment scheme, according to Jeff Ifrah, an attorney who represents the company in related litigation and is the personal attorney of Chief Executive Raymond Bitar." (WSJ)

 

China may be a great trading partner for the U.S., but all that trading hasn't been good for California jobs. "California was the hardest hit, losing nearly 455,000 jobs from 2001 to 2010 due to trade with the Asian giant." (LAT)

 

Say it ain't so! R.E.M. calls it quits. It's the end of the world as we know it, bit Sasha Frere-Jones thinks it took too dang long: "R.E.M.’s break-up is classy, and a decade late—but who cares? Their good stuff is durable and gorgeous, and they pulled off a trick that indie rock has struggled with ever since: How do you stay weird if you also like singable songs?"  (The New Yorker)

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Solyndra bankruptcy suggests that governments aren't investing enough in solar energy

The Solyndra bankruptcy has taken a vaguely criminal turn, as the FBI in recent days has raided the company's Fremont, Calif. headquarters and paid a visit to the homes of the CEO and founder. Opponents of President Obama's enthusiasm for green jobs have seized on Solyndra's woes as evidence that alt.energy is an economic bust. This is from the LA Times:

"The FBI raid further underscores that Solyndra was a bad bet from the beginning and put taxpayers at unnecessary risk," Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Sterns (R-Fla.) chairman of its Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, said in a joint statement. "President Obama's signature green jobs program went from a darling of the administration to bankruptcy to now the subject of an FBI raid in a matter of days."

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