Explaining Southern California's economy

Michael Lewis on too-big-to-fail banks: Kick out the kids and break 'em up!

Check out the above video, one of the series, of Michael Lewis in conversation with Jacob Weisberg of the Slate Group. It's a quickie but a goodie. Lewis covers a lot of ground. The young guns of Wall Street shouldn't have been getting paid $2 million! Credit default swaps (a) shouldn't have been invented — "innovation" in finance is not necessarily a good thing — and (b) were bound to lead to people betting against the securities, mainy home mortgages, they were based on.

But things really get interesting when Lewis starts sounding exactly like L. Randall Wray, an increasingly prominent economist from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a proponent of an increasingly popular new school of economics thinking called "Modern Monetary Theory" (some call it Neo-Chartalism). Wray also says the big banks need to be broken up. I've embedded a video below in which he discusses this idea. He's not exactly Michael Lewis. But the message is quite similar.

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Bullet Points: I read Michael Lewis' big Vanity Fair article on California so you don't have to

Author Michael Lewis

Justin Hoch

"Moneyball" author Michael Lewis looks at California's finances and runs screaming.

Michael Lewis, author of "Moneyball" and "Liar's Poker," has a big article in the November Vanity Fair about how dire California's public finances are. His thesis is blunt: escalating pension costs are pushing California cities into bankruptcy — if they aren't already there.

It's a lengthy article, running many thousands of words. It covers a lot of territory. In it, we meet municipal-bond naysayer Meredith Whitney, bicycle hellion and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a beleaguered local California government official from the ruined town of Vallejo who's trying to invent a whole new way to fight fires. Boilerplate Michael Lewis, right?

It's a good read, but if you want just the summary — the extremely worrisome summary about where California's cities could be headed — then here you go:

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Reportings: Big September for cars; boring iPhone; Solyndragate II; Michael Lewis

Are bailed-out and formerly bankrupt U.S. car companies now recession-proof? Both General Motors and Chrysler had a big September: "General Motors Co. said its U.S. sales jumped 20% to 207,145 vehicles compared with September 2010. Chrysler Group's sales surged 27% to 127,334 vehicles, marking the company's best September since 2007." (LAT)

Is the Apple iPhone too grown up to have a wow factor? "'Industrial design is important, but in these small packages we are starting to bump into the laws of physics,' said Tim Bajarin, a consultant with Creative Strategies Inc. 'You aren't going to do anything that I would consider radical in design and still get this feature set and function.'" (WSJ) 

Paul Krugman gets on China's case and highlights the massive U.S. trade deficit: "A return to economic health would look much more achievable if we weren’t spending $500 billion more each year on imported goods and services than foreigners spent on our exports." (NYT)  

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