Explaining Southern California's economy

Bank bailout math: It was actually $29 trillion

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AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

The Federal Reserve Building in Washington, DC.

How big was the too-big-to-fail bailout of U.S. banks? If you said, "$700 billion," then you'd be limiting yourself to the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) that was authorized in late 2008, in response to the financial crisis.

But if you're a student of economist L. Randall Wray at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, backed by a Ford Foundation grant to find out just how much the bailouts cost, you'd have a slightly different answer: $29 trillion. Almost $30 trillion, actually, if it's your policy to round up from $600 billion.

Here's Wray, at the Huffington Post:

[A]nalyses of the bail-out variously put the total at $7.77 trillion (Bloomberg) to $16 trillion (GAO) or even $24 trillion. He argues that these reports make "egregious errors," in particular because they sum lending over-time. He also claims that these high figures likely include Fed facilities that were never utilized. Finally, he asserts that the Fed's bail-out bears no relation to government spending, such as that undertaken by Treasury.

All of these assertions are at best misleading. If he really believes the last claim, then he apparently does not understand the true risks to which he exposed the Treasury as the Fed made the commitments.

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Bitcoin Beat: Is it time to privatize money?

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Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

An employee changes the numbers of the currency information board in front of an exchange office on Aug. 8th in Budapest. The Swiss franc remained at its highs against the dollar, changing hands at 0.7594 to the dollar.

I've written several posts about Bitcoin and have used the feedback I've received from commenters to undertake a deeper dive into crypto-currencies. This led me to a recent op-ed in the Cypress Times by David Barker, tackling the idea that a "private" currency like Bitcoin could displace or at least compete with government-backed money.

Here's a salient paragraph, laying out the historical/academic case:

Nobel Prize winning economist Fredrick Hayek advocated privatization of the money supply as early as 1978. Barry Eichengreen, a respected, mainstream scholar of international finance recently wrote that “maybe the Tea Party should look for monetary salvation not to the gold standard but to private monies like Bitcoin.” Former Federal Reserve Governor Randall Kroszner and widely read blogger Tyler Cowen wrote a book in 1994 that discussed “the potential consequences of a complete deregulation of money and banking.” An article in the ultra-establishment Journal of Economic Literature by George Selgin was titled “How Would the Invisible Hand Handle Money?” Other economists study historical episodes where money was privately produced, often with favorable results.

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Eurozone Crisis: Hunker down and suffer time

People stand next to a stand as newspape

LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

People stand next to a stand as newspaper bearing headlines on the greek crisis, are on display on November 7, 2011 in Athens. Greece's top politicians put the finishing touches to a unity government and begin talks on a new prime minister as markets react cautiously to a historic power-sharing deal to stave off bankruptcy and keep the country in the euro. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Martin Wolf is, according to many, the best finance and economics journalist in the world. From his perch at the Financial Times, he dispenses regular wisdom and concise opinion. And it's wisdom and opinion that's backed up by having done time on both sides of the major economic divide of the age: free markets versus central governments.

The ongoing eurozone crisis has involved all sorts of deep-dish coverage, ranging from sovereign debt bond-yield spreads to debates about tax policies and budget cutbacks, with gobs of court-intrigue political analysis and EU-ology thrown in. It's frankly dizzying. Also, the debate has gone exactly nowhere. The eurozone remains in crisis. Whatever political will is being deployed has been, it seems, devoted to perpetuating rather than resolving the problem.

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In SOPA debate, is Hollywood on the wrong side of history?

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Getty Images

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT)

The debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act is heating up. The SOPA bill could come to a vote this week in the House, and a similar bill is under consideration in the Senate. This has kicked the so-called "Geek Lobby" into high gear. Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm in New York, has been vocal on his blog, going to far as to symbolically censor his post today as a call to action.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has suggested that the online encyclopedia could go on strike in protest. And California Republican congressman Darrell Issa has broken ranks and proposed his own alternative legislation, allying himself with Silicon Valley against Hollywood and the Big Content industry that supports the SOPA legislation.

The opposition has also created a video explainer on why the legislation is the worst thing that's ever been proposed. It's over-the-top and doesn't present the issue with anything resembling complete accuracy. But it is worth a watch (In the interest of reasonable objectivity, I'm not going to embed it, so follow the link if you're interested).

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LA Times gets fourth editor since 2005

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David McNew/Getty Images

Los Angeles Times building in Downtown LA

I got in just in time today to discover that the Los Angeles Times continues to be a paper where top editors don't last very long anymore. Russ Stanton, who had been the paper's editor since 2007, "will step down," according to the LAT's own story. His successor is Davan Maharaj, currently the managing editor, who's been with the paper for 22 years. 

Maharaj is the LAT's 15th editor but its fourth since 2005. What's been abbreviating the tenure of the paper's top editors? Problems with Tribune Company management. In 2005, confronted with cost-cutting demands, former Baltimore Sun editor John Carroll left, later to resurface at Harvard's Kennedy School. 

Next up, former New York Timesman Dean Baquet — a Carroll hire — had a famous and by some accounts heroic standoff with Tribune over newsroom cuts. He went down and his by-then sympathetic publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, went with him. Baquet is now back at the New York Times. 

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