Explaining Southern California's economy

Invest with James: How to make money renting your shirts

Matthew DeBord

James has discovered the value of renting stuff he isn't using.

My almost-six-year-old son James is very interested in money. But unlike some kids who think about ways that they can do jobs for an allowance or create little businesses (Lemonade stands!) in order to get some cash to spend, James wants to divert wealth from other people without actually providing any real services. 

I think this makes him a member of the 1% that Occupy Wall Street is protesting, if not in assets then in philosophy.

His chief target is his older sister, Lucia, who has decided that she doesn't care about money and wants to live for her art.

James is obsessed with separating her from her money. He doesn't really know anyone else who has money he can get his hands on, so this makes sense. 

Money for both of them comes from the traditional sources of pre-adolescent capital: intermittent allowances, gifts, the Tooth Fairy. But James has more of it because he saves it all.

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Econ 474: Say hello to 'stuckflation'

Mercer 9775

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Americans hold up 'I want to work' placards as they join a protest of several thousand people demanding jobs outside City Hall in Los Angeles on August 13, 2010. A Labor Department report showed 131,000 jobs were lost in July and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.5 percent.

Here's what we know: unemployment nationally is stuck at 9.1 percent; job "creation" is stuck at less than 100,000 per month; applications for unemployment benefits are stuck above 400,000 per month; and GDP growth is stuck below 3 percent.

And that's just four "stucks." Add in numerous other datapoints and you get a Big Stuck — the story of the American economy.

It's far worse in California, where we're stuck on everything that the nation is stuck on, but because of our thousands of unemployed construction workers have an jobless rate of 12 percent.

There are exactly two sets of ideas about how we can get out of this quagmire. On the right, the argument is to cut taxes, reduce government spending, and eliminate regulations that encumber business activity. On the left, the argument is to raise taxes on the wealthy while cutting them for the poor and middle-class, spend more on economic stimulus, and more rigorously regulate high-risk financial and business activity. 

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Visual Aid: How the 1 percent have fared since 1981

This is one of those charts that speaks for itself. It comes from a report I was directed to by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times. It shows how drastically pay in the securities business has diverged from pay in all other private sector fields, in New York City since 1981. 

If you want to know what the Occupy Wall Street — and Occupy LA — movement is protesting, look no further.

The chart tells a tale about the New York City economy, which was dominated by the financial services industry prior to the financial crisis and is still seeing very high compensation levels in that world, even after the near-collapse of the system, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and the taxpayer bailout of the big banks. The bailout money, by the way, came from the people represented by the red bars.

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Tweet of the Day: BlackBerry meltdown

The mighty Arianna summarized what, a little closer to our neck of the woods, The Wrap packaged as "Hollywood Exhales: BlackBerry Service Is Back." What happened is that, after seeing its business start to slip through its fingers over the past year, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion encountered a nightmare scenario: its supposedly secure, supposedly bulletproof network has spent three days failing.

Globally.

It began in Europe and the Middle East but was looking like it wouldn't make it to U.S. or Canada. Today, however, we got hit on this side of the pond. The outage was brief, but the outrage was audible. For one thing, we learned that Arianna travels with three BlackBerrys. She didn't say which one she was tweeting from. Although for all we know, she could have a six iPhones and two iPads tucked in her Vuitton carryon. Maybe even a Vertu.

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Annals of the 1 percent: The agony of the bankers

Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes Slightly Down

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Traders making money at the New York Stock Exchange. Just maybe not as much money as they used to.

Max Abelson (via Paul Krugman) writes at Bloomberg about bankers and their struggles to live on half a million a year, in the face of government regulations and more work than ever:

Michael Karp, 42, CEO of New York-based recruitment firm Options Group Inc., said Wall Street pay will fall 30 percent this year, and more for executives. It will be flat or down even in businesses doing relatively well, such as emerging markets and commodities, he said.

[...]

Karp said he met last month over tea at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York with a trader who made $500,000 last year at one of the six largest U.S. banks.

The trader, a 27-year-old Ivy League graduate, complained that he has worked harder this year and will be paid less. The headhunter told him to stay put and collect his bonus.

“This is very demoralizing to people,” Karp said. “Especially young guys who have gone to college and wanted to come onto the Street, having dreams of becoming millionaires.”

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