Explaining Southern California's economy

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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The Tiger Woods theory of the economy

Frys.com Open - Round One

Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Tiger Woods' halting comeback mirrors the struggles of the U.S. economy.

There's a remarkable spectacle happening in Northern California right now: Tiger Woods is playing a regular PGA Tour event in the month of October.

But wait, you say, he's a golfer — isn't he supposed to play golf? Well, sure. But he failed to qualify for the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs, and because he's been variously injured and working on changes to his golf swing, he hasn't played much in 2011. But he is on the Presidents Cup team, so he needs to get himself into competitive shape for the event in November.

Woods' is a member of a professional golf elite that has won so often that it doesn't need to grind out a schedule like the rank-and-file. That's why he's been absent from Tour events at this time of year for a decade.

He's not playing particularly well, but he's drawing plenty of scrutiny. His performance reminds me of the economy. Both have been mired in a ditch on the comeback trail for what seems like an eternity. 

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September jobs report: Cause for optimism?

Military Career Fair Held At Washington Convention Center

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Jobs are not easy to come by in this economy, but at least a second recession now seems unlikely.

The BLS released the preliminary September employment numbers this morning. Unlike last month, when the economy added an adjusted 57,000 private-sector jobs, this month the economy managed 103,000. 

This was a lot better than some forecasters had predicted (the revised August numbers, +57,000 versus the Big Zee-Roh, were also welcome). Before today, I had seen September numbers ranging from zero to 130,000. The ADP report, a much-watched measure that comes out before the government total, anticipated 91,000 — the same number it anticipated last month — so the fact that we came in well above that is a cautiously positive sign.

The BLS report should quash speculation that we are heading for a double-dip recession, or that we're in some kind of quasi-recession right now. Felix Salmon doesn't think so — he's making more of a long-term malaise argument — but if we can avoid some kind of debt cataclysm in the Eurozone, then we may be able to turn the ocean liner at this point.

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Reportings: Apple and America; Friday's jobs report; Ben Stiller's compound

Premiere Of Columbia Pictures' "30 Minutes Or Less" - Red Carpet

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Ben Stiller owns as compound — yes, a compound — and he isn't afraid to sell some of it for $7.3 million.

Apple can't save America: "[E]ven if Apple remains as successful as it has been under Mr. Jobs, that success long ago decoupled from that of the broader economy. (The Economist)

 

Tomorrow's jobs numbers from the BLS are making everyone nervous. The Wall Street Journal surveys forecasts and finds that everyone predicts less than 100,000 total jobs added in September. But BNP Paribas expects another month of net zero jobs growth, leading the unemployment rate to rise to 9.2%. (WSJ)

 

Ben Stiller has sold part of his $12 million Hollywood compound. The take? $7.3 million. So does this mean that Stiller has a lot less compound? And more importantly: Ben Stiller owns a compound?! (LAT)

 

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.


Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment

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Steve Jobs and the California Way of Business

Steve Jobs' childhood home, with the garage where he and Steve Wozniak started Apple.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Steve Jobs' childhood home, with the garage where he and Steve Wozniak started Apple.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' death at 56 has provided ample opportunity to reflect on his life and his status as an American visionary, a character out of one of Apple's "Think Different" ads. But Jobs was also a Californian, and it's worth asking whether he represented a "California Way of Business."

Gov. Jerry Brown certainly thought so. This is from the Wall Street Journal, and includes Brown's reaction to Jobs' death:

California governor Jerry Brown, who knew Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs since his first governorship when Mr. Jobs sat on a innovation commission he created, said Wednesday of the Apple co-founder’s death: “Steve Jobs was a great California innovator who demonstrated what a totally independent and creative mind can accomplish. Few people have made such a powerful and elegant imprint on our lives…"

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