Explaining Southern California's economy

Visual Aid: (Almost) 100 years of government energy subsidies

This chart is from a lengthy analysis of government energy subsidies by Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey, published by DBL Investors. You don't have to a be math genius to unpack its message (which is backed up by numerous other charts and graphs in the report): renewable energy has been subsidized to a far lesser degree than oil and gas, nuclear, and even biofuels.

Over the period of time it's been subsidized, the renewables sector has cost about $395 million per year. Nukes, subsided for a much longer period, averaged $3.57 billion. And oil and gas averaged $4.91 billion. 

Before you get all shocked at the unfairness of it all, remember that oil and gas have always been so important to the economy that subsidizing both at such high historic levels made sense. The cheap energy provided built an economy measured in the multi-trillions. 

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Is Calpers ready for riskier investments?

Calpers, the giant California state pension fund currently valued at $219 billion, is in a difficult position. This is from a Bloomberg story about the fund struggling to hit its 7.75 percent expected yearly return for 2010:

“That’s going to be tough this year and maybe for the next few years,” Calpers Chief Investment Officer Joe Dear said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. “This low-return environment is structurally driven, and there’s not a lot of policy to move it.”

In fact, it could be tougher than Dear is letting on. Calpers is only 70 percent funded, according to Bloomberg. That doesn't mean the fund can't pay out benefits. But it does mean that there's a mismatch between how much it has and how many employees are and will be relying on it. Calpers was fully funded in 2007, but the financial crisis has been hard on it. 

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Reportings: Jobless claims; bad economy; Great Aggregation Debate; Soros is worried

Early jobless-claim numbers for September surprise forecasters. But it could all be a cruel ruse by the economy: "'Apart from what might be an anomaly, the underlying trend in the labor force is still disappointing,” said Sean Incremona, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York. “There is a lot of economic uncertainty weighing on the broader economy.'" (BizWeek)

 

Could one person out of every 10 — the starry-eyed optimist — be right? Talk about fighting the current: "According to a Field Poll released Tuesday, 91% of California voters say the Golden State's economy is experiencing 'bad times.' It’s the third year in a row that more than 90% of voters have depicted the state's economy in a negative light." (LAT)

 

Business Insider's Henry Blodget does a little startup standup as the Great Aggregation Debate heats up. Just a whiff of paranoia entering the picture, however. (BI)

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Bullet Points: How much would legalizing pot be worth in California?

In this 2009 piece from Time magazine, Joe Klein provides some legalize-pot numbers:

there is an enormous potential windfall in the taxation of marijuana. It is estimated that pot is the largest cash crop in California, with annual revenues approaching $14 billion. A 10% pot tax would yield $1.4 billion in California alone. And that's probably a fraction of the revenues that would be available — and of the economic impact, with thousands of new jobs in agriculture, packaging, marketing and advertising. A veritable marijuana economic-stimulus package!

That Joe Klein! He's hilarious when he's high! Actually, his $1.4 billion tally for Cali may substantially underestimate how much making the wacky tabacky legal could bring in. Here's why:

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Yahoo a target for Daniel Loeb's hedge fund? Maybe not anymore

Earlier this week, the Wrap's Fred Schruers had a piece on the post-Carol Bartz Yahoo world and reported that Daniel Loeb, who runs the $8 billion hedge fund ThirdPoint LLC, was making a run at the beleaguered Internet giant. Here's what Schruers had to say, under the headline "Yahoo Under Siege: As Hedge-Fund Raider Closes In, Founders Hint at Sale":

No investor is more of a threat than hedge-fund powerhouse Daniel Loeb, who has recently acquired 5.2 percent of Yahoo's stock. Loeb has gone after companies he thinks are mis-managed before, but the level of vitriol -- and cash -- he’s throwing at the Yahoo board shows that he’s deadly earnest this time.

For a taste of the "vitriol," you can sample this letter that Loeb sent to the Yahoo board earlier this month:

it is evident that merely replacing the Company’s CEO – yet again – will not be enough to alter the direction of the Company.  Instead, a reconstituted Board with new Directors who will bring fresh eyes, relevant industry expertise and increased investor alignment to the table is immediately necessary.

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