Two freaks—Greek bonds and bailout-queen Dexia—wormed their way into an earnings announcement today, this one by the French postal service. It has its share of strategic problems and government interference, much like the United States Postal Service. But it made a profit and will pay a dividend to the French government. Only the USPS is run by 535 clueless micromanagers in Washington.
Socialist François Hollande, frontrunner in the French presidential election, tried to score some points against President Sarkozy—criticized for his cozy relationship with the rich. “I don’t like the rich,” he said and followed up on TV with two new income-tax brackets for the rich: 45% and 75%. But now a hullaballoo broke out, not among his targets, the corporate chieftains, but in the world of … soccer. And it’s killing the new tax.
Thousands of students from all over California snarled traffic during their march on the Capitol in Sacramento. Hundreds of them then flooded the Rotunda of the Capitol, a raucous affair. Eventually, the Highway Patrol cleared them out, and 60 were thrown in the hoosegow for trespassing and resisting arrest. Their problem: tuition increases—in a system that has become dysfunctional.
The conflict in the Eurozone has simmered for weeks. On one side: Chancellor Angela Merkel who is protecting her oeuvre. On the other: François Hollande who is running against President Sarkozy. But now, Merkel raised the stakes by roping in 3 powerful allies and lining them up against Hollande—a desperate and risky gamble to keep Sarkozy in power.
Kyoto, April 1996. When two geisha in flamboyant kimonos, theatrical makeup, and dramatic hairdos hobble arm in arm out of a side alley….
Japanese pension funds face a tricky situation. On one side is an investment environment of near-zero yields, declining real estate values, and a stock market that is down 75% from its peak in 1989. On the other side is a ballooning retirement-age population who enjoys the longest life expectancy in the world. So the one thing they don’t need is pension fund assets evaporating from an asset management firm.
In France, new vehicle registrations are plunging: -17.8% in December, -20.7% in January, -20.2% in February. French automakers suffered the most. PSA Peugeot Citroën -29.2% and Renault -28.5%. The German auto industry is still basking in last year’s glow of record worldwide sales and profits, and record bonuses for their beaming employees. But so far this year, they have been stagnating. And it’s just the beginning.
In Germany, the top personal income tax rate is 45%. People in religious organizations pay an additional “church tax.” Other taxes are piled on top. And when the hapless taxpayer spends money, a 19% value added tax comes due. Hence, tax fraud is a national sport. Yet, 160 Ministry of Finance employees are supposed to fix the Greek tax collection system—which will endear the already reviled Germans even more to the Greeks.
Optimism has always been the hallmark of California—especially when it comes to tax-revenue projections. Now the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office laments that Governor Jerry Brown’s budget is another extravaganza of optimism, particularly the projections of how much moolah can be extracted from wealthy residents. Which the Governor expects to skyrocket, magically.