At a yearend Bonenkai party, an official from the Ministry of Finance, the most powerful entity at the core of Japan Inc., let slip that the Bank of Japan wasn’t doing its job; it was just giving money to the banks which bought Japanese government bonds instead of channeling it into the economy. “That’s why the Ministry of Finance is trying to gain control over the Bank of Japan,” he said.
“I’m wondering how much this society can endure before it explodes,” said Georg Pieper, a German psychotherapist who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorders following catastrophes, large accidents (including the deadliest train wreck ever in Germany), acts of violence, freed hostages…. But now he was talking about Greece.
I love steaks. Rare. So I’m biased. But now there is the report of a year-long investigation into the potentially deadly industry practice of mechanical tenderization. It has been going on for decades, with innumerable victims. The risks have been known since at least 2003. Yet the industry resists even the most basic labeling requirement that would save lives.
Hans-Werner Sinn, President of the German Ifo Institute and a thorn in the side of bailout politicians and eurocrats: The longer you delay the needed “radical measures,” the more banks and other private investors will be able to sell “their toxic paper without haircut to governmental bailout funds, and then hightail.” Taxpayers, retirees, and savers “in sound countries” will pay the price.
As the Eurozone flails about to keep its chin above the debt crisis that is drowning periphery countries, and as the European Union struggles to duct-tape itself together with more “integration,” that is governance by unelected transnational eurocrats, Sweden is having second thoughts: never before has there been such hostility toward the euro.
The National Federation of Independent Business tried to shock the world with its report that small-business owner optimism had plunged below the level of apocalyptic post-Lehman November 2008. A huge setback; small businesses are job creating machines. “Something bad happened, and it wasn’t Sandy,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “It was the election.”
Flamboyant threats of nationalizations and vociferous demands for protectionism in France have run into a buzz saw. Just days ago they were seen as a cure for the unemployment fiasco, rampant deindustrialization, and ballooning poverty. Now they’re in pieces.
Friday’s plunge in consumer sentiment was hastily ascribed to the Fiscal Cliff. Like Sandy, it’s recruited to explain everything that goes wrong. But over the last few days, one monkey wrench after another has been thrown into the hope machinery, including the collapse of small-business hiring plans to the record low set during the catastrophic post-Lehman days.
The staged posturing with its tragic-funny theatrics and lurid special effects in Washington about the Fiscal Cliff—and whether to fall off, jump off, fly off, dive off, climb down, or somehow avoid it altogether—has become an inescapable media reality, much like Y2K once was. I remember well the worldwide letdown on January 1, 2000.
In France, 48% of the people considered themselves either living in poverty or on the way to living in poverty. The sobering survey results were released just ahead of the National Conference of the Fight against Poverty. A big conference, packed with top politicians. The government is taking it seriously. They will be looking for Band-Aids to cover the deep wounds of the private sector that is atrophying and shedding jobs.