Wolf Richter

Greece’s Extortion Racket Jumps To The Next Level

Participants in the G-20 meeting in Cannes thought it would be a relaxed affair of photo ops, handshakes, and fancy dinners, interrupted by rubber stamping the Grand Plan of bailing out Greece, bondholders, and European banks. But then Giorgios Papandreou, prime minister of Greece, fired his bazooka. And the Greek extortion racket was back on.

Inflation High on the Hog For the Holidays

The season’s ditty: companies announce big profits after they jack up prices. But even the inexplicable American consumer, the toughest creature out there, struggles with these prices as misery spreads into the middle class. Now add HoneyBaked to the list, just in time for the holidays. But there is hope.

Ruinous Symbiosis Between Congress And The Fed

The members of the congressional panel on deficit reduction are struggling to come up with something that will—I mean, let’s be realistic—get them reelected and fill their campaign funds. Even if they come up with a plan that will reduce the gargantuan budget deficits, Congress won’t follow through. Because it doesn’t have to, thanks to the Fed.

Economic Devil Is In The Details

According to last week’s GDP number, the economy has been growing supposedly at a rate of 2.5% in the third quarter—thanks largely to the inexplicable American consumer, the toughest creature out there. But there are some pernicious trends and unpleasant zigzags that point the opposite way.

No More Golf or Pizza for the Yakuza

Tokyo’s organized crime exclusionary laws went into effect in October—and are wreaking havoc. Now doing business with the yakuza is a crime. In an ingenious twist, paying off the yakuza is also a crime. Even victims of blackmail—hush money is an outright industry in Japan—commit a crime if they pay.

Another Eurozone Country Bites the Dust

Real estate in Cyprus has been popular with foreigners—they own 100,000 homes in a country with 803,000 people. Turns out, it’s Cyprus’ national sport sponsored by dumb money. Now the underlying title-deed scandal is unraveling the finances not only of expat owners, but also of the banks and the government … who are hushing it up.

The Inexplicable American Consumer Strikes Again

Consumer confidence indices have collapsed to levels not seen in years or even decades. Yet the toughest creature out there that no one has yet been able to beat down struck again. Consumer spending increased at an annual rate of 2.4% during the third quarter, though the mood has become outright morose since.

A Dysfunctional System That Bankrupts A Generation

Tuition did it again: up 8.3% for universities and 8.7% for community colleges. For many students, the increases are even steeper. Here in California, they’re outright ridiculous. Student loans will cover much of it, though student loan debt already exceeds $1 trillion. Why? It’s the system.

Obama’s Refi: Special Tax For People Who Can’t Do Math

President Obama’s expansion of a mortgage refinancing program is a way for underwater homeowners to reduce their monthly payments. That would save them some money, he said, “…and it gets those families spending again.” But there is an insidious hook buried inside….

Just Say No, Germany … and Don’t Listen to Geithner

The German parliament has a historic opportunity to say no to the bankers: it gets to vote on expanding the European bailout fund to €1 trillion, though it had just been expanded to €440 billion. Since no one has any money, it will be in form of leverage, the very mechanism that has wreaked so much havoc already.

Berlusconi, waiting for money.