One of the pillars of the Japanese economy has been its exports. That pillar has been crumbling for years, but the deterioration this year has progressed at a phenomenal pace. At fault: China and Europe. But beyond the noise, Japanese companies have been investing their valuable yen overseas, and it’s making the deficit structural. An ugly combination.
“Paradox” is what the New York Times called France’s ability to attract more foreign investment than any country other than China and the US. A paradox because it shouldn’t. Investors should be scared off by labor laws, tax rates, the cost of labor, and mud-wrestling bouts over nationalizing some industrial plants. But turns out, multinational corporations pay practically no income taxes in France. And it has reached the boiling point.
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.