Wolf Richter

Tokyo Tidbit: High Radiation, False Alarm, Real Danger

All heck re-broke loose online when the Associated Press reported that a local resident, equipped with a dosimeter, had discovered a highly radioactive hotspot in a residential area of Tokyo, 145 miles from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. Foreign media jumped on the story and speculated. But this time, it was different. And what else is hidden under floorboards?

Greece’s Extortion Game

“Tax fraud is a national plague,” said Greece’s finance minister after he found that Greeks owed $50 billion in back taxes. But it’s complicated. And not much will happen to collect them though Greece might go bankrupt in weeks. Meanwhile, civil servants paralyze the country with strikes because salaries and bonuses are on the chopping block—the most curious bonuses….

The Brutal Trade Deficit

At $46 billion in August and a hair-raising $376 billion year to date, the trade deficit is a powerful descriptor of what’s wrong with the U.S. economy. By year end, it will amount to half a trillion. Economic activity gone overseas. The cause: an ancient and valid business principle that is now harming the overall economy.

France’s Fishy Denials as Mega-Banks Teeter

“We don’t have any doubt about the solidity of French banks,” said the French government—a week after the collapse of Dexia. All eyes are now on Société Générale and BNP Paribas. BNP is the world’s largest bank with assets of $2.8 trillion, dwarfing France’s $2.1 trillion economy. And they’re desperately trying to sell assets to stay afloat.

Where the Heck is Ron Paul? A Media Boycott Heats Up

NPR’s report on tonight’s GOP debate covered about everything you can cover in a few minutes: Palin’s and Christie’s exit from the race; Cain’s from-the-outside strategy; Romney’s 25% ceiling; and Perry’s effort to make up ground he lost in the last three debates. But where the heck is Ron Paul? And it’s not just NPR.

The China Bubble Makes Contact with A Cactus

Bubbles go on much longer than a rational mind can fathom, especially bubbles that are supported by governments and central banks. Everyone benefits, so everyone (except for a few hapless shorts) pushes to keep them going. But when they burst, they wreak havoc. And in China, there are new ominous signs.

When False Premises Become Economic Policy

“A shame that we can’t see Japan because of the marine layer” is an old joke in San Francisco. The premise that the fog over the Pacific keeps you from seeing Japan is just as false as the premise that running up huge deficits and printing trillions of dollars can create a healthy economy. Yet, that’s the line propagated by the status-quo media and its economists.

Tokyo Tidbit: A Gruesome Bone Business

520,000 Japanese soldiers died in the Philippines during World War II. Years later, the Japanese government began to search for and repatriate their remains. The process worked well for decades, but then someone had the smart idea to outsource it.

Geithner: The Truth Could Cause Significant Damage

During his congressional testimony, Geithner fretted that the crisis in Europe could undermine confidence. Alas, bank stress tests were supposed to inspire confidence—yet one of the “safest” banks just collapsed. If inspiring confidence isn’t based on facts and transparency, it’s a con game.

Euro Tidbit: The Lies of ‘Stress Tests’

Bailed-out Dexia, a major Belgian-French bank, is kaput again and will be broken up. Bondholders and counterparties will be bailed out. As usual, taxpayers will foot the bill. But remember the “stress tests” in July?