Wolf Richter

Unpopularity Contest at the Edge of the Japanese Abyss

While all eyes are on the Greek farce, a much bigger fiasco on the other side of the globe is advancing at an inexorable pace. All Japanese prime ministers since Koizumi slither down a steep slope that lasts between 8 and 15 months. When approval ratings drop into the low twenties, they’re replaced by a new sacrificial lamb. And Prime Minister Noda is on a straight line down to replacement hell—while economic fundamentals are falling apart.

Suddenly, a Sharp Deterioration in the Job Market

Hullabaloo broke out after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a surprisingly robust 243,000 jobs were created in January, and that the unemployment rate was 8.3%. Cynics, academics, BLS heretics, hype mongers, and politicians waged a media battle over these numbers that President Obama serenely trotted out as validation of his policies. Even Rush Limbaugh jumped into the fray. Alas, suddenly, there is a sharp deterioration.

That Giant Sucking Sound in California

There never was that “giant sucking sound” that Ross Perot had warned about during his quixotic presidential campaign in 1992—the sound that manufacturing jobs would make as they head south to Mexico. Turns out, he was wrong. The jobs went south silently. However, yesterday in San Francisco, there was that sound. From money going east. Lots of it. From fundraisers.

Ironic EU Begging Expedition to China

Europe returned from its begging expedition to Beijing. Well, they called it a summit, one more in a series. They were trying to lure China into plowing part of its hard-earned foreign exchange trillions into the European bailout fund, the EFSF, and they made that dreadfully convoluted and opaque creature smell like a rose. Even a small amount would have been something. Anything really.

François Hollande Versus the German Dictate

The Eurozone debt crisis has frayed a lot of nerves, particularly among Greek politicians, whose country is on the verge of bankruptcy, and German politicians, who no longer trust Greek politicians—they’d willfully misrepresented deficits and debt in order to accede to the Eurozone and had continued to do so up to insolvency. But now a far bigger confrontation at the very core of the Eurozone is shaping up. And it may bring epic changes.

Firewalls In Place, Markets ready: Greece Can Go To Heck

Luxembourg’s Finance Minister said it out loud: “If the Greek people or the Greek political elite do not apply all of these conditions, they exclude themselves from the Eurozone.” All of these conditions. And there are a lot of them. Then he added crucial words: “The impact on other countries now will be less important than a year ago.”

The White House & the Most Disparaged Profession, Again

Even the Soviets with their iron-fisted approach couldn’t come up with a reliable five-year plan. In the US, one-year forecasts are accurate only by accident. And ten-year forecasts, whether by the White House or Congress, are the ugly sisters of BS—hilarious gimmickry during the dreariness of politics. So President Obama unveiled his budget for fiscal 2013 through 2022.

Stewing At Ikebukuru Station

Tokyo, April 1996. Takano-sensei is mysteriously pleased with my progress or has changed strategy and is using false positive reinforcement to motivate me to work harder. Either way, it emboldens me, and I’m in high spirits when I enter an Internet café and ask in Japanese if they have AOL.

Greece at the Point of no Return

“The European Union is suffering under Germany,” said Georgios Karatzaferis, president of the right-wing LAOS party. He accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of trying to “impose her will on Southern Europeans.” He called the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, and Luxembourg “satellite states” of Germany. And then, with a few words, he pushed Greece a step closer to bankruptcy.

Bait And Switch: California High-Speed Rail to Nowhere

High-speed rail works if it links big urban areas and has lots of riders. The most successful is the Tokyo-Osaka Shinkansen: 150 million passengers per year. Even Amtrak’s slower route between New York City and Washington DC is profitable, though the rest of Amtrak is not. In theory, California’s High-Speed Rail Project falls into that category. In Reality, it has turned into a scandal before construction has even started.