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Big Surprise?

I don’t think so. As predictable as buzzards returning to Hinckley, Ohio, the
Florida House speaker promises no new taxes. He also promised no fee increases. This must mean they have found a new things to call fees.

They used the stimulus money that all good Florida Republican Congresscritters voted against to plug some of the gaping holes in this year’s budget, and that money is gone, so the new budget will be even deeper in the red.

The state depends on the sales tax and property taxes to fund government. They have cut the property tax at the same time the assessed valuation of property is in the tank, and sales tax revenue has fallen over the cliff. There is a real possibility that the population of the state has fallen for the first time anyone can remember, so the census will probably reduce Federal payments.

The state lost millions in its money market fund when Lehman Brothers crashed and burned, and they have been raiding other funds to cover the shortfalls cause by their ill-advised tax policies. All of their fiscal incompetence is going to be on display in this budget and the “free market fairy” is not going to wave a wand and make it better.

7 comments

1 Badtux { 03.06.10 at 12:26 am }

Well, people who either inherited their money or stole it, people who’ve never worked an honest job in their life (by honest job, I mean folks like you and me who either work on salary to create or build or repair stuff, or on a per-hour basis), well, of course they think money just gets deposited in their pocket by the free market fairy. Why would they believe otherwise? They never had to figure out where money comes from, because, well, they never have had anything to do with actually making money — when you either inherited or stole it, where money comes from just never crosses your mind.

So it goes, in the United States of Delusional Thinking…

– Badtux the Reality-based Penguin

2 Bryan { 03.06.10 at 10:55 pm }

So long as capital gains are given preference over earned income in the tax system, you know that the people in power just don’t get it.

How do you engage with people who believe that supply can create demand and all problems can be solved with marketing? They don’t have a clue how the real world works.

In an uncharacteristic piece of actual reporting, NPR responded to the new “jobs” bill by talking to two small business owners, and discovered that they weren’t going to hire anyone because of tax credits. One has been considering hiring someone for months because of a mild upturn in their business [tangentially related to the campaign season, as the company does signs and banners] and the tax credits will be nice, but they wouldn’t be the reason for hiring. The other business owner was straight-forward and said he didn’t have any work for an extra employee, so he wouldn’t hire if the government paid the entire cost.

You don’t value what you don’t earn.

3 Kryten42 { 03.07.10 at 10:22 am }

As well as the assorted ‘silver spooners’, fools. crooks etc… I think a major part of the blame goes to (supposed) Scientists (who obviously forgot, or chose to ignore, anything they ever learned about practicing *good* science. Scott Patterson has a book about them called:
Quants: How A New Breed Of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street And Nearly Destroyed It

“It comes down to hubris. All these “Kings of the World” convinced themselves and each other that they were too smart, too talented, and too clever to fail. There was always another algorithm, another strategy, even another sucker they could use to keep the money train rolling.”

It appears that Morgan Stanley were the biggest bunch of fools playing the Quants game (Russian Roulette with 3 of 6 chambers loaded). They created a Quantitative methods company called Process Driven Trading (PDT) which by 2007 had over $6billion in assets and offices around the World and was stacked to the ceiling with Mathematicians and Physicists and computer systems that would have made the NSA drool, and nary an Economist to be seen. And Goldman Sachs Global Alpha and spin-off Applied Quantitative Research (AQR) And in truth, in the end, I believe it was mainly due to criminal negligence on the part of the US Gov. They were the enablers that allowed this to happen. It’s easy to blame the wealthy, or the greedy Wall St Companies, or even the Quants, but in the end, without the Gov allowing them to get away with what they did, time and time again, the meltdown wouldn’t have happened. And if you read the book, you’ll realise it’s actually far worse than it appears, even today. It’s not over yet.

Authorities, meanwhile, had little idea about the massive losses taking place across Wall Street. That Tuesday afternoon, the Federal Reserve said it had decided to leave short-term interest rates alone at 5.25%.Investors on Main Street had little idea that a historic blowup was occurring on Wall Street. AQR risk-management guru Aaron Brown had to laugh watching commentators on CNBC discuss in bewilderment the strange moves stocks were making, with no idea about what was behind the volatility. Truth was, Mr. Brown realized, the quants themselves were still trying to figure it out.

Mr. Brown, who had joined AQR earlier that year, had been trying to get up to speed on the fund’s systems to help manage its risk. He’d decided to stay in the office that Tuesday night and sleep on a small couch near his desk. He wasn’t the only one. Near midnight, he stepped out of his office, eyes bloodshot from peering at numbers on a computer screen for the past 20 hours. The office was buzzing with activity, dozens of haggard quants chugging coffee, iPods plugged into their ears as they punched frantically on keyboards, unwinding the fund’s positions in markets around the globe. It was a strange sight. The office was nearly as busy as it was during the day, but it was pitch black outside.

The carnage revealed a dangerous lack of transparency in the market. No one knew which fund was behind the meltdown. Nervous managers traded rumors by email and phone in a frantic hunt for patient zero, the sickly hedge fund that had triggered the contagion. Many were fingering Goldman Sachs’s Global Alpha, the quant fund founded by Mr. Asness in the 1990s that had grown to massive proportions. But no one knew for sure.

As conditions spun out of control, Mr. Muller was updating Morgan’s top brass. He wanted to know how much damage was acceptable. But his chiefs wouldn’t give him a number. They didn’t understand all of the nuts and bolts of how PDT worked. Mr. Muller had kept its positions and strategy so secret over the years that few people in the firm had any inkling about how PDT made money. They knew it was profitable almost all the time. That was all that mattered.

That meant it was Mr. Muller’s call. By Wednesday morning, he’d already decided. It was time to sell.

And that was the beginning of the end.

BTW, for a succinct account in the inimitable Jon Stewart style, he interviews Scott Patterson and put’s it in proper perspective. 😉

The Daily Show – March 4, 2010 – Scott Patterson
(as usual, the interview is about half way though. But the first bit on the latest Internet craze, Chatroulette, I thought was hilarious! 😆

Ya know… My grandfather was a damned good Engineer… and he once complained to me that Scientists knew nothing at all about money or the cost of things. Seems he was dead right… he usually was. They thought they were playing with numbers on a screen, but in reality, they were playing with peoples lives.

4 Kryten42 { 03.07.10 at 11:08 am }

Hmmm… I haven’t used one of my humongous repertoire of famous (or just silly) Quotes… and this is as good a place as any! 😉 😆 This seems appropriate:

Holly: I’ve got to admit it — I’ve flamingoed up.
Rimmer: You what?
Holly: It’s like a cock-up, only much, much bigger!

Red Dwarf, Parallel Universe

This one’s a bit sort of… metaphorical, like… But, it has my namesake! 😆

Kryten: Question which occurs: if this ocean is supposed to be teeming with new lifeforms, where are they all?
Lister: What are you implying?
Kryten: No implication intended, sir.
Lister: Yes, there is. You’re saying there’s some huge damn fish out there, aren’t yer? Some kinda gigantic weird pre-historic leviathan who’s porked his way through this entire ocean.
Kryten: That’s one option.
Lister: Any alternatives?
Kryten: None that occur.

Red Dwarf – Back to Reality

Oooh! That reminds me of another… (and, I like 3’s) Anyway… K42 likes metaphors! 😉

Kryten: Suggest we maintain course. That asteroid does not exist.
Rimmer: Suppose you’re wrong?
Kryten: Sir, I’ll stake my reputation on it.
Rimmer: Kryten, you haven’t got a reputation.
Kryten: No, sir, but I’m hoping to acquire one from this escapade.

Red Dwarf – Psirens
(Personally, i think that last one sums up Quants, and economists generally.) 😉 😛

Ehhh… What the heck… one for the road! 😛

Holly: I know what I did wrong last time. It’s a mistake any deranged, half-witted computer could have made.
Red Dwarf – DNA

😆

5 Bryan { 03.07.10 at 10:34 pm }

Before Wall Street decided quants were cool, NSA was one of their major employers. It should have been a huge warning sign that one of the things these guys were absolutely essential for was hiding things, i.e. encryption. Why they would dream that these people, who were intellectually gifted in making things obtuse, were going to develop a product that anyone, beyond the individual who wrote it, would understand, defies reason. Add to that the reality that theoretical mathematicians don’t usually take the “easy courses”, like macro economics or accounting, means that whatever they come up with will be created with none of the foundation principles of the real world markets in mind.

These guys are dealing with fractional penny price moves that become huge chunks of money because of the speed at which they take place, and the number of items changing hands. It is a great way to make a lot of money when things are going up, but it works exactly the same way on the down side, and I don’t think any of these clowns programmed for a reversal of fortune. They knew how to sell short, but they didn’t have anything in place to deal with a total meltdown, especially when trading gets halted.

The worst thing any of the people in charge had seen was the collapse of the tech bubble. They had no concept of how bad things could become, or the fact that all of the safety devices, regulations, had been taken off the machinery.

They couldn’t find the problem because they obscured all of the potential ways to identify the problem and there is no way to quantify panic. They were gambling, and didn’t understand that basic fact.

I loved the bit about nobody knew how Muller made money – nobody knew how Bernie Madoff made money, until they discovered that he didn’t. They are all variations on the Ponzi scheme. If you don’t make an actual product, you are dealing with nothing but promises. The stock markets are casinos, not centers of investment.

6 Steve Bates { 03.08.10 at 2:08 pm }

Shall I write a song analogous to the one about swallows returning to Capistrano? Naaaah…
.-= last blog ..Status Update =-.

7 Bryan { 03.08.10 at 10:15 pm }

The turkeys flock to Tallahassee? “Follow the money” has multiple meanings in politics. The Florida lege will do anything people with money tell them to do based on the belief that people with money are smarter than they are, not realizing that almost everyone on the planet is smarter than they are until they enter a voting booth.