Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oops! And that was 2008

I notice nobody ever comments on my political analysis blog entries. I supposed they are right on and no comment is needed, or maybe not.

Its not too early to define 2008 as the oops! year. Only that the people saying oops! are the well educated, established and self assured experts, and they were wrong in very conspicuous and highly visible ways. I offer just a few political and economic evidences of this that were heavily consequential:

1) Hillary Clinton with all of her political experience and highly paid consultants completely missed the mark by underestimating the Iowa caucuses as playing an pivotal role in the primary elections. She said in one interview essentially: "I don't put too much emphasis on Iowa...who knows who goes to the caucuses". Obama won by a huge margin and the rest is history.

2) The Romney campaign consisted of many people who previously worked on the Bush campaign. They assumed it was still in style to launch attack ads and underestimated the changes in the Republican and general American demographics. They were wrong.

3) I really find it almost appalling that people blame Greenspan so quickly. They loved the guy for 25+ years through 4 administrations, then times turn rough after turning over the mantle at the Fed and people blame him for their problems. But it is significant that he admitted mistakes and took some blame for his free market ideologies he unflinchingly supported for years setting the stage for the financial crisis to occur.

4) Lehman Brothers specialized in working with high net worth individuals and was known in the right circles and time and time again claimed everything was fine with there company as the marketplace got worse. Their headquarters stood defiantly just north of Times Square in Manhattan, it's a dark building in a way emitting an elite sort of invincibility. And yet no amount of CEO spin talk could cover up bad assets.

The very people whose job was to know the political and financial world the best made huge miscalculations. Many forces at play affected these and other decisions. Some of this is at least in part a general shift away from the traditional experts. The experts are wrong or the times and changing along with the culture, politics, technology and demographics.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Presidential Seperation

It was never more apparrent than at last night Presidential Debate how separated from the masses these two senators have become. They obviously had very different lives and mingled with starkly different crowds than the people in the room. But to me it was comical how often they could hardly feign condescending to relat to the people in the room.

With McCain incessent 'my friends' blurted out multiple times (often in the same sentence) to approximate himself to the crowd. Or Obama's afterthought comment stating he and McCain are two people who will be largely unaffected by this or any economic turmoil.

They seemed like two extremely self focus senators who either didn't know how long a minute was or couldn't figure out what the red light signaling them to stop meant as they blurted out the convoluted and often very unrealistic economic plans and packages. (Which I am sure their economic advisors spent days drilling them and dumbing down for them to understand). I mean McCain suggested Warren Buffet for Secretary of Treasury, when he A) Wouldn't do it and B) is advising Obama....

They seemed less comfortable in this atmosphere than ever and more accustomed to tony fundraisers with the rich and powerful-- and both seemed to look forward to a time when that type of social environment would compose most of their social life and encounters like this would be mostly in the past.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A time of Crisis

I remember in 2004 I was signing up for a checking account in California while I was working at summer job. I was returning
to school in a couple months so I really pay too much attention to the banking officer's push for me to try to
qualify for a special 0% interest loan for 24 months. But as I said no a couple different times and she piled
on incentives they had for young people to their first home I was struck by the oddness of the whole situation.

I was 22, working out of state, returning to school and leaving the state in 2 months, and my initial deposit
to open the account was not even large amount. She enthusiastically presented to me this program for getting
people 'like me' into a house. I had Economics with a former VP from the Federal Reserve who described in some
detail how the Fed sets rates and they fluctuate over time. Interest rates and Inflation was at an all time low
in 2004, but I knew all that wouldn't last much longer.

From this and other experiences it was obvious the level of aggressiveness exerted upon customers who probably didn't
understand the fundamental forces which affect the true cost and value over time was risky at best and illegal
at worst. It took 4-5 years for some of the effects of these loans to come to fruition.