Michael Maiello's picture

    The Tears of a Billionaire

    Elon Musk is having a no-good, horrible, terrible year says The New York Times, which devoted a massive amount of space to an article with four bylines and an additional reporting credit at the end to the litany of Musk’s complaints.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Michael Cohen and AT&T

    To me, the most striking thing about AT&T paying Michael Cohen for, I guess, “advice” about how the Trump Administration might handle the Time Warner-AT&T merger is what a waste of money it was.  If AT&T thought that Cohen could influence Trump in favor of the deal, it was money ill-spent.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    It's Fine To Destroy Wells Fargo

    To most people, and for good reason, a bank is a bit like a doctor's office or a mechanic's. It is supposed to employ experts who give well-meaning advice in areas where the lay person, busy with work, friends and family, cannot be an expert.  Yes, there is potential for abuse in this.  My doctor could milk me for a lot of money by convincing me I am sick when I am not.  A mechanic could scam me for a new flux capacitator.  A consumer banker could push me into inappropriate loans or sell me investment products that are too expensive or that I don't need.

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    Battle of the Sexes: On Bonsai Trees & Suburban Myths

    A quote recently about men's role in the changing state of affairs (pardon the pun) struck me as rather bitchy and dismissive: "Oh, how fragile is the ego of a man. We must never let him feel like a bonsai in a grove of California redwoods..." The same article goes on to note men's time spent with children nearing women's (ignoring any Roy Moore jokes there). So why the insult and calumny? It's not like men aren't evolving to meet the changing societal situation, whatever the headlines. It's also not like men aren't on the brutal receiving end of many of these changes.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Equifax and the CFPB

    Two days before we found out that credit reporting agency Equifax had been hacked and 143 million consumer records were compromised, I received an alert from my credit card company that somebody had attempted to buy $200 worth of merchandise at a Foot Locker in Queens.  Later, the Equifax website did acknowledge that my information may have been compromised.  I took the necessary steps to change cards and passwords.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Record Levels of Median Income (Not What It Seems)

    Last week, we learned that the median household income in the U.S. 2015 had jumped by around 5% to $56,000 a year. The news was greeted with good cheer and David Brooks even wrote a column in the Times proclaiming that capitalism is not broken.

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    Trade Policy Reality Check - neither Scrooge nor Sucker

    I've noted this over and over, but maybe this one will get through. Below's a chart showing the largest countries. The 2 largest are down at the bottom with pathetic GDP per capita of China's $10K and maybe $4K for India. China has roughly 5x our population, India 4 1/2x. And while their income is awful, China's rose about 500% from super awful over 25 years, while India's has more than tripled.

    For some reason we're not able to ever think of that as *OUR* success, that rather than sending Bibles and powdered milk, we have found a real way to lift almost 3 billion people out of poverty in just 2 countries, and it certainly doesn't end there.

    Of course much of the credit belongs to them - cutting their birthrates drastically, producing productis and services that are wanted by the rest of the world, steady incremental improvements and attention to obvious areas like infrastructure & education, and less obvious ones like government regulations & judicial reform and various human rights. In the meantime, the last 8-10 years, we've been flat.

    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs (per AA anonymous)

    All this jobs jobs jobs talk is starting to get to me when I am constantly reading about extremely low unemployment all around the country. including in red states like Wyoming. What happened is that someone learned to play a wicked poker with the Electoral College by targeting some pockets of long-time resentment about jobs lost 20 years ago or more, places that have not adjusted to reality and refuse to move anywhere but want obsolete jobs to come to them and want to stay in their hood and never change. Likewise we are told we need to cater to the needs of poor segregated minority communities, they don't want to move and mix, want to keep their culcha, but want jobs and services to come to them without paying a lot of taxes. Meanwhile immigrants are willing to come across the world to work and live here. Absurdity after absurdity.

    I know, don't need to say it, it's about well-paying jobs that restore the middle class. But that's not going to happen without education anymore. Not anywhere in the world. (If it ever really did. I grew up in a poor white hood in the late 50's and early 60's where uneducated dad's were always being "laid off" of "third shift" at the factory, so they could never afford to get out of slummy rentals, they kept having kids nonetheless.)

    Maleing it in: Masculine Mystique & the Savior Complex

    Elaine Chao, Washington veteran, noted at Politico's recent "Women Rule" that, 'Men don’t prepare that much, so why do we have to?' and continues "“I prepare so much more than some of my male colleagues,” Chao tells POLITICO editor Carrie Budoff Brown in the latest “Women Rule” podcast interview. “And I know women who are prepared more and we get ridiculed and it's like, ‘Oh, my gosh. She's just preparing so much. She's such an automaton. Can't she just like, wing it?’”"

    The reason, of course, is our millennia-old mythos of men being born for glory and greatness, ready to roll, walk-ons for greater things. We call this "The Natural", like that Robert Redford movie.

    You might think of it as Magic Johnson vs. Larry Byrd - roughly comparable skill & success, but in popular lore largely "the guy with the screaming God-given talent vs the Hoosier who always had to work so hard". 

    Charting Progress: Workers' Pair of Dice

    In discussing Kaep & whether he's being blackballed, I came across some graphs at Business Insider showing the typical NFL player's increase in salary - and the steadily decreasing chance he'll make it there:

     

    And then I thought of the implications for workers in general - what's our expected salary and performance trajectory, how many times will we be "traded", or have bad seasons or not make the cut in spring training and be pushed down to the minors?

    Where would *you* chart? Because we have the technology, the analytics to chart *everyone*, whatever industry. Like in sports, we have a window of productivity, peak performance, and then we often fall off or find a different groove and work from there.

    Too Big to Fail: Why Government as a Business Doesn't Work

    Much is being written about Jared Kushner leading another task force to make government run like a business, with the usual caveats about how it's likely to fail. Included are all the usual right and wrong reasons about government not being a business. But the lack of failure is the biggest point.

    American business is successful precisely because so many businesses fail, and are replaced by new trendy companies with just as much chance of failing. Amazon, one of our great recent "success" stories, didn't make a profit for years, and now 20 years later only pulls in profits of maybe 1% of revenues. Uber's much worse, with a 2016 loss of perhaps $3 billion. It's hard to imagine US voters putting up with such poor results. And those are the *good* examples.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Brexit vs Breakfast: Food and Free Trade

    The United Kingdom officially triggered Article 50 today, meaning the two-year march to Brexit has begun. The UK is leaving the European Union, and leaving without any concessions, any deals, any accommodations. It's the "hard Brexit." There are many reasons this is a bad idea, but let's keep it simple: the United Kingdom cannot feed itself.
    Danny Cardwell's picture

    Snowy Roofs And Cheap Oil

    A few years ago my wife and I had a new roof put on our house. During a casual conversation with one of the contractors I learned that snow can be much more damaging to a roof than rain. The heat that rises through the attic or crawl space can cause ice dams. Once ice dams are formed water seeps into the crevices of shingles and flashings. The picturesque snow that sits peacefully atop your house can do more damage than the heavy rains that accompany violent tropical storms and hurricanes.

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Your New Year's Public Domain Report for 2016

    Happy New Year! It's Public Domain Day, the first day of the calendar year, on which people in other countries get new works of art and learning added to the public domain for everyone to use. And on the first day of the new year we in the United States get ...

    Zilch. Nada. Niente. Nothing.

    Again.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    What Is a "Good" College? Two Tentative Answers

    Sometimes, because of my job, people ask me advice about choosing colleges. It's always nice to be helpful, but talking about college reputations can be a minefield. Obviously, you learn quickly that you should never put any college or university down, but that's not enough. People can also get very prickly when you don't praise a particular college enough.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    What Ruth Marcus and Brookings Don't Get About Microeconomics

    Thanks to Hal for referencing The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus on Hillary Clinton the other day.  I don't read Marcus too regularly, but when I do, it reminds me why not reading her is probably an IQ booster.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Our Continued Demand Slump

    The world economy still suffers from a global lack of demand.  That's what caused the market correction in China that sparked a (temporary?) contagion in the rest of the world.  When it comes to the economic basics -- energy, grains and metals, everything's in a bear market.  The Daily Beast asked me to write about the markets and I took my stab. Basically, I think that China is deflating too early.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Financial Illiteracy and Bill Clinton's "Secret Company"

    The right wing is all agog about Bill Clinton's "secret" company called WJC LLC.  The "secret" company, which has twice incorporated itself with public documents naming Bill Clinton as its majority shareholder in two states (New York and Delaware), is not actually a secret company at all.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Re-Free Martha Stewart

    This week brought news that five large global banks had admitted to felonies and agreed to pay $5.6 billion in fines to the U.S. Treasury for colluding to rig global currency markets.  The amount of the fines captured headlines but the amounts are actually relatively small.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Flash Crash Boy

    When I was at Forbes I learned that the American Stock Exchange, once known as "the curb," also had the nickname, "The Scam-ex."  This was where people bought and sold shares of subprime public companies and where insiders and bucket shops conducted pump and dump scams on retail investors.

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